A broad coalition of forces continues to challenge anti-protest legislation tabled in the Western Australian state parliament. If passed, the broad powers of the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an unnamed “thing” or to disrupt "lawful activities". The bill also threatens two year’s jail and $24,000 fines for impeding lawful activity. Widely criticised by environmental, social justice, and legal campaigners the law smashes free speech and criminalises peaceful protest.
The Perth Freight Link (PFL) project ground to a halt on December 16 when Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin ruled environmental approvals for the Roe 8 freeway through the Beeliar Wetlands were invalid. Incredibly, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had argued it was not bound by its own policy when assessing and granting approval. This result comes on top of a 2013 decision that the EPA had bungled approvals for the James Price Point gas processing facility.
Over the last 18 months there has been a flurry of editorials and full page opinion pieces in Perth's only daily newspaper, The West Australian, demanding the state government keep its promise to build light rail to Mirabooka and unfavourably comparing Perth's infamous car dependent urban sprawl to European cities. It even ran a "tale of two cities" special feature celebrating the decision by Vancouver in the 1970s not to allow freeways into its inner city.
West Papuans, Aboriginal activists and supporters held a midday vigil outside the Indonesian consulate in Perth on December 1 to mark West Papuan Independence Day. The action also called for the end of the military occupation by Indonesia that has killed more than 500,000 West Papuans since 1961, when West Papua was annexed by Indonesia.
Health services are under serious attack in WA, with the Health Department asking hospitals to finalise “budget management strategies” by the end of January. Amid claims of massive cuts to funding, hospitals in Perth are bracing for staff cuts. The Health Services Union (HSU) expects about 500 jobs to be shed at Royal Perth Hospital and similar numbers at Fiona Stanley Hospital. The union says its previous predictions of about 1000 job cuts “across the board” now appeared “conservative” and job uncertainty is causing widespread stress.
Artist Doreen Chapman at the opening night of ‘We Call It Home’. We Call It Home Spinifex Hill Artists exhibition, FORM gallery, Perth September 3 to November 30 Many of the Martu people of Western Australia’s Pilbara region, extending out into the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts, only ceased living a pujiman (entirely traditional) life as late as the 1960s. Many also took part in the huge Aboriginal stock workers strike of the late ’40s.
The Canning byelection is attracting national attention as the possibility that the Liberals may lose the seat they hold by a 12% margin is openly discussed. A loss would be a severe blow to the Coalition government — already reeling from controversies ranging from the Border Farce stunt in Melbourne to the choppergate scandal — as well as to the leadership of Tony Abbott.
The Bandyup Action Group (BAG) held its most recent speak out on July 18 to protest against conditions in Bandyup Women's Prison. There has been a dramatic rise in incarceration rates, particularly for non-violent acts such as non-payment of fines. About 30% of women detained at Bandyup are there because of unpaid fines; 30% have existing and severe mental health problems; and 90% have been physically and/or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
A landmark demonstration was held on July 5 in Perth. The crowd of about 5000 people — in the rain — made it the biggest protest for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights that has ever happened in Perth. It was also the biggest LGBTI protest across the country so far this year. The rally was organized by GetUp! and Australian Marriage Equality.
A 50-year-old woman died in custody at Bandyup Women’s Prison in Western Australia on June 15. The death has been confirmed by the state coroner’s office, but details of the circumstances surrounding her death are yet to be released.