Government won't rule out Aussie base for US drones
Updated March 28, 2012 11:42:25
The Federal Government is not ruling out the possibility that US military surveillance drones could be based on Australia's strategically important Cocos Islands.
Reports from Washington suggest the US is considering using the islands, located in the Indian Ocean off Australia's north-west coast, to launch unmanned surveillance aircraft.
The Washington Post says: "US and Australian officials said the atoll could be an ideal site not only for manned US surveillance aircraft, but for Global Hawks, an unarmed, high-altitude surveillance drone."
Audio: Smith says Cocos Islands could host drones (AM)
The islands are reportedly being looked at as an expansion for the overcrowded US airbase at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean ... <cont>
U.S., Australia to broaden military ties amid Pentagon pivot to SE Asia
By Craig Whitlock, Published: March 27/Washington Post
View Photo Gallery — President Obama visited Australia in November and announced a permanent military presence in the country beginning this summer.
The United States and Australia are planning a major expansion of military ties, including possible drone flights from a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean and increased U.S. naval access to Australian ports, as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to Southeast Asia, officials from both countries said.
The moves, which are under discussion but have drawn strong interest from both sides, would come on top of an agreement announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November to deploy up to 2,500 U.S. Marines to Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast.
Possible new station locations for U.S. forces in Asia
The talks are the latest indicator of how the Obama administration is rapidly turning its strategic attention to Asia as it winds down a costly decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. government is finalizing a deal to station four warships in Singapore and has opened negotiations with the Philippines about boosting its military presence there. To a lesser degree, the Pentagon is also seeking to upgrade military relations with Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Although U.S. officials say the regional pivot is not aimed at any single country, analysts said it is a clear response to a rising China, whose growing military strength and assertive territorial claims have pushed other Asian nations to reach out to Washington.
The Pentagon is reviewing the size and distribution of its forces in northeast Asia, where they are concentrated on Cold War-era bases in Japan and South Korea. The intent is to gradually reduce the U.S. military presence in those countries while enhancing it in Southeast Asia, home to the world’s busiest shipping lanes and to growing international competition to tap into vast undersea oil and gas fields.
“In terms of your overall influence in the Asia-Pacific zone, the strategic weight is shifting south,” said a senior Australian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the military talks. “Australia didn’t look all that important during the Cold War. But Australia looks much more important if your fascination is really with the Southeast Asian archipelago.”
Australia is a long-standing ally of the United States, and one of its closest partners in intelligence and military matters. More than 20,000 Australian troops spent time in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. About 1,500 Australian troops are now in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led coalition.
An official interim review of Australia’s military basing structure recently concluded that the chances of the country coming under direct military attack are “currently remote.” ...<cont>
Cocos locals concerned by drone base talk
By Samantha Hawley and staff/ABC NEWS
Updated March 28, 2012 23:27:44
(link below includes: Video: Cocos Islands may house future US drone base (7.30)
Map: Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
Residents of the Australian-owned Cocos Keeling islands are concerned their home could become a base for US drones, despite a Government commitment it would not happen in their lifetimes.
The Government has not ruled out the possibility that US military surveillance drones could be based on the strategically important islands, more than 2,000 kilometres north-west of Perth.
But one Cocos Island resident says that just weeks ago a Government minister told community members it would not happen in their lifetimes.
About 600 people call the islands home, including local businessman John Clunies Ross, who has been living there for three decades.
He says the last conversation he had about a US military presence on the islands was with their local member, Government minister Warren Snowdon, earlier this month.
"The last time Snowdon was up here, he basically said, 'no, not in our lifetime,'" he said.
"It was hard to pin him down, he just didn't want to discuss it at all.".....
.... 'Down the track'
(Audio: Cocos Islands: US military base, not in our lifetime (PM))
Defence Minister Stephen Smith says the Cocos Islands are potentially a long-term strategic location.
"But that is down the track," he said.
"I'm not putting a timetable on our consideration on Cocos. I'm not considering any detailed discussions in the near future. I'm not envisaging a conversation with my counterparts on Cocos Island for some considerable time.
"We have not had a conversation with the United States at my level about what assets might be used in or out of Cocos."
His remarks followed a report in the Washington Post which suggested the Cocos Islands could be considered a replacement for the American Diego Garcia air base.
Between 1966 and 1971, the British and Americans made the entire population of Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean, leave their homeland to make way for a massive US air base.
The locals have never been allowed to return, but the US lease is runs out there in 2016.
Mr Clunies Ross says he would like the Government to talk to residents about the kind of footprint a US airbase could make on the islands.
"It would at least give a basis for the locals to be able to talk about it," he said.
"But we don't have a state government to talk on our behalf, we go straight to the federal, and basically they do what they want and tell us what we're going to get later on anyway."..... <cont>
another topic that makes no sense. TROLL
Workers pay the penalty for one-way flexibility
April 4, 2012/Ross Gittins/the AGE
Whether or not they realise what they're doing, Australia's business people, economists and politicians are in the process of dismantling the weekend and phasing out public holidays. And they're doing it in the name of making us better off.
Historically, the two arrangements that have protected the weekend and public holidays from encroachment by employers are state government restrictions on trading hours and the requirement in industrial awards that employees required to work at ''unsociable hours'' be paid an additional penalty rate.
Charging employers a penalty was intended to discourage them from making unreasonable demands on their employees unless absolutely necessary.
Illustration: Kerrie Leishman
The first assault on community-wide days off came in the second half of the 1980s with the deregulation of trading hours as part of micro-economic reform.
Not much later, the move to bargaining over pay rises, and then bargaining at the enterprise level, allowed employers to push for penalty rates to be abandoned in return for higher ''annualised'' wages.
Employers inculcated the view penalty rates were an anachronism standing in the way of progress and modernity. Many still think that way. One of the goals of John Howard's Work Choices was to make it easier - and less expensive - for employers to get rid of penalty payments.
(Another of its provisions was to make it easier for workers to ''cash out'' part of their annual leave - to exchange days off for money. How this squared with the original rationale for forcing employers to give their workers paid holidays was never explained.)
Julia Gillard's Fair Work changes to Work Choices represented the first setback in the push towards the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week economy. They made it harder for employers to buy out penalty payments. And the ''modern award'' process - which replaced the various state awards with single national awards - inevitably involved increasing some penalty rates in some states.
But now the push has resumed. Last week, the NSW government moved to join Victoria in allowing all shops - not just those in the CBD - to open on Boxing Day. Now, say the retailers, all we need is for restrictions to be lifted on Easter Sunday.
And this week, the major banks revealed their intention to push for the definition of ordinary hours in the national banking award to be extended to include Saturday afternoons and all of Sundays. The banks say they'd still pay penalty rates, but the union doubts this promise would last. It says the banks' goal is to be able to roster employees to work any five days of the week without recognising traditional work patterns.
What's the banks' justification for seeking such a change? To promote ''flexible and efficient modern work practices in a way that has proper regard to the considerations of productivity and employment costs''.
Ah yes. It would make the economy more flexible and efficient, and thus raise productivity. Well, in that case, say no more. Silly me.
It's not hard to see why there's been so little public questioning of this push towards a 24/7 economy. It's highly convenient to be able to shop whenever we have the time. The more two-income families we have, the more we value the ability to shop throughout the weekend.
It also fits with the trend towards leisure being commercialised - becoming something we buy (a meal out, a show) rather than something we do (kick a football in the park with our kids).
But this belief that life would be better if shops, restaurants and places of entertainment were open all hours rests on the assumption you and I won't be among those required to work unsociable hours to make it happen. An even less obvious assumption is that the push for a 24/7 economy will stop when it has captured shopping and entertainment; it won't continue and reach those of us who work in factories and offices.
As usual, the ''flexibility'' being sought is one-sided. Employers gain the ability to require people to work - or not work - at times that suit their firm's efforts to maximise its profits.
If those times don't fit with your family responsibilities - or just with your desire to enjoy your life (you selfish person, you) - or if the boss's requirements keep changing in unpredictable ways, that's just too bad.
It's the price to be paid for getting more prosperous (with the boss's standard of living rising quite a bit faster than yours).
But this is the part of modern life that makes no sense to me.
Accepting the economists' argument that keeping the economy running for more hours in the week is more efficient and so will raise our material standard of living, how exactly will this leave us better off?
Why does being able to buy more stuff make up for husbands and wives being able to see less of each other, having less time with the kids, having a lot more trouble getting together with your friends, and having your day off when everyone else is at school or working?
Why is this an attractive future? Why should our elected representatives reorganise our economy in ways that suit business and promote consumption, but do so at the expense of employees' private lives?
This is a classic case of business people, economists and politicians urging on us a mentality that prioritises the economic - the material - over the other dimensions of our lives. Yet again, no one pauses to ask what these ''reforms'' will do to our relationships.
Why is it the politicians who bang on most about the sanctity of The Family are also those most inclined to make family life more difficult?
Ross Gittins is the economics editor.