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Unlike war – peace won’t the cost the Earth

Talk by Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Council, Nuclear Free Campaigner, at the 10th February snap protest rally outside QUAD meeting in Melbourne – No Quad, No War

My name is Dave Sweeney and I work on nuclear issues with ACF and was one of the co-founders of ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

This is a very important event. It is a small one but an important one – like a pulse that moves the call for transparency, responsibility and the expectation to do better.

This is a key time for Australia – a time of choice and alignment.

We all know the world is tense with shrinking resources and competing interests.

This is not news – the question is how we respond – and this cannot be in a way that fuels uncertainty and tensions and constantly preferences the military option.

Conflict is always a last resort, it must never be the first response.

We have a key role to remind of and highlight the human, cultural, environmental and economic costs of war and preparations for war.

It is not five months since PM Morrison suddenly surfaced with the surprise announcement of AUKUS.

A massive spend – locked in military inter-operability and relations – a profound loss of national sovereignty and the ability for Australia to independently position – the environmental risk of nuclear subs and the Trojan Horse this provides for those pushing a domestic nuclear industry.

At the time of the AUKUS announcement the head of the Australian Navy – Vice Admiral Michael Noonan – described this as a decision that “will no doubt change the shape of our nation”.

Those are high stakes – and we want a say.

We are citizens. We are not clients, we are not customers or consumers. We are citizen. And we want a direct say in the future shape of our nation.

It will be of little surprise to see the military and political drivers and beneficiaries of these massive new defence spends.

Next week in Adelaide the American Chamber of Commerce is hosting a business lunch at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

“Business opportunities beyond Sumarines” is the theme with the promise of “huge opportunities” for Australia.

The former US Ambassador to Australia will share the podium with heavyweights from arms companies Northrop Gruman, Lockheed Martin and more.

This is just one example of the push for ever expanded militarisation  and we need to challenge this increasing military spending and posturing.

Today on Planet earth we face a real crisis.

The Doomsday Clock – which measures humanity’s proximity to oblivion – is currently set at 100 seconds to midnight – as close at it has ever been.

This is because of the twin existential threats of unchecked climate change and nuclear weapons – and we urgently need to address, not worsen, both.

The economic cost of militarisation is enormous.

Imagine the real human and environmental needs that could be met with even one such spend – the $100 billion nuclear subs plan.

Covid and the climate crisis have shown us how connected, precarious and dependent our world is.

Today millions of Australians will buy Chinese goods in the supermarket and watch the Beijing Olympics. People do not want war with China. We need to build bridges, not arms.

Covid and the climate crisis also offer some clear lessons on the need for collective and shared responses in the global good – not in the isolated interest.

!5 years ago here in Melbourne – in fact just up the road – ICAN was launched. It has gone on to grow global support for a ban on nuclear weapons.

This is the sort of role Australia can and should play – building a justice based peace, not preparing for a nuclear war.

It is not ok that the Prime Minister can chat with Minister Dutton and commit Australia to war – there needs to be real checks and balances and war powers reform.

Thanks for being here today and for all your efforts to push for debate, scrutiny, evidence and sanity.

If our country is being shaped then we can and must do better shaping than the current ever increasing war fighting preparation and posturing.

And – unlike war – peace won’t cost the Earth.

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