September 4, 2007
On Saturday September 8th several thousand people from all walks of life will be meeting at the Sydney Town Hall on George Street to protest against the decisions being made at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) meeting. The meeting will host 400 leaders of the most dominant multinational corporations in the world and bring together 21 heads of state. This meeting has been organised as an opportunity for business to lobby for a rewrite of international conventions and domestic legislation to make it easier to increase profits and reduce costs.
The 400 strong ‘APEC Business Advisory Council’ is being chaired by a former head of Macquarie Bank Mark Johnson. The meeting has been marketed as the pre-eminent business opportunity in the world with access to law-makers representing 40% of the worlds population and 56% of its economic activity. The meeting will be seeking to establish a pact between corporations to privatise essential services like water, telecommunications and energy in the event of major disasters, manmade and natural. Services that were previously supplied by sovereign governments and public servants will instead be designed to maximise profits and reduce costs like wages and conditions. Many of these leaders are the same people behind the invasion and plunder of Iraq – a crime that has led to the deaths of over one hundred thousand people and pushed the price of oil to record highs.
Sydney has been turned into a veritable fortress with the city in lockdown. Over 5 000 police and armed troops have been allocated to patrol the city, helicopter gun-ships and fighter jets will be buzzing the skies and over five kilometres of concrete blocks and three meter high mesh fences have divided our peaceful city from its owners and into a playground for the rich and powerful. The $140 million needed to pay for this outrageous overkill – will of course be picked up by ordinary taxpayers.
While John Howard has been talking the meeting up as an opportunity to move forward on agreement to reduce global warming no specific targets are likely to be set. In fact the only two leaders in the world talking up a massive increase in nuclear power generation are John Howard and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister of Canada) Coincidentally both Canada and Australia sit on the largest deposits of uranium in the world. This APEC meeting is likely to see contracts signed for long-term supply of Australian uranium to Russia, China and India – a nation that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.
The meeting is being hosted by John Howard in order to present himself as a world-class leader and gain credibility for his policies including ‘Workchoices’. The business press has been selling the APEC meeting as a major opportunity to create a preferential trade agreement for our region – an agreement that will pit Australian wages and conditions against imports from countries with little if any environmental, occupational health and safety, social security or labour laws.
The benefits from this plan go directly to business while the cost go directly to workers.
The APEC leadership group has a clear and overt strategy to increase the sphere of influence and domination of its corporations over sections of the economy that have traditionally been carried out by public sector agencies and government services like public fire services. Already Australia is a signatory to a “Free Trade Agreement” with the USA that allows goods produced in Mexico by workers paid third world wages to be imported as an alternate to Australian goods produced under Australian wage rates.
Driving down wages and conditions in Australia to create low paid jobs in third world countries is no way to spread prosperity. The widen gap between those with decent well paid jobs and those without makes Australia and the rest of the world a far more dangerous and unstable place. It was this point the Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty made when he publicly stated that the war in Iraq had made Australia a target for terrorism. Firefighters as always are in the front line if and when things go wrong as a consequence of policies that divide society whatever the causes or rational.
Many thousands of ordinary peace-loving people are legitimately concerned over what is happening in our country and will be gathering at the Sydney Town Hall to stand up for their rights as citizens and workers. Our Union has a long and proud history of standing up for the rights of firefighters and all other workers both in Australia and overseas. This is one of the reasons the FBEU has the respect and support of other workers and Unionists throughout the world.
It is for this and other reasons that the Unions State Committee of Management resolved unanimously to protest the APEC 2007 meeting. The FBEU and the Maritime Union of Australia have now formed a joint approach to protest the APEC forum and are calling all members to meet at 9 am outside the MUA offices at number 365 Sussex Street Sydney. From here we will be marching to the Sydney Town Hall for a peaceful protest and rally opposed to the shift of regulation from government to private corporations.
The FBEU is now committed to stand up and be counted at the APEC protest and has been calling publicly for a large turn out of members. I strongly urge all members of our Union to join us and our comrades in the Maritime Union of Australia, if you are planning on attending please contact the Union offices and let us know in advance.