Over the Easter period, a large number of anti-war groups and activists came together in the national capital Canberra, making up the 2014 Peace Convergence.
An important part of the activity was the first national conference of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) to expand and consolidate its position as a representative national umbrella for the many peace and anti-war groups across Australia. There were extensive discussions on building the movement, and activities and campaigns for the period ahead.
IPAN was formed in response to the US military ‘pivot’ into the Asia-Pacific region and the basing of US marines, warplanes and military equipment in Darwin.
More than 90 people attended the conference from all parts of Australia, representing over 40 different organisations and interested groups. Many had a long and dedicated history in the peace movement, environmental struggles and support for indigenous struggles.
Guest speakers included Vince Emanuel, an American Iraq war veteran who also spoke at a rally outside the United States Embassy on 24 April.
A statement endorsed at the conclusion of the conference summed up the concerns and positions that formed a powerful expression of unity and determination among the delegates. It reads…
“This first national conference of Independent and Peaceful Australia Network affirms our support for an independent Australian foreign policy as the most effective path for our country to build peace in the region.
“It is our view that Australia’s successive government policies of willingly following the US to wars, the stationing of US bases and troops on sovereign soil and the deeper integration of Australian foreign policies and military into the US war machine is a major threat to peace in the region.
“We’re concerned that Australia is complicit and actively involved in the US wars of aggression. We’re concerned with successive Australian governments’ subservience to foreign powers’ economic and military interests. We’re concerned that the financial cost of militarisation and engagement in foreign wars is a burden on our country that comes at the expense of people’s lives, welfare and the environment.
“Through recent decades we have witnessed a steady increase in the level of Australia’s military involvement with the US. We are concerned Australian governments’ subservience and complicity in the US military Pivot into Asia-Pacific is increasing the threat of war, rather than building peace and security in the region.
“We are opposed to foreign military bases and the deployment of foreign troops and military in Australia and the Asia-Pacific. We are opposed to the integration of Australia’s foreign policies and military into the US plans.
“We want to live in Australia with an independent foreign policy, under which our country is free to choose what is truly in the best interest of peace in the world.
“However, we recognise that a truly independent and peaceful Australia cannot be fully realised without a just treaty with Australia’s indigenous people.”
On Thursday 24 April, prior to Anzac Day, a number of rallies were held outside various embassies and locations in Canberra to highlight the increasing threat of war and the increasing integration of the Australian military into the plans of US imperialism.
On Anzac Day, many peace activists and groups marched in support of the indigenous contingent who carried the memory of the warriors who had died during the ‘frontier wars’ and violent occupation.
In all, a unifying and inspiring week of anti-war activity.
Former Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on Australian independence and the need to break away from the US military alliance: