Rallies mark World Environment Day


By Francesca Davidson

On June 3, around 1500 people across Australia marked World Environment Day by taking to the streets demanding an end to environmental destruction.

From Sydney, Sandra Wallace reports that 300 people joined a march which culminated in a rally at Town Hall. Speakers included anti-third runway activist Kevin Murphy and anti-M2 tollway activist Brett Hoare. Popular protest singers Willie Whalin and Peter Hicks performed for the crowd.

Heavy rain cut the rally short. Despite the weather, the protesters made their feelings known on some of the major environmental issues in Sydney, calling for the closure of the third runway at Kingsford Smith Airport and an end to the construction of the M2 tollway in Sydney's north-west, with the funds saved being used to provide cheap and accessible public transport. The rally also demanded an end to logging in old-growth forests and called for the legalisation of hemp as an alternative to woodchips.

From Melbourne, Sue Bolton reports that 150-200 people gathered in the city mall to hear speakers on a variety of urban environment issues, in particular the devastation that the state Liberal government's economic and social policies have wrought on cities.

A representative of the Public Transport Users Association outlined the huge cuts to public transport funding in the past few years and the consequent increase in car-related pollution. Speakers from the Save Albert Park group and the Coalition against Freeway Extension also spoke, along with representatives from Resistance, the Greens, the Democratic Socialist Party and the Democrats. The rally ended with a loud, enthusiastic march around the city.

From Hobart, Rebecca Meckelburg relates that 350 people, most of them young, attended a very spirited march and rally. The key demands were "Save the Tarkine Forest!" and "Stop woodchipping and logging our old-growth forests!".

In support of the campaign to stop the building of a road through the Tarkine wilderness in Tasmania's north-west, Ruth Langford from the Aboriginal community explained that the Tarkine is traditional Aboriginal land with important cultural and social significance. Ross Harvey from the Health and Community Sector Union pointed out that while $50 million has been spent on building the Tarkine road in the past five years, $50 million has been cut from the health sector and another $50 million from education.

Other speakers included representatives from the Greens, Resistance, the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, the Tarkine Tigers and Jamie Fitzpatrick, a scientist from Tasmania University.

In Adelaide, a noisy and colourful speak-out in Rundle Mall was attended by about 50 people. Carla Gorton reports that a representative of Adelaide HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition), spoke about the little-known benefits of using the hemp plant as an alternative to woodchipping old-growth forests. Hemp paper, for example, can be recycled many more times than paper made from woodchips. Hemp trials have already begun in Adelaide.

Hundreds of passers-by in the mall joined the protesters in painting their own environmental messages to the government on a large banner.

Despite constant rain, 200 people turned up for a World Environment Day rally and march in Wollongong, says Chris Pickering. They marched from Market Square to the amphitheatre in the mall, where speakers addressed issues such as woodchipping, the marina being built at Shellharbour, the proposed tunnel at Scarborough and the relationship between job creation and environmental restoration and sustainability.

Speakers included representatives from the South Coast Trades and Labour Council, the Scarborough Wombara Preservation group, Resistance, the Democratic Socialist Party, the Wilderness Society and the University of Wollongong. Following the march, an afternoon of live music and entertainment was enjoyed by all who came along.

Simone Fellows reports that rain didn't dampen the spirits of the 400 people who rallied and marched under the slogan "Environment before profits" in the Brisbane World Environment Day activities.

A wide range of speakers participated in the rally and speak-out in the city mall, including representatives of the anti-tollway campaign group, VETO; Resistance; HEMP; the Wilderness Society; and the East Link campaign group. The crowd was entertained by street theatre performed by activists with HEMP before marching from the mall to Albert Park, where a festival organised by Radio 4ZzZ was being held.