Scrap the war machine – green jobs now!

July 4, 2009

Over July 1 and 2, defence industry and government representatives met in Adelaide for the annual Defence Industry Exhibition (DIE).

A variety of anti-war protests were held during the conference. Protesters demanded the government end its massive military spending and declare war on climate change instead.

A keynote speaker at the conference was the new federal defence minister John Faulkner. DIE marked his first public speech in the role. He told the conference the government would spend $60 billion on the military over the next four years.

The DIE conference follows the May release of the Defence White Paper. The plan commits Australia to a big increase of its military capabilities in south-east Asia.

Overall, the government will spend $110 billion on new military hardware over the next ten years. Much this public spending will occur in South Australia, which now promotes itself as "the defence state".

Resistance activist and protester Alison Pennington told Green Left Weekly: "Leaders of our country blow the trumpet of protecting our 'strategic interest' in the region. But the biggest threat facing our region is climate change. The white paper reflects the strategic interests of cynical politicians and clever arms dealers, not the interests of ordinary people across the region."

Pennington said the government should be spending to create green jobs, not war jobs.
"If this government was serious about regional stability they would be releasing green papers and holding green industry exhibitions. The military is powerless against the real threats which confront us, such as climate change and the loss of the Murray River system."

During the conference registration, an anti-war prayer session was held as delegates entered the Adelaide convention centre. Others held a banner that said, "Defence is a lie. War is big business".

On July 1, protesters tried a sit-in at the offices of Defence SA. Others held a "singing protest" on the steps of Parliament House.

Many people who attended the protests were surprised to find out that the area around the convention centre had been declared a "protected area" under the Protective Securities Act 2007. This meant police could search anyone at the protests and demand identification without giving a reason.

The police prevented one woman from taking part in the peaceful protests merely because she allegedly gave them a false name.

The first day concluded with another loud protest at the front of the convention centre as delegates left. The 60 protesters who gathered to jeer and heckle delegates also heard from Brendan de Paor Moore, an activist with Action for Palestine. He spoke out against the building of the apartheid wall in Palestine and highlighted the involvement of Raytheon, an arms company with strong links to Israel, in the DIE.

De Paor Moore told the crowd: "These are the weapons of the rich against the poor. And the security they speak of is the security of the 'included' from the excluded, the disenfranchised, the dispossessed and exploited – those on the other side of the wall."

The protest was also addressed by Ismael Alvarado, the Adelaide coordinator of the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front of El Salvador. He condemned the brutal military coup in Honduras and drew the links between the military industry in South Australia and the Honduran military's repression.

One of the protesters, Amanda Jameson, told GLW: "I came with a banner that says 'Green Jobs Now'. I just don't get the disproportionate use of money on the military when it could easily and quickly help so many more people through investment in green jobs."

Pennington said: "There is no use having the most advanced army in the world when your enemy is a rising tide. It takes valuable resources, that could otherwise be directed into useful health and energy projects, and diverts them into something that serves no other purpose than to destroy."

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