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?

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.

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.

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.

The real alternative to Freeway Madness

See below an article by Freo Road 2 Rail and Save Beeliar Wetlands activist Pam Nairn, originally published as a Thinking Allowed column in the Fremantle Herald:

There are many reasons for Fremantle to resist amalgamation with Melville. Nothing however has the power to change the face of Fremantle more than Melville's approach to roads and road building.

The people who live on Leach Highway in Melville, on High St and alongside Stirling Highway in East Fremantle put up with heavy traffic, particularly trucks, polluting their air, disturbing their sleep or terrifying them when they drive out of their driveways. The City of Melville has been lobbying the government to build Roe 8 in the mistaken belief that it will relieve Leach Highway of its problems.

Have they looked at the figures released by SMC, the Main Roads consortium, showing traffic numbers if Roe 8 were to be built? By 2021 the traffic on Leach Highway over most of its length from Kwinana Freeway to Stock Road would not have reduced at all.

This is because of the large increase in cars and trucks we will have on the road. Lots of traffic would be travelling on Roe 8, but there would be an equal share of misery for all on both Roe 8 and Leach Highway.

Don't agonise, organise!

A big thanks to all Socialist Alliance members and supporters for your efforts over the course of the election campaign.

In Fremantle there was a 2.7% swing to the ALP (41.6%) and a 6% swing away from the Greens (11.6%). I suspect this reflected people returning to the Labor fold because of the fear of an Abbott victory.

In a preferential system this doesn't make sense but is based more on mood than logic. In that context we're happy our vote has increased slightly, hovering around the 1% mark, even if we were hoping for a bigger increase.

There is absolutely no possibility of substantially redistributing wealth or stopping runaway global warming without breaking the back of the big business and fossil fuel mafia that dominate Australian politics.

This means extending democratic public ownership to strategic sectors of the economy. We're the only party to raise the call for public ownership and our campaign was an important opportunity to do this.

Bright spots in an overall bleak national result were the return of the Greens Adam Bandt and Scott Ludlam. Bandt's return with an increased primary vote and not dependant on Liberal preferences is especially significant.

Barnett seeks to bulldoze local democracy

from Green Left Weekly, August 3, 2013
By Alex Bainbridge

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson unveiled the state's worst-kept secret on July 30, when they announced their plan to slash the number of councils in Perth from 30 to 14.

Buoyed by the two-thirds parliamentary majority the conservative parties gained in the March 9 state election, they junked the explicit pre-election promise they made that there would be no forced council amalgamations. They are also seeking to rescind the provision that allows a council to refuse a merger if it has been rejected by a majority of residents in a referendum.

Barnett's sales pitch is that bigger councils will have economies of scale that deliver better services and lower rates. However, the experience of forced council amalgamations in Victoria by the Jeff Kennett government in the 1990s contradicts this claim.

Ironically, the Barnett government tried last year to force the closure of the Southern Metropolitan Councils Resource Recovery Centre, a multi-council combined composting and recycling enterprise.

This would have pushed an extra 60,000 tonnes of waste into landfill and 70,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. It would have enabled the state to charge the councils involved $1.5 million in landfill levies and destroy a $100 million community asset in the process.

Predictably, big business and developer organisations have welcomed the government announcement and the promise that it will deliver “greater consistency” in planning.

Barnett's back, be prepared to fight

A big thanks to everyone who supported me in the recent state election and congratulations to Peter Tinley on his re-election. There's no sugar coating the overall outcome. In terms of the environment, human services, civil liberties and workers' rights; it's a a bad result. So we'll just have to organise to protect these things, whether in our communities, on the picket lines or in the streets. Community protest stopped Barnett's plan to gut our libraries, we'll just have to do it again, and again! See more at:

Socialists announce candidates for Fremantle and Willagee

Socialists run Sanna Andrew in Fremantle & Sam Wainwright in Willagee

The Walyalup-Fremantle branch of the Socialist Alliance is pleased to confirm its candidates in the Fremantle area for the March 9 state election. They are Sanna Andrew for Fremantle and Sam Wainwright for Willagee.

“Despite being a wealthy boom state many West Australians, particularly the most disadvantaged and those on low-fixed incomes, are being crushed and tossed aside. We're facing a housing affordability crisis and by 2015-16 the Barnett government will have cut 6.5% from vital public services”, said Andrew.

Andrew slammed Liberal candidate Matthew Hanssen's complete failure to address the actual policies of the Barnett government, “So far he's based his whole campaign on bagging Fremantle council. But what does he think about the cuts to disability services, the closure of country rail lines, the under funding of Warrawee women's refuge or the retention of Fremantle Hospital's emergency department?”

Andrew, who works with people recovering from mental illness, is furious about the 130 jobs cuts in the Department of Health, “This inevitably means cuts to vital front line services. But can Labor give a guarantee that they will reverse the cuts and kick the profiteers out of the public health system?”

Boycott Sri Lankan cricket: no normal sport in an abnormal society

Human rights protest in Sri Lanka in front of a
billboard claiming that Sri Lanka's war-criminal
president is "internationally respected"
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