Ruth Ratcliffe works in the community sector in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. She is an activist in the Adelaide climate action movement and has supported many other campaigns for social justice including the campaign against the racist Northern Territory intervention. Below she outlines why she is standing for the Socialist Alliance for the South Australian senate.
I work with kids in some of the poorest areas of Adelaide. The Rudd government boasts about how well Australia has weathered the global financial crisis but the families I work with tell a very different story.
In the supposedly “lucky country” access to basic human rights such as medical care, quality education and appropriate housing are denied to greater and greater numbers of people.
The Rudd government plans to extend the paternalistic policy of welfare quarantining, which the Howard government initiated in remote Aboriginal communities, to other areas of disadvantage. Instead the government should adequately fund appropriate services and empower communities.
Communities have not even been informed, let alone consulted about the fact that soon, half their Centrelink payment will not be available in cash.
Instead, Centrelink recipients in targeted areas will be given a Basics Card that can only be used at major retailers, not at community food co-ops or second-hand stores, thereby ensuring more dollars go to the coffers of big corporations and less to meet peoples' basic needs.
The NT intervention is clearly racist and is not motivated by concern for Aboriginal children but to enable government control of Aboriginal land.
Many Aboriginal communities have been forced to sign over their land on five-year leases to the federal government — land that contains gold, iron ore, uranium as well as areas that have been slated as potential nuclear waste dumps. The NT intervention and the policy of welfare quarantining must end and not be extended to other communities.
The Socialist Alliance stands in solidarity with the courageous stand taken by the Alyawarr people and their walk-off at Ampilawatja.
The Alyawarr people have set up a protest camp outside their town, have built their own “protest house” and are planning community gardens and renewable energy systems.
The Alyawarr people send an important message to the rest of Australia — if a small, remote community can stand up, reject government policy and demand their rights, so can we!
Just as the Rudd government continues Howard’s policies against Aboriginal people, it is similarly shamelessly continuing to scapegoat and jail those seeking asylum from war and persecution. The notorious Curtin detention centre in remote Western Australia will be re-opened and there is speculation that Baxter detention centre, near Port Augusta, may also be re-opened.
The numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia are tiny by international standards. Most are fleeing wars in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — wars the Australian government supports.
There is no excuse for inhumane policies like mandatory detention. Socialist Alliance works to fight racism in the Australian community and demands that refugees be welcomed not imprisoned!
Climate change is the most serious threat to ever face humanity. The latest budget allocated $1.2 billion for border protection, but it allocated only $600 million for renewable energy. This is madness!
We can and must rapidly re-allocate and expand government spending to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020. Rather than cost jobs, this would lead to a massive expansion in the workforce.
We need to change the way we produce food, transport people and goods and use resources. By addressing the climate crisis, we can build stronger, safer, healthier and happier communities.
We are all in this together — the climate crisis makes it very clear.
Racism, which for so long has been used to divide us, simply has no place if we are to face the challenges of the next few decades. We need to learn from the cultures that have lived sustainably on this country for tens of thousands of years. We need to open our borders, and our hearts to people who have experienced unimaginable.
Australia simply isn’t the “land of the fair go”. It’s a country where the richest 10% of households own 45% of the wealth, while the poorer 50% of households own only 7%. By standing for the Socialist Alliance, I’m happy to help build a very different kind of society — one that is truly democratic, where we ensure that everyone has access to education, health care and decent housing, where we face up to the enormity of the climate crisis and take the necessary action to ensure a safe climate future for generations to come.
We can’t do this alone, but we can do it together.