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Project Iceberg: Fremantle’s response to visiting nuclear warships in the 1980s

David Worth

Worth, David 2005, 'Project Iceberg: Fremantle's response to visiting nuclear warships in the 1980s', Fremantle Studies, 4: 50-65.


In this paper I provide a short history of the unique non-violent civil disobedience activities of a group of mainly Fremantle residents aimed at visiting US nuclear warships between 1983 and 1985. These activities were carried out by the semi-formal group called Project Iceberg (PI) and followed earlier on-water protests undertaken by individuals opposed to the increased visits of nuclear powered and armed warships to Gage Roads from about 1977. As a then Fremantle resident and participant in some of the earlier on-water protests I wish to record these activities of PI. I believe that they were important in developing public support for later events in Western Australia, such as the election of The Greens Jo Vallentine to the Australian Senate on an anti-nuclear platform in 1984.

I also have an interest in PI and its activities as I have had a range of involvements in a number of social movements and have recently completed research on Western Australian groups campaigning against the logging of the state’s remaining old-growth native forests. I see in PI’s chosen fomi of protest action and its tight-knit structure some important lessons that may prove useful to other groups undertaking protest activities. PI’s formation and membership reflect theoretical proposals that, since the 1960s, changes in the economic and social characteristics in countries such as Australia have inspired. Below I explore some brief examples of some of the broader societal changes that occurred over the past three decades which encouraged the formation of PI.


Small yacht Genevieve in front of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, 1984. Source: PNDWA, Stepping Out for Peace, 2004.

Finally, some of the information contained in this paper is taken from interviews undertaken to record the history of two other local peace movement organisations, the Campaign Against Nuclear Energy (CANE) and the People for Nuclear Disarmament in Western Australia (PNDWA). This history was undertaken (with the assistance of Lotterywest) to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the formation of PND in 1983 and many of those interviewed were also active participants in some of PI’s activities. Transcripts of these interviews have been lodged with the Battye Library and some excerpts have also been included in PNDWA’s book Stepping Out for Peace: A History of CANE and PND WA which was launched in June 2004. 1

Background: Why the Project Iceberg protests occurred?

I believe that Project Iceberg, and the earlier on-water anti-warship activities occurred in Fremantle for the following five reasons:

1. Threatening international political environment

During the rnid-1980s the global political environment was threatening and inspired mass mobilisations in most western countries calling for nuclear disarmament by the two super-powers; the US and the USSR. The Cold War was at its height and the new US President Ronald Reagan had put in place a new nuclear war-fighting strategy called ‘counterforce’. Rather than develop nuclear weapons as deterrents to a nuclear attack from another country, this new strategy required the US to place small cruise missiles in continental Europe and the UK. It also required the development of new long-range missile delivery platforms with multiple nuclear warheads, such as the Trident submarine.

The USSR responded to this strategy with their own new weapons such as the SS2l an SS18. These indescribably destructive war-fighting systems included the MX missile that was to be tested in the southern Pacific with Australian military support being agreed to by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Many scientists in both the West and the USSR were so worried about the threat of nuclear war that they developed ‘nuclear winter’ scenarios. This appalling prospect generated large public peace movements in the US, Europe and Australia and spurred large rallies (such as the Palm Sunday March) in Australia. Other responses from the public were the anti- nuclear Freeze movement in the US, the Greenham Common women’s protest in the UK and mainstream movies such as The Day After.

At the Australian political level, Prime Minister Fraser defended Australia’s alliance with the US and the hosting of US bases here despite evidence that indicated they were crucial to the US’s new war strategy and made Australia a likely Russian nuclear target? In June 1982 the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Hayden, announced that it was Australian Labor Party policy to ban visits of nuclear armed ships to Australian ports following a similar agreement with the US that B52 bombers using Darwin airport would not be nuclear-armed. He quickly recanted after being attacked by the Liberal Government and the US Deputy Secretary of State Walter J Stoessel. 3 This about face showed Hayden was worried that an anti-nuclear stance would imperil the ANZUS alliance, as it did when the Lange Government later banned US naval visits to New Zealand.

Prior to this, in the late 1970s, the fall of Iran to Islamic fundamentalists and the failed rescue of US Embassy staff by US forces created renewed military interest in the Indian Ocean region by the US. This resulted in a significant increase of visiting nuclear-armed and powered US warships to Fremantle and Gage Roads. Twenty- four calls were made to Australian ports in 1977 and this rose to 82 in 1980, with over 70% coming to Western Australia (see Table l). Twenty five percent of the Western Australian visits were by ships that were nuclear powered and 85% were nuclear-armed. 4 These visits to Eremantle spurred local protest activity because of the rapid increase in visits of nuclear warships, the size of the arsenals they carried (the USS Carl Vinson carried over 100 nuclear weapons) and the confirmation provided by a top Kremlin adviser that such warships would make Perth a target in the event of war. 5

Table 1 Visits of US Warships to Australian Ports


Source: Newbury, 1985.

2. Activists were members of Campaign Against Nuclear Energy or other community organisations

The anti-warship activists and Fremantle residents in the 1970s had also been active in other anti-nuclear activities in Fremantle. One of these was Chuck Bonzas who arrived in Perth during CANE’s campaigns against the proposal by Sir Charles Court to build up to 20 nuclear reactors in Western Australia. He was also keenly involved in plans to make Fremantle the state’s first municipal nuclear free zone. Bill Ethell was an organiser of the Builders Labourers Federation (now CFMEU) and had a keen appreciation for the types of protest activities that would raise public attention to the anti-warship actions. He was also active in the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA), an organisation that helped to fund his later trans-oceanic anti- Trident venture called Pacific Peacemakerfi Bill Hare and Jane Hutchison were long-term supporters of the anti-logging group the Campaign to Save Native Forests (CSNF). CSNF shared office space with CANE and other groups such as Friends of the Earth in the Environment Centre in Wellington Street, Perth. Other key anti- warship PNDWA activists living in Fremantle at the time were Louise Duxbury, Trish Cowcher and myself. All were either coordinators of CANE or PNDWA.

3. Fremantle as a centre of radicalism

Fremantle, mainly through the activities of its maritime unions the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seaman’s Union of Australia, had a long history of involvement in labour-based social movements. These unions and associated radical political parties had produced well-known Fremantle individuals such as Vic and Joan Williams and Bill Latter. They had been involved in the early 1970s campaigns against the Vietnam War and protests against the escalating nuclear arms race and atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. The Fremantle City Council was the first Western Australian local government to declare itself a nuclear free zone (NFZ) in 1980. It voted 14-2 in opposition to any nuclear facility being built in Fremantle and any nuclear material being transported through it. Before this, over 1700 signatures had been collected in support of the motion in three weeks by the newly organised Fremantle Anti Nuclear Group (FANG). 7 The NFZ campaign was coordinated by CANE as a way of developing community debate around nuclear issues.

Shortly after this the Kwinana and Cockbum Councils also adopted NFZ motions and placed NFZ signs around their locality. Around the same time, Bill Ethell had become involved in a group called the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace Coalition (IOZPC) which was formed after a conference on the Indian Ocean hosted by the Fremantle Council in 1980. John Dawkins MP and Fremantle councillor Norm Marlborough spoke at a rally in favour of a regional Zone of Peace on 29 March 1980. 8

4. Threatening local political environment

It seems so long since the late 1970s that it is hard to remember how threatening the political environment was at that time for local community activists. State Premier Charles Court was fighting union industrial campaigns in the Pilbara as well as those opposed to drilling for oil on Aboriginal land at Noonkanbah. He amended the Police Act with new Section 54B which made it illegal for groups of more than three people to gather in public places without a police permit. This followed the Police Commissioner warning Parliament in 1977 against radical groups who ‘fomented unrest’.9 In symbolic protests against this law 88 people were arrested in 1979 and over 150 in 1980 including Santa Claus who was arrested during a December 198010 protest in Forrest Place. A number of CANE, FANG and PI activists opposed this law (such as Chuck Bonzas and Bill Ethell) and were arrested during the symbolic protests against Section 54B.

5. The impact of the development of Murdoch University

Many of the supporters of these activities had a link with Murdoch University. For example John Raser had been a founding Professor there and through his co- ownership of the weekly Fremantle Gazette gave regular publicity to the activities of these groups. John also wrote a number of editorials against the visiting warships and offered his yacht as a vessel in the Peace Fleet. Annabelle Newbury had been an administrative officer at Murdoch University before resigning to be the coordinator of CANE. She was also a founding member of PI. Professor Phillip Jennings was active in Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (SANA) and supported associated activities of PI. Other important PI activists currently either teach at Murdoch University (Jane Hutchison) or are students.

Annabelle Newbury:

The Peace Fleet was just people in the peace movement who had boats who, when the nuclear ships came, they would just all go out on the harbour. The media just loved water-based action. They would have sails with nuclear disarmament signs, they’d have banners over the side. They wouldn’t really do very much except ‘unwelcome’ the ships, you know. Yes, the Peace Fleet went on for quite some time.


On board John Raser’s yacht in Peace Fleet protest circa 1981. Source: David Worth, Stepping Out for Peace, 2004.

Jo Hayter:

I mean it was, you know, we would just look at each other and groan - oh God [laughing] another ten bloody warships, and putting the binoculars on the horizon to see when the next fleet was coming in! At one point it was just over the top - we were getting visits almost every three or four weeks. It was really, really hard work so we rallied, and rallied and rallied - probably a bit too much. But we got really good credit for those rallies because our strategies were to make sure that we had a media profile and everything, and we did. We tried to get two or three key points across in every rally so that people saw there was a growing groundswell of protest to this, and you know that was our aim really. We also wanted to show the Americans that they weren’t welcome, and as we later said its not you as individual Americans, its your Government that’s not welcome, but yeah, we did kind of resent 15 000 American men coming in and treating us like you know — meat.

The lack of impact of the Peace Fleet in stopping the visits of the US ships, especially nuclear powered submarines, and the rapidly increasing number of visits led some brave activists to establish a new form of protest against their visits. As a result, Project Iceberg was formed.

Project Iceberg’s unique protest actions

The minutes of PI indicate that it first met in Fremantle on 30 April 1983. Their optimistic medium-term goals (up to 5 years) included ‘a nuclear free Southern Hemisphere, the end of ANZUS and no US bases in Australia.’ The short-term goals included ‘a Nuclear Free WA, stopping nuclear warship being open to visitors and establishing a conscientious objectors office/coffee shop for visiting US servicewomen and men.’11 The first meeting decided that non-violent civil disobedience was an appropriate strategy and led to a discussion on the possibility of establishing a non-violent training centre in the state. Some at this first meeting were worried that a new campaign would detract from other campaigns such as PNDWA’s Palm Sunday Rally. Civil disobedience was proposed as a tactic as it would provide media coverage, both locally and interstate, about the growing problem of nuclear warship visits to Western Australia.

Louise Duxbury:

CANE, I think it was one of the things that attracted me, it was very democratic, a cooperative approach, we were all welcomed, all skills were valued, decision making was by a very democratic committee structure, and you know, you could take on whatever roles that you felt that you had the capacity for. And also the campaigns, the things that we chose to do, were very much along those non-violence lines — where you weren’t going out and engaging in sabotage for example. And Project Iceberg was based on non- violence principles.

Discussion at this first meeting also focused on a name for the new organisation with many suggestions being considered, such as ‘Quokka Alliance, Wallaby Alliance, Project Peace and Indian Ocean Peace Action Group.’ 12 The activists involved in the founding of PI included Chuck Bonzas, Bill Ethell, Tony Freeman (part-time coordinator), Bill Hare, Jo Hayter, Jane Hutchison, Patsy Molloy, Annabelle Newbury and Gail Green. Meetings were held every one to two weeks to discuss associated activities such as the lobbying of ALP, unions, and government officials at a local and state level. Information on relevant laws affecting the planned protests was investigated and volunteers offered to be arrested at the upcoming protests. Letters were also sent to the Fremantle Port Authority (now Fremantle Ports) and the Minister for Police to explain the planned PI activities. The focus of their first official protests was the proposed visit of the USS Carl Vinson and five other ships to Fremantle on l July 1983.13 Funds to help the campaign were provided by the group Civil Liberties Action Committee that had earlier coordinated the campaigns against Section 54B of the Police Act and had disbanded with the election of the Brian Burke Labor Government in 1983. PI shared an office with PNDWA in Perth and PNDWA took the lead in coordinating all of the anti-ship activities by PI and the other community groups, eg the UNAA, the Quakers and SANA.

PI’s original Statement of Principles drafted by Bill Ethell for the meeting on 28 May 1983 was:

The purpose of the Project Iceberg group is to create a climate of critical understanding of the consequences of Australia’s involvement in the global militarism of superpowers and seek public support for an end to that involvement.

We dissent from any view that supports the manufacture, use, storage and carriage of nuclear weapons and firmly believe that their manufacture, use storage and carriage is an act of violence against all life and should therefore be opposed.

We will encourage, initiate and participate in non-violent actions designed to support our purpose.“

Planning for the Carl Vinson ’s visit included arranging for leaflets to be handed to the public (see Appendix A) and a silent vigil and pray-in to be led by the Quakers. The UNAA agreed to arrange a delegation to the US Consul that included Bishop Michael Challen, Dean of Perth David Robarts and Prof Phillip Jennings of SANA.15 The PI core group of activists was expanded to include people such as Jo Vallentine, who was involved with the proposed pray-in along with well-known Quaker Cyril Gare.

The program of events on Saturday 2 July 1983 included the silent vigil and pray-in, the delegation events as well as a rally at Fremantle that included an introduction from Keith Peckham of Fremantle PNDWA, a speech by Fremantle councillor Bill Latter, a march, and a linking of hands from the Fremantle city centre to the wharf. ALP Senator Ruth Coleman delivered the final speech. The Saturday rally was reported as being attended by 5-10 000 people16 and at its conclusion some PI protesters went to the wharf and six were arrested for handing out protest leaflets. 17

The first PI on-board protest activity occurred on Sunday 3 July on the USS Worden. This resulted in no arrests and was the first time in the world that the anti-nuclear movement had taken its protests on-board a US nuclear vessel.

Louise Duxbury:

And we also did a bit of training on if you got arrested what would you  or how to react, and what were your rights and what statements you should or should not make. We weren’t trying to get hundreds of people [arrested] because what you wanted was to have some discipline — you tried to — well they’d have the mass of people on the wharf, or sometimes we’d have a public meeting say in Fremantle, like a more select group who were prepared to do these activities, a bit of self selection too because there are not that many people who are prepared to go on and get arrested — so there was probably around about say 30 to 40 that we would have on these telephone trees. And you would have say about 25 or so involved in a particular action.


First PI on-board antinuclear protest on USS Worden, 3 July 1983. Source: PNDWA, Stepping Out for Peace, 2004.


Protest on USS Oldendorf, 1985. Source: PNDWA.

Jo Hayter

One time we did a ‘die in’ which was just amazing where just using the megaphone button you can actually get a rather nasty kind of siren noise that comes out. When the siren went off 1000 people all just died on the wharf, you know? Trying to say this is how quickly [an accident] happens and this is the risk that this warship is putting us at. Again, the public and the police and the media were never quite sure just what to do with 1000 bodies just going flop on the ground, and we’d just hold that for quite a long time and then we’d usually get up and have a sing and something like that.

But there were stunts; we used a lot of stunts. We made a papier mache model of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a Russian SS21 or something, and tied that onto the back of the ute or car and we’d drive around Perth with a megaphone  I remember driving around Perth city saying; “Lock up your children, lock up your wives - the sailors are in town and they are endangering our lives”, and just draw people’s attention to the fact that these cruise missiles were on board the ship.

The responses to that were just amazing - some people were saying “good on ya girlie”, you know - other people were just verbally abusing me. One woman came up and punched me in the face and told me I was communist scum and oh God... I never imagined I was going to get smacked in the face, but I did. So that was a novelty.

The first arrests at the wharves of Fremantle Harbour on Saturday 2 July 1983 saw Premier Brian Burke reject a call from PI and PNDWA to refuse to give an official government welcome to the visiting US fleet. A Royal Australian Navy officer was reported as warning his visiting US counterparts to ‘look out for the clowns and idiots at the anti-nuclear protests.’ 18

paddy wagon

Police paddy wagon prepares to take away PI protestors, 1984. Source: PNDWA.

Annabelle Newbury:

Louise was on the boat (the Oldendorf, I think it was) with her baby and I was on the boat with my baby, and then they took hold of Louise to get her off the boat and I said; “What are you doing? Are you arresting her?” They said no. She went down the gang-plank, and when I got to the bottom of the gang- plank, lo and behold, there was a police car there and Louise was in the back of it. I just said well if they’re arresting her then they’re arresting me, and I actually opened the door, got in the car, and sat there.

So, there were the two of us sat there with our babies, both about a year and a bit old. They drove off of the Wharf, and when we got out of the Fremantle Port Authority, they stopped the car and said hop out. We said, “Well we thought we were arrested.” They said, “well, we’re un-arresting you.” I think being arrested is really important, because one thing is it gets you over a whole lot of, some boundaries or some barriers. I mean, it’s pretty easy in this country unless you’re black and poor. You’re not really going to ... nothing dreadful is going to happen to you. Just to lose your liberty is a really important thing to understand. To realise that you can’t really say, “Oh I was just messing about. Let me go.”

The core PI membership expanded in August 1983 to include Lorraine Ethell, Louise Duxbury, Simon Neville, Christine Owen and Greg Bousfield. Court hearings for those arrested during the first protests were seen as another way of gaining publicity for PI’s opposition to the visits of US nuclear warships. Legal advice to PI was provided by Peter Johnston and Rob Guthrie after the group deciding not to seek Legal Aid for the arrested members. Early penalties were a six month good behaviour bond and a $100 fine. Perth Magistrate Gething gained notoriety by suggesting to PI members that they could leave the country if they didn’t like Australia having visiting warships. He also claimed protesters were ‘naughty children and ought to be ignored when they misbehaved.’ 19

Magistrate Gething later blamed the media for encouraging irresponsible protest actions. By October there were enough members of PI to form seven affinity groups of 6-7 people each to protest against the visit of the RN Invincible, but they didn’t go ahead as planned. During a visit by US warships in early October acting Fremantle Mayor Bill Latter gave the commanders of the three warships letters to take back to the US Government warning of the concerns of Fremantle citizens about the dangers posed by their visits. 21

In response to the PI on-board protests, the US Navy introduced bag searches at ship open days to try and stop banners being taken on board. This didn’t succeed as banners were smuggled in children’s pushers and under the clothes of protesters. An evaluation by PI in September 1984 of protest actions on the USS Proteus indicated that some members were worried about the violence directed at them from youths. These youths were armed with knives and sticks and were upset that US ships were closed to the public because PI protesters refused to leave the wharf. At this protest against the Proteus, PI had 60 protesters in two groups, one on-shore and one on- board. 22


Youths confront PI protesters after ship open day cancelled, 1984. Source: PNDWA.

Trish Cowcher:

... and the people just took over, I mean I think in a way we were involved with all of it, and so we’d get public speakers, we’d get speakers and musicians and lots of noise and just tell people to come and then eventually we were having so many visits we’d just sort of say if there was a warship we’d meet at two o’clock on Sunday at Pioneer Park in Fremantle.

It got sort-of more intense. I mean one of the focuses of the warship rallies on the wharf was to close down the ships to the visits [by the public], and that was quite interesting. I mean one of the things people were concemed about were that these visits were being used to take the public on and basically sell the war machine - so people can ’ooh’ and ’ahh’ over the weapons. Nobody said were there nuclear weapons in the port or what happens if there’s an accident, what are the safety issues, is it safe to be taking people on these ships. So We’d have the rally in the park and that would be to highlight the issue but then there were people that thought even more strongly and that was I guess their impetus to go over to the wharf to actually close down the ships to the public.

And of course that would cause quite a lot of tension on the wharf because that’s where the police would come in, and the council and that’s where most of the arrests took place. But people felt really strongly that they shouldn’t be glorifying wars and weapons especially with the young children, and so one of the aims was to stop or close down the visits and we did that on quite a few occasions. On one occasion they anticipated the trouble and they didn’t even open the ships on the Sunday, so that was a success and it’s a very small term thing, but I think it was important for people to understand that these are weapons of war and are weapons of destruction and they actually kill people - they are not sort of a Sunday afternoon family entertainment.

In 1985 The West Australian reported ‘Protest Turns Ugly on US Warship’ as 20 protesters were arrested. 23 One of the 250 protesters gathered on the wharf and who got on board and unfurled a banner was PI member and Senator-elect, Jo Vallentine The US Navy responded by commencing to take Western Australian media representatives on board the ships before they docked at Fremantle. 34 Large well known companies (such as Midland Brick) paid for full-page advertisement: welcoming the US Navy to Perth. 25 Around the same time, two Peace Fleet yachts were sunk at their moorings in Fremantle Harbour and it was later discovered that holes had been drilled in their hulls. 26

Jo Hayter:

Oh I know, the other one that was also very controversial, and again it was because it introduced a new angle, and that was it, the media always wanted a new angle. It was when - so this must have been about 1985 - HIV/AIDS was first becoming of concern. It wasn’t quite recognized as an epidemic at that stage, but certainly it was becoming known that mobile populations were the greatest carriers of the HIV virus, and put people at risk. So 15,000 randy American sailors who had all just come from different parts of the world, and who had a total focus on instant and short-lived sex - probably unsafe sex - became another threat.

So what we did was - we had a lot of problems around the sexism of the visits by the sailors - so we created a whole range of feminist kind of posters that tried to protect the women that were either being exploited or unwillingly abused. In this case we went down to the dance at the E-Shed, where the Fremantle City Council was paying to host these huge parties at the taxpayers expense to make sure the American sailors had a great time.

So we went down with condoms and said “well let’s take this another way” and we were giving out tiny little leaflets about nuclear safety, but in this case we were just saying “girls before you go in we all know what’s going to happen here, just think about your safety, here’s a condom.” And the reaction was extraordinary - the media just loved it, that media went ballistic, that story went everywhere. I remember being interviewed about that for months, and months and months, so it was a very good lobbying line.

But again there were different ways that people saw it. I remember one woman again really abusing us; she was so incensed that we would dare to imply that she was there to have sex! I mean — she said to me, “who do you think I am? I’m a married woman” and I said “well what are you doing here then?”

By the mid 1980s the anti-warship protests had become a national issue and the newspapers in the eastern states ran full-page stories on the protests and the social impact of the visits (eg ‘Dial-a-Sai1or’). 27 But the number of ship visits decreased and public protests seemed to run out of steam from about 1986 onwards. The Bob Hawke federal government decided to send more of the ships to other ports such as Hobart, Melboume and Sydney. This helped ease the situation in Fremantle but inspired other Peace Squadrons to establish in these ports. In 1986 the public fear of a global nuclear war between the US and USSR lessened, as evidenced by the decreased sizes of the Palm Sunday Rallies from 1985. Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost approach took hold, SALT 1 and SALT 2 nuclear disarmament treaties were negotiated by the superpowers and the world moved back from the brink of a disastrous nuclear war.

Conclusion: what did it all mean?

One little-known outcome of the protests was the subsequent focus by political parties on the Indian Ocean and its littoral states. Prior to these protests most of the focus of the ALP and other parties was on the Pacific Ocean and the Asian region to Australia’s north. There is now a greater emphasis on our relationship to China, India and Pakistan and the ASEAN nations. Finally, the awareness of the issues and the public support generated by the warships campaigns boosted the numbers attending the 1984 and 1985 Palm Sunday Marches to over 25 000. These became the largest political marches in Western Australia’s history - far bigger than the anti- Vietnam ones. The 10 000 people who attended the Fremantle rally in April 1983 opposed to the visit of the USS Carl Vinson was the largest regional protest in Western Australia’s history.

The lack of action by the major political parties on Australia’s alliance with the US and the subsequent cooling of the Cold War led to a dramatic fall in the people attending the Palm Sunday Marches from about 1985. At the same time there was a decrease in visits of warships until the first Iraqi war in 1991. With the decline in the nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR it is no longer possible to get people to protest against the warships because of just the threat of nuclear accidents or of nuclear war. Protests in Fremantle port by FANG in the late 19905 were based on the social costs of the visits by US warships. After the September 2001 attack in New York, FANG’s protests have focused on the possibility of terrorist attacks in Fremantle social venues aimed at US sailors. It is unlikely that we will see future protests in Fremantle of the size of those organised between 1983 and 1985 when Project Iceberg and PNDWA campaigned with a range of innovative tactics against the visit of nuclear-armed and powered warships.

A more positive aspect of the campaigns by PI and other groups was the election of Jo Vallentine to the Senate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party. She won three elections (1984, 1987 and 1990) and her experience established the Greens as a viable political protagonist in the state. Jo was also one of the early anti-nuclear campaigners who made the connection between nuclear issues and environmental and social justice issues. She also inspired many other women to become involved in the political process. This success and the experience of organising the PI campaigns against overwhelming opposition from the police and the major political parties had a positive impact on those involved in the protests. Many of those interviewed for PNDWA’s book spoke of the feelings of empowerment from actually protesting on the ships versus just participating in rallies and marches. Most still have some involvement with the Greens, the peace movement and/or companies working on environmental issues (eg Greenskills in Fremantle).

The final conclusion of this brief sketch of the anti-nuclear warship protests in Fremantle is that, despite very large numbers of people attending rallies and showing their support for groups such as PNDWA and PI, there has been a persistence of policy over the last two decades at both a state and federal level of supporting nuclear warship visits. Current state Premier Geoff Gallop’s comments in 2003 welcoming the Seaswap program with the US Navy (due to the supposed economic benefits flowing from the program) are similar to those made by Premiers Court and Burke over 20 years ago, and by Federal politicians from the ALP and Coalition. No politician from these parties seems willing to threaten the security relationship with the US despite the very different international political environment that now exists in contrast to when the ANZUS Treaty was signed in the early 1950s. This support of the US alliance and subsequent warship visits has meant that a significant gap has developed between ALP members who are opposed to visiting warships. Many of these members have left the ALP to join the Greens or have become disengaged from politics altogether.

Fremantle Studies Day, October 2003


1 This book was edited by Barbara Kearns who has unearthed a range of useful material on CANE, PNDWA and PI at the J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History and the Murdoch University Library archives. The Battye Library records are contained in COMAP 421, 424-427 and catalogued as CANE, PNDWA and ex-Senator Ruth Coleman’s collection. The Murdoch University archives are held in five collections: PNDWA, Shane Guthrie, WILPF, Dee Margetts and Betty Daly-King.

2 D Ball, A Suitable Piece of Real Estate: American Installations in Australia, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1980

3 A Newbury, ‘Nuclear Warships Visits: A Western Australia Perspective’, in B Harford (ed), Beyond ANZUS: Alternatives for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Wellington, NZ, 1985, p 105

4 Ibid, p 104

5 J Mayman, ‘The West faces nuclear dilemma’, The National Times, 5-11 August, 1983

6 W Olive, Voyage of the Pacific Peacemaker, Book House, Sydney, 1999

7 The Liberator, 24 May 1980

8 Fremantle Gazette, 27 March 1980

9 W Lines, Taming the Great South Land: A History of the Conquest of Nature in Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1991, p 249.

10 C Travers, ‘When people have something to say’, Daily News, 18 September, 1980

11 Project Iceberg, ‘Minutes of First Meeting, 30 April 1983

12 Ibid

13 P Terry, ‘The world’s biggest warship just can’t keep a secret’, The Australian, 28 May 1981

14 Project Iceberg, ‘Statement of Principles’, 28 May 1983

15 The West Australian, 6 July 1983

16 Sunday Independent, 3 July 1983

17 The West Australian, 4 July 1983

18 The West Australian, 5 July 1983

20 The West Australian, 3 October 1984

21 Weekend News, 6 October 1984

23 PNDWA Newsletter, Oct/Nov 1984

33 The West Australian, 22 April 1985

24 The West Australian, 19 July 1985

25 The West Australian, 20 July 1985

26 The WestAustralian, 22 July 1985

27 The National Times, 26 July 1985

David Worth

David Worth completed his PhD at Murdoch University, Western Australia, and is presently employed in the Research Unit at the National Native Title Tribunal. His first degree was in aeronautical engineering and he has also completed a MBA. For the past 25 years he has worked in various roles for many social change organisations in both Western Australia and the eastem States. He is the Convenor of the Sustainable Transport Coalition and a member of the Intemational Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) and ARNOVA in the US. He has delivered papers flowing from his research at conferences of both these organisations as well as at The Australian Sociology Association. David has been appointed an honorary research associate at Murdoch University and continues his undergraduate teaching there in Sociology.


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