Thousands join anti-airport rally

March 25, 1998

By Rupen Savoulian

SYDNEY — An estimated 8-10,000 people braved inclement weather to attend a rally against the proposed second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek on March 15. An alliance of western Sydney local councils organised the rally at Jamieson Park in Penrith, in Sydney's far west.

While attendance at the rally was encouraging, it lacked clearly defined demands. The main speakers were local council and state politicians from the ALP and Liberal parties. The only progressive speaker was Kay Vella, a coordinator of the anti-airport campaign in western Sydney.

While the problems of air, noise and water pollution were emphasised, the suggested course of action was to "send a message" to the politicians through a letter-writing campaign. Speakers also called on those present to make written submissions to the environmental impact assessment being conducted by government bodies.

Most speakers tried to lay the blame for the proposed airport at their rivals' feet. Faye Lo Po, the Labor state minister for fair trading, claimed that the federal Liberal government is responsible for upgrading the Badgerys Creek proposal to a 24-hour, curfew-free international airport. She forgot to mention that it was Labor's Laurie Brereton, a federal minister in the Hawke Labor government, who first suggested "fast-tracking" Badgerys Creek.

Only Vella disputed claims by the pro-development lobby that jobs will be created by the second airport. She pointed out that job depletion, not job creation, will result from a Badgerys Creek airport because all of the agricultural and industrial work that currently occurs in Badgerys Creek and surrounding suburbs will disappear.

Alistair Dickinson, a long-time community activist and member of the Democratic Socialist Party, told Green Left Weekly that the protest felt more like a festival than a demonstration. He criticised the failure of the rally organisers to make concrete demands on both major parties and their failure to directly involved those opposed to the airport. Dickinson suggested the formation of democratic campaign committees to lead the campaign, independent of the major parties.

Dickinson added that the vagueness of the local councils' demands, and the lack of accountability of the organisers to the anti-airport campaigners, allowed Labor and Liberal politicians to masquerade as opponents of Badgerys Creek airport, despite both parties foisting the proposal on Sydney. It also allowed the Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, some members of which were present, to pose as opponents of the airport.

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