Photo by Greenleft.org.au
By Ann Wright and Liz Ridley
With over 30,000 U.S. and Australian military forces and representatives from 11 other countries conducting in the Talisman Sabre war drills in many parts of Australia during July and August, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), Pacific Peace Network and other social justice organizations are raising Australian awareness of the influx of foreign military forces into Australia, the threat of Talisman Sabre and AUKUS provoking war with China with the Brisbane Pacific Peace Conference and Australian Speaking Tour. The speaking tour will take indigenous leaders from the Pacific to Sydney, Canberra and Darwin, the site of continued U.S. Marine presence and the construction of a U.S. military 60 million-gallon fuel complex.
The Brisbane conference “Calling for a Peaceful Pacific” featured leaders from across the Asia Pacific in solidarity and activism against the escalating militarization of the region. First Nations’ women leaders, Monaeka Flores (Guåhan) and Shinako Oyakama (Okinawa), Arama Rata (Aotearoa), Karina Lester (South Australia), and Tiana Hippolite (Pacific Diaspora).
The guests from the Pacific region were welcomed on July 28, 2023 by a Fireside Gathering and Welcome meal at the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy fire and by the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union.
On July 29, 2023, the leaders spoke powerfully at the Brisbane conference to over 80 attendees about the destructive impact of imperialism, colonization and war, and the exploitation of their people and environment through nuclear testing.
They emphasized the establishment of US military bases, military exercises on their lands, and war waste, as well as the resistance and activism in opposition to the continuing occupation of their lands for military purposes.
Non-indigenous panelists speaking at the conference were Associate Professor Richard Tanter, a specialist on nuclear weapons, Australian Earth Laws Alliance’s Michelle Maloney, co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Dimity Hawkins, and Greens Senator David Shoebridge. Each spoke on aspects of successive Australian governments’ complicity in the exploitation by Australia’s role as a sub-imperial military power in support of a dominating USA and UK “rules-based order” in the region.
The panelists underscored the lack of democratic decision making about Australian military policy and practices and the limitation on opposing voices in the Australian mainstream media. They noted the expansion of Australia’s military complex using public funds, including AUKUS and the nuclear submarine deal, expansion of the Tindal RAAF base for U.S. B52 bombers, planned purchase of long-range missiles with strike capability, Talisman Sabre and Rim of the Pacific military exercises, which have turned Australia’s defense policies into an offence strategy without public consultation and debate.
The 2023 Talisman Sabre will be the largest ground exercise in the Pacific with a mock battlefield from Western Australia, across the Northern Territory and Queensland, to Jervis Bay and Norfolk Island in New South Wales.
There was consensus at the conference on the importance of First Nations’ Peoples sovereignty. Youth engagement, linking the peace movement to their actions for environmental protection, supporting unions in opposition to AUKUS and east coast nuclear submarine ports, pressuring the Australian government to sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty (TPNW) and opposing Australia’s expanding industrial military complex and involvement in war
On July 30, Monaeka Flores (Guåhan) and Shinako Oyakama (Okinawa spoke at a demonstration at the gates of the Queensland Enoggera Army Barracks. Banners about peace, AUKUS and nuclear submarines were well received by passing motorists.
From July 31-August 4, Monaeka Flores and Shinako Oyakama will be speaking in forums and meetings with community and political representatives in Sydney, Canberra and Darwin.
Brisbane Pacific Peace Conference Statement
The Brisbane conference statement was unanimously approved by attendees:
Brisbane Pacific Peace Conference Statement Saturday July 29, 2023
From this conference we stand together for Peace throughout the Pacific and the world. People in all Pacific states and countries demand the right to genuine security which includes removing the threats of war, catastrophic climate change impacts, injustice and discrimination and addressing the rights of indigenous people. We call for cooperation not competition to achieve genuine security and an end to the military exercise Talisman Sabre currently underway in Australia where 30,000 military personnel are rehearsing for war. We commit to growing our knowledge, understanding, connections and friendships among the people who share the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The Brisbane Conference was preceded by two webinars organized by the Pacific Peace Network, Hawaii Peace and Justice and World Beyond War with speakers from the Pacific.
On July 1, the first webinar included Voices from the Pacific Against Militarism.
Joy Enomoto (Moderator) (Hawaii)
Monaeka/Naek Flores (Guåhan)
Sung-hee Choi (South Korea)
Shinako Oyakawa (Okinawa)
Judy Ann Miranda (Philippines)
Hanaloa Helela (Hawaii)
Dr. Melinda Mann (Australia)
On July 22, Pacific Peace Network sponsored a webinar on Talisman Sabre, AUKUS and NATO
Liz Remmerswaal (Moderator) (New Zealand)
US Army Colonel (Ret) Ann Wright (US)
Moneaka Flores (Guam)
Dr Michelle Maloney (Australia)
Hon. Matt Robson (New Zealand)
Liz Ridley is the Independent and Peaceful Australia (IPAN) representative to National Tertiary Education Union.
Ann Wright is a member of the Pacific Peace Network and Hawaii Peace and Justice.