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AUSTRALIA's most secret sites are hidden well away from prying eyes, usually far from major population areas. But no one escapes the all-seeing eye of Google.
The new Australian Security Intelligence Organisation HQ in Canberra will house Australia's national security service, responsible for protecting us from espionage, sabotage, attacks on the Australian defence system and terrorism. ASIO officers have similar powers to the UK's Security Service (M15), and do not carry guns.
Located in suburban Perth, the low-key army base in Swanbourne, has been the base of the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) since the Regiment was established in 1957. Most training takes place at Bindoon army base, northeast of Perth, which includes live-fire ranges, training areas and an SAS mock-up area with 'embassy' building and sniper towers, but is impossible to find on Google Maps.
Home to 1500 Australian citizens, mostly of Chinese ethnicity, Christmas Island was a thriving phosphate producer before transfer to Australian sovereignty in 1957. Since the MV Tampa controversy in 2001, the island has been the primary goal of asylum seekers attempting to enter Australia. Opened in 2006, the Immigration Detention Centre contains approximately 800 beds, and cost $400m, double the estimated budget.
The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Ground Station is located at Kojarena, 30 km east of Geraldton. It is operated by the ADF Defence Signals Division, and houses five radomes and eight satellite antennas linked to a worldwide satellite communication signals interception system that is mainly operated by the US and UK.
The ancient home of the Maralinga Tjarutja indigenous people, Maralinga was the site of seven secret British nuclear tests in the 1950s, with four fission bomb tests followed by three tests of triggering mechanisms. A Royal Commission in 1985 identified significant contamination at the site. Native title was handed back to the traditional owners in January 1987 and efforts were made to clean up the site before resettling the land in 1995.
Originally opened in 2001 to take people rescued by the MV Tampa, the detention centre on the tiny island of Nauru was built to house 1200 asylum seekers in return for a pledge of $30m in development funds. Closed by Kevin Rudd in December 2007, the camp was reopened by the Gillard government in August 2012 to process record numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt is located 6km north of Exmouth, which was built to provide support to the base and house dependent families of US Navy personnel. The base provides very low frequency (VLF) radio transmission to US and Royal Australian Navy ships and submarines in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and is the most powerful transmission station in the Southern Hemisphere.
Located on the edge of Island Lagoon, approximately 15 km south of Woomera, Nurrungar was run by the ADF and the US Air Force from 1969 to 1999. It provided early detection of missile launches and nuclear detonations via US satellites in geostationary orbits. Operations moved to Pine Gap in 1999. Today the ADF uses the site for army tests.
Probably the best known secret installation in Australia, Pine Gap near Alice Springs is one of the biggest ECHELON signals intelligence facilities in the world, with an estimated 1000 employees. A former US National Security employee who worked at Pine Gap has claimed that the facility is run by the CIA. Pine Gap controls American spy satellites as they fly over China, North Korea, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The Department of Defence does not discuss what goes on at Swan Island, and information on the facility is not found on any government website. It is believed that Australia's Special Forces carry out counter terrorism training here on a base shared with the Secret Intelligence Service.
Villawood and Darwin are well known immigration detention centres, but did you know that up to 600 asylum seekers at any one time are housed at a facility at RAAF Scherger in Far North Queensland? One of three 'bare bases' in the tropics run by skeleton crews, Scherger is set up to house 1400 personnel and 40 aircraft if Australia ever gets into a shooting war with one of our northern neighbours.
Protected by heavy gates, security fences and an array of CCTV cameras on a nondescript Canberra industrial estate, the main purpose of the classified facility at Symonston is believed to be to provide an alternative communications facility for the Australian government. Under the so-called "Plan Mercator", this is where the Prime Minister, Governor-General and advisers would be whisked to in the event of a terrorist attack or threat against Parliament House.
Located near Katherine in the NT, RAAF Tindal houses the RAAF's fast jets outside the cyclone zone at a site easy to defend against external attack. A key launching point for the Australian-led intervention in East Timor in 1999, the base is also rumoured to host US stealth spy planes.
The Woomera Test Range in South Australia is a large weapons testing range operated by the RAAF, 500km northwest of Adelaide. A prohibited area off-limits to the public, the range was set up by Britain and Australia in 1946 and was the site for seven nuclear tests between 1955 and 1963 as well as tests for a wide range of conventional weapons before the Australian-Anglo joint project ended in 1980. After a long period when it was effectively abandoned, the range is currently used for ADF trials and leased to foreign militaries.
Simon Crerar is News Limited's Visual Story Editor, follow him at twitter.com/simoncrerar