WTO hides from protesters
BY NORM DIXON
SYDNEY - The federal minister for trade, Mark Vaile, announced late on October 30 that the November 14-15 World Trade Organisation (WTO) informal meeting of trade ministers will be held at a new venue, the Novotel Hotel within the Homebush Olympic precinct.
Vaile abandoned the first proposed location of the meeting, a hotel in the swish harbourside suburb of Double Bay, after the NSW police and the NSW Labor government complained it could not be "protected" from protesters.
Earlier in the day, Vaile had refused to disclose the new venue. "The Socialist Alliance and other fringe dwellers and fringe elements want to protest about a bunch of developed countries trying to help the developing world", he told ABC Radio. "We are not about to telegraph too many of our decisions to those protesters too early in the piece."
Roberto Jorquera, Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW electorate of Auburn, which includes the Olympic site, rejected the idea that the trade ministers need to be "protected" from the thousands of people who will peacefully protest during the talks. However, he confirmed that the Socialist Alliance, along with the Greens, trade unionists and many other activist and social justice groups will be organising the largest possible protests at the time.
The Socialist Alliance has seen the WTO "mini-ministerial" meeting as "nothing less than an arm-twisting exercise by the governments of rich countries".
Alliance national co-convenor Dick Nichols responded to Vaile's comments on October 30: "Vaile says the WTO meeting is about 'a bunch of developed countries trying to help the developing world' but it is just the opposite. The WTO's corporate globalisation agenda has made the poor countries poorer and caused economic and political instability".
Nichols noted that, while the new location may make it more difficult for protests to be held at the site, the state and federal governments can't stop the protest. "They can run but they cant hide", Nichols said.
"Vaile says [the Socialist Alliance and other progressive groups who are working together to organise protest actions] represent a 'fringe element' but this 'fringe' is the world's majority which is being ripped off, impoverished and killed by unbridled corporate greed", said Nichols.
Meanwhile, the Australian Broadcasting Authority on October 30 cleared the Melbourne Indymedia and the s11 web sites of having breached government regulations. Michael Costa, police minister in the NSW Labor government, had written to federal communications minister Richard Alston and federal justice minister Chris Allison to demand that Canberra shut-down or restrict "anti-WTO web sites".
Costa claimed the sites were providing information "designed to aid the violent disruption of the forthcoming World Trade Organisation meeting in Sydney in November". Alston has labelled the sites "insidious, anti-democratic and interested in causing violence, mayhem and anarchy".
Melbourne Indymedia was first created to provide unbiased coverage of the September 2000 protests against the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne. The site is part of the global Indymedia network that numbers nearly 100 sites from Bolivia to Zimbabwe. Dedicated to "open publishing", anyone with internet access can upload audio, video, text or photo files to the sites, as well as comment on posts.
Costa attempted to exploit a small number of posts that advocated confrontational tactics during the WTO protests as an excuse for Labor's anti-democratic crusade. Rather than censor such posts, Indymedia states that its ethos is to allow its readers to debate the issues and ideas raised.
Melbourne Indymedia accurately observed on October 30 that Costa's "politricks" have little to do with the views outlined in a few posts on the site but are much more about discrediting and isolating the WTO protests and vilifying protesters in order to create a climate that justifies police violence against them.
It is also an attempt to dissuade people from attending the protests and provides a diversion so that the mainstream media and capitalist politicians can ignore the pressing issues being raised against the WTO and big business and instead focus on the invented threat of "violence".
[See page 23 for details of the protest actions being planned.]
From Green Left Weekly, November 6, 2002.
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