by Laura Fitzgerald
On the weekend of the 7-9 September world capitalist leaders of APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Co-Operation), including George Bush met in Sydney. The real purpose of the weekend was to discuss how to increase profits in the region, chiefly through more privatisations, deregulation and trade liberalisation policies of neo-liberalism.
Lip-service was paid to climate change, with Australian PM John Howard heralding the fact that China and the US signed up to an “aspiration” to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The protection that the Australian state afforded these contemptible world leaders such as Bush was startling. A massive smear campaign was launched in the media, branding those who intended to protest against war and anti-worker policies as violent monsters.
Should this not be enough to prevent workers from taking to the streets, in an unprecedented attack on civil liberties, new laws were drafted specifically to crack down on protests at APEC. This included giving police the right to arrest any protester caught carrying an endless list of contraband that ludicrously contained the term ‘thing’! A wall was constructed sectioning off a large proportion of Sydney’s CBD and 5,000 police officers, 1,500 army troops, 450 federal police troops and teams of snipers were drafted in, in this $200 million operation.
Despite the intimidation and smear campaign against protesters and the failure of the trade unions to mobilise, up to 10,000 attended the main demonstration at APEC against Bush. Our sister party, the Socialist Party of Australia, organised a convoy of buses to attend the demonstration from other parts of the country.
Police in plain clothes, or “APEC investigators” as they called themselves, stopped the buses for over two hours at a road-block. Sniffer-dogs were deployed on all the contents of the buses in an unfruitful attempt to prevent the Socialist Party from attending the demonstration. Socialist Party members marched under a banner that read “Smash Capitalism – Fight for Socialism” and identified issues such as the war and the destruction of the environment as endemic to the capitalist system’s drive for profit, arguing for a socialist alternative to APEC and all it represents.