Big mobilisation against nuclear testing

Issue 

Sydney

Up to 40,000 people rallied, marched and picketed here on Bastille Day, July 14, to condemn the proposed French nuclear testing in the Pacific, write Amy Phillips and Chris Spindler.

A day-long picket was held at the French consulate, and the Peace Squadron held flying pickets at French companies. However, the highlight was the tens of thousands who turned out for the rally and march. Town Hall Square overflowed onto city streets and intersections.

Workers, high school students, tertiary students and others had come prepared with their own placards, banners and leaflets. Many chants of "Stop nuclear testing", "Ban the bomb" and others broke out spontaneously in different parts of the crowd.

Many more people joined the march to the French consulate. The start of the march reached the destination before the last marchers left Town Hall Square.

The rally was chaired by media personality Andrew Denton, who commented that while consumer boycotts let off a lot of steam, they won't bring about change without mobilisations of people.

Linda Burnie, president of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, spoke about the effects of British nuclear testing at Maralinga on the Aboriginal people and the need for indigenous peoples of the region to act in solidarity.

Many speakers stressed the links between France's decision to resume nuclear testing and the colonial domination that the people of the region still suffer, and thus the need to support independence movements.

Pange Mahutariki spoke as a representative of the Cook Island community. Cook Island is the closest main island community to Moruroa.

Nicole Berrell, a year 12 student at Winmallee High and Resistance member, raised demands on the Australian government to stop the mining and export of uranium. Berrell also launched the Secondary Students Anti-Nuclear Network.

Speakers emphasised that protests should be against the French government, not the French people. A speaker representing the French community made it clear there is widespread opposition in France to the government's decision.

Ian Cohen and Bob Brown from the Greens spoke. Brown highlighted the need for useful social investment rather than spending money on weapons research.

John Coomb from the Maritime Union highlighted the role of unions in the campaign. Peter Garrett encouraged ongoing action and pointed out that the government should be doing more.

Other speakers included Graham Harvey, an activist from New Zealand, Ben Pearson from Greenpeace, Ray Richmond from the Wayside Chapel, Cheryl Kernot from the Australian Democrats and Jeanette McHugh from the Labor Party.

Melbourne

"No Nuclear Testing; Export Evans Not Uranium!" rang out through the streets on July 14 as some 6000 anti-nuclear protesters vented their anger at the French government's resumption of nuclear testing, Tully Bates reports.

The rally, organised by the No More Hiroshimas Coalition, marched from City Square to Western Mining and Air France in Collins St. The demands — No Nuclear Testing and No Uranium Mining — were addressed by 12 speakers, among them Trades Hall secretary Leigh Hubbard, who pledged the support of the trade union movement.

Brendan Barbar from Greenpeace spoke of the need to end all nuclear testing and to halt uranium mining.

Despite television news programs portraying the rally as "anti-French", it certainly wasn't that, according to coalition spokesperson Ray Fulcher.

"It is clear from the rally's demands, from the speeches and from the chants that the focus was on nuclear testing and uranium mining. We took up the 'no uranium' demand partly to put pressure on the Australian government for its continuing support of uranium mining. In fact, after one speech attacking the role of the Labor government, I heard one section of the rally chanting 'Uranium, ALP — leave them in the ground!'. Now that's hardly anti-French", said Fulcher.

The Maritime Union of Australia is refusing to allow a vessel of the French government shipping line entry to the Port of Melbourne. MUA joint secretary Tony Papaconstuntinos said the ship can remain outside the port until "the sea freezes over".

The Communications, Electrical and Postal Union has imposed open-ended bans on mail delivery and telecommunications repairs at French consulates from July 14. A planned 24-hour ban on servicing French aircraft was to begin at midnight July 16, but according to Transport Workers Union national secretary John Price, it has already begun, with unionists refusing to touch French aircraft.

Earlier in the week, 200 people braved Melbourne's coldest day in 80 years to attend a Greenpeace vigil commemorating the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour.

Brisbane

Kim Comerford writes that 3000 people at the Bastille Day protest voiced loud opposition to French nuclear tests and the mining and export of uranium by Australia.

Col Davies from the Maritime Union of Australia described its protest on the wharves. Clare Moore for the Community and Public Sector Union noted that we were also protesting together with the people of France against nuclear testing. Greens representative Lou Gugenberger said that nuclear testing was the gravest of environmental problems and emphasised the longevity of radioactive residues.

Greenpeace representative Denise Boyd spoke about Greenpeace's activities in the region. Therese Ford from the International Socialist Organisation described the social and health problems experienced by the people of South Pacific.

The rally then marched to the French consulate, where Zanny Begg, from the Democratic Socialists, called for an end to uranium mining. Begg added that for a nuclear-free Pacific, independence was needed, and argued that funding for military spending should be directed towards human rights.

Earlier, about 2000 people attended an anti-nuclear testing picnic called by Lord Mayor Jim Soorley on July 9. The gathering was addressed by Soorley, who argued that Australians should boycott French goods, and that the Australian government should send a frigate to the test site to escort the Rainbow Warrior.

The crowd was also addressed by the leader of the council Liberal opposition, representatives from the Cook Islands, Greenpeace, the Democrats, the Catholic archbishop of Brisbane and Nicole Kamp from the socialist Youth organisation Resistance.

Kamp emphasised the role of France and Australia as imperialist powers in the region. "If the French Pacific colonies were independent, the French government would be unable to conduct its tests."

Bastille Day celebrations were cancelled in Queensland high schools. A meeting is being held on Saturday, July 22, for high school students interested in campaigning against French nuclear testing. "About half of the Bastille Day rally were high school students" explained student Debbie Marshall. "When one of the speakers commented on the number of high school students involved, the cheers were deafening." Call 254 0565 for more information.

Perth

More than 5000 people braved heavy rain on July 15 to protest against nuclear testing. Corinne Glenn and Anne Pavy report that the anger and determination of the participants, a large proportion of whom were young people, were not dampened by the weather.

The rally was addressed by anti-nuclear campaigner and former senator Jo Vallentine, who called on the Australian government to take tougher action, including sending an unarmed ship to Moruroa and ending all uranium mining. Bill Ethel, state secretary of the CFMEU, spoke about the need for independence from French colonial rule in the Pacific.

The rally also heard from Yeshua Mosa, a Japanese-American peace activist who was involved in US campaigns in the 1980s to halt US nuclear tests in the deserts of Nevada.

A vigil was organised by the Christian Centre for Social Action outside the Paris National Bank on Bastille Day. It was attended by 150 people from a broad range of organisations.

Reverend Neville Watson from the Uniting Church spoke to the vigil about the contradiction between the Bastille Day principles of "liberty, equality, fraternity" and the Chirac government's decision to resume nuclear tests. Greens (WA) Senator Dee Margetts described the pathetic role played by the Australia government in negotiations on the recently extended Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Tony Cooke, secretary of the WA Trades and Labour Council, reminded the crowd that Aboriginal people in Australia still suffer the repercussions of nuclear testing at Maralinga in the 1950s.

Speakers emphasised that the decision to resume nuclear testing was not made by the French people, but by the French government — with the support of other governments, such as our own, through arms and uranium sales.

Wollongong

In one of the largest marches in the Illawarra in recent years, reports Liam Mitchell, 500 people rallied at the Trade Union Centre and marched to the mall amphitheatre on July 13, the eve of Bastille Day.

The rally, organised by the South Coast Labour Council and the Wollongong University Student Representative Council, swelled to up to 800 people as shoppers stopped to listen to the speeches and participate.

They heard speeches from Lord Mayor David Campbell, state MP Bob Harrison and local federal Labor MP Steve Martin. Martin was jeered by the crowd for the Australian government's lack of action against the French government and its continued sale of uranium to France, when he said he was there to speak only for himself.

SRC representative Lylea McMahon said that we have to continue campaigning and oppose the export of uranium to France.

Tutu Monikura, president of the Cook Island Peoples Association, told the rally that they were demonstrating their solidarity with the 18,000 people who protested against the French government in their homeland.

The rally ended with Paul Matters, SCLC secretary, addressing the crowd and a burning of the French flag.

Canberra

Lara Pullin and Tony Iltis report that the mobilisation of thousands against nuclear testing at Moruroa culminated with a spirited march of 2000 on Bastille Day.

On July 9, some 2000 attended a protest outside the French embassy to mark the beginning of a week-long Trades and Labour Council picket. Indigenous artists performed and spoke of the need for solidarity with the sovereign peoples of the Asia Pacific region.

Other speakers highlighted the racism inherent in exposing the peoples of Polynesia to radiation, and the shameful role of the ALP in exporting uranium to France. Speakers included ACT TLC secretary Jeremy Pynor, musician Peter Garrett, Tricia Caswell of the Australian Conservation Foundation and a representative of the Council of Churches.

Activists who have been maintaining an anti-nuclear embassy outside the French embassy since June 18 will continue their vigil after the TLC picket finishes.

The Bastille Day rally marched from Garema Place, where it was addressed by ANU student activists Marina Carman and Hamish McPherson, to the National Convention Centre, which was hosting the official Bastille Day celebrations.

All speakers highlighted the link between colonialism and Pacific nations being used as test sites and waste dumps, and called for independence throughout the Pacific. Marina Carman pointed out that the Australian government would not support an independent Pacific until it abandoned its own imperialist policies in the region, exemplified by its shameful role in the wars against Bougainville and East Timor.

Hobart

A protest rally and march on June 28 against French nuclear tests attracted more than 200 angry people. On the same day, relates Ben Courtice, the French consul in Hobart announced that he was resigning in protest over the decision to resume nuclear testing.

On June 28, the Greens spoke strongly in favour of a motion in state parliament condemning the resumption of testing. On July 1, the Democratic Socialist Party convened a public meeting to organise ongoing actions to build towards Hiroshima Day, and plans were made for a youth speak-out and street theatre performance in Hobart's city centre on July 14. Around 50 young people participated in the Bastille Day action.

The Tasmanian Greens have called an open meeting to organise a march and rally on August 5 to commemorate Hiroshima Day. The Peace Network of Tasmania is also organising a silent vigil on August 5, as well as an art exhibition and film showing in the week leading up to Hiroshima Day. For details of these events, telephone Joy Gough on 658 894.

Darwin

Deb Sorensen reports that 200 people attended a public meeting against nuclear testing on July 14. A central issue for the meeting was Australia's role in the nuclear industry.

According to Mark Ogleton, an organiser of the meeting and a member of ENUFF (Everybody for a Nuclear Free Future), around 10% of the uranium produced at the Ranger mine (in Kakadu National Park) is sold to France. Richard Ledgar from the NT Environment Centre told the audience that once the uranium gets to France it is put into the general "pot", so the assurances that Australian uranium is used only for "peaceful purposes" are almost meaningless.

Other speakers included the NT representative of an organisation working for the rights of Australian ex-military personnel who participated in the British bomb tests at Monte Belo and Maralinga in the 1950s.

Dr Phil Nitschke, a long-time activist against the hazards of the nuclear industry, described the disastrous health effects suffered by Pacific Islanders as a direct result of French nuclear testing.

Adelaide

A lively picket at the intersection of Rundle Mall and King William Road, organised by Resistance on Bastille Day, attracted a crowd chanting "Uranium equals bombs, leave it in the ground" and "Export Evans, not Uranium".

The following day an action was held outside the Adelaide Town Hall to commemorate the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico. Activists from Friends of the Earth, Resistance and Praxis organised the protest and the Politics in the Pub which followed.

The state ALP held a luncheon on Bastille Day to raise money towards the placement of an advertisement in the French newspaper Le Monde.

The Australian Peace Committee has held fundraisers to help send delegates to attend the International conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August.

Newcastle

With only a few days' notice, 650 people rallied in Civic Park on Bastille Day to protest against nuclear testing, writes Margaret Allen.

The campaign is being supported by organisations including Trades Hall Council, Australia-Asia Solidarity Network, the Greens, the Democratic Socialist Party, Resistance, the Australian Democrats, the ALP and the Liberals, as well as peace movement activists, religious organisations, academics, students and other individuals.

The rally opened with Michael Davidson from the Aboriginal Education centre, Wollatuka, playing didgeridoo. Speakers included community activist Margaret Henry, who spoke of the need for solidarity with people in the region, and of the consequences of nuclear testing on the Aboriginal population at Maralinga. Anglican Bishop Roger Herft spoke about the effects of colonisation in the Third World.

The rally unanimously adopted two resolutions which condemned the French government's recent attack on the Rainbow Warrior.

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