From a rotational ‘training area’ to a more permanent strategic ‘theatre gateway’, the US Department of Defence has shifted its perspective and planning for northern Australia. Simultaneously, geopolitical tensions are increasing in several regional hotspots. This does not bode well for Australia, as it increases the likelihood of becoming embroiled in another US-led conflict.
‘Lily pads’, ‘corridors’ and ‘bubbles’ are not exclusively military terms. Rather they are terms for strategically clustering geographical locations, their industries and workforces (bubbles), securing safe travel between such locations (corridors) and establishing small bases between which teams can quickly move (lily pads).
The Huffington Post in 2012 stated: “…the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can…at the American Enterprise Institute, the goal should be ‘to create a world-wide network of frontier forts’ with the US military ‘the global cavalry’ of the twenty-first century”. Lily pads, bubbles and corridors also provide easier access to spying, the use of drones, and militarization of domestic industry and government agencies. Their projection of power, both political and economic, can impact local resources and social stability, while influencing domestic decision-makers.
The Strategist, in a 2022 article by John Coyne, stated that there are two regions in northern Australia that are obvious choices for such military expansion by the US. The Cairns, Townsville and Charters Towers local government areas could provide geographic and economic support for activities in the Pacific. The Katherine-Darwin areas provide the space, infrastructure and industrial base to support an even greater range of activities.