Launch of People’s Inquiry Interim Report

Firstly and importantly I wish to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, in my case the Woonarua People. I pay my respects to Aboriginal elders past and present and to leaders yet to emerge and acknowledge the land was never ceded. I also note the need to work with and to help elevate the voices of First Nations Peoples who are opposed to the use of their land for military purposes.

Welcome friends, my name is Kellie Tranter. I’m a lawyer, researcher and Chair of the Independent & Peaceful Australia Inquiry which is a national public inquiry into the costs and consequences of the Australia-US Alliance for the Australian people.

I would like to thank IPAN, particularly Annette Brownlie and Sam Brennan, Jonathan Pilbrow, Edan Baxter for their enormous, combined efforts over two years and to the expert panelists Terry Mason, Professor Jeannie Rea, Dr Alison Broinowski, Dr Chad Satterlee, Greg Barns SC, Ian Lowe AO, Dr Vince Scappatura and Reverend Peter Catt for their unwavering commitment and contributions to this Inquiry.

I also wish to thank the supporters of this Inquiry and the independent news organisations Independent Australia and Pearls and Irritations for  helping to get the word out.

Over 50 years ago Dr Martin Luther King, in a speech originally titled “America’s Chief Moral Dilemma” warned the assembled community leaders about the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.

He said: “Now I want to deal with the third evil that constitutes the dilemma of our nation and the world. And that is the evil of war. Somehow these three evils are tied together. The triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. The great problem and the great challenge facing mankind today is to get rid of war … We have left ourselves as a nation morally and politically isolated in the world. We have greatly strengthened the forces of reaction in America, and excited violence and hatred among our own people. We have diverted attention from civil rights. During a period of war, when a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs inevitably suffer. People become insensitive to pain and agony in their own midst …”

Fifty years later the Independent & Peaceful Australia People’s Inquiry is now moving to the final stages of producing an historical report which encapsulates “Australia’s Chief Moral Dilemma”,  highlighting the links between similar evils affecting us and providing a considered explanation for our diminished position both domestically and globally.

It does so by looking at the impact of Australia’s involvement in US led wars and the US-alliance, including the costs and consequences for First Nations’ Peoples, society and community, unions and workers’ rights, politics including democratic rights, the environment and climate change, military and defence, foreign policy and economics.

In relation to First Nations’ Peoples, submissions focused on the lack of adequate consultation, access to land, self-determination, non-recognition and environmental destruction and contamination. More succinctly, going to the root of those problems, the evil of racism.

In her book ‘Our exceptional friend Australia’s fatal alliance with the United States’ Emma Shortis points out that ‘Racism has united our two nations since their beginnings. Both were founded on dispossession and genocide, and both political systems preserve and perpetuate white supremacy…In the 1950s, ANZUS was a symptom of long standing, deeply racist fears of non-white invasion in Australia.  Seventy years later, ANZUS remains, too, one of the causes of the perpetuation of those fears, reinforcing and normalising the idea that white people are under threat….

In relation to consequences for society and community, the economy and unions and workers’ rights, submissions identified opportunities lost for better education, healthcare and welfare, the impacts on veterans, minority groups and the poor, the consequences of war on the national psyche, normalisation of conflict and violence, destruction of social and cultural lives, political structures, civil society and economic and environmental devastation, weakening of unions by successive governments who have historically opposed imperialist and unjust wars, impacts on trade and economic sovereignty.  All this would seem to fall under the “economic exploitation” evil.

Turning to the evil of militarism and submissions received on foreign policy, consequences are identified for politics including democratic rights, military and defence including the problematic nature of a growing militarist mindset, vested interests of arms manufacturers, the loss of liberties and freedoms though national security laws, military build-ups, expansion of US bases, inconsistent adherence to the ‘international-rules based order’ and the bipartisan dependence on the US to compensate for the decline of Australia’s diplomatic influence.

Last, in relation to the environment and climate change, submissions covered things like the measurable direct costs of military action, fuel use by the military in the context of climate change, nuclear issues, biosecurity risks and desirable activities that are precluded by our prioritisation of military spending. The important link is made explicit between higher defence spending and reduced resources to address real threats like climate change.

I am enormously proud of the interim report. Not because of the insight of ordinary people in identifying many of the problems but also because they have asked deep and moral strategic questions and put in the effort to provide alternative visions and possible solutions.

As Dr Shortis mentions in her book, ‘We are allowed to demand better, even if we don’t know exactly what better looks like. It’s enough to know that it doesn’t look like this.’

And we know that it certainly doesn’t look like Australians being sidelined from the debate relating to Australia’s defence and foreign policy. Politicians thrust upon us their decisions, often wrong, with dire consequences like starting a war (for example by Howard unilaterally deciding to join in the invasion of Afghanistan) or heightening cold war chills with resulting trade disruptions (insulting China about covid origins rather than using diplomacy, and threatening it by co-founding AUKUS.  We have been subjected to this for the past 60 years at least and many of our citizens daily pay a price, whether personal or economic or both, for our politicians’ hubris.

The Inquiry’s main aim is to facilitate a deep conversation and engagement with the broader Australian community. It also aims to produce and promote a public report outlining the views of many Australians who hold concerns about the US alliance and detailing what steps might be taken to ensure a genuinely independent and peaceful foreign policy for Australia.

This report is a first step, a stone being cast across the water which we hope will create many ripples. There’s still much work to be done. We must keep working towards putting forward. and generating popular support for, realistic and achievable outcomes. For example, a complete devolution of decision making powers about war and alliances from a few politicians to all citizens might not be practicable yet, but including all elected representatives in a public debate for which they must account for their actions individually to their electorate is.   But our objectives cannot be set in stone. The geopolitical landscape shifts quickly and at times profoundly, so we must aim to build a movement that will outlast this report but build on its ideas, a movement fluid and flexible and rational in its approach, with popular appeal and capable of maintaining public momentum. Optimising the outcomes of all military and diplomatic decisions for the real benefit of all Australians should be its ultimate objective.

Thank you

Print Friendly, PDF & Email