Peace is a union issue because it is working men and women and their children who bear the brutal brunt of war says ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Australians for peace – I salute you!

The ACTU strongly opposes a unilateral declaration and Australian involvement in a war on Iraq.

The ACTU condemns terrorist acts wherever they occur – such monstrous acts take human lives and cannot be accepted but war is not the answer.

The threat of a pre-emptive strike by the USA, seemingly supported by the Australian Government, contravenes international law, is a threat to world peace and must be resisted by the UN Security Council.

To hear Robert Hill call for reform of international law to legalise pre-emptive strikes as an act of perceived self defence was shocking: to hear this morning our Prime Minister endorse this call is to back a new era of lawlessness, threaten global security and flirt recklessly with basic human rights, is simply unacceptable.

People ask me why the unions would get involved in this debate. The answer is simple -it is working men and women and their children who bear the brutal brunt of war. Economies are destroyed, jobs are lost and families dislocated, wounded and killed.

Peace has always been a union issue.

We know that nearly fifty percent of the population of Iraq is under 14 years and up to a million families are already displaced. Save the Children Fund reports that there is widespread suffering with malnourishment endemic. This is the leftover from the previous war and any attack will further exacerbate an already desperate humanitarian crisis.

Dictators who oppress their people exist in too many nations but war is not the answer, war is not the solution.

The real solution is disarmament and an end to the development of all weapons of mass destruction as a first step to global security. ACTU is strongly opposed to the development of weapons of mass destruction whether by Iraq or any other country.

UN mandated international inspection of any country stockpiling weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological or nuclear – whether Iraq, USA, North Korea, Russia or any other nation would significantly contribute to global peace and security. This should be the call of leadership from our Government if it were genuinely dedicated to global peace and security.

The ACTU is deeply concerned that the unrelenting talk of war is drowning out talk of solutions for peace. Your presence here today begins to turn that around.

Even Peter Gration, former defence chief, advises against a war on Iraq. He counsels that little has changed to generate such urgency and could actually see the Muslim world united against the West and the threat from international terrorism worsened. No authority can claim there is a link between Bali and Baghdad.

I would like to finish with a call for all political leaders to avoid incitement of a climate of suspicion and fear in Australia and to promote increased understanding of the diversity of Australian religious faiths, including Islam.

Our message is a simple one: Muslim men and women – you are welcome here!

Australian unions, join with the large number of individuals, community organisations and religious communities here today to plead with all political leaders to oppose a war on Iraq. Terrorism must be stamped out but war is not the answer.

This speech was made by ACTU President Sharan Burrow at an Anti-war Rally at the Sydney Town Hall, 30 November, 2002.