In November 1991 up to 2000 protesters blockaded the National Exhibition Centre in Canberra with the goal of shutting down the Australia International Defence Exhibition (AIDEX). In a foretaste of the global justice protests to come the anti-AIDEX campaign brought together people from a myriad of political causes and countercultural scenes and gave them a clear goal and the numbers and determination to meet it. During the build up to the protests the ACT government declared it would not allow AIDEX ’93 to take place at NATEX (now known as Exhibition Park) due to lobbying and national protests which saw the number of exhibitors fall from over 200 in 1989 to 140 in 1991. Despite ever-increasing levels of police repression, internal conflict and media vilification, the AIDEX ’91 demonstration itself further disrupted the event to such a degree that it was abandoned thereafter. The success of the protest came at a cost however with hundreds of demonstrators injured and their actions demonised in the mainstream media.
Alongside a detailed account of the blockade itself ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE: THE AIDEX ’91 STORY traces the background of the protest amidst the growth of the Australian arms industry. Using the words of the protesters themselves the book also explores the lessons of AIDEX ’91, the effect of the protest on a generation of Australian activists and the way in which similar strategies were used to stop the 2008 Asia Pacific Defence and Security Exhibition from occurring. The book was originally published by Homebrew Press in 2009. Links to it, a radio program and photos documenting the blockade appear below.
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE: THE AIDEX ’91 STORY was produced with the knowledge that Adelaide was to host the first AIDEX style event in 17 years on Remembrance Day 2008. During the final week of completing the book the organisers of the Asia Pacific Defence Exhibition (APDSE) announced that they were canceling the event, in large part due to the threat of protest disruption, making the AIDEX ’91 story more relevant than ever. AIDEX ’91 naturally enough did not occur in a vacuum, and the first section of the book provides some detail on the background factors which motivated people to attend as well as on the political context in which it took place. This section of the book also recalls the AIDEX ’89 protest and the flurry of organising activities that occurred in the run up to ’91. An account of the protest itself then follows. The final section focuses on the aftermath of the event and its effects on both Australian social movements and the arms industry. The book aims to tell the story of the campaign from a non-partisan standpoint that views a variety of tactics, strategies and groups as all contributing to the eventual success of the protest.
The history draws on a number of sources, including alternative and mainstream media accounts and radio and film documentaries. It also utilises a number of interviews with people who were members of various groups and tendencies. In tracing the order of events that took place on the ground it is heavily indebted to the PIECING IT TOGETHER: HEARING THE STORIES OF AIDEX ’91 publication. Those who just cannot get enough of AIDEX ’91 are recommended to seek out a copy. As part of a series of ecumenical hearings designed to “bring about healing in the community and contribute positively to clarifying what took place”, the 474 page document was originally published in 1995. Whilst skewed towards a particular set of perspectives regarding non-violence, and largely missing the voices of the more militant members of the blockade (no doubt because those tendencies failed to respond to or take part in the hearings), PIECING IT TOGETHER provides far more detail on media coverage, Ombudsman’s inquiries and community policing than ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE. It is currently unavailable online, but is held in some libraries.
Read Full Book
Listen to Radio Documentary
Hear a radio documentary by the author of the book, Iain McIntyre, featuring interviews and audio from the blockade regarding the blockade – You’ve Got To Party For Your Right To Fight: The AIDEX ’91 Protest
Watch Video – A Short History of Australian Arms Fair Protests
Watch Video Documentary
Aidex ’91:Inside the Australian arms trade documents the protests against the Aidex Arms Trade “Fair” held in Canberra, Australia in 1991. It also investigated the politics of Australian weapons trading in the Asia-Pacific region. It was produced for transmission on Community Access TV who were conducting test broadcasts of community TV on UHF Ch31 in Sydney, Australia. The large protest against Aidex, the police response, and the general public reaction, combined to make the arms traders very wary of staging such a prominent display for a decade and a half.
Look at Photo Collection
Book Contents Page
THE BACKGROUND TO AIDEX ’91 9
- The Arms Industry Makes A Comeback
- New Wars and Old Conflicts.
- The Return Of Direct Action
- DESIKO, PADEX ’86 and AIDEX ‘89
THE BUILD UP TO AIDEX ‘91 29
AIDEX ‘91 41
- Monday 18th – Friday 22nd November
- Saturday 23rd November
- Sunday 24th November
- Monday 25th November
- Tuesday 26th November
- Wednesday 27th November
- Thursday 28th November
- Friday 29th November
THE FALL OUT 117
- Stopping Austech ‘93 and the Asia Pacific
- Security Defence Exhibition (APDSE) ‘08
- Department of Social Security (DSS)
- Harassment Of Protesters
- Court Cases
- Complaints Against The AFP To The ACT Ombudsman
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS: THE EFFECT OF AIDEX ’91 ON INDIVIDUALS AND THE LEFT 133
- Campaigning - Approaches_Actions_Tactics
- Campaigning - Grassroots
- Civil disobedience
- Collective action
- Direct action
- Direct action - Non violent NVDA
- History - Australia
- Movements_Campaigns - Anti war_Military_Weapons
- Movements_Campaigns - Peace