Media Release 14 July 2021

Australia’s largest warfighting exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 (TS21) will officially open today with a  ceremony at Amberley RAAF Base, 50km east of Brisbane.

Though significantly down-sized due to the Covid pandemic, Talisman Sabre will see 17,000 US and Australian troops engaging in combined land, sea and air manoeuvres inland and along the Queensland coast.  Key components of Talisman Sabre take place at Shoalwater Bay, north of Rockhampton, within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Environmentalists and peace groups are alarmed at the ongoing use of these environmentally and culturally significant sites for warfare practice.

On June 22, the United Nations World Heritage Committee released a draft report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef announcing that it will recommend that the Great Barrier Reef be listed as “World Heritage in Danger” at its upcoming meeting in China.  The Committee identified the need for greater commitment to “countering the effects of climate change, but also towards accelerating water quality improvement and land management measures.”

Talisman Sabre involves the use of US nuclear-powered and nuclear-weapons capable vessels, the practising of urban warfare, the use of high power sonar, amphibious assaults, parachuting and land force manoeuvres. Live firing, if not explicitly part of the exercise, is likely to occur either before or after the official dates.

These activities are incompatible with protection of the Reef.

Great Barrier Reef

This year, the ADF did not engage in a Public Environment Report process and has not publicly released environmental assessment for the areas in which Talisman Sabre will take place It did, however, Defence produced an environmental awareness information video for visiting troops which promotes the military use of the Great Barrier Reef.

The video reminds troops to consider the Reef and not to litter, a far cry from the active environmental management required to protect the vulnerable reef and incongruous with the dramatic messaging around live firing exercises in Shoalwater Bay in early June this year for Exercise Diamond Walk.

The objective of Talisman Sabre is to increase force inter-operability with the US, a military whose environmental footprint cannot be ignored.  The US military is ranked among the world’s worst polluters and is the world’s greatest organisational consumer of oil. It has a legacy of leaving bases contaminated and radioactive. In 2013, the US jettisoned four bombs on the Great Barrier Reef when they had difficulty dropping them on their intended target, Townshend Island.

Talisman Sabre rotates with the RIMPAC exercises based out of Hawaii as the two major US-led combined forces training exercises in the Pacific.  The Pacific Peace Network will be hosting a webinar during Talisman Sabre  – on  July 24 –  to explore the impact of Talisman Sabre ongoing US military activity in the Pacific on Pacific communities.

Solidarity Webinar: Cancel Talisman Sabre – No more war games in the Pacific!

Please join with people from across the Pacific to declare Peace at the upcoming webinar organised by the Pacific Peace Network (PPN) on Saturday, July 24 at 10:00am Seoul / 11:00am Australia Eastern Time / 1:00pm NZST (Friday, July 23 at 3:00pm HST).

You will hear representatives from the Philippines, Guåhan, Aotearoa/NZ, West Papua, Jeju Island, Okinawa, Hawai’i, Australia, and more.

We, the peoples of the Pacific, aim to create a peaceful, sustainable, and thriving region free of militarism and its negative consequences. We stand in solidarity with each other, empowered by the spirit of our ancestors and as stewards of Moana Nui (the Pacific Ocean).

REGISTER to sign up and get the Zoom link for the webinar! Registration info will be shared with World BEYOND War and the Pacific Peace Network.

NOTE: if you do not click “yes” to subscribe to emails when RSVPing for this event you will not receive follow up emails about the event (including reminders, zoom links, etc).

Environment Report Released

The Environment Report (ER) on the risk associated with Talisman Sabre 2019 has been released by the Australian Defence Force. In previous years this (a ‘Public’ Environment Report) has been prepared by an external source so it is interesting that for Talisman Sabre 2019, the report has been produced by the ADF themselves. Surely much more reliable and accurate when we do it ourselves?

Got problems with the report? Or don’t agree with the ADF’s findings on the impact that these war games will have on the environment? Comments can be submitted prior to 17 May and will be addressed in a Consultation Report that will be published prior to the start of the war games in July.
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Returning to Stanage

by Robin Taubenfeld

A year has passed since the accident.

My friend has convinced me to tackle the fateful road again.  I am worried. The last – and only – time I drove it, I braked on a curve, spun out the tires, lost control of the car and after spinning around on the road just barely missed crashing into a fallen gum tree.  I nearly killed us all. My 9 year old daughter was in the back, as were my friend’s 7 year old son and her partner.  She was in the front with me and yet she proposed travelling the road again; we had never made it to Stanage Bay and while our original purpose had passed, the goal was still there and unachieved: to see the land the military had begun using for military training, to explore the pristine coastline used for amphibious landing practice, to document the militarised country… A trip to the beach. A contested space.

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