Queanbeyan says no to Austech


By Sue Bolton

CANBERRA - Queanbeyan City Council has refused to support Desiko's bid to hold a thinly disguised Aidex arms exhibition in Queanbeyan. Desiko, with support from National Party MP for Monaro Peter Cochran, was proposing to hold an "Austech" exhibition at Seiffert Oval, home of the Canberra Raiders.

Desiko and Cochran upset councillors when they announced the proposal in the media before even approaching the council. Harry Hesse, a local councillor, said: "Desiko alienated potential support by being vague, evasive and contradictory about what was to be displayed at Austech. The company wouldn't state whether or not military equipment would be on display and argued there was no distinction between military and non-military equipment."

Desiko tried to convince councillors that Austech would inject $5 million into the local economy, and create jobs and other long- term benefits for the local community. But there were few buyers. The claims were contradicted by a letter to the council from the Queanbeyan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The letter stated: "We can appreciate a short-term boost to the local accommodation sector and local employment. However, brief discussion with local industry has led us to believe there is almost no likelihood of long-term local industry benefiting from this exhibition being held here."

Desiko has not been able to prove its claims that the November Aidex resulted in new employment or any long-term benefits to Canberra.

Harry Hesse's resolution opposing Austech but supporting a trade fair displaying high technology equipment designed for non- military purposes was passed by eight votes to two at the council meeting on April 15.

Although Austech could still go ahead despite the council's refusal to support it (the Seiffert Oval Trust could still decide to hold it), Desiko representative Bill Keyes has said that Austech wouldn't proceed in Queanbeyan without the blessing of the council. It is clear that Desiko is not interested in a non- military trade fair.

"We should all be warned by the suggestion now that NSW Premier Nick Greiner may have given an undertaking to Desiko that they can hold their thinly disguised Aidex exhibition in Sydney next year with the support of the state's Tactical Response Group to ensure that demonstrations don't disrupt it", said Hesse.

"It is quite possible that any violent demonstrations outside Aidex in Sydney next year could be used as an excuse to run a law and order campaign in the state elections in NSW. This is certainly what Peter Cochran has done in the past, when he used protests in the south-east forests and the gun law debate as an excuse to run law and order campaigns in the last two elections."

Hesse gave examples of military regimes to which Australia should not be selling arms. He named Burma, Fiji and the "corrupt and repressive governments of the Philippines and Indonesia".

He said there had been positive moves in our region, such as the temporary cessation of nuclear testing by the French, and the call by the Malaysian defence minister for a regional security conference including China, Vietnam, Australia and ASEAN countries.

"This direction is the way to go, and the Australian government should be aiming for regional negotiated progressive mutual disarmament, instead of becoming involved in a regional arms race."