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Watch this space: Julie Bishop backs US

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Sydney Morning Herald political and international editor

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Australia will declare exuberant confidence in the future of US power and commit to continue intensifying the alliance in new areas - including space.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will project in a speech on Wednesday that US power in the 20th century will continue undiminished into this century.

The speech, to be given to the Alliance 21 conference in Canberra, runs counter to the argument that Australia should shift strategic emphasis to a rising China.

As the former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser calls for Canberra to abandon the US alliance in a new book, Ms Bishop is to emphasise the need to intensify it.

"The US and Australia are working closely to further our joint aims in space," Ms Bishop's speech text says, "just one example of the ability of the alliance to continuously evolve to address new challenges in a changing environment."

The deputy Liberal leader is to speak of two major new space assets that the US is building in Western Australia, a radar station and a surveillance telescope.

The installations "will make use of Australia's unique geography to increase the southern hemisphere coverage of the US's Space Surveillance Network," she is to say.

According to Bradley Perrett of Aviation Week & Space Technology, "The radar and telescope on Australian soil would be active and perhaps crucial in any confrontation between the US and China."

Mr Fraser argues that the US alliance is a liability because it could entangle Australia in any war between it and China.

The joint US-Australian decision to build the facilities was made at a meeting of American and Australian ministers in 2012, the annual Ausmin meeting, under the Gillard Labor government.

But "Bob Carr and Stephen Smith were keen not to draw any attention to it at the time", said the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Peter Jennings.

The C-band radar being built near Exmouth in WA "would plug Australia into the US global system to track movements in space, anything from missiles in flight to satellites to space debris to comets that come too close," said Mr Jennings.

At the moment, the US can track movements of Chinese and North Korean and other space assets in the northern hemisphere but not in the southern area.

"The Chinese are developing a sophisticated capability to do their own imagery through space-based satellites," Mr Jennings said.

Ms Bishop is also to speak of the changing nature of intelligence co-operation and the importance of tracking terrorists, and the new field of cyber cooperation.

Mr Jennings said that the minister's speech appeared to be part of a series by the Abbott government that "send a subliminal message to the US - a lot in this region rides on the continued willingness of the US to engage, 'so keep your eyes on the prize guys, seems to be the message' ".

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88 comments

  • US Forces get the nod. Can't get that song out of my head.

    Commenter
    The Dog
    Location
    Haberfield
    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 7:30AM
    • It is clear that the Neanderthal far right policies Abbott so vehemently supported under his predecessor Howard destabilise the political and social foundations of societies as currently being witnessed in Iraq – Terrorism has only increased since the Bush family and other neo cons waged war in the Middle East.

      Abbott is yesterday’s man which makes Bishop yesterday's woman!

      Commenter
      George
      Location
      East Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 8:28AM
    • U.S Forces give the nod, but Abbott gives the wink !!!
      It's a setback for your country
      Bombs and trenches all in rows
      Bombs and threats still ask for more
      Divided world, the CIA, say who control the issue
      You leave us with no time to talk
      You can write your own assessment

      Sing me songs of no denying
      Seems to me too many tired
      Waiting for the next big thing.........China?

      Commenter
      Buffalo Bill
      Location
      Sydneys Northshore
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 8:32AM
    • For those who wants to suck up to the US and give their nods to them then send their OWN children better still they themselves should go fight and leave ours alone!!! the rest of us have had enough.

      Commenter
      Not our children
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 8:44AM
    • When will they ever learn?
      When will they ever learn?

      Commenter
      Rod
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 9:38AM
    • Oh you mean turn our back on the same USA that would defend us to the death were we ever invaded or threatened.. You people have no idea that you actually need allies in this day and age or with our Army that is practically the size of our peanut. To break it down we are basically sitting next to a lot of poor countries with bigger armies than ours. We would be invaded in 10 mins if we did not have the backing of our rich powerful first world allies!!

      Commenter
      Get a Grip
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 10:33AM
    • @The Dog: "US Forces get the nod."

      There's a reason US forces are getting the nod. First of all, the US alliance is one which benefits the Australian ruling class. The US dominates the world and sets up a world order benefiting itself, and Australia gets the South Pacific franchise. In 1999, it was expanded to include East Timor.

      With this franchise arrangement, Australia sets the rules in the South Pacific and the US keeps out. American Samoa is thus not used for a naval base but is merely a colonial backwater. Instead, it is Australia which throws its weight around, despatching soldiers to the Solomon Islands, to Tonga and to East Timor. It is Australia which decides what is an acceptable sort of government in Papua New Guinea and Fiji. And it is Australia which gets upset about French imperialism in New Caledonia and Tahiti.

      Secondly, the rise of China makes the Australian capitalists want the US alliance even more. There's a lot of money to be made from trading with China, but they don't want China to be building power and influence in the region. That power and influence might be used against them. Other capitalist classes in the region make the same calculation.

      The problem is that there are limits to the ability of the US, even with its Asian allies, to hold back the rise of China. The price of holding back China is hostility - and the price of holding back China unsuccessfully would be not just hostility, but enmity. Confining China within the First Island Chain is, I believe, not going to be possible in the long term.

      The world is changing. Those who attempt to prolong an untenable position put the region on the path to war.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 11:45AM
    • The ANZUS treaty states that Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any one of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific. . So no mention of "defending to the death".

      Commenter
      tigersing
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 1:45PM
    • US is Australia's natural Ally. It is the only Ally who can defend Australia. Australia must encourage US to build a large military base in Darwin.

      Less understood is that US needs Australia as a global military power. Australia is a large block of land located on the opposite side of the Earth to USA. US has important military assets on land in Australia and Australia services the US nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean. These submarines in the Indian Ocean can hit targets in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

      The greatest threat to a war between China and US and sucking in Australia is the China and Japan dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. It is in Australia's interest to urge China and Japan to put this dispute into COLD STORAGE, a proven formula used by China and India in their bigger dispute over large regions in the Himalayan Mountains. If this is achieved then US and China can be partners to promote global peace.

      This is important to USA and Australia as events in the Middle East and Eastern Europe are spinning out of control for USA. It is better to partner China to achieve peace in the World. The US and China are Siamese Twins in the global economy. They can also be the Siamese Twins to achieve global peace.

      Commenter
      Dr B S Goh
      Location
      Australian in Asia
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 2:20PM
  • It is highly unlikely that any major war will ever occur between the US and China for exactly the same reason there was never a full-on open conflict between the USSR and the US.

    It would be impossible to prevent such a conflict from becoming an exchange of nuclear weapons, and both sides know this.

    Fraser either hasn't got a clue or is just trying to frighten the donkeys.

    Commenter
    SteveH.
    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 7:33AM

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