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FIJI: Pro-democracy bans may intensify

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MELBOURNE: Australian Council of Trade Unions president Sharan Burrow said today that Australian unions may intensify bans against Fijian cargo if rebel leader George Speight does not release his hostages and allow the restoration of parliamentary democracy in Fiji.

Australian workers in the oil industry refused to fully load a fuel-tanker bound for Fiji in Melbourne earlier this week and the ACTU has warned that further fuel shipments to could be threatened if the crisis is not resolved.

Ms Burrow also said that unions were making good their commitment to ensure that the passage of emergency medical supplies to Fiji is not affected by the protest action.

Arrangements are being made with shipping agents and suppliers to ensure emergency medical supplies bound for Fiji are identified and freighted as quickly as possible.

"When Australian unions took the decision to take action in support of democracy in Fiji a commitment was made that emergency medical supplies and humanitarian cargo would not be affected. We are honouring that commitment," said Ms Burrow.

At a meeting of the ACTU coordinated Fiji Crisis Committee yesterday, Australian unions resolved to increase the scope of current bans if necessary and called on the Federal Government to help end the hostage crisis by turning its rhetoric into action.

"We are deeply distressed by reports that George Speight has begun withholding food rations from his hostages. Mr Downer must now do everything in his power to end the increasingly violent situation in Fiji, including the use of trade sanctions."

Unions are also monitoring reports that some Fijian business are shipping goods via New Zealand to avoid Australian bans.

"We are committed to ensuring that these bans are effective. Self-interested Fijian business attempting to avoid Australian bans by moving cargo via other national ports will only encourage us to consider increasing the scope of the current action," said Ms Burrow.

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