Smith: No US bases in Australia
The Defence Minister Stephen Smith has flatly rejected a proposal to expand a naval base in Perth to accommodate US nuclear powered aircraft carrier groups.
The idea is one of many canvassed in a report commissioned by the US Defense Department by an independent think tank.
Stephen Smith says while increased US access to HMAS Stirling is on the cards in the long term, American aircraft carriers will not be based in Australia.
From Canberra, Naomi Woodley reports.
NAOMI WOODLEY: The Defence Minister was in Canberra to give an update to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute about the defence white paper due in the first half of next year.
He says the ADF’s (Australian Defence Force) tasks and priorities will remain the same, but the paper will respond not only to the rise of China, but also India.
STEPHEN SMITH: No-one can say with precision or certainty what the new international or regional order will look like. The regional international community response to these challenges will be critical and will in many ways help determine the outcome.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Stephen Smith says the shift in focus by the United States to the Asia Pacific region will also be a key consideration as the paper is developed.
But the Minister has baulked at one idea put forward in a report commissioned by the US Defense Department.
In a lengthy document the *Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that if HMAS Stirling in Perth is significantly expanded it could accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier group, including a carrier, fighter jets, submarines and destroyers.
STEPHEN SMITH: The report is an independent report to the United States government. It’s not a United State government document.
NAOMI WOODLEY: The West Australian Premier and Opposition Leader ruled the option out quickly and Stephen Smith agrees.
STEPHEN SMITH: We don’t have United States military bases in Australia and we are not proposing to. What we have talked about in terms of either increased aerial access or naval access is precisely that – greater access to our facilities.
NAOMI WOODLEY: He says increased access for US ships at Australian naval bases is a long-term possibility, but only after the current troop rotation through the Northern Territory and the increased access to airfields in northern Australia is in place.
STEPHEN SMITH: What we are looking at down the track is the possibility of further or enhanced naval access to HMAS Stirling.
The strategic rationale for that is the growing importance of India and the growing importance of the Indian Ocean rim, particularly in a naval and maritime sense.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Stephen Smith’s also rejected another idea in the report that would see a significant increase in the numbers of marines in Darwin.
STEPHEN SMITH: There is no suggestion being made to us that Australia should receive such a large number of marines transferred from Okinawa or from Guam. We’re proceeding on the basis of the agreement between the Australian Government and the United States administration of a six month rotation out of Darwin.
NAOMI WOODLEY: He says the wet season in the Northern Territory would make it difficult to do any more than currently planned.
TONY EASTLEY: Naomi Woodley reporting.
EDITOR’S NOTE (02/08/12): This transcript has been amended to correct the name of the institution given in the original broadcast.