WA Labor attacks state government

March 4, 1992

By Frank Noakes and Leon Harrison

PERTH — The ALP state executive voted to condemn the Labor government of Premier Carmen Lawrence on February 24. The executive was particularly concerned by the dumping of a safe sex campaign and savage juvenile crime legislation. The vote followed a Thatcherite economic statement by the government on February 13.

Several speakers criticised the recent replacement of a safe sex campaign with a "say no to sex" campaign, saying it would be ineffective, was unrealistic and ignored scientific evidence about effective ways to combat sexually transmitted diseases.

Delegate Liz Byrski said the "say no" campaign was irresponsible, based on fear, failed to address the needs of those at risk and discriminated against women. The safe sex campaign was dropped because of the religious beliefs of health minister Keith Wilson.

The meeting also expressed "grave concern and anger" over the government's juvenile crime laws, which are expected to result in a big increase in imprisonment of young Aborigines.

Lawrence later told the media she had no intention of heeding the party's concerns.

For many, the government's "incentive" package, launched here on February 13 to the acclaim of the business sector and some sections of the union movement, marks the final disappearance of any real difference between it and the Liberal Party. The package firmly embraces economic "rationalism" and could have been written by the Liberals.

In fact, the big business media, while far from unhappy with Lawrence, noted that much of the economic statement was borrowed from the Liberals. Privatisation, enterprise agreements and hiving off part of the electricity commission (SECWA) are all part of the rightward push.

In 1986, Labor won re-election with a campaign against privatisation which included advertisements championing the Rural and Industry Bank as "our bank". Now, 49% of the R&I is to be put up for sale — when it begins making a profit, which will take a couple of years and some hefty injections of taxpayers' money. The bank, in the past a regular source of profits for the government, is a victim of extravagant investment practices, particularly in property, encouraged by the Burke Labor government.

Under the Lawrence plan, the State Government Insurance Office is slated for complete sell-off. The SGIO lost huge sums as a direct result of the WA INC scandal, in which Labor threw hundreds of millions at the big end of town.

The latest package was preceded by a series of government sector "corporatisations", which put pressure on public sector employment. Further job losses are inevitable in the planned

The package will create some jobs in the private sector by bringing forward some infrastructure projects and promising more handouts to business. But most of these jobs will be very short term, based on the construction phase in the mining industry and a proposed railway extension.

Despite rhetoric about greater support for downstream processing, the main effect of the economic statement will be increased environmental destruction by capital-intensive mining.

Lawrence is considering introducing resource security legislation ahead of proposals for a pulp and paper mill. Environmental protection legislation will be watered down to prevent it holding up "priority" projects. Likewise the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

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