The Federal Government must come clean on the costs, size and duration of the US base in Darwin as the estimated cost of infrastructure around the base was today revealed to be $1.6 billion, says Australian Greens spokesperson assisting on Defence, Senator Scott Ludlam.
"The Government has gone through rhetorical contortions to conceal the fact that this is a permanent US military base on Australian soil but the façade is dead - you don't spend $1.6 billion on infrastructure for ‘temporary rotations' of troops.
"It took a US Senate Committee to provide information the Australian Government should have shared with the public a long time ago. That American committee states that the assessment of what facilities might be needed in and around Darwin has not been completed and formal negotiations are yet to begin - this could end up being a colossal expense for the Australian public, well in excess of $1.6 billion, with extremely dubious returns on the investment.
"The Government must immediately reveal how much the final cost could be, who will be footing the bill for this infrastructure, how long the base will be in Darwin, what kind of equipment will be stored and used at the base, and how many Marines will end up stationed there.
"The projected presence is 2500 US troops by 2016 - but is this number an absolute limit? What guarantee is there that this number won't grow in the future? Will this base facilitate the use of cluster bombs - illegal under Australian law - and other horrendous weapons of mass murder?"
Senator Ludlam said that in addition to local residents, the entire nation has a right to know.
"The Greens have long advocated that Australia embrace an independent foreign policy to avoid following the US into illegal and bloody fiascos such as the invasion of Iraq. With a permanent base of at least 2500 Marines in the top end, this hope becomes more forlorn than ever. Australia deserves better than this."