US Marines in Northern Australia: strategic benefits with social costs



Publication Details

S. Bateman, 'US Marines in Northern Australia: strategic benefits with social costs' (2011) 171 RSIS Commentaries.



There are strategic benefits for Australia and the US in having American marines in Northern Australia. While this is so, serious social problems might also arise requiring careful management by both countries.


PRESIDENT OBAMA and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard jointly announced this week extensive new arrangements for increased US access to Australian military bases. Speaking at a press conference while on a visit to Canberra on 16 November, Obama said the US was stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia Pacific.

US marines will reportedly use the large Robertson Army Barracks outside of Darwin in northern Australia. These barracks were established in the 1990s as a reflection of Australia’s changing strategic circumstances following the end of the Cold War. They allowed the move of major army units from existing bases in south-eastern Australia to the North.

The language of the two national leaders were carefully chosen to describe US use of Robertson Barracks. Instead of “basing”, there were references to “positioning” and “rotations”. This is intended to accommodate the strong opposition to the increased American military presence in Australia likely to come from the Australian Greens Party and the left-wing of the Australian Labor Party.

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