What a just and fair NSW could look like

Issue 

Blink and you might have missed it, but February 27 was the “Great Debate” between Luke Foley and Mike Baird.

The media reported that Premier Baird handed Labor’s Foley his election slogan, because Baird has no plan B for infrastructure without the electricity sell-off to fund $20 billion in projects.

But the reality is that neither party can offer a Plan A or B that will lead the state away from unbridled privatisation, unsustainable development, environmental destruction through coal and coal seam gas (CSG), outsourcing and dismantling of services, and the destruction of the public sector and TAFEs.

Foley’s plan for the WestConnex road project is to extend the M5 East tunnel past St Peters to connect to closer to Botany — in the hope of saving Labor candidate Penny Sharpe from certain defeat. Labor’s plan would also lengthen the M4 East closer to Sydney's CBD.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on February 28: “Large swaths of the Upper Hunter are likely to be cleared to make way for as many as 16 new or expanded open-cut coal mines, according to leaked studies prepared by the Office of the Environment and Heritage and 11 major mining companies.”

In regard to the CSG industry in NSW, both Coalition and Labor state governments have failed to protect communities from the industry. It has only been thanks to the campaign led by farmers, environmentalists and local communities across the country that this industry has been exposed to public scrutiny. As an activist party, the Socialist Alliance is proud to stand and struggle with these communities.

Just who are the NSW governments of the Liberal and Labor parties governing on behalf of? It is certainly not the people of Gloucester, where BTEX chemicals were discovered in waste-water. Or those in the Pilliga, where uranium was discovered in an aquifer. Or the residents of Camden, where 144 gas wells have been drilled. Or the residents of Spring Farm, where wells are being secretly dug under their homes.

The two big parties instead govern for AGL and Santos, Leightons Holdings and its companies like Theiss and John Holland, and construction and infrastructure giants like Downer Edi, MacMahon Holdings and Asciano.

Then there is the NSW Minerals Council, the peak body of coalmining companies in NSW. On February 23, the council called on the big parties to guarantee that they would clamp down on the “increased level of illegal action by extreme anti¬mining protesters”.

NSW Minerals Council CEO and former chief of staff to the treasurer Stephen Galilee said: “Over the last few years we’ve seen the unprecedented mobilisation of professional anti-mining activists, who move around regional NSW like locusts, opposing mining projects and the jobs they bring.

“Some of the individuals involved are repeat offenders with a history of radical anti-mining activity. These people have never seen a mine they didn't want to shut or a mining job they didn't want to cut.”

To back its claims, the council has published a list of examples of “illegal activities”.

Here is a selection:
• In January 2013, climate activist Jonathan Moylan distributed a fake statement to the media, purportedly from the ANZ bank which said the bank was withdrawing $1.2 billion in funding from a Whitehaven Coalmine project in north-west New South Wales. The false information was published by some media outlets and caused a temporary $314 million drop in Whitehaven Coal's market value before a trading halt was put in place and the hoax was revealed.
• In December 2013, a Dulwich Hill activist climbed a coal loader and unravelled an anti-mining message at Idemitsu’s Boggabri coalmine, forcing the company to halt operations for six hours.
• On February 8 last year, a protester dressed as a bat dangled upside down by a rope, 30 metres above an active coalmine at Boggabri, NSW. It took more than eight hours before police rescue finally removed two activists.
• On November 30 last year, former Wallabies captain David Pocock chained himself to a digger with other activists in a protest against the Maules Creek coalmine being opened.

The Socialist Alliance is proud to stand with these protesters, and the communities of Gloucester, Camden, Campbelltown, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra.

The ALP and Liberal Party are governing for the likes of the Property Council of NSW, which issued a warning that Sydney is facing a housing supply deficit that will rise by 190,000 unless local councils accelerate the number of new approvals.

It also said: “Councils need to get on with the job of issuing approvals, delivering the housing required to keep pace with population growth and a better planning system is essential.

“A big priority needs to make sure more areas are available for urban renewal — along transport corridors, old industrial lands, town centres and other priority areas.”

Real estate marketeers and property developers are eager to make millions out of new developments across NSW. But these developments are speculative, unaffordable, unsustainable and out of reach for low income families. It treats housing as a tradeable commodity, not a basic human right.

This is backed by facts:
• In NSW, 2% of home purchase stock was affordable for very low income households and 10% was affordable for low-income households in December 2013.
• Across Sydney, 95% of very low income households were paying rents that they could not affordable on census night 2011.
• In NSW, 9% of rental stock was affordable for very low income households and 25% was affordable for low-income households -June 2014.
• In NSW, there were 59,534 applicants waiting for social housing at 30 June 2014.
• Across NSW, there has been a decrease of 11% in the supply of public housing stock over the last decade.
• In NSW, there were 28,190 homeless people on census night 2011.

The Socialist Alliance has a plan, a vision for NSW. It stands for electoral reform and for participatory democracy. There is a deep-seated and systemically corrupt culture of money politics in NSW that has to end.

It recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples, and supports land rights and a treaty that restores land and decision-making power to communities.

It stands for renewable energy, not more fossil fuels. The science demands that we make the switch now and we can phase out fossil fuels while protecting jobs and livelihoods.

It stands for public transport not toll roads, because successive state governments have been captive to the road industry lobby.

The Socialist Alliance campaigns for:
• an end to discrimination against women, to defend young people’s rights to education, services and employment and for marriage rights for all.
• public housing, because housing is a right and needs to be liberated from greedy developers and speculators.
• public education and training systems to be saved from privatisation and funding cuts –we need more apprenticeships, more schools in growth areas, to protect the work rights of teachers and the quality of education for students.
• a state that is a refugee safe haven, and against racism and Islamophobia.
• universal access to health care in a public health system
• an end to privatisation and for investment in infrastructure that isn't funded by the sale of public assets but by a progressive tax system targeting companies and the rich.

[Susan Price in the Socialist Alliance candidate for Summer Hill in the March 28 NSW election.]

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