No privatisation of Freo Port - Lessons from the Wheatbelt

Farmers are worried that the proposed privatisation of Fremantle Port will lead to a dramatic escalation in their freight rates. The 800% increase in rents charged to stevedores by the newly privatised Port of Melbourne would be ringing alarm bells.

Closer to home are the disastrous consequences of the privatisation of WA's freight rail network via a secret 49 year lease in 2000 when Premier Colin Barnett was Minister for Transport.

The lease is now owned by Canadian company Brookfield Asset Management, the same company that has the contract to build the new Perth stadium and has secured two sites in the state government's Elizabeth Quay waterfront project.

In 2010 it announced that it would close 720kms of so-called Tier 3 lines unless the state government tipped in $93.5 million of taxpayer’s money to carry out essential capital works. The government refused.

These rail lines carry 92% of grain to the port from the area they serve, between 1.5 and 2 million tonnes each season. This equates to 57,000 to 86,000 extra truck movements per year forced on to our roads. The cost in terms of road accident trauma, extra pollution and the destruction of lightly constructed rural roads that are not built to take road trains that have to be repaired by local councils has never been considered.


Let them land, let them stay! End the toxic racist scape-goating of refugees

By Sam Wainwright & Sue Bolton

The demonising of asylum seekers is an elaborate exercise in racist scapegoating designed to distract Australians from the real causes of anxiety and insecurity in their lives. We need to be absolutely uncompromising in our resistance to this toxic agenda.

National Director of Welcome to Australia and ALP member Brad Chilcott created a stir when he suggested in an opinion piece that supporters of refugee rights in the Labor Party should drop their opposition to offshore processing and just accept that a majority of Australians will never support asylum seekers taking the "ocean route" to Australia.

According to this argument, we need to concede to the Abbott government's latest assault on refugees and international law to neutralise the ability of the Liberals to wedge Labor on the issue. Supposedly we can then focus on a more humane offshore detention and processing regime.

Soon after Chilcott’s opinion piece, reports circulated that Labor's left faction was unable to even arrive at a position on asylum seeker boat turnbacks. Does this mean they've abandoned the fight against mandatory detention and offshore processing?

Perth Freight Link hits a rock

Community resistance to the Perth Freight Link, a $1.6 billion freeway project proposed by the state and federal governments for the south-west region of Perth is growing at an explosive pace. The strength and depth of this opposition is now so strong that the issue will almost certainly dominate the next federal and state election campaigns.

While the part of the freeway that would cut through the Beeliar Wetlands, known as Roe 8, has long been favoured by the Liberals at state and federal level, its continuation towards Fremantle Port is the product of a classic Tony Abbott "thought bubble", announced without any consultation with the state government, local governments, the transport industry or affected communities.

The consequence of this has been a chaotic combination of secrecy and contradictory information coming from the agencies tasked with starting work on the freeway in early 2016 but who do not yet even have a defined route. The uncertainty as to which residents may find themselves next to a six-lane highway or have their homes compulsorily acquired has added to the sense of chaos and outrage.


Council votes to relinquish Warrawee Women's Refuge

I'm sad to report that at its April meeting council voted 6 votes to 5 NOT to reapply for state funding for the Warrawee Women's Refuge. This means the City will relinquish the service and the Department for Child Protection and Family Support will have to find another organization to take it on.

The City founded the refuge back in 1972 and has the distinction of creating the first purpose-built facilities in Australia.

The state government has been cost-shifting by systematically underfunding Warrawee relative to other refuges and expecting us to make up the shortfall.

However the City has also reduced the scope of the service in response, so it's not correct to suggest it was a growing "burden". Some perspective, I think we spent more on Australia Day and ANZAC Day activities this year.

In a letter to the Department the City has advised of its decision, but suggested council would reconsider if more funding was offered.

I think this might be a pretty feint hope and I'm sceptical that a new service provider will be given any more funding than the City receives. However I would be very happy to be proven wrong on either count and report an unexpected happy twist to the story.

Public forum: Stop Perth Freight Link

Lessons from Melbourne's campaign against the East-West Link

A public forum with:

Sue Bolton (Moreland City Councillor and founder of Moreland Community Against the Tunnel)
Scott Ludlam (Greens Senator)
Ken Travers (Shadow minister for transport)
Peter Newman (Director of CUSP)

Sam Wainwright (Fremantle Road to Rail)
Pam Nairn (Save Beeliar Wetlands)

2pm Saturday 11 April

Fremantle Council Reception Room
(enter via stairs and patio at rear of Town Hall)

Organised by Fremantle Road to Rail Campaign

Federal budget 2014: a recipe for a more unequal society

And so it begins - an offensive on behalf of the billionaires and corporate interests, to steal the future from the majority of Australians, to dismantle what remains of our social welfare system. Take this comment from Shelley James, a single mum with two kids in Hilton:

“$70 is the amount of money I will be losing every week IF this budget goes through. For me that's three pairs of kids' shoes, it is one third of my weekly food bill, it is 2-3 weeks of petrol. For Abbott and company it is nothing... perhaps part of today's lunch?”

That's what you get when governed by people ruling on behalf of the billionaires.

The budget would put a serious squeeze on the council's finances. In cutting health and education grants to the states by $80 billion, it will drive further cuts by the state government, who are already shifting costs to local government. It also removes indexation from a range of grants used to fund grass roots services, taking $1 billion from councils across the country.


Some wins for affordable housing

I'm glad to report two small wins in the attempt to preserve affordable housing in Fremantle.

Firstly the council decided last year to dispose by tender the small car park at the corner of Packenham and Bannister Streets, and accepted an amendment from me to require that 15% of any housing development include affordable housing. The successful tenderer will be incorporating four studio apartments to be sold to the Department of Housing as part of its KeyStart shared home loan program.

Meanwhile council was also proposing to sell the retirement village in Tapper St White Gum Valley to a private developer. While the site's status as a retirement village would have been protected, over time the units may have been lost from the stock of affordable housing. Fortunately council accepted an alternative proposal to transfer management to Co-operation Housing, a local tenant-run organisation, retaining the units' status as genuine social or low-income housing into the future.

On the negative side of the ledger the affordable housing quota for development in the so-called Amendment 49 area in the inner city has been reduced from 15% to 10% in a proposed change to the planning scheme. This was done in an attempt to attract investors to develop on some of the sites in the area. I wasn't convinced there was any evidence to demonstrate the existing quota was stopping development, moving an amendment to keep it at 15%, but this was lost 2 votes to 11.

Fremantle takes the fight to the freeway

By Chris Jenkins

A decision by the Fremantle City Council at its March 26 meeting to reject a Main Roads WA request to voluntarily hand over land began a dramatic new phase in the campaign against the state government's freeway building agenda.

The state government wants to replace a section of High Street on the eastern approach to Fremantle with a freeway at a cost of more than $100 million. This is intended to be the first link in their plan to build a six lane "freeway standard" route connecting the Kwinana Freeway to the Fremantle container port.

There is general consensus in the community and on the council that the existing road needs to be modified to make it safer and to create a more efficient intersection with the Stirling Highway. However the scale and destructiveness of the government's proposal has galvanised fierce opposition.

Main Roads proposes to flank the length of the road with concrete "sound walls". These are not high enough to significantly reduce noise pollution, but will completely separate adjoining suburbs and dramatically reduce pedestrian and bicycle connectivity. Up to half a dozen commonly used crossing points would be replaced with one pedestrian overpass.

At the council meeting, Socialist Alliance councillor Sam Wainwright described it as "cutting a swathe through the community like the Berlin Wall." Fellow councillor Andrew Sullivan described the design as "crap", adding, "I could have designed something better in half a day."

Submission to the LGAB in support of the retention of the suburb of Samson within the City of Fremantle

Below is my submission to the Local Government Advisory Board regarding the reform of local government boundaries supoorting the retention Samson within the City of Fremantle. Many thanks to the Samson residents whose contributions helped form the document.

Interestingly the City of Melville, while supporting Stock Rd as its boundary with Fremantle, made its own submission asking that it be able to retain Bicton, in contradiction with the submission it has lodged jointly with Fremantle and Kwinana.

This then begs the question, if Melville can keep Bicton; why not let Samson remain with Fremantle if that is what the residents concerned want?

Submission in support of the retention of the suburb of Samson within the City of Fremantle

Sam Wainwright, Councillor Hilton Ward, City of Fremantle
March 2014

This contribution to the deliberations of the LGAB is wholly supportive of the submission made by the City of Fremantle with the exception that it proposes that Samson (and the eastern part of O'Connor) be retained by an enlarged City of Fremantle rather than transferred to the City of Melville.

This submission contends that keeping Samson with Fremantle (whatever its eventual boundaries) better serves the purpose of creating local governments based based on coherent and real communities of interest (historic, social, economic, environmental and other):

1. Historical/cultural

Buswell launches attack on socialist councillor in state parliament

[This is republished from Socialist Alliance WA site.]

State treasurer Troy Buswell launched an attack on Socialist Alliance member and Fremantle City Councillor Sam Wainwright in state parliament on December 5.

True, the try-hard treasurer was probably too busy keeping track of which election promise he was planning to break next to get Sam's name right. (He confused Wainwright with prominent actor Sam Worthington - admittedly an easy mistake to make.)

He also described Wainwright as being a member of the "socialist loony party" which isn't a strictly accurate rendition of the party's name.