By Russell McGilton
MELBOURNE — Fifty or more armed police lined up outside of the departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Industry ready for a surge of angry anti-World Trade Organisation (WTO) demonstrators on November 30.
However, the only activity available for the police was quelling a scuffle resulting from the unwelcome presence of a One Nation supporter.
Though an SBS and Channel Nine television crew were there to film any spectacular violence, unfortunately for them, none eventuated. Later that night, as we waited for shots of our campaign, we were shown instead the massive street riots in Seattle and London. None of the local media reported on our peaceful demonstration.
"This isn't just about agriculture, or about tariffs, services, health and education; it is about democracy itself", said Ted Murphy, the national assistant secretary of the National Tertiary Education Industry Union, addressing the rally outside the Department of Trade and Industry.
Citing WTO discussion papers, Murphy said the new trade agreements proposed would abolish Australian content laws on television. Institutions like the Australian Film Commission would not exist because they subsidise and local films. Environmental regulation, such as compulsory labelling of genetically modified food, is seen as a "disguised trade barrier". In a recent action, the Canadian government is taking France to the WTO to end the European ban on asbestos.
Murphy said that a United States service industry organisation was now targeting "trade barriers" such as public funding of hospitals and universities.