By Gina Rogers
CANBERRA — Among the many activities scheduled against the Aidex armaments bazaar in the last week of November is a youth protest, to be held in Garema Place, Civic, at 4.30 p.m. on November 26. Heidi Beynon and Loretta Asquini, two of the organisers of this event, spoke to Green Left about it.
The aim of the protest is to ensure that "young people are visible and heard" during Aidex, said Heidi.
"Young people are going to inherit the earth, and so much of its resources are spent on the arms trade when they could be used for constructive purposes, like education and work creation schemes", added Loretta.
"Basically we want to live in a peaceful world, and the arms trade doesn't allow us to. It's preoccupied with causing death and destruction, like in East Timor."
It's a question of resources and funding, said Loretta. "Australia can't afford to fund the military and take part in the arms trade when it's cutting back on so many social services."
Defence spending accounted for around 10% of the 1991-92 federal budget, and at the same time there's 10% unemployment. "What's worse is that the figure for youth unemployment is much higher. In Canberra there are a lot of homeless youth who don't even have access to Jobsearch or Newstart."
"Because of cuts to education, we've seen four primary schools close down in Canberra", said Heidi. "This is causing overcrowding and inconvenience. In the universities also, there are huge overcrowding problems, which limit the availability of basic resources like photocopying and library books.
"The ALP is so hypocritical when it puts so much money into the military and can't even satisfy the basic needs of young people." The international arms trade also contributes to hardship and militarism in the Third World.
The organisers are aiming for a broad youth protest, including drama, musical, political, environmental and human rights groups. Speakers will include representatives of the Environmental Youth Alliance, the Indonesia solidarity group Aksi, Resistance and others.
"We're planning to have buskers, street theatre and other entertainment", said Heidi. "Later, we want to march round Civic then move down to 'Death Row', where many multinational companies have their headquarters.
"Our main aim is to empower people, to help them realise that we don't have to be silenced. People can get demoralised because of the continual attacks. It would be great to see them channel their anger in a positive way to help stop Aidex."