On September 7 – 9 thousands of people will attend protests at the APEC summit in Sydney. Amongst them will be trade unionists, students, socialists, community activists and others who oppose the neo-liberal policies of cuts, privatisation and workplace deregulation. Despite the massive police operation activists will be there in force to defend their democratic rights, and voice their opposition to the APEC leaders and their policies.
From its beginning in 1989, APEC was designed to assist the rich elite in boosting their already massive profits – to prise open more Third World countries’ markets for First World goods and services. Such ‘liberalisation’ by force not only jeopardises these countries’ efforts to industrialise, but it devastates agriculture industries on which their struggling populations depend. These vulnerable economies are largely a result of the plundering and looting by rich nations.
In India, where we are told an economic boom is taking place, the slum population has doubled in the last twenty years to 60 million people and, worldwide three billion people now struggle to survive on less than $2 a day. It is not only in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia that deprivation exists. In the richest country on the planet, the US, 60 million people live on less than $7 a day.
Here in Australia, workers and youth have seen their living conditions deteriorate massively as huge attacks are made on wages and working conditions; as well as massive cuts in public education and health services. Howard, will be seeking a pat on the back for these attacks, and for his ‘generosit’ with public money – over $200 million, while Bush is offering just US$5 million to APEC.
APEC leaders from the world’s most powerful economies, along with key regional leaders will be once again discussing economics on trade liberalisation with no consideration of human rights, labour rights and the environment. APEC has denied any formal engagement with the labour movement, or civil rights groups. Not one organisation from the labour movement has been invited to any of the APEC meetings!
However, APEC leaders are keen to have business input through the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Energy Working Group that welcomes contributions from the private sector. These forums receive substantial input from companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Chevron Oil Company. The APEC Energy Working Group has rejected the Kyoto Protocol Strategy and focused solutions on ‘clean’ fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
The APEC protests in Sydney present an opportunity for the labour movement to mobilise against this anti-worker forum – to protest against Howard’s anti-worker IR laws – particularly as workers’ interests have been silenced at the forum. The presence of the organised working class would strengthen the demonstration hugely. No other section of society has the capability of defeating the APEC leaders and the bosses’ system they represent.
Not only that, a trade union presence, with its method of organisation and struggle can bring an added seriousness and a discipline to the protest and will serve as a link between the wider working class and the radicalised youth who are the most vocal opponents to continuation of wars, occupations and poverty, climate change and to capitalism.
By Socialist Party reporters