No to war spending

On August 27, outside a "Defence White Paper community consultation", Stop the War Coalition held a protest. Inside, peace activists made up about 40% of an audience of about 100.

Chairing the consultation was former national ALP president, now business consultant, Stephen Loosely — who also happens to be a non-executive director of Thales, the largest arms producer in Australia. He was challenged by many in the audience, including Nick Deane from Marrickville Peace Group, who accused Loosely of having a conflict of interest.

When Hannah Middleton from the Anti-Bases Coalition asked, "How can we believe the community consultation report will reflect the views of the people, and not vested interests?", she received a defensive response.

Activists from Marrickville Peace Group, Stop the War Coalition, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and Pax Christi presented arguments on the nature of "security", the need to cut military spending, withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and pull back from supporting US foreign policy. Other speakers included ex-service people and reservists.

"We forced them to listen to us: their note-takers had to write down what we said, and as time went on — it lasted two hours — the panel began to react", Middleton said. "They told us that the Rudd government is looking at security in a 'wider sense' and that their review is just about a little bit of this equation — about $22 billion worth!"

Those who wish to make a submission, should visit http://www.anti-bases.org. For a list of hearing dates and places, visit http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper.