Important Conference on Australian Peace and Independence

By Denis Doherty

Melbourne has just (September 8-10) hosted a highly significant peace meeting. The fifth annual conference of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) marked a growth in numbers and breadth of the new national peace network, an aim of communists and many others after the demise of the Australian Peace Committee as Australia’s national peace organization.

IPAN now has over 60 affiliates and, most importantly, at this conference over 20 delegates from a growing number of trade unions attended.

The conference was hosted by the MUA and MUA Assistant General Secretary Warren Smith spoke on why peace is union business and how the peace question is a class question. His contribution was warmly received and many conference goers expressed surprise and delight, saying they have wished for years for a union to say these sorts of things.

The MUA announced that IPAN documents would become part of education courses for union members. Conference delegates were also delighted when MUA branches around the country began texting in donations to the IPAN cause.

Indigenous speakers at the opening night public forum emphasized that the struggle for Aboriginal land and sovereignty, begun in the Frontier Wars, continues to this day and that the peace movement must support this fight. This was a theme which recurred throughout the conference.

The conference was held on the theme of War, Peace and Independence: Keep Australia out of US Wars.

Keynote speaker Prof David Vine from the American University in Washington and author of a seminal book Base Nation, was a standout contributor and was supported by a superb range of informative and empowering overseas presenters. They included Korean representative and Jeju campaign activist Sung Hee Choi, Olivier Bancoult from Diego Garcia, Murray Horton from the Aotearoa New Zealand anti-bases movement and Stephanie Rabusa from the Philippines.

Australian politicians, unionists, activists and academics gave inspiring and valuable contributions to the conference. They included Warren Smith (MUA), Scott Ludlam (Greens), Prof Richard Tanter, James O’Neill, Dr Vince Scappatura, Dr Margie Beavis (MAPW) and others.

David Vine argued that US bases harm America domestically and harm the countries where they are imposed. He pointed out that the first bases were established on Native American territory to steal the land from the indigenous people of North America. This tradition has continued with the US today maintaining an ‘empire’ of about 800 bases in 80 countries around the world.

These bases are called “gifts” to the host countries but David Vine says they are better described as a Trojan House, intended to exercise control, intimidate and threaten the host nation. They are set up for the benefit of US aims and objectives

The final conference declaration says in part that we have a vision of an independent Australia that plays a positive role in building peace in our region and beyond through peaceful resolution of International conflicts.  Presently an Australia joined at the hip with the US plays a negative role in the world and we work to change that!