Socialist Alliance will run three candidates in the March 9 elections in Western Australia. The main message of the campaign is that the state government should take steps to bring the big mining companies operating in the state into public ownership. This will make it possible to fund urgent social justice and environmental projects in WA.
“The mining boom has brought tremendous wealth to the Gina Rineharts of the world,'' Socialist Alliance candidate for Perth, Farida Iqbal, told Green Left Weekly. “But while the 1% are counting their profits, a lot of people in WA are doing it tough.'
“Perth faces a rising homelessness problem and all over the state people are suffering from high rents or mortgage stress. We need more public housing and the money should come from the mining billionaires.''
Fremantle Councillor and candidate for Willagee Sam Wainwright said: “It is not just housing. “We need a big expansion of public transport, the beginnings of serious work to build renewable energy infrastructure and to reverse the petty cost-cutting of the Barnett government, which is imposing cuts on social services across the board.'
“Labor and Liberal governments have written the rules for the big mining companies, which means their activities are not genuinely accountable to the community and they get away with paying woefully inadequate royalties and minimal tax.”
Iqbal also points to the fact that the mining industry is already the target of several campaigns. “WA farmers, environmentalists and Aboriginal communities are already forced to fight the mining industry tooth and nail to protect the state's farmland, water supply and indigenous heritage,'' she said.
“This is notable in the case of gas 'fracking', which is just starting up in WA despite growing concern. Previously, the Margaret River community had to fight a major campaign against coalmining. The ultimate success of the Margaret River campaign proves that the mining industry is not invincible when people mobilise against them.''
Wainwright says there is a critical issue of democracy involved in the campaign to bring the mines under public ownership. “You can't control what you don't own,” said Wainwright. “Since the people need control of the mining industry, the people should own it.'
“Our first plan would be to immediately close down the Toro uranium mine and any other uranium mines that get approved by the current government.
“Second, we'd develop a plan for a rapid phasing out of coal, oil and gas extraction in favour of renewable alternative.
“Third, we'd use the wealth from the rest of the mining industry to boost social services like public housing, education, health and public transport.''
All the Socialist Alliance candidates have long records as social justice campaigners. Iqbal is a long -term campaigner for equal marriage rights and also plays a big role in the campaign against gas “fracking''. She has been working as an anthropology tutor at the University of Western Australia.
Wainwright is a long time unionist who is now working as a disability support worker. Previously he was the editor of the Maritime Union's Rank and File newspaper. He is also the first Socialist Alliance member to have been elected to the Fremantle Council.
Sanna Andrew is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Fremantle. She is a social worker and an activist in the Australian Services Union. She played an active role in the successful ASU campaign for Equal Pay and has also been a long time supporter of Aboriginal rights.
[Alex Bainbridge is co-convenor of Socialist Alliance in WA.]