Amid an unprecedented security hype in the lead-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, organisers of the "Stop Bush/Make Howard History" protest on September 8 are expecting thousands of anti-war, environment and workers' rights activists to take to Sydney's streets to give US President George Bush the kind of welcome he deserves. Green Left Weekly's Pip Hinman spoke to Stop Bush Coalition spokesperson and Stop the War Coalition activist Alex Bainbridge.
@question = Why should people join the protests and reject attempts to silence dissent?
This in an opportunity to tell Bush — the world's number one terrorist and war criminal — what the majority of Australians think about the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush is responsible for the most significant war crime this century — more than 1 million Iraqis have died and a nation has been all but destroyed, its assets plundered and its people divided. Vast resources are being wasted on this ongoing destruction.
In northern Iraq, up to 500 Kurds were killed in a roadside bombing on August 16. While it may be convenient for some to blame al Qaeda, others, such as Matt Howard, a former US marine on tour in Australia, says the increase in sectarian violence in Iraq is the direct result of the occupation forces stirring up trouble.
War and occupation are wreaking havoc on Afghanistan. Senior SAS officers have revealed publicly on their return to Australia that they are having to fight and kill poor farmers suspected of being with the Taliban.
All the polls show that Australians overwhelmingly oppose John Howard's handling of the Iraq war, and more than half want the troops to come home. We all know what [defence minister] Brendan Nelson let slip the other day — that the war in Iraq is a war for oil. The APEC protests will demand the troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan now.
@question = Is there any evidence behind the claim that the APEC meeting will be a watershed on global strategies for dealing with the greenhouse problem?
Energy "security" is a big discussion at APEC, given that the world's two worst climate change rogue states — the US and Australia — will be present.
Their recent "recanting" of their notorious greenhouse scepticism is a tactical ploy. They are still working for big oil and the nuclear industry, and they are determined to keep those dirty and dangerous industries going despite climate scientists' warnings about the impact of runaway climate change, caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels.
The APEC energy ministers' meeting in Darwin a few months back made it clear that the US and Australia are keen to secure fossil fuel supplies into the future. While there's a profit to be made, and coal remains one of Australia's biggest exports, the Howard government refuses to seriously tackle climate change.
The other social and environmental disaster that will be discussed at APEC is nuclear energy. This will be presented as the alternative "clean fuel", which most know is utter nonsense. Howard has already proven his willingness to sell Australian uranium, including to countries that are not signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, such as India.
Howard is likely to announce that Australia will join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership — another dangerous White House project — which will only make it easier for Australian uranium to be sold overseas and will add to the pressure on Australia to "go nuclear" and take back the nuclear waste.
The unavoidable consequences of nuclear energy are radioactive waste dumps foisted onto Indigenous custodians, a massive waste of water and a waste of financial resources that could be more usefully ploughed into the renewable energy sector.
@question = What has been the response to the new police powers? Has the security hype worked and will it keep people away from the protests?
Undoubtedly some people will be dissuaded from coming, but the NSW government and police may have gone too far with their security and terrorist hype.
There is no need for special laws preventing protests; the police already have too much power. These new laws treat protesters like terrorists. Protests against injustices of all kinds have been a central part of Australia's history and the right to protest is one of our most fundamental and basic democratic rights.
Why is the state Labor government trying so hard to terrorise people into not exercising their conscience? Even Sydney high schools students are being threatened for trying to organise a walkout when Bush arrives in Sydney. The authorities' fear of public opinion shows just how isolated our so-called leaders really are.
We reject the notion that protesting against violence — wars and occupations and attacks on workers' rights — means support for violence. The Maritime Union of Australia should be applauded for taking a stand in support of the right to organise peaceful protests and for pointing out that the real violence is coming from the likes of Bush and Howard.
@question = Foreign minister Alexander Downer says that APEC will promote liberal economic policies that will be of benefit to both the Asia-Pacific rim countries and Australia and the US. Is he right?
APEC will be pushing the same neoliberal, deregulatory agenda that global capital aims for everywhere, because it helps the rich countries' efforts to grab markets and resources from the poorer nations.
Bush and Howard will certainly be pushing their neoliberal policies, while Third World countries are forced to manouevre to protect their economies. This bullying will send millions of poor farmers and workers into even greater misery and poverty.
Workers in both the rich and the less-developed countries will face greater exploitation as labour laws and rights are slashed to allow for this greater exploitation by capital.
In Australia, the Work Choices legislation is about shifting power in the workplace to the bosses, and severely limiting workers' rights to organise for their own safety, decent wages and basic rights at work.
In many other APEC countries, including China, the same approach is being taken. We want to show our solidarity with those workers overseas who are fighting the same battles as we are here.
All those who support peace and democracy should make an effort to join us on the streets on September 8 for a peaceful protest against Bush and Howard. Millions worldwide have done the same when Bush visited their countries. Bush is on the skids at home, and we can help that slide. We also want to make Howard history, and warn any future ALP government that we will not stop until it too commits to immediately pulling all the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.