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Peace ( by Voice of Baptist Papua)

Home » , , » When pacifist Greens want military action, it's time to ask if their policies really can fly

When pacifist Greens want military action, it's time to ask if their policies really can fly

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on March 21, 2011 | 8:44 PM

It was surprising to hear of the Greens' sole House of Reps member, Adam Bandt, calling for the imposition and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya the other day.
It’s just not the sort of thing you expect from a Green.
Deep concern about the slaughter of innocents by the Libyan government and its mercenary forces? Sure. Calls for unremitting diplomatic pressure to bring the recalcitrant dictator to the negotiating table? Yeah. Knock yourself out.
But no-fly zones? Policed by jet fighters authorised to use deadly force?

Not so much.
In fact, you very rarely hear anything from the Greens on strategic issues, or defence policy, unless it’s a pro forma denunciation of military spending, the war in Afghanistan, or both mainstream parties' slavish devotion to the US Alliance.
Fair enough.
They’re all legitimate debating points and there is a significant minority of the electorate whose views do not accord with mainstream acceptance of established strategic paradigms. Are they not to be represented in the Parliament?
The call by Bandt caught my attention however, because I’d been spending quite a bit of time poring over the Green’s policy platform while researching a story on them assuming the balance of power in their own right in the Senate later this year. I will get around to writing that story, promise. But one of the things that struck me was the torrent of abuse and opprobrium heaped upon Brown and Co. for their unconventional ideas about some headline issues such as defence policy – which they prefer to characterise as ‘peace and security’ policy.
There are others, like the party’s better known antipathy to the coal industry, and lesser known policy for linking trade policy to human rights. As part of my research for the feature I interviewed Bandt, Brown and Christine Milne. They are all intelligent, committed people, and not even a little bit crazy, not matter what Rupert Murdoch’s baser minions might say.
And yet, within their policy platform there are any number of issues waiting to explode in their faces. I sought a follow up interview with Bob Brown to clarify a number of these, but he got caught up in the NSW election, and the Carbon Tax debate, and I was distracted by a book deadline.
And then, the other day, I saw Adam Bandt call for a no-fly-zone to be imposed over Libya.
The thing is, on my reading of the Green’s peace and security platform, the RAAF as it currently constituted and planned to evolve, would have no place in a Green Australia. The RAAF is structured as war fighting force, and in regional terms, a very powerful one. So too the RAN. Their role is to project Australian power into the world, to engage with our enemies when they arise, and destroy them.
This is not consistent with Green policy on my reading of their platform.
And yet, Adam Bandt called for the no-fly-zone. So presumably there exists within the Greens a recognition that war fighting and interstate conflict is, to some degree, inevitable, and a responsible government should be prepared for it.
The party’s platform, as I understand it, is under review. It’s been under review for some time.
As a commentator, and, I’ll admit it, a regular Green voter, I remain interested in how it might evolve.
So in the interests of furthering debate about that evolution, I’ve decided to publish a few of the questions I submitted to Bob Brown’s office before we were both distracted by more important things than my feature.
1. Assuming an industry such as coal mining, and associated sectors such as energy generation, cannot be dismantled overnight, how quickly might they be shut down, (your policy outlines suggest a 10-15 year time frame to avoid disaster). Coal mining, and coal fired power aren't the beating heart of the Australian economy, but they're pretty significant organs. How much work has been done on modeling the change to a low carbon economy? It cannot be a simple swap and go operation, can it?

2. Australia plays a large part in the energy security plans of other, very significant polluters, such as China. The coal fired power plants they are opening at a rate of one a week (last time I checked) are both a crucial part of that country's plans to modernise, and a ticking time bomb, environmentally. Their development plans are based in part on securing huge volumes of iron ore from Australia, and black coal to smelt that into steel. How does Greens policy address the consequences - there must be consequences - of unilaterally altering the development plans of other state actors?

3. Greens Economic Policy taken as a whole, seems to imply quite massive changes to the structure and functioning of the Australian economy. From shifting tax revenues away from personal income and towards levying the extractive and polluting industries, towards recasting the transport system so that private, petroleum based motor vehicles are made much less attractive (ie, much more expensive) than mass public transport, or rail based freight. The shift to triple bottom line accounting measures, changes to company and individual tax regimes, foreign investment rules... it's not a modest reform package is it? How much is simple wishful thinking, or of heuristic intent? How viable are such policies, truly, given the ferocious opposition they would encounter from the most powerful sectors of the economy and the losers they would create among sectors of the workforce?

4. In the party's policy statement on International Relations, measure 25 states the Greens would: "require trade agreements to be multilateral, reviewable by Parliament and to include clauses on the observance of human rights and labour laws, health and safety standards and environmental standards, to ensure that trade is not conducted at the expense of manufacturing and rural workers' or consumers' rights or of environmental sustainability."
But how would this work in practice, given the almost universal exploitation of manufacturing and rural workers outside the developed world? Would Apple products be banned because of the appalling conditions under which Foxconn employees work in China? Would textile, clothing and footwear imports from Asia likewise have to cease until companies such as Nike stopped running virtual slave factories in countries like Vietnam? Does the party have any modeling suggesting how much trade could no longer be conducted with such restrictions in place?

5. Does the Greens' desire for 'closer involvement and cooperation with the countries of South East Asia,' run counter to the inevitable tensions created by paradigm changing policies such as the one above, tying trade deals to working conditions in other countries, or, for instance, the goal of wanting 'self determination for the people of West Papua,'? Hardly a statement likely to engender 'closer involvement and cooperation' with any government in Jakarta? The point here is that many of the governments you are seeking to be more closely involved with, are direct beneficiaries of the exploitative arrangements you want to end.

6. The Greens Peace and Security policies would seem to inevitably mean an end to ANZUS Alliance. Not a recasting, or renegotiation, but a repudiation. Is this too harsh an assessment?

7. Even if ANZUS was only suspended (as per the situation with New Zealand after their nuke ban) Australia would lose access to a large range of defence synergies, eg. US satellite intelligence. To maintain capability would mean a massive increase in spending, yet Greens policy seems to imply a much more modest defence budget and ADF. Does the party have a defence blueprint beyond statements of intent about using 'non-violent conflict management'? How would the Greens structure the three forces? What capabilities would stay and what would go? Is there a strategic rationale behind the party's peace and security 'measures'. What are Australia's defence needs? For instance, current doctrine states the need to be able to control the air-sea gap to the country's north during any conflict. Are the Greens of the opinion that such a capability, with its implied need to maintain high technology war fighting platforms and surveillance systems, is unnecessary, even overreaching?

8. If the policy to ban the sale of weapons or components overseas is to be enforced, does this not mean programs such as supplying patrol boats to Pacific Island nations would have to be abandoned? Those countries will seek supply elsewhere. The systems will be bought, but not from Australia. Most likely from other powers with the ability to supply and a desire to gain some measure of influence in the region. How is that a net gain?

9. Given the unprecedented naval build up currently underway in both India and China, including the construction of nuclear powered and armed aircraft carriers and submarines, how would the Greens propose to 'work towards a nuclear-free Asia-Pacific region.'
And, finally, one I didn’t ask but will now:
10: How do you impose a no-fly-zone without an air force?
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