Kieran Latty & Susan Price, Sydney
The Socialist Alliance will stand three candidates in the March 27 Leichhardt council elections — militant unionist Shane Bentley, Books Not Bombs youth anti-war activist Kylie Moon, and refugees' rights supporter Paul Benedek.
"We need councillors who will organise the maximum community involvement in the defence of public lands and services", said Bentley, who is standing for the Rozelle-Lilyfield ward. A member of the Maritime Union of Australia, Bentley recently saw his White Bay workplace closed to make way for the NSW government's sale of profitable waterfront real estate.
"The Callan Park victory showed people power can win", Bentley said. "The Socialist Alliance believes there needs to be more people power — not just with parks, but with our schools, our transport, our hospitals. We support Friends of Callan Park's struggle to defend the Rozelle mental health hospital. We need to defend public land for the people, and put it towards social use — such as increasing public housing so people are not forced away by spiraling rents."
Benedek, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Balmain ward, agrees. "With a fighting council that involves people in struggles for their rights, and against government and corporate injustice, people can see who the real enemy is.
"The enemy is definitely not refugees struggling for their right to survive and live in safety, nor the Iraqi people who suffer under Howard and Bush's war machine. It's governments and big businesses driving for privatisation and job cuts."
"An example of ridiculous priorities is childcare", claimed Moon, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Leichhardt-Lilyfield ward. "There are only three council-run long-day care centres in the area, which are unable to deal with demand. Prospective parents are being told to register children before they are born! Meanwhile, state and federal governments lavish money on to wars we don't want, and racist 'anti-terrorism' squads.
"We need a council that campaigns hard for pro-people priorities — opening more childcare centres, ensuring services are accessible to all."
The Socialist Alliance has been active in the local area — helping initiate the Leichhardt Stop the War group that held rallies of up to 700 people and holding regular campaign stalls in the Leichhardt area.
Another key issue is the proposed extension of the M4 tollway, which threatens to massively increase traffic congestion in the area. The Socialist Alliance is opposed to the construction of more tollways, arguing that public funds should be used to expand the failing public transport system instead of subsidising private tollway operators and encouraging more cars on the roads.
"The crisis in the rail system shows that the state government's underfunding of public transport and pouring of millions into tollroads is not sustainable for our society", Benedek said. "The fault lies completely with the government — we should support the train drivers. Their message is clear — we need a dramatic change of priorities, toward public transport, away from private use."
The central Sydney Socialist Alliance branch will letterbox the three wards in which the socialist candidates are standing, aiming to reach all of the 40,000 residents in the three wards. The branch will continue campaign stalls in the area, with petition campaigns around childcare services, public housing, and an initiative to pressure for the closing of refugee detention centres.
To help out, call Kieran 0409 749 084, Susan 0400 320 602, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
From Green Left Weekly, February 18, 2004.
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