The Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition organised a one-day conference at Redfern Town Hall on 22 October. The event aimed to address concerns related to the AUKUS military pact, the increased militarisation in Australia, and the potential ramifications of a military conflict with China. The conference featured a range of speakers who shared their insights and experiences on these pressing issues, fostering a productive and informative dialogue.
The first session, titled “U.S. Bases & Preparation for War on China,” focussed on the expansion of U.S. military bases and their possible role in a future conflict with China. Speakers included Elizabeth Hulme, an activist who has been campaigning against the Geraldton spy base, Denis Doherty, an anti-bases campaign activist, and Bevan Ramsden from the Independent & Peaceful Australia Network.
The second session, “Nuclear Nightmare: AUKUS Subs, Waste & the Environment,” explored environmental and humanitarian concerns related to the AUKUS deal. Jason Bilney, a representative from the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, discussed the impact of nuclear waste disposal on Indigenous lands. Jim Green, a prominent anti-nuclear campaigner from Friends of the Earth, detailed the alarming radioactive waste issues stemming from the acquisition of nuclear submarines. He spoke about how “The AUKUS pact’s push for nuclear-powered submarines generates radioactive waste, posing environmental and health risks. We need to prioritisze sustainable and safe alternatives to military technologies”. Their presentations were a stark reminder of the immediate and long-term consequences of the AUKUS pact.
In the final session, “Resisting War Then & Now: Social Movements, Unions & Resistance to War,” a group of experienced anti-war activists shared their insights. Denis Golding, an anti-Vietnam War activist and former Builders Labourers Federation member, recounted his experiences from past anti-war movements. Peter Murphy, another anti-Vietnam War activist, connected historical struggles with the current opposition to AUKUS. Luke Hocking, representing Wollongong Against War & Nukes, and Feiyi Zhang from the Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition discussed the ongoing resistance and the need for collective action. Natasha Watts, the NSW Teachers Federation Senior Vice-President, emphasised the role of educators and unions in shaping the anti-war movement and the importance of raising awareness. She expressed “Educators and unions have a pivotal role in shaping the narrative against war. It’s our responsibility to raise awareness and promote informed discourse among our students and communities.”
The conference facilitated open and informed discussions about the AUKUS pact and its potential consequences. Attendees left with a deeper understanding of the issues and the importance of united resistance to address these concerns. The event was a reminder of the growing momentum within the anti-war movement.