Candidates discuss environmental policies
By Justin Randell
WOLLONGONG — Candidates standing for seats in the Illawarra in the March 27 NSW election attended an "Environmental health community forum" on March 2.
Candidates from the Liberal and Labor parties, the NSW Greens, the Democratic Socialists, One Nation and independents heard submissions from environment and community groups before presenting their environment policies.
The community groups highlighted the environmental negligence of the state Labor government and the ALP-dominated Wollongong City Council. Lord Mayor and ALP candidate for Keira, David Campbell, came under fire for his comment that people "should move house" if they didn't like the damage to houses from last year's freak storm damage or the threat of future damage.
Among the issues raised were the dangers of electromagnetic radiation from electricity towers, the disastrous impact of development on the Illawarra escarpment and surrounding foothills, the devastation caused by dumping of slag from the Port Kembla copper smelter into Korrongula swamp since 1985, the cancer clusters created by pollutants from the copper smelter, the continuing release of high levels of dioxin from BHP's Port Kembla steelworks and the copper smelter, and the need for a coastal protection policy independent of the wishes of profit-chasing developers.
The ALP candidate for Wollongong, Col Markham, responded that he would "stand by his record" on environmental and indigenous issues in the region.
One Nation candidate John Curtis proclaimed his love of fishing and water sports, and that he has a possum in his backyard, as proof of his concern for the environment. Liberal Party candidate for Kiama Charlie Mifsud downplayed the locals' concerns, urging that decisions about the environment and development be made "calmly and sensibly", not "emotionally".
Independent candidate for Keira, Dave Martin, said that public ownership of the escarpment was the only way to ensure its protection, while the Greens' candidate, Karla Sperling, stressed the need for grassroots community involvement to address the region's environmental problems.
Democratic Socialist candidate for Wollongong, Angela Luvera, pointed out that the region's environmental problems stemmed from a system that puts profits before the environment. "The Carr government and the Wollongong City Council's support for businesses like BHP at the expense of the environment is reprehensible. We need democratic control of the decisions that effect us, and a good place to start would be the nationalisation of the steelworks", Luvera said.