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Remembrance Day at Defence S.A.
It's a warm and sunny Adelaide arvo, and a little crowd has gathered to commemorate Rememberance Day in their own way. Not long ago they'd planned to blockade the APDSE Arms Expo that was due to start here this morning. Now, in the shadow of the Defence SA office, with a contingent of police watching from the park's edge, they'd gathered to hear Jacob Grech.
The touslehaired, bespectacled Grech doesn't look like a violent "feral lowlife"; neither do his audience. The words that South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley used to describe the event organisers are exchanged in jest around the park, but it's obvious that the unendearing terms are only considered funny up to a certain point.
Putting aside the microphone used to introduce him, Grech addresses in a voice that gently but frimly cuts across the afternoon traffic:
"At eleven this morning I went to the War Memorial and watched the dignitaries do their minute's silence and shuffle their feet. I couldn't help thinking that they should be hanging their heads in shame for the way they were planning to celebrate this day."
Grech explained that the arms business handed changed much in the last hundred years. He spoke of Boriz Zahakoff, who sold weapons and upgrades from country to country in Europe. "By the time the Archduke Ferdinand was assasinated," he says "Europe was armed to the teeth with out-of-date weapons that had to be used quickly."
Snapping back to the here-and-now, Gresh voice grew sharper and more tense as he launched into the body of his improvised speech. Below is as much of it as I could transcribe. My notes don't do him justice as an orator:
"We're at Defence S.A. today because Kevin Foley's mad cohorts are putting S.A. into the biggest military build-up Australia has ever seen. This is at a time when we have major social problems"
"We're bulding the Aegis warshiips which are part of the American missile defence system."
"Obama is not going to change the basic military structure. He's a hawk."
"They want to put satelites into low earth orbit, powered by plutionium, that can strike with lasers anwhere in the world. This is not science fiction."
"They've had the War On Terror, the War On Poverty, the War on Drugs, and they're losing them all. Regardless of the spending they've lost every war except one: the War On The Environment."
"Every dollar spent on defence research is a theft. They are thieving, and they are lying. And why? Sometimes people like (SA Premier) Rann, despite themselves, tell the truth. He'd invited people here to have a look at the terrific business opportunities in South Australia"
"The APDSE organisers came out and said 'If we dont, someone else will.' It reminded me of a smack dealer I once knew."
Grech is proud that the event was cancelled when S.A. authorities realised the scale of the level of protest. "Groups had formed in every major city to say 'Enough is enough.' We proved and showed how concerted effort around the country could effect change."
Turning to Treasurer Foley's front-page castigations, Gresh's voice loses the last of its mildness. "We are not the lowlife. The arms trade is what disrupts civil society. Kevin Foley, this is personal. We need to keep the moral high ground, tell Foley that we've stopped not only this event but the ones in 2010 and 2012 as well. We're telling him 'If you try this again we will come and stop you.'
Grech concluded his speech with a pledge made in confidence of the ability to carry it out, in which he invited those present to share: " If there is an arms trade event of this scale anywhere in this country, we will go and close it down."