Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Defence White Paper Community Consultation

Recently the Government announced it would be conducting a white paper on Defence. In doing so the Government is inviting submissions and holding community consultations. Focusing on the following key questions :

What role should our armed forces play? What kinds of armed forces should we develop? Can we afford such forces?

I attended the Melbourne Consultation with Sarah from my community. Many of my friends were there who are quite involved in the Peace Movement. Together we provided the Government with some very interesting and well thoughtout responses towards a future of no violence and non-partipication with aggressive and offensive countries! It was fantastic and together we compromised well over half of all the contributions. Bold statements were made despite an acknowledgement that most likely these statements will fall on deaf ears (interesting term that one!).

However, one can only speak the truth. And that is what we did.

There were a range of other people there...defence personal etc and it was a very interesting meeting! Some people said we need to teach all young Australians how to use a gun as its an OHS issue. Others said we’ve forgotten how to shoot straight. Others said we need to campaign harder and provide greater incentives for people to join the Army. Strange for so many people to sit around and talk ‘normally’ about how best to harm and kill others in order to protect us from ‘perceived’ threats.

Below is my statement which I contributed…despite feeling a bit intimidated by the experience I was able to stand up and speak confidently the truths of the Gospel and call on the Government to cease its pursuit of violent solutions to problems.

My name is Simon > 27yo > Live in Sth East Melbourne > P/T Social Worker > Married (1 pet cat, 5 fish and a chook named Doris which I think is very relevant to this discussion today (aiming for a little laughter)

1.) I think we spend too much money on Defence/Military
- The $55m a day could be better used elsewhere
- In my work in the community I have seen much poverty, disadvantage and sadness occurring that could be alleviated with just 1 day of our defence budget
- I’ve had young mothers turning up to training courses I’ve been running, bursting into tears, unable to concentrate because they have no food in the cupboard to feed her young ones
- Last year I spent time with a family of 4 living in a single caravan in this park that is the closest thing I’ve seen to a slum in Australia. In my community, disadvantaged families have to wait 15 years for a home
- I’ve spent time talking a young guy with a disability out of ending his life, because he cannot find anything valuable to contribute – no job, no hope, his life’s purpose reduced to conquering the latest X-box game
- I think this $55m should be redistributed among key areas such as housing, health, education, employment and the environmental challenges we face
- With growing global concerns over our biosphere – that in which we live – unless we act in greater ways we may have nothing left to fight over (Military well equipped to help us with these environmental challenges!)

2.) The underlying assumptions upon which we base our Defence and military force need to be questioned
a.) To be secure and defend our country we must align ourselves with the worlds most aggressive country. Our strategy in doing so has made us less secure, more terrified and more open to becoming a target
b.) Our responses to conflict require the use of violence
- Reliance on violence to bring about peace is contradictory, we become no better than those already using violence (the very people we oppose – we become them!)
- Violence creates destruction of people’s lives, towns, families, environment and places we live > More problems than when we started (eg. Iraq)
- Violence breeds more hatred, greater retaliation and a cycle we can’t break out of
- Violence does nothing to build greater relations and security with our enemies > Instead we must love our enemies as Jesus taught
- This is our way out of this cycle of violence
- Real security – real security comes from creating jobs, housing, schools, infrastructure. Doing good to one another, even when they don’t deserve it. We need to go on the offensive with this strategy (eg. Imagine Afgahnistan…)
- At the same time, we need to begin to invest in training/creating an Australian Nonviolent Force that can deal with violent conflict without resorting to the use of violence
- Yes still requires discipline of an army and the courage of a soldier. But there are options. If the only tool in our tool box is a hammer – then we will use a hammer. We need to expand the number of tools at our disposal to resolve conflict
- Start investing in nonviolent education, broadening our imaginations.
- 32 major social movements have successfully employed nonviolence as a direct strategy for social change in the past 40years. Time to learn from them

In conclusion
· People thought it was impossible to rid the world of slavery – we must remind ourselves that it is possible to create a world of no wars, no violence no military. Australia can led the world in this. If it so choses. We have the choice to make – violence, harm and death or life. Lets understand its not even a choice – its got to be life.
· I am tired of Australia being involved in violence, my tax dollars being used to kill other people.
· This is what we are really talking about here…lets be honest. We are discussing the best ways to kill others whom we see as a threat
· Last time I checked – killing people is wrong, immoral, against the law. We are not murderers.
· If the Government continues to go down the path of violence, I will stand in its way, I will not pay taxes, I will not be silent.
· But I have confidence that we can pave a new path, one where war is not the way to peace but peace IS the way.
· I challenge us all to invest in a new radical possibility – to not use violence as a defence. To not use violence ever

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Wilson's Prom Adventure

Last Weekend Marty, Pete and Myself got away for the weekend and did some camping down at Yirak (Indigenous name for Wilson's Prom).

It was a fantastic and relaxing weekend - with superfine weather on friday/saturday. The stars on the beach were phenonomal! You forget what stars look like living in the city.

Saturday was a day of bike rides, walking trails and eating food. Until the rain came while we were up on pillar point. And it didn't stop until we got home.

But a nice rain whilst camping is sometimes enjoyable. Except for cooking our bbq - we had to run back to the tent before our sausages become sausage soup.

Sunday was chilled out, cooking porrige in the morning during a brief shower interlude and then we hit the coffee shop as the rain picked up again, we scored the couches and enjoyed the morning until the drive back.

It was great to spend sometime in the mountians and by the beach! We gotta do it more often I reckon.