The Guardian October 1, 2003


"Don't Be Bush-Whacked"

It is just three weeks to George Bush's visit to Australia. And while 
the Howard Government is preparing to greet and grovel at the feet of this 
international terrorist and warmongerer, peace activists and other 
progressives are preparing a different sort of reception. Andrew Jackson 
spoke to Hannah Middleton, President of the Communist Party of Australia 
and co-convenor of the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition.

Andrew Jackson: George Bush is coming to Australia  what kind of 
welcome are we planning for him?

Hannah Middleton: The situation is this  we know he is coming to 
Australia sometime in the week beginning Monday the 20th, but we don't know 
which day or days.

It is rumoured he is going to go to Canberra and that there will be a joint 
sitting of both houses of Parliament for him to address. It is also 
rumoured that he may come to Sydney as well but we don't know how long for, 
it could be possibly only as short as two hours.

This is why we have decided to organise the main protest  "Don't Be Bush-
Wacked"  on the Sunday before, which will give the maximum number of 
people the opportunity to come to Prince Alfred Park and say what they want 
to say.

And what we are trying to use is satire, contempt and ridicule and other 
forms of humour to make our political criticism. We'll have two serious 
speeches but the rest will be fun activities, for example, the longest 
protest line-dance in the world.

We are going to give prizes for the best display for adult and school 
student category, and the best placard or banner.

We are encouraging people to be creative but have a serious content to the 
fun, so it's not just comedy, it's satire in that tradition.

I was watching on ABC television last night the program about Charlie 
Chaplin making the Great Dictator and how that had an enormously 
strengthening impact for many people. I saw it when I was young and my 
parents took me, we were in London.

People would go and see it during the blitz and would come out going 
"(gesture) to you, Mr Hitler!", because they really felt empowered by this 
send up.

So we are hoping we can do that, that we can make people express their 
anger and their criticism of the USA and the Bush Administration and 
imperialism is doing to ordinary people in the world, but do it in ways 
that are satirical and abusive and funny.

AJ: And George W is certainly a wide target!

HM: Yes! There is already that iconic one from February the 16th of 
Bush with a Howard-face dog moving along behind him and every now and then 
its nose would touch Bush's bottom, which everyone remembers. One or two of 
the people in the Coalition felt it was a bit rude about the institution of 
Prime Ministership. I didn't agree but we decided as a matter of consensus 
not to use it on the poster.

AJ: So what is Bush's agenda on this trip?

HM: We're assuming some things: certainly one will be to strengthen 
the link between to our two countries and drum up political support.

It's unlikely  but not impossible  that the US will request that more 
Australian troops should go to Iraq. Although the Howard Government has 
already said it's not going to do that, that it's already stretched to the 
limit with our current presence in Iraq, with the Solomons, (with 
Bougainville next), and our current commitment in East Timor and all the 
other things we're involved in.

But there are other ways I'm sure John Howard is willing to help  with 
rolling out the so-called "war against terrorism" in our region.

Bush will also want Australia to spend more on the military and that will 
definitely include paying for two new vessels which will be used off West 
Australia for theatre missiles. And then of course there's all the further 
expansion of Pine Gap for the US missile defence which of course is being 
called "astro-imperialism"  a phrase I like  but what is essentially 
the militarisation of space in order to further dominate the globe.

I'm sure all those "security" issues will come up.

I'm sure the establishment will be fawning on him, and at the joint sitting 
of Parliament everybody will cheer  which we hope at least the Greens 
will boycott.

AJ: And free trade?

HM: Well, whether they will let Bush say anything about the Free 
Trade Agreement while he's out here, well, we know he's not that brightb&

I'm assuming that that's going to be talked about those talks are ongoing. 
It doesn't look as if enough has been finalised for him to sign anything 
with a flourish alongside Howard. But they may be able to cook up some sort 
of preliminary statement of intent or something like that for a photo 
opportunity and some political gain.

But there's a still a lot of work to do on that. There are still some 
worries amongst sections of the ruling class, even about the free trade 
agreement and what it may do, apart from massive opposition amongst large 
sections of the community.

But I'm sure he'll have an entourage with him who will carry out the 
economic discussions as well as the security/military.

AJ: October 25 is being publicised as another international day of 
action.

HM: What happened initially is that some of the Trotskyist groups in 
the USA called for the October 25 action but there's been quite a delay on 
more groups coming on board in the interim.

Some American groups were worried because there was going to be a trade 
union conference on peace held on that weekend too.

The Peace and Justice Coalition  to which the CPA is affiliated  
decided they wouldn't take on October 25 at any early stage.

The Sydney Stop the War Coalition, which is the ultra-left coalition that 
came out of the peace movement split here in Sydney, thought they would go 
with it. It's my understanding now that they've instead decided to also 
protest against the Bush visit by calling a rally at 5pm at Town Hall 
Square on the day that Bush comes to Sydney.

So rather than the international action on October 25 we will be focusing 
in Sydney on October the 19th.

AJ: What demands will be made on that day?

HM: We've been a little careful about that because we wanted to 
emphasise the satire aspect, but the overtly stated political demands will 
be brought out through the two speakers.

Firstly, we need to bring about an end  an immediate end  to the 
occupation of Iraq. Some form of transitional authority must be organised 
by the United Nations that will very quickly  the speed is a very 
important element  bring about full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty with 
democratic elections.

AJ: The USA has long said that the long time-frame for holding 
elections is necessary to enable an extensive consultation process prior to 
the drafting of a constitution.

HM: One of the things that has come up in our meetings is that when 
the United States had "pony express" mail they still managed to produce the 
American Constitution in a very short time, a matter of weeks.

Yet we are told it is going to take many months to produce a constitution 
for Iraq, and the lead-up to elections must take even longer. This is 
nonsense.

It is just the United States making sure they have a complete strangle-hold 
on the political process, who will get elected, which parties and 
candidates they'll fund and also control over the economic levers of that 
country.

And once they've got that all sown up  which they don't seem to be doing 
very successfully  then of course they'll allow a form of elections into 
which they'll pour a great deal of money into their candidates.

AJ: You mentioned Pine Gap earlier, and Australia's support for US 
"astro-imperialism". What does that involve?

HM: The Anti-Bases Coalition is going to have a "For heaven's sake 
speak out!" forum on the United States missile defence and weaponisation of 
space, which will have a couple of speakers informing us about what exactly 
the US will be putting up in the sky.

Bob Hunter who is the National President of Scientists for Global 
Responsibility is a great speaker who doesn't make the science too 
difficult. He's quite scathing about the United States.

And then Mike McKinley from ANU why the Americans are putting weapons 
systems up there. And then we can all have a drink and a talk about it. We 
are calling the campaign "For heaven's sake: against the weaponisation and 
militarisation of space". (See ad at bottom of page).

However there are lots of other smaller peace campaigns going on all over 
the country at this time. People have become much more optimistic about 
these local campaigns this year, they are excited that they can build 
campaigns that will educate people and get them into activity.

I think that what's happened is that the strength of the campaign against 
the invasion and occupation of Iraq has actually regalvanised the peace 
movement.

* * *
Continued next week: Hannah Middleton discusses the Sea-Swap campaign, the new campaign on land mines, the role of the United Nations, and tasks of Communist Party members within the peace movement.

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