An Aboriginal protest march is being planned for March 28 to take up issues such as the government’s miserly stolen wages offer and the proposed deal that would extinguish Nyoongar native title in south west Western Australia. The WA government made an offer on March 6 to pay up to $2000 to Aboriginal people who were forced to work for rations in previous decades. It is an insulting offer that has been slammed by Aboriginal organisations.
Perth-based women's health doctor Kamala Emanuel has hit out at the "dangerous implications" of a "foetal homicide" law proposed by the Western Australian state government. The law if passed would, for the first time, recognise an "unborn baby" as a human life. The stated intent of the law would be to be create legal sanctions against people who assault a pregnant woman. People could face life imprisonment under these laws -- "the same as a murder charge" – if an "unborn baby" dies. The law would also apply in situations where a foetus was hurt due to negligent driving.
The Mark McGowan-led Western Australian ALP opposition has promised it will support the Colin Barnett government’s controversial anti-association laws. The laws were debated in parliament on February 28. Barnett has said the law will “crack down on outlaw bikie gangs”. However, the words “bikie”, “motorcycle” or “gang” do not appear once in the bill.
A rally to oppose the Western Australian government's plans to redevelop the Perth city foreshore attracted about 1000 people on February 26. The Colin Barnett government plan would involve flooding the Esplanade and building large high rise developments on the new water's edge. Speakers at the rally said there was no public consultation about the plan before it was presented, that the plan involves cutting Riverside Drive leaving only one east-west thoroughfare through the city and that the heritage value of the Esplanade will be ruined.
Despite heavy police intimidation and media racism, the Nyoongar Tent Embassy at Matagarup, otherwise known as Heirisson Island in Perth, is still standing strong. The Tent Embassy was founded by local Aboriginal people to voice dissent against a proposed deal with the state government that would include giving up native title rights. The embassy is also about asserting Aboriginal sovereignty. Embassy participant Iva Hayward-Jackson told Green Left Weekly the embassy is about asserting Nyoongar sovereignty and protecting sacredness of Aboriginal culture.
Forty members and supporters of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy marched on Government House early on February 21. The march was an important public statement for the embassy after an February 19 operation by more than 50 armed police cleared tents and vehicles from the embassy site at Matagarup (Heirrison Island). Some media reports have falsely given the impression that that was the end of the embassy. In fact, the embassy remains strong.
Supporters of a proposed deal between Nyoongar people and the WA state government say that it has the potential to “close the gap” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Yet opponents say the deal is no good. The state government has proposed a deal that would put $60 million a year for 10 years into a trust fund . After the 10 years, the government says this “future fund”, would be used to develop “economic opportunities” for Aboriginal people.
Socialist Alliance and Refugee Rights Action Network member Alex Bainbridge posted this report from Leonora in remote central Western Australia on January 28. Photos and video by Zebedee Parkes. * * *
Mark McGowan stepped into the leadership of the Western Australia Labor Party on January 23 promising to support uranium mining in WA and deregulation of shopping hours. Together, these decisions signal a significant shift to the right by WA Labor. Previous leader Eric Ripper had promised that an incoming ALP government would close down any uranium mining in the state, even if the current Liberal government has granted full approvals. That position was at odds with national Labor’s pro-uranium policy, but is popular in WA.