Sydneysiders urged to stay for anti-Bush protest

Issue 

"Activists are calling for Sydneysiders to stay in the city during the APEC summit in September to protest against climate change and war, despite the NSW government urging people to go away for the weekend to ease expected congestion", Australian Associated Press reported on May 3.

Leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries, including US President George Bush, will be in Sydney on September 8-9 for the 19th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which is expected to cause widespread disruption across the city.

"In a bid to ease predicted transport chaos, the NSW government is launching a tourism campaign encouraging people to spend the weekend elsewhere", AAP reported, adding: "It's expected industry operators will offer package deals and special rates as part of the campaign.

"NSW tourism minister Matt Brown said the campaign would be fully launched closer to September and would hopefully provide a boost to regional tourism. 'The aim of the game is to get out of Sydney ... we are having some pretty significant world leaders roaming around these streets and there will be a lot of changes to traffic', Brown told reporters.

"In response, Sydney's Stop the War Coalition is urging Sydneysiders to stay and voice their opinion on Iraq, climate change and the federal government's Work Choices legislation. 'We are planning a mass protest to coincide with George Bush's visit', spokesperson Pip Hinman said. 'In fact, rather than leaving Sydney, many people will be coming from interstate and overseas to join the protest'."

The Stop Bush Coalition, which includes activists from the Stop the War Coalition, is organising a peaceful rally at the Sydney Town Hall on the morning of September around the slogans: "Troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan! Renewable energy, not wars for oil! Workers' rights, not slavery!"

Dale Mills, legal advisor and Stop the War Coalition activist, told Green Left Weekly on May 4, "Australian police and security services, busily preparing themselves for APEC protests in September, are no doubt watching their colleagues in Germany with interest as a 12-kilometre security fence is being erected for expected G8 protests in June.

"Called by some the 'new Berlin Wall', the security precautions trump all previous G8 summits, where leaders of the eight largest economies in the world meet to discuss how to run the world. The security fence around the luxury Heiligendamm hotel, where the eight leaders will meet, will be protected by 16,000 police and more than 1000 soldiers."

Past protest demonstrations against G8 summits have often been met with "brutal repression, including one leading to the death of a protester in Genoa, Italy, in 2001", said Mills. "Huge protests against the G8 in Scotland in 2005 were overshadowed by terrorist bombings in London the next day."

He said that it was "not publicly known to what extent Australian police will be involved in observing the policing of the G8 protests as a dry run for the policing of APEC in Sydney. However, it has been revealed by the Melbourne Herald-Sun that some police involved in the G20 protests in Melbourne last November had received training by Hong Kong riot police."

Meanwhile, the Canterbury Bankstown branch of the NSW Teachers Federation passed a motion last week stating its "opposition to Howard's hosting of APEC ... a neo-liberal festival of the ideas of privatisation, structural adjustment and the so-called "war on terror" — ideas that are directly opposite those of public education". The motion calls on the Teachers Federation to take action, including producing literature challenging the neo-liberal ideology of APEC, participating in the September 8 protest, and requesting Unions NSW to organise a cross-union presence at the protest.