BY EWAN SAUNDERS
BRISBANE — Scenes of clashes between protesters and heavily-armed Italian riot police during the G8 summit in Genoa have proved the spark for a concerted propaganda campaign against anti-capitalist groups planning actions during the October Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane.
Federal treasurer Peter Costello and immigration minister Philip Ruddock have both taken cudgels to the anti-globalisation movement, in an attempt to stem growing public sympathy for it.
Costello sought to ridicule protest groups by likening opposition to globalisation to opposition to the telephone — backward-looking and doomed — and claimed that protesters fly a "One World airline network" to organise demonstrations in various countries in pursuit of worldwide TV coverage.
Ruddock criticised "foreign demonstrators known as S11" who supposedly sought to come into the country to protest September's World Economic Forum summit in Melbourne. Non-Australians were "intensely" involved in planning the protests, he claimed, as though that in itself was reprehensible.
Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie has sought to discourage protests at CHOGM by claiming that the body is "not about globalisation".
Following the killing of Carlo Giuliani in Genoa, however, he conceded that police handling crowd control during the CHOGM summit would not be carrying guns.
The Police Union immediately condemned the announcement. Its spokesperson, Merv Bainbridge, stated that officers were fearful of violence from anarchists and "imported troublemakers" and that the union has sought talks with the police commissioner in a bid to get back police officers' access to firearms.
Activists have hit back at the latest round of government propaganda, and are planning campaigns of their own, both through the media and direct to communities, to get their side of the story out.
The CHOGM Action Network's Tim Stewart described the comments of Peter Costello as a "desperate" and "pathetic" attempt to tarnish the anti-capitalist movement.
"The fact is, as Costello knows, we're not opposed to the telephone. We're opposed to the fact that big corporations run the telecommunications industry with an eye for nothing but their own profits and that prevents 80% of the world's population having access to such services."
Stewart also hit out at claims that protest groups were planning "violence".
"All those organising protest events at CHOGM have made it absolutely clear, time after time, that we're planning non-violent actions", he said.
"The only ones who have violence on their mind are the authorities, who are trying to create a climate which can justify violence against us — just as police did in Genoa."