Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974
Help Put Polaris Submarines Out of Action! Trans-Australian Tour For Anti-US Base, Activists
Help Put Polaris Submarines Out of Action! Trans-Australian Tour For Anti-US Base, Activists.
In May of this year Australians opposed to US militarism will be crossing their continent from Sydney and Melbourne and converging on the US Navy North West Cape Naval Communication Station, in Western Australia.
North West Cape (NWC) is a gigantic $80 million very-low frequency transmitter which is responsible for sending radio messages to submerged missile submarines throughout the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. If NWC can be put out of action, this part of the world will be effectively denied to US submarines, since they would have no way of receiving their firing orders.
New Zealanders should be just as concerned as Australians about the existence of this base. CAFMANZ. the Committee Against Foreign Military Activities in New Zealand, is arranging for a group of New Zealanders to participate in the "Long March" on North West Cape.
Buses have been chartered for transport, and these will be accompanied by private transport, including landrovers and motorbikes in case detours have to be made round police road blocks. All transport arrangements for New Zealanders will be handled by CAFMANZ.
Demonstrators will travel in two groups, known as the Long March and the Quick March. Both groups will travel the same route but the Quick March will get there and back in less time by travelling much longer distances each day.
Participants in the Long March will be booked on flights from New Zealand to Sydney on May 2 or 3. Buses will depart Sydney on Saturday. May 4 and will cover the 3000 miles to NWC by May 19, with a two day stop-over in Perth. Participants in the Quick March will be flown to Sydney on May 8 or 9, and their probably much larger group will leave Sydney on May 11 and catch up with the Long March group at Perth. After an overnight demonstration at NWC both groups will return to Sydney by May 26. New Zealanders can book in advance to return to New Zealand on any date they wish after May 26.
The trip will require a good deal of give and take from participants, as the conditions may be fairly spartan and we will have to live in a cooperative rather than individualistic way.
CAFMANZ will arrange return bookings from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch to Sydney at $125 for students or $138 if you cannot qualify as a student (contact us for further details). Applications must reach us by March 15 at the very latest, and be accompanied by $40 deposit. ($10 of this will be forwarded to the Sydney Committee for bus bookings). Costs for bus transport within Australia will be held to $100—which is dirt cheap for a round trip of over 6,500 miles! Food costs are not settled yet, but food will be bought in bulk and costs will be minimal—say about $30. We will be camping so accomodation will cost nix.
Total costs, allowing for a few dollars piss-money etc will definitely be less than $300 per person, particularly for the Quick March.
What's in it for you?
For less than $300 you will be getting a guided bus tour right across Australia—the sort of trip that normally only the middle-aged, middle class tourist can afford. But it won't be just the usual tourist sight you see—besides NWC we will visit several other of the 30 odd US military and aerospace installations in Australia, plus several examples of multinational corporations stripping Australian natural resources. A pamphlet detailing everything to be seen will be available soon. And you will have the satisfaction of opposing America's second most important military base in the southern hemisphere (the most important is Pine Gap spy satellite base at Alice Springs). On return to Sydney we are hoping that Sydney radicals can jack up a quick tour of the local action, such as the Aboriginal urban community project in Redfem, and Richmond Air Force Base, the terminal for USAF Starlifter flights from Christchurch Airport.
And of course you will have a month of en route dialogue with some of Australia's well-seasoned radical activists.
Why North West Cape?
This rather inaccessible base has been chosen for several important reasons. Firstly it has a particularly obnoxious function—sending firing orders to missile submarines. Secondly NWC is a little bit of American territory, leased off Australia for a peppercorn rental, in which Australians are classed as "foreign nationals" and which they may not enter without US permission.
By treaty Australia has absolutely no control over what the Americans do there, and no right to even know what they are doing. NWC could issue the order to start World War III and Australia would automatically be an unwitting and unwilling accomplice.
NWC is a highly visible and vulnerable target. With its dozens of antennae up to 1300 feet high and dozens of buildings and airfield spread over a total of 30 miles, it will take thousands of troops to keep out demonstrators. The audacity of this demonstration will ensure widespread media coverage of our opposition to US militarism. The Long March will pass through many cities and town where public meetings, photographic displays, leaflet handouts etc will take place.
What will we do at North West Cape?
This will naturally depend on the nature of our reception which is unpredictable, as those who demonstrated at Harewood in '73 or Woodbourne in 71 will know. The group will have much time to discuss plans on the way.
The Australians have suggested that we take possession of the land and pay back the rent to the Yanks. The Melbourne group claims that in a masterful coup they have already gained possession of the original peppercorn. Flog all the American flags. Conduct a guided tour of all the prohibited zones.
Probably the Australian organisers also have lots of better ideas, which for obvious reasons they are not spreading.
The route to North West Cape
The Hume and Sturt Highways are followed for the first three days during which the 894 miles between Sydney and Adelaide are covered. This will take us past the Snowy Mountains, through Wagga Wagga, in the vicinity of which the US Navy wanted to locate Omega, to Hay where the Sydney contingent will rendezvous with the Melbourne contingent, and down the Murray Valley, full of vineyards and wineries. Shortly before Adelaide we will pass Australia's top secret Weapons Research Establishment, and a US Navy Satellite Tracking Station.
More demonstrators will join at Adelaide and from there it will be two days of travel to Ceduna, the start of the Nullabor Desert. Another four days travel gets the mob to Perth, passing a former USAF Woodbourne-type base along the way. There will be two full days at Perth for political activities, etc, then we will push on to Geraldton, then Carnarvon, location of gigantic NASA space tracking antennae, then to North West Cape for an overnight stay. Return trip will be by the same route to Perth, then due east to the Coolgardie/Kalgoorlie goldfields (remember Tim Shadbolt's account of the Kalgoorlie brothels?) and back onto the original route as far as Port Augusta, then straight across central New South Wales, through Broken Hill, to Sydney.
What is North West Cape?
North West Cape is simply a gigantic radio station which relays messages from command posts in the US to submarines, ships and overseas bases throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Its main feature is the giant VLF transmitter with an antenna which is the highest structure in the southern hemisphere—almost 1300 feet. This two million watt transmitter is mainly concerned with sending commands to missile and other nuclear submarines. Nearby is the diesel generating plant for the transmitters, an 18 megawatt installation consuming 4.8 million tons of oil a year, brought to it by tankers berthing at the bases's own 1100 foot wharf.
About five miles away is the high frequency transmitter area and headquarters and 36 miles away is the high frequency receiver area. These two sites together are a giant size version of the Naval Communication unit at Christchurch—Weedons with dozens of antennae and transmitters relaying voices, teleprinter and facsimile messages. It is known that some Christchurch—Weedons radio traffic is routed through North West Cape. It is believed that some of these antennae are operated on behalf of the US National Security Agency eavesdropping on other countries' radio traffic.
Nearby is the military airfield—nearly two miles long, sealed three feet thick, long enough to take Orion antisubmarine aircraft, F111's, USAF Starlifters from Christchurch Airport, and giant C5A Galixies from Guam.
Altogether the base covers 17,900 acres in three distinct areas, all "restricted" but mostly unfenced—hitherto its isolation has been sufficient to protect it from Australian wrath.