“NSW not for sale!” was one of the chants at a Fix NSW rally on March 3, 20 days out from the state election. It expressed a common element in NSW government projects that have sparked resistance from numerous communities and trade unions.
Giant banners featuring the face of Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the words “$elling NSW” were the backdrop to speeches from Raymond Weatherall from Fighting In Resistance Equally, the coalition that organised the huge Invasion Day march on January 26; Jean Hinchliffe and Daisy Jeffrey from the Student Strike 4 Climate; Julie Lyford from Groundswell Gloucester; Deputy Opposition Leader Penny Sharpe; Indigenous educator and Water 4 Walgett campaigner Bruce Shillingsworth; Greens MP Jenny Leong and Sydney City Councillor and former deputy mayor Jess Miller.
The speeches reflected a resolve by communities to keep up the pressure on the state government, whatever the outcome of the election, but also marked some important victories. Lyford spoke of the victories in Gloucester against coal and coal seam gas (CSG) mining companies and the recent court recognition that climate change is a factor against approving new coalmines.
Sharpe said $70 billion of public assets has been privatised by the Coalition state government and promised that “under Labor this will stop”. She listed other Labor promises, including saving the Sirius building; protecting what is left of the heritage Windsor Bridge site; stopping the moving of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta; moving to renewables “as fast as possible”; and no expansion of CSG mining in the Narrabri region.
Sharpe's speech was met with heckling and shouts from crowd: “What about WestConnex?” This reflects the extreme frustration of the 15 or so community groups that are resisting the giant toll road and tunnel scam that is devastating whole swaths of Sydney, with the Labor opposition's failure to commit to stopping WestConnex, a point underlined in Jenny Leong's speech.
“The Fix NSW march was a huge success in bringing together 73 diverse campaigns from across NSW,” rally organiser Andrew Chuter told Green Left Weekly.
“For a while I was doubtful whether we would get support from groups outside our original core of WestCONnex and public transport, but we very quickly got on board western NSW water crisis, Stop CSG, indigenous groups and Save Yarra Bay, among others.
“So many new volunteers came on board to spread the message and sign up new groups. It's all the result of team building and solidarity we built in the previous rallies.
“I was so glad Jean Hinchliffe and Daisy Jeffrey from the Student Strike 4 Climate made the link between WestConnex and transport emissions and the climate crisis.
“Bruce Shillingsworth made us all see the connections between the campaigns when he said 'my issues are your issues'. We can see that the same profits-first mentality of the NSW Liberal/National government was responsible for all the varied problems we face. His themes of the disrespect shown to our Aboriginal brothers and sisters and the disrespect of the environment were immediately understood and well received by everyone. It felt like the glue that held the whole rally together.”
[Andrew Chuter and Peter Boyle are standing on the Socialist Alliance Legislative Council ticket in the March 23 NSW election.]