Missile defence policy

MAPW policy adopted in 2004

MAPW is strongly opposed to any Australian involvement in the proposed United States missile defence system (hereafter MD).

MAPW believes that the proposed MD system will lead to the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles for their delivery. This will undermine international security and stability. By creating a perception of US invulnerability, it will also increase the risk of such weapons being used by the US.

In response to MD, US adversaries are likely to simply increase their number of missiles to overcome the shield. China, for example, currently has about 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles, but is almost certain to increase this number. It is quite conceivable that Australia will be targeted.

MD will increase the global missile threat also by spreading missile technology. President Bush has indicated that he will share the technology with South Korea, Japan and Israel. Russia and China are likely to seek to reduce the financial burden of their rearming by selling major weapons and technology also.

Technological problems with MD may be insurmountable, to the extent that the system gives only the illusion of protection, which in itself is profoundly dangerous. The US Union of Concerned Scientists reports that, "The technology needed for an effective missile defense system still doesn't exist". In addition, "Even if the technology worked perfectly, the systems being deployed are vulnerable to countermeasures that are easier to build than the long-range missile on which they would be placed."

Other problems with missile defence abound. The health and environmental consequences of the system actually working, that is a missile being intercepted and its nuclear, biological or chemical contents being dispersed over populated (or any) areas, have not even begun to be addressed. Conversely, if the system is deployed but an interceptor fails to hit the missile it is targeting there will be not only the missile but also the interceptor coming to earth.

The US base at Pine Gap in Central Australia is an integral part of the United States nuclear-war fighting and missile defence system. Its presence on Australian soil implicates Australia in preparations for nuclear strikes, whether pre-emptive or retaliatory.

The Jindalee over-the-horizon radar (JORN) in northern Australia has already been the subject of joint tests between The Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the US Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (now the Missile Defense Agency).

MAPW notes that, despite the far-reaching consequences for Australians and for global security of missile defence, this issue, and in particular our role in it, has received hardly any debate in our parliament, and no consultation whatsoever with the Australian people. These grave omissions reflect very poorly on the current health of democratic process in this country. The following aspects in particular require analysis:

· The nature and magnitude of the missile threat, rather than a simplistic and self-fulfilling 'we might have enemies in future' approach.

· Possible ways of responding to the threat, including by the improvement of our relationships with potential enemies, and by a greater focus on missile control

· The likely impact of MD on prospects for disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament · The role of Pine Gap in the proposed MD system

· The likely impact of MD on the security of Australians

· The possible economic cost to Australians, that is, the health, education and other essential services that are likely to be sacrificed if we take part in MD.

MAPW believes that there are other approaches for Australia to take to the dangers posed by ballistic missiles, which would be infinitely more stabilising, and less expensive, than participation in a missile defence system. Several are mentioned briefly above, but paramount among the necessary steps is the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The United States and Australia are both party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the 2000 renewal of which called for the total and unequivocal elimination of all nuclear weapons. Therefore the United States and all other nuclear weapons states that are party to the Treaty have an international obligation to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Non-nuclear weapons states party to the Treaty - such as Australia - have an obligation to work effectively towards this goal also. In the context of clearly stated US plans for the use of its nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, MD will absolutely undermine the whole disarmament process and is in violation of the very spirit and purpose of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In addition to the legal imperative, the current political reality is that until the world's most powerful nation seriously commits to the goal of the verifiable elimination of all nuclear weapons, we can forget about convincing other nations to disarm. US adversaries will seek to overcome a missile shield by whatever means they can (for example simply by delivering a nuclear or other weapon by ship, road or rail). MAPW urges the Australian Government to join those nations that are striving for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Australians have suffered greatly increased security risks as a direct result of our compliance with US military policy since September 11, 2001. An Australian role in MD will perpetuate this heightened risk.