Lead Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the NSW election Rachel Evans gave this speech to a Justice Action election forum on February 25.
Australia was once the “Lucky Country”. Now it has become the “Lucky-If-You-Are-Rich Country”.
Banks and big corporations are ripping us off. Their profits are soaring while wages are falling. The richest 1% now own more wealth than the bottom 70% combined.
Poverty has risen and has been criminalised. More people are being imprisoned, often for minor crimes committed while on remand and awaiting trial.
Prisons are being privatised and there are big profits to be made from locking people up, so we can expect prison numbers to keep rising.
The Socialist Alliance opposes the “law and order” bidding war between the major parties. We oppose prison privatisation, cuts to prisoner services and attacks on prisoner’s rights.
The Socialist Alliance opposes the push by the major parties for mandatory sentencing and to shifting from rehabilitation to “deterrence”.
We commit to reversing all these reactionary policies.
The Socialist Alliance supports the principle of the presumption of innocence. It is a travesty that more and more people are being held in prison before they are tried.
The Socialist Alliance has been an active participant in the campaigns against Aboriginal deaths in custody and supports the full implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
The disproportionate rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reflect the extreme racial oppression and economic marginalisation faced by these communities.
The above measures would help to reduce these disproportionate incarceration rates — and as a consequence reduce the risk of deaths in custody.
Women — especially women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities — have special needs and have different family and kinship obligations that need to be recognised.
The Socialist Alliance has spoken out against the abuse of strip-search powers by police and other custodial authorities. Two of our candidates in the upcoming NSW election were recently strip-searched by police as an intimidation and humiliation measure after their detention without good cause at a peaceful protest. I was one of them.
I recently spoke out against strip searching, especially of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women on Channel Ten’s The Project, drawing on my own experience of this humiliating treatment.
The Socialist Alliance is active in campaigns for juvenile justice and has helped build a strong community response to expose the outrageous treatment of Aboriginal juvenile detainee Dylan Voller in the notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory two years ago.
There is a terrible individual and social cost to juvenile detention. Juvenile detention rates should be reduced but instead they are rising.
Along with reforming juvenile detention laws, we need to address the social issues behind these higher rates of incarceration, such as youth unemployment, cuts to public education and TAFE and poor urban planning.
The Socialist Alliance strongly supports the public healthcare system and believes prisoners should have the same health rights as any other member of the community. We support holistic, preventive and harm-minimisation programs in prisons and in the community.
Mental health is a major issue in the community but is grossly under-resourced. Many people end up in prison because of this.
Privatisation and leaving the big decisions to the market has made this a lucky-if-you-are-rich country. It has also made it impossible for Australia to face up to the climate crisis.
The Socialist Alliance says enough is enough. Injustice has become law, so resistance has become our duty.
We need to break away from the grip of corporate greed and build a new society based on equality and justice and the public ownership and democratic control of the main resources of our country.