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Monday, 3 September 2007

Approaching APEC

The public language used by NSW government ministers and the police in the run up to APEC has had a distinctly aggressive edge to it. There has been an assumption that deonstrations will be violent and a "bring it on" tone.

There has been no attempt to recognise the democratic character of public assembly and no substantive public statement of a willingness to engage in good faith with those people who are committed to the democratic process as manifested through non-violent protest.

Indeed the public stance of the authorities has given great comfort I would judge to those elements that see no difficulty with violence by unwillingness to engage with elements from civil society who wish to use APEC to raise there concerns with a variety of issues. The setting up of an alternative media office by a range of NGO's is an important attempt to engage serously in democratic debate. This too has been greeted with a notable lack of enthusiasm. the presence in this group of faith based age and development agencies like TEAR Australia, who engages with a wide constituency in the evangelical churches should give pause for thought.

A positive approach to engaging with civil society elements who want to raise issues of deep public concern in the context of APEC would have demonstrated a practical commitment to democracy that would have encouraged many people across the world and left those comfortable with the "ultimate forgetfulenss of violence" (Bruce Cockburn "Night Train") isolated.

Instead the militarisation of language and the threat of counterviolence by those in authority (not the upholding of justice be it noted) has proceeded apace.

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