Letter to Defence Minister re cancelling RIMPAC and South China Sea deployments – 27 April 2020

Letter to Minister for Defence RIMPAC

The Hon Linda Reynolds CSC
Minister for Defence
Parliament House
Canberra   ACT   2600

24th March, 2020

 RE:  UN Call for Global Ceasfire

 Dear Minister

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairperson of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN[i]).

In light of the COVID-19 virus, the UN Secretary General Aantonio Guterres has appealed for a global ceasefire. https://www.un.org/press/en/2020/sgsm20018.doc.htm

As you are aware, the UN came into existence following WW2, with the primary purpose of preventing further wars, and the UN is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. It is the only international body with the aim and capacity to deliver world peace.

Up until now, Australia’s response has been antithetical to the UN leader’s appeal. Australia’s Defence Forces, continue to engage in activities that serve to escalate (rather than reduce) international tensions. These activities increase instability and, ultimately, tend to draw Australia and the world closer to open warfare.

Two recent matters support this contention.

Firstly, plans to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2018 (RIMPAC) military exercises in June and July. Whilst there are indications this exercise may be cancelled as a result of pressure from the Hawaiians, your position on Australia’s participation is not yet clear. The exercises centre on Hawaii and involve personnel from numerous countries allied with the USA. The USA is heavily infected with COVID-19. The possibility for further spreading of the disease to all the countries involved in the exercise cannot be under-estimated.

Military activity, by its very nature, involves close contact among forces personnel, providing ideal conditions for the spread of the disease. The recent outbreaks of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt makes this abundantly clear.

The people of Hawaii are dismayed at the prospect of being exposed to the virus and their Governor has already asked for RIMPAC to be cancelled.

IPAN commends you for your decision to cancel (or, at least, postpone) this year’s deployment of US marines to Darwin. It would be consistent to also withdraw Australia from involvement in RIMPAC. With the pandemic still far from over, engaging in these exercises would be irresponsible in the extreme. Instead, Australia should invoke the Secretary General’s appeal and take no part in RIMPAC.

The second and related matter that causes IPAN concern is the news that Australia is to join the USA in naval exercises in the South China Sea. IPAN seeks to understand the basis for the assurances given that this involvement will ‘help strengthen stability and security in the region’It is IPAN’s belief that confronting China in an aggressive manner can only serve to increase the likelihood of an actual confrontation. On the face of it, Australia appears to be following strong anti-China rhetoric originating in the USA. Again, this development flies in the face of the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire.

IPAN therefore calls on you to end Australia’s involvement in RIMPAC and recall the HMAS Parramatta from the South China Sea.

Thank you for taking the time to consider the matters raised in this letter and IPAN looks forward to your response.

Yours faithfully

Annette Brownlie
Chairperson, IPAN
Ph: 0431 597 256