Press Release

Queensland recovery means Talisman Sabre war games must be cancelled.

PRESS RELEASE 23 January, 2011

Millions of dollars and military manpower hours earmarked for the US-Australian Talisman Sabre military exercises should be diverted to assist in the recovery and reconstruction of Queensland following the recent catastrophic floods, according to a letter from a major peace group sent to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

"We know that the people of Australia see the reconstruction effort as our number one priority and would support a Federal Government decision to cancel the Talisman Sabre war games due to be held in the Rockhampton area in July this year," Denis Doherty, Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (AABCC) national co-ordinator, said in Sydney today.

"Australian military personnel have already made a contribution to recovery efforts. It would be perverse to expose flood damaged areas, including the Great Barrier Reef, to an intensive 300,000 strong military training exercise. This could undermine the ADF efforts which should rather be expanded.

"As well as its environmental costs, the Talisman Sabre war games will cost an estimated $70 million, money that could and should be used to help people whose lives have been devastated by the floods," he said.

"A 2009 Australian National University poll revealed that public support for disaster relief work by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) stands at 86 per cent, surpassing even support for the defence of Australia," said Dr Middleton, Executive Officer of Sydney University's Sydney Peace Foundation.

"The same poll tells us that 70 per cent of Australians favour spending less money on defence and a large majority - 82 per cent - oppose tax increases to pay for more defence spending.

"It is therefore clear that the great majority of our community would favour the Federal Government reconsidering its priorities and using the ADF for reconstruction work," Dr Middleton said.

"The Australian people are very wise," she added.

"On average one dollar spent on programs to prevent violence achieves as much as 60 spent on crises once violence erupts. "And violence solves almost nothing. More conflicts are now ended by negotiations than by military victory - a ratio of 17:4)."

"Our peace group is calling on the Federal and Queensland Governments to listen to the voice of the community and cancel the Talisman Sabre military exercise immediately," Denis Doherty concluded.

For further comment, please contact Denis Doherty 0418 290 663 or Dr Hannah Middleton 0418 668 098.