Rally against nuclear ships

Issue 

By William Thomas

HOBART — About 200 people attended a November 14 rally outside parliament to protest against the presence of the US nuclear aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, visiting Hobart on its way back from the Persian Gulf.

The rally was organised by Everyone for a Nuclear Free Future (ENuFF), a local anti-nuclear group that has been campaigning against the Jabiluka uranium mine over the past year.

Addressing the rally, Valentina Marshall from ENuFF highlighted the danger that the ship posed to Hobart and went on to explain the greater dangers to the whole planet posed by the world's nuclear war machines. She pointed out that the recently elected ALP state government had betrayed its party's policy, which called for a nuclear-free Tasmania.

She called for continuing protests against the Jabiluka mine, and all of Australia's involvement in the nuclear cycle.

Tony Iltis, from the Democratic Socialist Party, spoke about the escalating crisis in the Persian Gulf. Allegations about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a smokescreen for a policy that was in fact about boosting oil company profits and ensuring their access to the world's dwindling oil reserves.

He pointed out that while 2-300,000 Iraqis were killed in the 1991 war, 1.5-2 million have died as a result of the blockade that the Abraham Lincoln was helping to enforce.

Iltis also spoke about the use of depleted uranium shells in the 1991 war, which has given Iraq rates of cancer and leukaemia five times higher than normal. He pointed out to the small number of US sailors present that these weapons were responsible for the mysterious "Gulf War syndrome" that has been killing and incapacitating US and other Gulf War veterans.

Iltis used the example of Jabiluka to show that supporting Aboriginal land rights and the provision of adequate services to Aboriginal communities was an essential element of the struggle for peace and nuclear disarmament.

Jill Hickson, deputy national coordinator of Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), related her experiences in the anti-ships movement in Fremantle, WA, in the 1980s, when tens of thousands of people rallied against visiting nuclear vessels.

She cited Indonesia and East Timor as examples of Australia's involvement in global militarism. Not only were the Indonesian troops in East Timor Australian-trained, but while the mass demonstrations that forced Suharto to resign were taking place in May, Australian warships were off the coast of Surabaya in joint exercises with Suharto's military.

The secret treaty that Gareth Evans signed in 1995 meant that Australian troops could be called upon to help the Indonesian military quell dissent, she said.

The rally also heard anti-war songs performed by Alex Bainbridge and Jenny Bock and prayers for peace from a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Bainbridge, who also chaired the event, announced that, should there be a new Gulf War, activists will rally at 4pm in Franklin Square the day war begins.

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