Pine Gap protests – historical

Pine Gap protests – historical


Six part series on the history of Pine Gap protests by Scott Campbell-Smith:

Star Wars To Bring Back Base Foes, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, 20 March 2002.

Pine Gap: To Spy Or Not To Spy
, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, 27 March 2002.

Pine Gap: Women’s Wrath Hits Base: Gender, Race Issues Seethe
, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, 3 April 2002.

111 Karen Silkwoods, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, 10 April 2002.

Bicycles vs US Air Force Galaxy, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, April 17, 2002.

‘Closing’ Pine Gap, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, April 24, 2002.

Entering the ‘gap’ between what’s right and what’s legal, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 17 October 2005.

The first major protest against Pine Gap was a gathering of 700 women [13] on November 11 1983. The Alice Springs News [14] tells about the “Karen Silkwoods” and their amazing protest (fourth article down). Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this protest is that it was supported indirectly [15] by twelve Labor women Parliamentarians, including then Minister for Education Senator Susan Ryan, in a telexed statement approved by PM Bob Hawke and Foreign Minister Bill Hayden.

In October 1987 some 300 people were arrested at a “Close the Gap” action organised by the Australian Anti-Bases Coalition [16] and the Alice Springs [17] Peace Group (near bottom of page). These protests were aimed at publicising the nature of Pine Gap as a spy base (it had previously been promoted within Australia as a space research base), its links with nuclear weapons systems, and its role in nuclear war-fighting. They took place in the context of US deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles in western Europe, which created a mass popular peace movement around the world.

The next mass action at Pine Gap took place October 7-9 2002 [18], and was squarely aimed at the conventional war-fighting role of the base in the proposed war against Iraq. Around 400 people showed up with the usual vibrant displays of costumes and actions, and were met by an equal or larger number of police. Instead of enjoying support from any element of the Labor Party, the only politicians present were from the Greens and Democrats.

History of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition

The Anti-Nuclear Campaign, Worth Fighting For, Preserving the Documentary Heritage of Queensland Women, Fryer Library, University of Queensland. 

Ed.: Rare images of early anti-nuclear demonstrations, and Pine Gap Women’s Camp preparations and posters.

The Story of the Australian Nonviolence Network, Peter Jones, Margaret Pestorius and Bryan Law, Non-Violence Training Network.

Early days

Pine Gap: To Spy Or Not To Spy, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, 27 March 2002.

In 1976-77 Philip Nitschke, who later became a medical doctor known for his voluntary euthanasia activism, was working as a ranger at Simpson’s Gap and as caretaker for the Temple Bar Caravan Park. He recalls: “You could get a really good view of the base from the top of the hill [at Temple Bar] and I had an almost continuous stream of people who wanted to have a look, so I was more or less doing tours up to the same spot on top of the hill. “That’s really where my interest started, it grew into a sort of informal monitoring of the place. “Des Ball [currently Head of Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU] had just finished his book, A Suitable Piece of Real Estate, and I got in contact with him. “I’d ring him up and say things like, ‘They’ve started building this thing and what do you think that might be?’. “That was when we formed the group Concerned Citizens of Alice Springs. “At that stage it was all about getting people to consider the issue and we did put out a newsletter. I was running around trying to get people around town, who were already much too busy with other work, to devote time to this issue. “John Reeves [now a Darwin QC and author of the former CLP government’s enquiry into the land councils] was incredibly important at that stage. His interest waned after a certain point, and there were a few other people, but it was mostly pretty thin on the ground and that was part of why I started to get in contact with other groups nationally, to broaden the support base. “They were mostly peace and anti-war groups, and they had broader connections again, to church groups and unions.” This work culminated in a conference held in Alice Springs during Easter, 1981, with plans taking shape for a major protest.

Women’s Peace Camp, Women for Survival, November 1983

Poster: Women's peace camp Pine Gap Nov. 11th 1983
Source:<br />

Source: Jill Posters (1983 – ), Poster: Women’s peace camp Pine Gap Nov. 11th 1983

Women for survival, Jo Darbyshire
Source: Women for survival, Jo Darbyshire, Garage Graphix, c.1983<br /> <br /><br />

Source: Women for survival, Jo Darbyshire, Garage Graphix, c.1983

‘All We Are Saying…’ The 1983 Pine Gap Womens’ Peace Camp, Megg Kelham, Hindsight, Radio National, ABC, 9 November  2003.

Ed.: Only the programme summary remains on this site.

Women for survival : Pine Gap camp handbook November 11-25 1983.

Pine Gap, the images : when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.  Sydney : Women’s Action Against Global Violence (Women for Survival), [1983]. ISBN: 0959126902.

Policeman’s Dreaming, Wendy Poussard

This evening he sees
that through the wire
the women’s camp is quiet.
The heat is off.
He thinks that if he did not have this job

he would lose everything he knows;
he and his wife and kids
would have no place
to stand securely.
The banners make the fence a gallery
the women’s weaving, tangled in the wire

with ribbons, messages and toys
a serendipity of peace
a boundary between reality and dream
(depending on which way you look at it)

Finding himself alone,
he sings “Give peace a chance”

Wendy Poussard
Pine Gap 1984
Groundswell #16, October 1985

Pine Gap protest 1983
Source: Policing Australia Since 1788: In the Line of Duty.<br /> A major deployment of NT Police in conjunction with Australian Federal Police was raised to control the demonstration. 111 demonstrators were arrested.<br /> <br />;numberperpage=5&amp;iID=1495



Women’s peace force marches on Pine Gap, Simon Balderstone, The Age, 12 November 1983.

Notes Towards an Archive of Australian Feminist Activism, Alison Bartlett, Maryanne Dever, Margaret Henderson, Quickskirts: Feminisms Along the Edge. Vol 16, May 2007.

Complaints relating to the protest at Pine Gap, November 1983. Report No 20, Human Rights Commission.

Report of the Ombudsman on the investigation of complaints against Police arising from protest demonstrations at Pine Gap, Northern Territory, 13 & 15 November 1983.  Darwin : Northern Territory Ombudsman, 1984.

Bicycles vs USAF Galaxy, July 1985

Bicycles vs US Air Force Galaxy, Scott Campbell-Smith, Alice Springs News, April 17, 2002.

The Galaxy, a new and bigger aircraft than had previously made the run from the US to Alice Springs, came into service, moving parts for the construction work and goods for the employees. One day in July of 1985 at least five people broke into the airport grounds and hid in the scrub next to the tarmac. As the Galaxy approached and prepared to land, four people with bicycles on their shoulders raced across the bare ground towards the eastern end of the tarmac, where they mounted their bicycles and rode furiously west up the tarmac. Although one cyclist was stopped very early, three others charged on as federal police gave chase then stopped their vehicles to grab them, only to see the cyclists swoop out of reach, and then the farce was repeated.

The Galaxy was forced to abort its landing and the crowd cheered. As the Galaxy circled, a second and then a third cyclist was apprehended but the fourth made it almost to the end of the runway before being stopped by police. The protest at the arrival and departure gates had continued. After the Galaxy landed and began to prepare to unload, one man ran onto the tarmac and sprayed the side of the aircraft with red paint, but was almost immediately, and roughly, arrested and charged with damage to property. The four cyclists were also taken into custody and charged.

Photos of the demonstration made it into papers world wide: the base and the people who opposed it were, once again, for a moment, a national and international focus of attention for the anti-war movement.

Galaxy demonstration
Undated photograph of demonstration near a USAF Galaxy.<br /> Source: Pine Gap: Closed by the People, 19 Oct. 1986 – 19 Oct. 1987, Alice Springs Peace Group, 1986.<br /><br />

Source: Pine Gap: Closed by the People, 19 Oct. 1986 – 19 Oct. 1987, Alice Springs Peace Group, 1986.

Close the Gap action, October 1987

Pine Gap: Closed by the People, 19 Oct. 1986 – 19 Oct. 1987, Alice Springs Peace Group, 1986.

Ed.: Detailed background and planning document for the 1987 protest.

Closed by the people
Cover of Pine Gap: Closed by the People, 19 Oct. 1986 – 19 Oct. 1987, Alice Springs Peace Group, 1986.<br /><br /> <br /> <br /> <br />

Pine Gap Protest, 1987: Exposing Australia’s Nuclear connections, Ralph Summy, Social Alternatives 7, no. 2 (June 1988), pp. 42-46.
Limbo v Little (1989) 65 NTR 19; 98 FLR 421; 45 A Crim R 61, Sentencing remarks, Court of Criminal Appeal, Northern Territory.

All of the matters for consideration arose at the instance of the appellant, who calls himself by the name given in these proceedings.  For some other purposes he is known as Leonard John Lindon. He is a qualified legal practitioner, admitted to practise in that name in South Australia, and is upon the roll of practitioners of the High Court of Australia.

2.  On 19 October 1987 he was charged under s. 89(1) of the Crimes Act (Commonwealth) for that on that day he did without lawful excuse trespass upon prohibited Commonwealth land, namely the Joint Defence Space Research Facility, an establishment near Alice Springs, commonly known as “Pine Gap”.
3.  On 14 April 1988, he was convicted of that offence by the Court of Summary  Jurisdiction sitting at Alice Springs and fined $250.  From that conviction he appealed to the Supreme Court, which allowed the appeal in March 1989 and  remitted the matter to the former Court for re-hearing. The appeal was allowed upon the ground that the appellant had not had a fair hearing.

On 28 March 1989 the appellant arranged to have issued summonses to appear at the August re-hearing, directed to the Prime Minister, Peter Woodruff, (who it is alleged is the “Australian Deputy-Head of Pine Gap”) and Glen Kerr (“U.S. boss of Pine Gap”).  I do not decide the question, which is not before the Full Court, as to whether service of those summonses was effective.  In
any event, on 30 March 1989, the appellant applied to Mr Hook, Stipendiary Magistrate, for the issue of a warrant for the arrest of Mr Kerr upon the ground that it was probable that Mr Kerr would not attend to give evidence on the date specified in the summons.  The appellant gave evidence upon oath as
to the service of the summons and as to his belief that Mr Kerr was about to leave Australia, and his grounds for so believing. The application was refused by the learned Magistrate upon the ground that he had no power to order that a warrant for arrest issue in those circumstances.

Joint defence space research facility : public response to the Council’s call for submissions.  Alice Springs, N.T. : Alice Springs Town Council, 1987.

Desert Peace Protest, October 2002

Desert Peace Protest — October 5-7, 2002, Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition

Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services Annual Report, 2003

Operation Zeal (5-7 October 2002)
Operation Zeal was initiated in response to planned protests by various issue-motivated groups at the Joint Defence Facility, Pine Gap near Alice Springs. The operation was planned over a six-month period. It was a multi-agency response that included personnel from Australian Protective Services, Australian Federal Police and agencies from both the Commonwealth and NT Governments. A total of 94 police personnel from all Regions participated in the operation. The protest included 500-600 demonstrators who travelled from all states and territorie to participate. The protests included a series of rallies at the gates to Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap with attempts to breach police lines. As a result, 16 persons were arrested.

Pine Gap 4, December 2005

Pine Gap incursion, 9 December 2005

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
6 April 2008