Public interest vs private profit discussed at conference

Photo by Ali Bakhtiarvandi.

“Public interest vs private profit” was the theme of Socialist Alliance’s state conference in Melbourne on October 2.

In the opening panel, Kenneth Davidson, senior columnist for the Age slammed Victoria as being a corporate state: “Since the election of [Coalition Premier Jeff] Kennett in 1992, we’ve had bad, secretive government. Labor premiers [Steve] Bracks and [John] Brumby have built on the foundations of the Kennett government.”

Davidson particularly hammered the desalination plant at Wonthaggi, which will cost six times more than desalination plants in other parts of the world. He said the amount spent on the desalination plant would cover the cost of building a Paris Metro and four hospitals.

Trent Hawkins, Socialist Alliance candidate for Brunswick in the upcoming state election, spoke about urban planning and the dictatorial powers of planning minister Justin Madden.

He said the Socialist Alliance is “opposed to any expansion of Melbourne’s urban growth boundary. We support increasing urban density through a planned approach for medium density, but urban density programs can’t be controlled by private developers. Sensible development can still preserve green spaces.”
In the session “Law and order: where is the justice”, civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary said the prison population had increased despite crime rates going down. “Victoria is jailing more people for longer periods of time and for less serious crimes”, he said. “We are warehousing young drug offenders.

“Drug addiction is a medical and social issue, not a criminal issue. The demographic of the prison system is the working poor. Rich people who suffer drug problems have the money for health programs to avoid jail.”

Margarita Windisch, Socialist Alliance candidate for Footscray, said drugs should be decriminalised, which would reduce the prison population. But “decriminalisation is a half-way measure”, she said.

Windisch said the “legal regulation of drugs that are currently illicit” would shift drug addiction away from the criminal justice system to the public health system. By maintaining the illegality of drugs, drug-users are susceptible to unsafe practices and don’t know what is in the drugs they buy.

The conference featured workshops on water, climate, forests and housing, and passed policies on bushfires and fire protection and housing.

To find out more about the Socialist Alliance’s policies for the Victorian state election, phone (03) 9639 8622.

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