Eco-activists: Wollongong Public Transport Coalition

November 14, 2008

Green Left Weekly's Chris Williams interviewed Tim Dobson from the Wollongong Public Transport Coalition (WPTC).

@question = When did WPTC start up and why?

It started up a few weeks ago, specifically in response to the proposal by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to increase train fares and reduce services, which we found completely unacceptable. We want the state government to commit to no service cuts and a price freeze.

So we decided to build a rally outside the office of NSW transport minister David Campbell, but we can see that this campaign is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much deep-seated anger at the lack of efficient, affordable public transport in this state that we imagine there will be the potential to run many campaigns after this one.

@question = What are next steps forward for the climate movement?

I think there are two angles. First, we need to build a movement that will fight for public transport completely independent of both government and corporate interests. We believe that there is no-one better able to decide how public transport should be run than the people who use it.

That is the problem now. We have to deal with the problems with public transport but have no say in any of the solutions, which is how we got to the mess we are in. Unelected bureaucrats propose "solutions" to problems, which the government listens to, while the will of people on public transport is ignored.

The climate movement has to look at how to develop deeper consciousness amongst workers and the unemployed in this country around the issue of climate change. We believe public transport campaigns are a great way to begin discussions with people about why affordable public transport is not only necessary to ensure equity of access but also, because it is an absolute necessary step to becoming a sustainable society.

@question = What campaigns is WPTC currently involved in and why?

We are now running the campaign to stop proposed rail fare increases, service reductions and job cuts. Under the plan proposed by IPART, all train guards will be axed, which will make everyone less safe, women in particular. The need to fight and win this campaign is clear.

We are also trying to stop the proposed scrapping of free school travel for school students, as proposed by the NSW government. Our group involves high school students, who themselves will have to pay up to $400 each year to get to school.

We are also talking with trade unions about how best to respond to the state government's push to privatise as much of the rail system as it can.

@question = What's wrong with the Rudd government's response to climate change?

In my view, primarily an unwillingness to untie itself from corporate interests who have no desire to reduce emissions, because it may hurt their profit. The government completely panders to these interests, who essentially use blackmail to get their way.

The carbon trading scheme was a great example: some of the biggest companies threatened to move jobs overseas, so the government caved in, which essentially means our whole climate policy is hostage to these unelected interests.

What must come first is the interests of people, not corporations. But it's exactly the corporations the government is putting first.

The federal government spends billions on subsidies to some of the biggest polluters, which instead could be invested in public transport. This would be both a "pro-people" and "pro-environment" policy, which the majority of Australians would support.

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