Thousands in Perth rally for forests and jobs
By Anne Pavy
Eight thousand people braved 40 degree temperatures to attend the "Ancient Forests/New Jobs — we can have them both" rally and march on the Perth esplanade on February 19. The event was organised by the West Australian Forest Alliance.
Following a spirited march through the city centre, the rally returned to the esplanade to hear speakers, including Peter Robertson from the Conservation Council of WA, and people active in the south-west forest blockade.
WA National Party member Monty House and the ALP's Carmen Lawrence were invited to speak but did not.
Philip Achurch, president of the WA Small Business Association, spoke of the potential for the tourism industry in WA's forests.
Bill Ethell, president of the WA CFMEU, highlighted the pressure that workers in the timber industry face because of poor job conditions and the threat of unemployment, also pointing out the exploitative nature of work in the tourism industry.
These issues were further developed at a public meeting held the following night, February 20. The topic was "the Economics of Woodchipping". The meeting was addressed by Bill Ethell, WA Greens Senator Dee Margetts, Dr Beth Schultz from the Conservation Council of WA and Anthony Benbow from the Democratic Socialist Party.
The unsustainability of the industry both environmentally and economically was highlighted from different angles. Bill Ethell warned of the danger of the campaign becoming too closely tied to the concept of tourism as a major source of employment in forest areas.
A number of speakers made the point that working people were the most natural supporters of the campaign against logging of old growth forests; working people have no interest in environmental destruction.