By Tom Kelly
The 49th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima was commemorated in a number of Australian cities on August 6. The occasion served to highlight the threat to humanity and the environment posed by the existence of nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry in general. Attention was also drawn to Australia's involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle, and the role of the Australian government and military in our region.
In Brisbane, Bill Mason reports that 200 people marched from King George Square to the mall where a speak-out was held. Sam Watson Jnr, on behalf of Brisbane's Murri community, spoke about the crimes committed against the Pitjantjatjara people by British nuclear testing at Maralinga in the north of South Australia in the 1950s.
Jim Beetson spoke of Australia's complicity in the war crimes committed against the people of Bougainville, while Resistance speaker, Nikki Ulasowski, urged young people to unite in the struggle for peace, environmental sustainability and social justice.
Hiroshima Day in Sydney was marked by a candlelight procession from Hyde Park to the Town Hall. The 300 participants included a contingent from Greek and Macedonian Women for Peace, Greenpeace, a lively youth contingent from Resistance and the Environmental Youth Alliance, and many people who have been peace movement campaigners for decades.
Penny Farrow reports from Adelaide that 150 people rallied at Parliament House where representatives from social justice groups spoke out against international militarisation and the immense destructiveness of nuclear weapons.
Andy Alcock from the Campaign for an Independent East Timor spoke against the proliferation of nuclear weapons; he described the nuclear industry as an "industry of suffering".
Beryl Miller for the Union of Australian Women called for women around the world to unite against world militarisation. She criticised the "nuclear industry attitude that everything is fair game as long as it makes a quick buck".
Adam Hanieh of the Democratic Socialist Party spoke about the situation in South Africa and drew attention to developments in Cuba and Indonesia.
The street theatre, initiated by AKSI — Indonesian Solidarity Action in collaboration with Environmental Youth Alliance and Resistance, was a highlight of the Adelaide rally. It focused on the export of yellow cake from uranium mines to Asia and drew attention to the international instability that this contributes to, as well as the dangers of environmental contamination.
Hiroshima Day in Perth was marked by a "Die-in" in front of Wesley Church. Ten people dressed in black "died" on the roadside and the "spirit of death" wandered amongst them. The demonstration symbolised the deaths of the 78,000 people at the epicentre of the Hiroshima blast who were killed instantly. "Shadows", all that remained of these Hiroshima dead, were symbolised by chalk outlines drawn around the "bodies".
On the eve of Hiroshima Day, Greens (WA) Senator Dee Margetts pointed out that "the equivalent of the Hiroshima Bomb has been made every 20 minutes, every day of the week for the last 40 years".
Margetts pointed out that in the arsenals of the US and Russia there are 40,000 nuclear weapons. "We used to have five nuclear weapons states — US, UK, France, Russia and China — but this has grown markedly and now includes Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Libya and North Korea who have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Israel, India and Pakistan who refuse to sign it."
Making the link between the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons production, Margetts explained that, "by 2003 commercial nuclear power reactors will produce sufficient surplus plutonium to build another 47,000 nuclear weapons. The world currently has 425 reactors in 30 countries which gives each of these countries the potential to develop their own nuclear capability."
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. An international call has been issued from Hiroshima for an international mobilisation to mark the occasion.