More Australian 'involvement' in US bases?
Canberra — The day after his March 5 election win, this country's new leader called for greater Australian ''involvement'' in the running of American bases here. Bob Hawke's remark emphasized his desire to stake out a more independent position than the strongly pro-American stance of his predecessor, Malcolm Fraser.
But the prime minister-designate has made it clear he will not adopt the anti-American views of the left-wing of his Labor Party. And both he and his foreign minister, Bill Hayden, have insisted that they do not intend to erode the basic ties laid down in the ANZUS treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
''The current situation will remain,'' Mr. Hawke said Sunday about the US bases. The new Labor government ''wants to improve Australian involvement in the bases, but that will come about through detailed talks.''
The bases have been a political problem for the Labor Party since the first of them - at Northwest Cape in Western Australia - was proposed in the early 1960s. That naval base was constructed to allow the US to have effective communications with submerged nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean and the southwest Pacific. Labor's concern was that Australia would not be able to control or monitor instructions being sent, and that the base could be used for unleashing a nuclear attack by the submarines.
The party also objected to the conditions under which the US was allowed to set up ground bases in central and southern Australia to monitor defense and national security satellites. Labor argued that the bases were an infringement of Australian sovereignty.
In each instance the then Liberal Party government argued that Australia simply had to provide the facilities requested. It contended that any objection would be taken by the US government as an indication that Australia did not intend to abide by its obligations under the ANZUS Treaty.
The present US administration used the same argument when Labor began to object to visits by nuclear-propelled US Navy ships to Australian ports. Last year Deputy Secretary of State Walter Stoessel told the Labor Party that any ban on these ships would make the ANZUS alliance unworkable. Labor leaders backed off and began instead to discuss with the US a proposal for Australia to establish an office in the Pentagon which would be involved in the development of strategic thinking.