Labor MPs shut down local anti-war stall



SYDNEY — On November 2, members of the Labor Party attempted to have the Leichhardt Council close down a Socialist Alliance anti-war stall outside Norton Plaza.

The Socialist Alliance (SA) has held a stall outside the Norton Plaza every week for the last 18 months, campaigning around issues such as refugees' rights and opposition to the US war drive. In that time, the local council has only once expressed concern, although an agreement was reached to allow the stall to continue.

On the afternoon of November 2, SA members arrived at their usual stall spot to find an ALP stall, staffed by Anthony Albanese (federal MP for Marrickville) and Sandra Nori (NSW MP for Port Jackson), as well as four other ALP members. After the SA stall was set up next to the ALP stall, Albanese approached to ask if the SA stall had a permit.

Not satisfied by SA members response that our stall had an 18-month history of campaigning, frantic calls were made by Albanese and Nori, resulting in a council ranger turning up, saying that the council had received a complaint, and saying that the stall had to be closed down because it didn't have a permit. After discussion, an agreement was reached with the ranger that the stall would be closed down, but the campaigners would be free to remain.

"The majority of people oppose the deadly drive to war on Iraq, yet the ALP's response is not to take up the anti-war mantle, but to call up council to try to remove anti-war campaigners", said Socialist Alliance candidate for Port Jackson, Paul Benedek, outraged at the attempt to silence anti-war campaigning.

"Such an attack on free speech simply demonstrates that the Labor Party can't defend its pro-war, anti-refugee and anti-environment policies, and is simply seeking to silence its growing number of critics."

From Green Left Weekly, November 6, 2002.
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