The “Joint Facilities” Revisited – Desmond Ball, Democratic Debate on Security, and the Human Interest

NAPSNet Special Report

Recommended Citation

"The “Joint Facilities” Revisited – Desmond Ball, Democratic Debate on Security, and the Human Interest", NAPSNet Special Reports, December 11, 2012,

By Richard Tanter

December 11, 2012

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I. Introduction

II. Report by Richard Tanter

III. Nautilus invites your responses

I. Introduction

Desmond Ball’s labours through four decades to elucidate the character of United States defence and intelligence facilities in Australia, to document the evidence, test the balance of benefits and dangers to both national security and human security, and then tell the story to his fellow Australians is unparalleled in Australian intellectual and political life, and probably more broadly. This paper examines Ball’s writings on these facilities, setting them in the wider context of Ball’s work on nuclear targeting, the transnational UKUSA intelligence and security community, and the possibilities and limits of self reliance in Australian defence. Reviewing developments in US-Australian “joint facilities” in Australia in the past decade, the paper examines the asymmetrical alliance cooperation involved in the technological, organisational and doctrinal integration of Australian defence forces with those of the United States. It then argues for a reconsideration of the balance of costs and benefits of the US facilities and the accompanying alliance grand bargain. The paper concludes with a re-consideration of Ball’s reluctant conclusion to the question of whether, on balance, the retention of the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap is in the Australian national interest and the wider human interest. That is, Ball’s argument that on the basis of the contribution Pine Gap made to arms control, and because for technical reasons there was no possibility of relocating it elsewhere, whoever speaks for arms control must speak for Pine Gap. In a situation of embedded globalised threat from the nuclear weapons systems to which Pine Gap contributes, the task is to discover ways in which these national technical means of verification can be brought, however partially, haltingly, and unwillingly, into the service of universal human security.

Richard Tanter is Senior Research Associate at the Nautilus Institute, and professor in the School of Social and Political Studies at the University of Melbourne. Email:

II. Report by Richard Tanter

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III. Nautilus invites your responses

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