US-Australia war games feared to harm Barrier Reef Marine Park

14 May, 2007: Australia’s Defence Department has sought to allay fears expressed by environmentalists that a joint Australia-United States military exercise to be held across northern Australia in June 2007 will harm the environment.

The major, joint Australia-United States training exercise – named Talisman Sabre 2007 – will be held throughout June at defence sites in Townsville, Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton and at Delamare and Bradshaw in the Northern Territory.

The biennial exercise will involve about 7,500 Australian soldiers and up to 20,000 United States troops and sailors.

According to Brigadier David McKaskill, Commandant of the Australian Defence Force Warfare Centre, the joint operation would involve tanks, aircraft and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. The exercise, Brigadier McKaskill adds, is an opportunity for both the Australian and US military forces to practise “high-end war fighting right through to looking after humanitarian assistance.”

Almost three-quarters of the United States troops taking part in the exercise will be based in Australia’s Coral Sea during the event.

Australia’s Defence officials have confirmed that submarines would enter the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park during the exercise, but insisted that the reef was in no danger of being damaged by military activity.

The submarines will be operating as part of the American carrier group and they will be abiding by the environmental and legal requirements,” Brigadier David McKaskill said. He promised that minimising the environmental impact is one of the Defence force’s top priorities and that environment and safety are the two biggest issues.

The Australian Defence Force has spent a sizeable amount of money to secure the military training fields to be used during the operation after a Greenpeace anti-nuclear activist entered an exclusion zone during the Talisman Sabre exercise in 2005.

Australia’s peace activists and environmental activists are getting ready for a national protest action to oppose the joint military exercise. They are planning a ‘peace train’ to travel to the east coast in June.

The National Peace Convergence will hold a weekend of protest events at Shoalwater Bay from June 22.



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