Protests against Shoalwater Bay's war games have been varied.
Protests against Shoalwater Bay's war games have been varied. File photo

Activist training targets Talisman

SYDNEY University has offered training for activists to disrupt next month's Talisman Sabre war games in Shoalwater Bay.

The university's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies offered a six-week Peace and Activism Training Course to specifically target the annual joint exercise involving the US and Australian armed forces.

The $500 course fee included transport to Rockhampton to take part in a peace protest and, possibly, an attempt to blockade Rockhampton Airport where military aircraft taking part in the exercise will be based.

Steve Bishopric, a Byfield-based pottery business owner who organised last year's peace convergence in Yeppoon, timed to coincide with Talisman Sabre, said yesterday he was aware of the threat to disrupt the smooth running of the war games this year.

He said southern activists had visited the area to plan their tactics but said the Shoalwater Protection Society and Shoalwater Bay Wilderness Awareness Group did not support direct action.

“We don't want to be dragged into an anti-military campaign because it will do nothing for our credibility to have members arrested for handcuffing themselves to tanks in Rockhampton,” he said.

“We are local people who are concerned about the impact to health and tourism of testing weapons in such a sensitive area.”

But he said he recognised there were people of “courage and conviction who are prepared to put their liberty on the line”.

According to The Daily Telegraph yesterday, protesters planning to come to Rockhampton during the three-week exercise would have been given an activist's handbook suggesting effective methods of causing disruption. However, it said the course had been cancelled.

A previous manual promotes techniques such as tunnelling, occupying buildings and throwing pies. Last year military convoys through Rockhampton were halted by naked protesters in the street and by people who attached themselves to vehicles.

Mr Bishopric said the Shoalwater groups were more interested in raising awareness of the issues and making sure environmental impacts were monitored.

“We are not opposed to the military or to the ADF defending our country but we are concerned about protecting the largest wilderness area on the east coast of Australia.

“We do not know what state-of-the-art weaponry will be tested there, or what the contaminants in the weapons will do to our water supply or the Great Barrier Reef.

“We will be pushing for a change in the way the military uses our facilities and to that end we will be holding a beachfront peace conference and rally on July 3 and 4 and a Committed to Change festival at the gates of the military area.”

He said he didn't think this year's protests would be as intense as in the past.

“Bush and Howard have gone and Iraq is not the burning issue it was,” he said.

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