Big rallies against Badgerys Creek airport

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Big rallies against Badgerys Creek airport

By Paul Benedek

SYDNEY — With the federal Coalition government's decision due soon on whether the 24-hour airport at Badgerys Creek should proceed, around 1000 residents of Sydney's western suburbs attended the third in a series of indoor rallies against the airport on August 8.

The rally, held at the Marconi Club in Bossley Park, followed earlier rallies of 1000 in Camden and 3000 in Penrith. The meetings, organised by the Western Sydney Alliance (WSA), a coalition of 10 councils, are a strong start to the anti-airport campaign.

However, there have been problems. At all of the rallies the speakers' list has been dominated by Labor and Liberal politicians, who have presented perspectives that isolate the campaign. At the Bossley Park meeting, Fairfield Mayor Chris Bowen tried to link the campaign to conservative causes, declaring: "Canberra bureaucrats are trying to impose a [heroine] injecting room on Fairfield and an airport at Badgerys. We are saying no to both."

Janice Crosio, federal Labor MP for Prospect, attempted to pit western Sydney residents against inner-city residents: "Kingsford Smith Airport has been in Sydney for over 50 years. I've seen single mothers pushing their children in prams in Sydney, and they knew very well that the airport was there when they moved there."

This parochialism cuts off the anti-Badgerys Creek airport movement from possible allies, such as inner Sydney residents who know the terrible impact of an airport in a residential area. All residents of Sydney need to be drawn into a campaign demanding that there be no airports in the Sydney basin.

While Labor and Liberal politicians at the meetings lined up to express their "personal" opposition to the airport, they are members of political parties that, either covertly or openly, support building it. Shane Bentley from the Sydney west branch of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) told Green Left Weekly, "Labor and Liberal politicians make fiery anti-airport speeches, but if they were really opposed to the airport, they would resign from their parties".

Groups such as Communities Against an Airport in Western Sydney and Fairfield Residents Against Airport Noise are forums through which residents could be involved in a mass anti-airport campaign. However, the WSA has given them, grudgingly, only a token role in its tightly controlled campaign.

DSP activists at the August 8 meeting attempted to move a motion calling on the WSA to organise an open-air mass rally near the Badgerys Creek site, and to organise similar rallies until the planned airport is scrapped. The WSA did not allow the motion to be put, and refused to allow a member of the DSP to speak.

While almost all speakers tapped into the residents' deep anger and desire to stop the airport, none presented a perspective of involving residents in a meaningful way. While imploring the people of western Sydney to "keep up the fight", the only means they offered was writing letters and sending postcards to Prime Minister John Howard.

"This campaign will not be won by letter writing campaigns", Bentley told Green Left Weekly. "Letters did not end the Vietnam War, stop the Franklin Dam or win the Patrick wharfies their jobs back. What won those campaigns was the involvement of the largest possible number of residents and community activists in a persistent campaign of high profile rallies and demonstrations. That is what is needed to stop the Badgerys Creek airport."

Bentley called on the anti-airport groups, and activists involved in campaigns such as that against the development of the Australian Defence Industries site near St Marys, to unite to build such a campaign.

"The campaign must call for the scrapping of the Badgerys Creek airport and the replacement of Kingsford Smith with an airport outside the Sydney basin. Together, we can force the government to find alternatives which put people's health and welfare before profits for the transport and tourism corporations", he said.

The last of the WSA-organised rallies, billed as Campbelltown's "last chance to stop Badgerys Creek" will be held at 7.30pm on August 18 at the Civic Centre, Queen Street, Campbelltown. A cavalcade of 10 buses is travelling to Canberra on August 31 to protest at Parliament House. To book a seat, phone 9675 3323.

To get involved in the campaign, phone Kay (CAAWS) on 4572 7994, Peter (FRAAN) on 9620 1428, or Shane (DSP) on 9635 8449.

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