Photos: Thousands protest AUKUS, push for housing and saving native forests at Labor conference

August 23, 2023

Thousands of people protested outside Labor national conference in Meanjin/Brisbane over August 17–19.

Climate activists protested on the first day alongside thousands of construction workers.

No nuclear submarines, stop AUKUS

Protesting the AUKUS military pact was the focus of the second day.


Marching with a giant submarine against AUKUS
Marching with a giant submarine against AUKUS. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Electrical Trades Union (ETU) state secretary Peter Ong spoke first saying, "just as peace is union business, there is big business in war".

"There is no better example of this than AUKUS," he told the crowd. "And that's why, as a union leader representing the ETU, I get so angry and frustrated when I see the party created by workers so off track."

He said the hundreds of billions of dollars earmarked for nuclear submarines would be “better spent on increasing bulk billing, constructing social housing, upgrading and enhancing our education system, enhancing training and apprenticeships, upgrading our electricity grid and enhancing our transition to renewable energy”.


ETU leader Peter Ong speaks against AUKUS
ETU leader Peter Ong speaks against AUKUS

Marcus Strom from Labor Against War told the rally that defence minister Richard Marles’ “assurances” that Australia would not get nuclear power or nuclear weapons “could not be relied upon”.

“They can only last perhaps as long as this government, perhaps not even that long.”

Inside the conference, delegates raised strong opposition to AUKUS on a voice vote, but a factional deal meant that there was no call for the vote to be counted.


'Get raucous about AUKUS' - marching against war
'Get raucous about AUKUS' - marching against war. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney told the rally that there are “scores of reasons to oppose AUKUS”. Even Australia's nuclear regulator ARPANSA believes that emergency management arrangements “are not fit for purpose for a future with nuclear powered submarines”.

He said the proposal to store nuclear waste on Defence Department land was flawed because military secrecy would prevent scrutiny.

Other speakers included former Fremantle MP Melissa Parkes, who urged Australia to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty and Donna Mulhearn who called for war power reform.


Sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty
Sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Whistle blower David McBride told the rally: “We're not going to let Australia be taken over by the US, just because it's a little bit hard to stand up.”

Rally for the forests


Bob Brown led a rally for the forests
Bob Brown led a rally for the forests. Photo: Keith Armstrong

Bob Brown led a well-attended rally for forests on August 19. He declared Albanese a “failure”: “It's ‘f’ for failure on fauna. It’s ‘f’ for failure on fossil fuels.

“This is a shameful Prime Minister when it comes to the environment. This is a negligent government when it comes to the environment.”


Protect native forests
Protect native forests. Photo: Keith Armstrong

Hundreds of people marched from Musgrave Park to the Brisbane Convention Centre where Labor was meeting.

Pressing demands for a rent freeze: rally for housing reform

Also on August 19, more than 500 people rallied in support of the Green’s demands for more public housing and a rent freeze.

Referring to the August 16 national cabinet meeting, Greens housing spokesperson Max Chandler-Mather said: “The first Labor prime minister in a decade and every Labor premier across the country met around the table with the power to stop rent increases, with the power to invest enough in public housing to tackle the scale of the crisis.

“What did they do?” he asked. “Nothing!”


Calling for a rent freeze
Calling for a rent freeze. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Greens mayoral candidate and a former councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan gave a fiery speech on the need for housing reforms. He called for a vacancy levy on empty properties arguing, “we want to take away that profit imperative and make it impossible to treat housing as a way to make profit”.

He said it is important to use the ballot box but it's also important to be on the streets. “By far the most powerful forms of action have been when we directly blockade evictions.”


Justice for Palestine organised a  protest on August 19, as Labor delegates declined to recognise a Palestinian state. Instead, in a factional deal, Australia will return to describing the Palestinian West Bank as “Occupied Territories”.


Free Palestine - stop arming Israel. Protest for Palestine, August 19
Free Palestine - stop arming Israel. Protest for Palestine, August 19. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

A protest against unsustainable development at Toondah Harbour, a protected wetlands, also took place.

More photos of the housing rally and the anti-AUKUS rally can be found on the Green Left Facebook page.

No nuclear subs, no war on China: Anti-AUKUS protest
No nuclear subs, no war on China: Anti-AUKUS protest. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

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