Environment rally in Lismore
By Nick Fredman
LISMORE — Despite heavy rain, more than 200 people attended a "Vote with your feet for the environment" rally here on March 20. It focused on opposition to the destruction of native forests, the Timbarra gold mine, the nuclear industry and the threat to the regional water supply from logging in the Whian Whian State Forest.
Dailan Pugh from the North East Forest Alliance outlined how the regional forest agreement process has resulted in major sell-out by the state Labor government. Rusty from Timbarra Direct Action and Peter Hardwick from the Timbarra Protection Coalition urged support for the campaign to stop the gold mine, which threatens to pollute the Clarence River with cyanide.
The need to oppose all aspects of the nuclear industry was argued by Zippy from Everyone for a Nuclear Free Future. Steve Duthy from the Big Scrub Environment Centre and the Whian Whian Heritage and Environment Network discussed the danger to the regional water supply.
Local candidates also spoke. John Corkill from the Greens outlined policies for a sustainable and job-creating use of forests. Democrat candidate Matthew Walsh discussed his party's environmental concerns.
Bernie Wunsch from the Democratic Socialists, who initiated the coalition which organised the rally, advocated an alternative to the whole profits-first system which causes ecological destruction.
The ALP's Kevin Bell was the only candidate from the major parties who showed up. Bell said he supported the demands of the rally and that he would oppose the anti-environment policies of the Bob Carr leadership from within caucus.
Some participants wanted to ask Bell if he would vote against the regressive policies of a future Labor government, but Bell did not stay for the discussion period.
In response to charges that Earthsave is homophobic, candidate Ray Thorpe, said: "We're not homophobic; we just think anal sex is dirty and dangerous".
The issue of "splitting" the green vote was raised. Corkill criticised the view that new parties were needed because the Greens did not address a number of specific issues such as alternative health and the Timbarra mine.
Wunsch restated the need for socialist politics but called for stronger alliances around issues and campaigns and, where possible, in electoral activity.