A protest planned for October 28 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit (CHOGM) received wide media attention on August 23. This came after The West Australian ran an article under the inflammatory headline “Protesters vow to break CHOGM security lines”. A second article was titled “Rally would be test of new powers”.
The fight to stop the James Price Point gas hub in the Kimberly in Western Australia's north reached a critical point on July 4 as police arrested dozens of people. The arrests were an attempt to break the spirit of the community protesters who have blockaded the site for a month. Woodside Petroleum is the lead company in a consortium that is planning to build a $30 billion gas-processing hub that would destroy pristine environment and result in up to 39 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution a year.
Forty refugee rights activists travelled by bus from Perth to Curtin Detention Centre in the remote Kimberley region of WA over the Easter long weekend. Several others joined the convergence at nearby Derby. This was the latest convergence on a refugee detention centre organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN). Most refugee detention centres are located in remote locations to create a physical divide between refugees and the broader population. The convergence aimed to bridge this divide.
Forty activists travelled more than 30 hours on the road from Perth and arrived at the gates of the Curtin detention centre on Saturday April 23. We were greeted with legalistic warnings and numerous lies from the Serco guards, who imposed a roadblock outside the centre. More significantly, we have heard from detainees inside the centre that Serco guards have lied to them as well. Detainees had been told that the convergence bus has turned around and that activists no longer planned to visit.
Twenty five people joined a demonstration organised by homeless people to protest plans by the Western Australian government to remove homeless people from the city during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October. on the street.” A parliamentary debate on April 7 revealed that homeless people would be directed away from CHOGM security areas in the city. Protesters were upset the government wanted to keep them out of sight during the CHOGM summit without doing anything to tackle homelessness.
Campaigners won a stunning victory on March 21 when the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announced that there is “adequate information to demonstrate that Vasse Coal Management’s coalmining proposal is environmentally unacceptable”. EPA Chairperson Paul Vogel said: “In effect, this is an EPA ‘no’ to the proposal.” The proposed Vasse coalmine was to have been 15 kilometres from the popular tourist destination, Margaret River. Internationally renowned as a wine-growing region, Margaret River is in the south-west of Western Australia.
About 8000 people marched on the Western Australian parliament on March 15 to demand more local jobs from the resource export boom. The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Maritime Union of Australia all mobilised big contingents for the protest. Manufacturing employers also supported the rally. Local workshops are sitting idle while billions of dollars of infrastructure is being imported for the mining and offshore oil and gas industries.
A meeting of more than 40 activists on March 3 agreed to form the "CHOGM Action Network''. The meeting was called to plan protest actions during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will take place in Perth in October. Meeting participants decided to begin organising a peaceful mass rally on October 28. The protest will coincide with the opening day of the summit. The WA state government has declared the day a public holiday.
Perth man Brendan O’Connell was sentenced to three years jail under WA’s racial vilification laws on January 31. He was found guilty of six counts of vilification relating to anti-Semitic comments he posted on a YouTube video in 2009. His jailing, and the length of the sentence, has opened up a certain controversy. Conservative columnist Paul Murray pointed out in the February 2 West Australian that a person convicted of glassing someone in a pub could expect to receive an 18-month sentence, whereas O’Connell received three years for an “essentially political [speech]”.
Reports that the WA state government is planning to give police "stop and search" powers during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this year should concern all Western Australians. Even more worrying — albeit unsurprising — is that the ALP has dropped its lukewarm opposition to the laws, at least for the duration of the summit. Stop and search laws were rejected by the state upper house in November and the CHOGM summit is no excuse to bring them in by the back door.