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Samson Park not for sale...nor are the moon and the stars!

In a recent flyer authorised by former councillor John Dowson, Hilton Ward candidate Catherine Hammond states her opposition to the supposed sale of Samson Park and Samson Recreation Centre. On her Facebook page she suggests houses might be built over the park.

At the risk of stating the obvious, there is not and never has been a proposal that the City of Fremantle sell Samson Park, and it’s not possible anyway.

The park is crown land vested in the City as a public reserve and registered as a State Bush Forever site. I believe its status can only be changed by an act of parliament.

Raising a scare campaign about something that is simply not on the cards is really reckless. I don't know if it's a breach of the electoral act, but it's dishonest and irresponsible.

What about the Samson Recreation Centre?

The City’s ten year budget does propose that the council consider selling some or part of the land that the Rec Centre sits on in order to pay for significant upgrades to the Leisure Centre at Shuffrey St.

However no decision has been made and this is very unlikely to happen any time soon. The land in question has a conditional title on it which means it can only be used for community purposes. Changing this would require state government approval. I expect that the new ten year budget will drop the idea.

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History denied is justice delayed

Thanks to a passing reference a week ago about statues and other monuments featuring colonial "founding fathers" that participated in massacres of Aboriginal people and other wrongs, I got lumped into Andrew Bolt's collection of "statue haters".

Others in the corporate media suggested that even having the discussion was like Nazi book burning. Right. And I'm the one disrespecting history!

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took the prize for idiocy by saying that some alternative signage attached to the Captain Cook memorial in Sydney would amount to "Stalinism". Logically then, people in Eastern Europe who took down statues of Josef Stalin after his death are also Stalinists.

The discussion about how we remember some of these colonial figures, while prompted by the battle over Confederate statues in the US, inevitably flows from our own debate about January 26. If you accept that celebrating the date as Australia Day is hurtful to many Indigenous people because it marked the beginning of their violent dispossession, then it follows there are some important people who sanctioned or participated in that violence.

Conservatives do not want to have that discussion, it is they who seek to deny Australia's history. They want to put all the bad things in a steel box and throw away the key so we can just get on with celebrating how great we are.

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Green streets are cool streets

It’s well established that suburbs with lots of trees are much cooler that those without. This image is a thermal imaging map showing the average temperature across Fremantle in January 2015. Obviously places next to the coast are the coolest. But some areas with very few street trees are nearly 5° hotter than greener areas nearby. If you want a verge tree in front of your place then get in touch. While it’s free, new trees must be planted during the winter rains.

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Perth Freight Link: How a community beat the freeway

I wandered down to the Roe 8 freeway construction site after the March 11 state election that swept the Colin Barnett Liberal government from power. I'd heard Labor Premier-elect Mark McGowan on the radio calling on Main Roads to wind down construction immediately.

It was deserted. The hundreds of police were gone. The place where 200 of us had been arrested as we slowed the progress of the bulldozers was eerily silent.

A light sprinkle of rain made it cool, damp and still — in contrast to the heat, dust and tension of the preceding months. Some of the passionate pleas to save the bushland handwritten on paper hearts and tied to the fences were lying on the ground.

The struggle to stop the Roe 8–Perth Freight Link freeway project had gripped Perth's south-western suburbs for more than two years and defined the lives of many activists for even longer. The campaign was at fever pitch through 2015, only to quieten down in December after the Supreme Court ruled that the environmental approvals were invalid. It kicked off again late last year after the state government successfully appealed the court decision.

With the new Labor government committed to cancelling the project it is time to reflect on what happened and what happens next.

Community opposition

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HOAX FLYER SLANDERING WALEED ALY AND SOCIALISTS

Press release by Socialist Alliance:

This malicious hoax flier has been letter-boxed in parts of Fremantle. It pretends to be by Socialist Alternative who it says are "disillusioned members of Socialist Alliance Fremantle". It condemns the City of Fremantle for inviting Waleed Aly on the grounds that he is a "child molester" and committed "violent acts against women".

Socialist Alliance member and Councillor at the City of Fremantle Sam Wainwright called the flier, "A truly vile attempt to smear Waleed Aly's name in the minds of those are naive enough to believe it, and an attempt to associate Socialists with the claim in the minds of those who have not taken it at face value. It further treats the survivors of child sexual assault with contempt by treating this serious issue as play thing."

While it's not known at this stage who printed the flyer, it is known that a far-right nationalist outfit called the True Blue Crew have called on their supporters to harass Waleed Aly when he speaks at the Fremantle Town Hall as part of the Fremantle Festival at 4pm on Saturday 29 October. They claimed that Aly was a "supporter of terrorism".

Wainwright continued, "This is a disgraceful attack on Aly and many good people who stand up to racism wherever they find it. It's a toxic combination of hate, Islamaphobia, racism and lies."

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DAPs, density and the housing affordability crisis

Australia's largest cities are urban planning disaster zones.

Two facts in particular bear this out. First is the ongoing housing affordability crisis, which shows no sign of abating. Second is the relentless march of car-dependent urban sprawl, which continues to devour remnant native vegetation and good farming land. You get an eyeful of this latter problem as you approach Perth by plane, by some accounts the second-biggest metropolis in the world by surface area.

One of the responses of the Western Australian government was to introduce Development Assessment Panels (DAPs). These bodies are empowered to assess any planning application worth more than $2 million. While the local council is still required to spend the time and money assessing an application, it can only make a recommendation to the DAP, which is made up of two representatives from the council and three government appointees.

A justification for introducing the DAPs was the claim that NIMBY councils were not complying with their own planning laws and were unreasonably blocking apartment developments, thereby contributing to urban sprawl.

Well, it is true that even modest urban "densification" can provoke fierce resistance from local residents, not least in the posh suburbs. No one complains more loudly about greedy capitalist developers than people with $2 million homes in leafy streets, particularly if there is even the hint that some of the units might be occupied by social housing tenants.

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Fireworks versus truth, reconciliation and justice

On Wednesday 24 August the Fremantle Council voted 10-1 to drop its annual Australia Day fireworks in recognition of how sensitive this date is for many Indigenous Australians.

It's worth re-stating the obvious. Modern Australia; like Canada, the USA, New Zealand and South Africa began as a colonial-settler state founded on the violent dispossession of its indigenous people. But Australia is the only one of them to hold its national day on the very date that marks the beginning of that dispossession.

It takes a special kind of wilful ignorance and callous disregard not to see why so many Indigenous people find this confronting, and frankly a stubborn racism to keep insisting that non-indigenous Australians get to to decide whether or not Indigenous people should have a problem with the date.

Dropping the fireworks may only be a small symbolic step, but if Australia can't have an honest discussion about its origins then we will never be able to tackle the underlying causes of disadvantage. The Don Dale detention disaster is but one example.

The furious and frantic reaction of the commercial media and other critics shows how much they don't want us to have that discussion. In the short term there is no prospect that their howls of outrage about "political correctness gone mad" will overturn the Fremantle decision, but they sure as hell want to stop it from spreading.

Recent creation

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Too cool for school

My comment piece on the "Cool fuel" supplement in the The West Australian. Oil and gas industry promotion masquerading as science. Welcome to WA!

"Cool fuel" was the groovy title of the Ed! supplement about natural gas in the 5 April edition of The West Australian that gets distributed to all our schools.

To be sure natural gas is "cool" when liquefied. But nowhere among the topics covered such as "Careers in LNG", "Power to You" and "West is best" is there any mention of natural gas as a significant contributor to catastrophic global warming. No mention of the fact that because of fugitive emissions in the production cycle natural gas is up there with coal.

The closest it gets to acknowledging global warming is when it waxes lyrical about gas being the "cleanest burning hydrocarbon". Then comes this pearl of wisdom, "Natural gas is basically everything we want in a fuel, apart from the fact that it's a non-renewable energy source."

Outraged climate change campaigners contacted the editor to protest this gas industry promotion masquerading as science education. When they asked that the paper explain the real contribution of gas to climate change they were told that this could only happen if it were "unbiased".

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Boil with anger! End the detention of asylum seekers

Among the messages of support for Fremantle Council's decision to stop doing business with companies that profit from the offshore detention regime I fully expected some criticism. However Anthony Brown's comment piece "Enough" was really just a meandering rant.

For him everything in Fremantle is terrible. All the problems, both the real and imagined ones, are the fault of the council. He chastises us for taking action on on a federal matter but then includes in his list of complaints issues that require state government action. Is the irony lost on him?

Mr Brown's assertion that the Council's endorsement of the No Business in Abuse campaign was ill considered, financially reckless and all about pre-election "jousting" is just nonsense. The decision will not require anyone to pay an "army of lawyers" as he suggests. We will get a report from officers explaining how the City can exit from the relevant contracts in an orderly manner. Furthermore it was adopted unanimously and with little fuss.

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Perth Freight Link: Round 1 to the people

By Barry Healy & Sam Wainwright (reprinted from Green Left Weekly)

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.

Premier Colin Barnett's hand-picked EPA has been so desperate to approve major developments as expected by its political masters, it was incapable of even pretending to properly assess them.

The PFL commencement has been pushed beyond the state election due in March next year. This confounds the strategy of Barnett, who, while trying to back-peddle on Stage 2 of the project, was desperate to begin construction of Stage 1 (Roe 8) before the election.

The court decision also embodies the most powerful dynamic of the campaign against Perth Freight Link: people power. The challenge to the EPA was brought by Save Beeliar Wetlands, raising tens of thousands of dollars through crowd funding.

It raises a significant question: how many government decisions are made that fail the test of their own laws and policies, but are never overturned because the affected communities do not have the time or money to challenge them in court?

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