One of the more overtly religious (Christian that is) blogs on my blog roll is Shalom. Jan, who is about my age, is hardly a radical, I am sure she would not mind me saying. But is she furious about APEC! Go and see what she says:
The Sydney metropolitan area has been given a public holiday next Friday, supposedly in honour of the meeting. Rubbish! Sydneysiders have been told to stay out of the city. Not much honourable about that. Businesses are wondering where their compensation is coming from. Probably nowhere. The place is swarming with police, defence force personnel, security guys, whatever. Known “troublemakers” have been warned that if they enter the city, they will be arrested. Troublemakers is not my word, by the way. It comes from the government. Some buses have been converted to mobile prisons with cells. Some prisoners have been given home detentions so the gaol cells are freed for those arrested during expected protests…
I smiled at this bit:
At the end of such a conference, the heads of state usually parade in hideous shirts or other ghastly mementos of the conference. They look self conscious, as well they might. I wondered aloud what would be produced this time. Swaggies bush hats with bobbing corks to keep the flies off? Very Aussie. My son suggested budgie smugglers*. He then suggested that Howard and Bush may well not be able to fill these, a sentiment I would not normally make in public, but one I agree with…
My church is involved in that Andrew and Dorothy will be among those monitoring police behaviour. (I wonder if Dorothy might be on the “black list”? I will find out later…)
One protest among those I do have sympathy with — and it is as always a mixed bag with some perhaps just caught up in what I would call the romanticism of protest and others looking for a bit of biff — is Lori Wallach’s Global Trade Watch. There was a story on her in yesterday’s Herald: Activist comes with a health warning.
LORI WALLACH is in Australia to shut down APEC. But the organisers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting should not fear a hail of stones or petrol bombs. Violence is not Wallach’s style.
The director of US-based Public Citizen, the world’s biggest consumer advocacy organisation, believes fighting words can destroy the idea, which APEC leaders will embrace next week, that unfettered free trade is good for the public.
And she believes that Australia, with its traditionally strong public services, is “playing Russian roulette” by succumbing to US President George Bush’s free trade agenda. “Whole sectors of the service economy that we think of as a human right – health care, education, drinking water – become tradeable goods, with guaranteed rights for foreign investors to acquire and then operate them with minimum control,” she warns.
“APEC is another delivery mechanism for a trade model that has proven itself a failure for most people, damaging to the environment and damaging to democracy itself.”
Under World Trade Organisation principles, Ms Wallach says, US-based health maintenance organisations – which dominate a health insurance system that leaves 52 million Americans without coverage – could demand access to Australia’s market and undermine Medicare.
“The US-Australia free trade agreement is less draconian than others but the devil is in the detail,” she adds.
Ms Wallach, a Harvard University-trained trade lawyer, says an even greater threat looms over Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which subsidises prescription drugs.
She calls it “the smartest scheme in the world for consumers”, offering prices half those in Canada and one-tenth those in the US…
Dorothy isn’t on the banned list, though she once had a rather thick ASIO file on her. I commiserated with norrie for not being on it either…
* For those puzzled by this Australianism, Jan provided her own link. I instead refer you to Duncan, who is after all a Uniting Church minister.