Time is running out


Time is running out

@edit = Public opposition to nuclear testing is rapidly gaining strength, here and around the world. The huge rallies to mark Bastille and Hiroshima days, and the trade bans and boycotts of French goods by unions and consumer groups have forced the Australian government to take a stronger stand. However, a motion at the United Nations, strong words at the International Court of Justice and the politicians' peace flotilla to Moruroa, while important gestures, are not enough.

@edit = Foreign minister Gareth Evans is still smarting from his "at least there'll only be eight tests" blunder following the French government's test decision. Now, he is using the French ambassador's return to Paris as evidence of the government's "tough" stand.

@edit = The arbitrary boycott of French contracts and materials by federal and state governments isn't enough and certainly doesn't reflect the mass opposition to nuclear testing. The Victorian government has said it will discourage French investment in future infrastructure projects. However, Kennett has made it clear that existing contracts will not be affected.

@edit = Defence minister Robert Ray made much of excluding a French company from tendering for a $1 billion defence contract. He later admitted that the Dassault bid had not been "a hot favourite", and that the government would not automatically eliminate future French bids.

@edit = Six large construction companies are now discussing bans on the use of French building products. This move is being driven largely by the CFMEU's bans.

@edit = Despite the strong public sentiment, there has been a distinct lack of political leadership in this campaign.

@edit = The politicians' minimalist position has been well and truly backed by the establishment media, whose primary role is to go into bat for big capital. They have now swung into a scare campaign over the economic costs of a trade war with France. The August 3 Australian warned: "we must be clear-sighted about the consequences [of trade bans]".

@edit = It is not enough to ban some products, or to leave the decision to unions, companies or individuals. The federal government must impose a comprehensive ban on all trade with France. While the economic impact of such action

would be minimal (Australia's trade with France is small: in 1993, France accounted for 2.4% of imports and 1.23% of our exports), it would be a clear indication of the strength of opposition in Australia and the South Pacific nations. It would also give a lead to other countries, such as Japan, which is what the French government is really worried about.

@edit = The scuttling of one defence contract means nothing while the Australian government continues to sell uranium to France. It's ironic indeed that it is Chirac, not Keating, who is threatening to review the uranium contract. (Given that uranium prices have declined on the world market, this could advantage the French.)

@edit = In less than a month, the French government will start the tests. We must keep up the pressure on the government to go beyond the diplomatic posturing and take a tougher stand. An end to the mining and export of uranium is the bottom line. A comprehensive trade ban would also provide vital political support for the South Pacific independence movements. Ultimately, unless the French and US colonialists are booted out of the South Pacific, it can never be nuclear free.