Getting ripped off? Victorians need change

October 15, 2010
Margarita Windisch.

In the following article Margarita Windisch explains why she is running as Socialist Alliance candidate for Footscray in the November 27 Victorian election. Socialist Alliance’s other candidates are Mitch Cherry for Bellarine, Trent Hawkins for Brunswick and Ron Guy for Melton.

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I moved to Australia from Austria in the late ’80s and currently teach welfare work at Victoria University TAFE in Footscray. There I have had firsthand experience of the Brumby government’s misguided “skills reform” agenda for the sector.

Labor’s changes to the TAFE sector have tripled fees for some students, taking away the opportunity for low income earners to upgrade their skills or learn new ones.

The western suburbs, where I have lived for 10 years now, is a very vibrant and ethnically mixed area but is highly under-resourced when it comes to social services and infrastructure.

Interestingly enough, we are overrepresented when it comes to pokie venues: bloodsuckers that are tearing the heart out of our communities and the last cents out of the pockets of workers.

We have a lot of people from low socio-economic backgrounds living in the west, who struggle to find affordable housing.

We need a massive public housing program for the west, and rent controls for the private real estate market and stronger tenancy rights, so people don't end up homeless or in massive debt just to pay their weekly rent.

I became politically active when the notorious Kennett Coalition government got into power in 1992.

The following years were horrendous for most ordinary people: we saw schools closed, community services slashed, public assets privatised and worker’s rights attacked.

Labor’s agenda in 2010 is no different to that of Kennett, who governed with secrecy and put big business interests over the needs of the community.

People are hurting and they are angry. Our bills for essential services, such as water are sky rocketing, even if we use less! Private retailer City West Water increased its profits by $20 million from last year, while admitting residential water usage has dropped. This is outrageous.

Water, electricity and gas should be publicly owned and distributed.

The Brumby government is infamous for secret infrastructure deals with big business. One of the best-known examples is the $5 billion taxpayer-funded Wonthaggi desalination plant.

Part of this deal included the police handing over personal information of anti-plant protesters to Aquasure, the private consortium involved. Brumby also committed us to pay Aquasure about $18 billion dollars over the next 30 years to run a plant we didn't need nor want.

Imagine what could be done with $18 billion on the water front alone? Free water tanks for each household, more water recycling plants, state-of-the-art storm water harvesting and so on. The plant should be mothballed and workers paid out in full for the life of their contracts.

In the west we are also being hit with the monstrous $5 billion Westlink tunnel/roads project, which promises to spew more pollution and cars onto our streets, conjuring up nightmarish visions of Los Angeles-style spaghetti highway systems.

The government’s own studies show that Westlink will bring no overall economic benefit. The $5 billion that taxpayers will shell out for Westlink could transform our public transport system from failing to fabulous.

We say instead of a tunnel for cars, the government should invest in a European style underground Metro system through the CBD.

We have also had $1 billion wasted on the broken Myki ticketing system and another billion wasted subsidising private operators. This money could be spend on subsidising commuters by making the travel free.

Melbourne’s west is the fastest growing area in Australia. Melbourne has had no new railway lines since 1930, but the freeways just keep being rolled out. Instead of expanding public transport we have Dr Strangelove ideas for an “outer outer” ring road from Geelong through Bacchus Marsh to Epping.

Last month, environment minster Gavin Jennings and public transport minister Martin Pakula took part in a race from Southern Cross station to parliament house to celebrate car free day. They travelled just two kilometres.

The ALP government needs to get serious and fund a free, publicly owned, 24-hour public transport system instead of participating in these lame stunts.

Jennings told us: “The average car emits 4.33 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. By taking your car off the road for just one day, you can save 12 kilograms of greenhouse gas, or 240 black balloons.”

Thanks Gavin, but how much would investing in a decent public transport system instead of a freeway save us and future generations of Victorians?

We don’t need more roads; we need freight on rail and a first class public transport system that runs 24 hours, is frequent and where buses, trams and trains are coordinated.

We are simply getting ripped off. Labor and Liberal parties govern for big business, but with our money!

Instead of looking after the majority of people and the planet, Labor and Liberal have been busy handing over billions of dollars of our money to their big business mates.

This rort has to stop. Its time for us to kick them out. So let's do it.

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