Saturday, March 30, 2013

West TV report on Socialist Alliance in the state elections

This report by West TV deals with the assessment by Socialist Alliance members of the state election outcome. Features interviews with candidate Farida Iqbal and Alex Bainbridge, Chris Jenkins and Kamala Emanuel.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Friends of Palestine present: Five Broken Cameras

[Information supplied by Friends of Palestine WA.]

The first ever Palestinian documentary film to be nominated for an Oscar, 5 Broken Cameras is a firsthand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements.

Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. "I feel like the camera protects me," he says, "but it's an illusion."




PH: 0409 762 081 or 0406 944 008

Attend on Facebook:

Organised by Friends of Palestine WA and Students for Palestine (UWA)

DOWNLOAD: A4 poster

DOWNLOAD: 2 x A5 flyers

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fighting the Liberals and fighting for socialism

A discussion about post-election politics and activism in WA.

* understanding the election result
* perspectives for Socialist Alliance in the coming period

Wed 20 March 2013
6:30pm, Perth Activist Centre
(15/5 Aberdeen St, Perth - next to McIver station)

Ph 9218 9608, 0413 976 638.

Check out the following Green Left articles:
* Broome votes against the gas hub
* Fools gold of mining boom influences WA election
* WA socialists say: prepare for the fight

Monday, March 18, 2013

WA socialists say 'prepare for the fight'

In the WA election the Socialist Alliance ran in the seats of Perth, Fremantle and Willagee and won 0.9%, 1.2% and 2% of the vote respectively.

Willagee candidate Sam Wainwright said: "While small votes in absolute terms, for us they represent a modest increase and contain some important indicators."

Wainwright, a City of Fremantle councillor representing the Hilton ward, said that this was the first time the Socialist Alliance had run in Willagee, most of which has a more working-class character and more state housing tenants than Fremantle.

"While we're more well-known in Fremantle, Hilton ward is on the eastern edge of the city and falls in Willagee. In the Hilton Primary School booth we picked up 7% of the vote.

“Perhaps just as encouraging is that in the suburbs of Willagee, Coolbellup and Hamilton Hill we got between 1.8% and 2.4%, despite having little history in the area and just doing some letterboxing. It shows there is an audience out there for our message in favour of social housing, serious wealth redistribution and public ownership."

At the same time the Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle and state housing tenant Sanna Andrew joined with others in the course of her campaign to form a network to defend the rights of tenants.

She said: "We're being attacked on a number of fronts. A long line of state governments, including the current one, have not sufficiently funded social housing. This has dramatically worsened the housing affordability crisis. We're the scapegoat in media discussion about crime in the community. We're sick of being talked about but not talked to."

In the face of doom and gloom among many progressive-minded people and jokes about seeking asylum in New Zealand, Wainwright encouraged people to put the result in perspective.

"Look there's no sugar coating the outcome,” he said. “In terms of the environment, human services, civil liberties and workers' rights it's a shit-house result. So we just have to organise to fight the good fight in our workplaces and communities, on the picket lines and in the streets."

"But let's face it, we'd have to do that even if Labor had won. They also support the mining billionaires. There's no easy way to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable future.

“We'll have to struggle like hell to win it from the billionaires, there's no other way. We in the West have to fight in the belly of the beast, that's our responsibility. So just get involved."

[Article written by Janet Parker for Green Left Weekly #958. Photo: Socialist Alliance candidate Sanna Andrew marching in the International Women's Day rally the day before the election.]

Fool's Gold of mining boom influences WA election

There's a lot of unease in progressive circles in Western Australia in the wake of Liberal Premier Colin Barnett's landslide reelection win in the March 9 WA state election. The expectation is that many things will get worse before they get better.

The minority Liberal government, dependent on National Party support and buoyed by mining royalties, has been restrained compared to the slash-and-burn of public services rammed through by its counterparts in Queensland and Victoria.

However, it still cut expenditure across the board by 2% in its first year, and then by 1% in every year since. It has also contracted out human services to non-profit organisations to take advantage of lower wages and conditions.

While still not touching many, these cuts have already had a terrible impact on some of the most marginalised and oppressed, such as those with disabilities or mental illness. The impact has been worsened by the great WA mining boom — disaster for those on low fixed incomes due to the brutal rise in the cost of housing.

But all this passed largely unnoticed in general political debate and did not really feature in either Labor or Greens election campaign material.

The Liberals are now expected to command 32 votes in the 59 seat parliament, rising to 39 with the National Party seats. It would be fair to expect Barnett to use his position of strength to impose an extended program of cuts, privatisation, uranium mining, gas fracking, and forced council amalgamations, to name but a few.

The lack of proportional representation exaggerates WA’s seeming love affair with the conservatives. The Liberal and National Parties will have two thirds of the seats, but their combined primary vote was a more modest 53.1%.

Nevertheless the election saw swings away from Labor of 2.7% and the Greens of 3.6%. There was an 8.7% swing to the Liberals, and with the Nationals they took at least seven seats from Labor and three from independents.

Labor's only gain was Fremantle, which it took from Green turned-independent Adele Carles. Carles polled 5.5%, well behind Simone McGurk (ALP) who won 38.2%.

Inevitably, the media circus surrounding Carles' bizarre affair with Liberal Treasurer Troy Buswell, infamous for his repeated sexual harassment of female staff, threw a shadow over the Greens campaign. Their candidate Andrew Sullivan gained 18.1%, well above the Greens statewide average of 8.3%, but a big drop on the 27.6% they won in 2008.

Despite the overwhelming swing to the conservatives there were some interesting counter-swings.

In the Kimberley, where the Greens were the only party to fully oppose the James Price Point gas hub, they won 23.5% of the vote on the back of three booths in Broome where they received more support than any other party. (See full report)

Likewise the Greens scored 16.2% in Warren-Blackwood, thanks to a big vote in Margaret River booths, because of the support sitting National Party member Terry Redman gave to subsequently aborted plans for a coalmine in the district.

Meanwhile, in five seats centred around the industrial zone south of Perth, with a relatively high proportion of unionised blue collar workers and state housing tenants, the Labor vote either remained stable or even significantly increased.

In these seats the Liberal vote also increased, but in four of them the swing against the Greens was greater than the average. It suggests a more general trend in which Labor won supporters from the Greens but lost votes on its right flank to the Liberals.

If true, then why? Surely it was "Metronet", Labor's promise to build an extensive new cross suburban circle railway line linking the airport to all the existing suburban lines, a massive improvement to the public transport system by any measure.

It seems that Labor, equipped with a genuine and progressive point of difference to the Liberals, won a slew of left-leaning voters back into the fold, especially in these southern seats where voters have fresh memories of the previous Labor government building the 80 kilometres Perth to Mandurah railway line.

But the votes Labor won from the Greens were not enough to counteract those who were seduced by the illusion that they have a reserved seat on the mining boom gravy train.

Many workers, including those that have benefitted from the boom, will get a shock to be booted off the train when the mining companies require it, and Barnett and his band of ticket inspectors will be more than ready to do their bidding.

When that happens, who knows what dramatic twists and turns will ignite WA politics.

[This article by Sam Wainwright was written for Green Left Weekly #958. Photo of Socialist Alliance campaigner Chris Jenkins on polling day.]

Details announced for World Refugee Day rally

The Refugee Rights Action Network has announced initial details for the World Refugee Day rally:

Sunday 16 June
1pm, Wesley Church corner (cnr William & Hay Sts, Perth city)

Demands of the rally include:
* Free the refugees
* No Pacific "Solution"
* End mandatory detention

We are encouraging all supporters of refugee rights to endorse and participate in this rally. Please contact RRAN if you organisation can offer support.

Please also print the following PDF files to help spread the word.

DOWNLOAD: A4 poster (can be enlarged to A3)

DOWNLOAD: 4xA6 flyers

Attend on Facebook:

Wilfred Hicks: Why we should stand up for the Burrup

Wong-goo-tt-oo elder Wilfred Hicks explains why the Burrup Peninsula is important and why it should be saved with World Heritage listing.

Broome votes against gas hub

Campaigners against the planned Woodside gas hub at James Price Point in the Kimberley believe the Greens’ opposition to the proposal was the reason for their success in the Kimberley seat.

They say it has proven the Broome community does not want the Western Australian Liberals' and Woodside's gas hub at James Price Point.

Greens candidate Chris Maher won 38% of the primary vote, a swing of 10.3% and the highest vote for the Greens in the Kimberley seat. He polled first in three out of four voting booths in Broome and second in the other.

A strong community campaign against the gas hub has been built up over recent years through big and non-violent direct actions against the plan.

Many commentators in the mainstream media have painted a picture that the combined vote of the Labor, National and Liberal parties being larger than the Greens shows that most people want the gas hub.

Broome Community No Gas group member Jan Lewis said this was wrong. “The Liberals are the only ones really pushing the project ... they were the people we needed to beat and I think we should rejoice because we did beat them.”

The Greens received 1557 votes, compared with the Liberals’ 1205.

The National and Labor parties did not take a strong stand in the election on the gas hub. An Environs Kimberley report into the policies of both parties shows they support the gas hub.

National party candidate Michele Pucci campaigned almost exclusively around the “royalties for regions” policy and showed slight reservations to the gas hub.

She said more needs to be done to address the social impacts of the gas hub.

Labor party candidate Josie Farrer tried to avoid the issue completely. She went so far as to pull out of a “meet the candidates” forum hosted by the ABC in the final week of the election.

In an apparent effort to distract voters from Labor’s support for the gas hub, the party put up signs at polling booths advertising its policy for a Kimberley marine park. The map for the proposed marine park misses all mining area proposals, leases and exploration sites in the Kimberley, including unconventional gas fracking and coalmining in the Fitzroy region as well as the gas hub.

Some people might see the No Gas campaign as an extension of the Greens. But Lewis says the campaign was “not a political party”.

“Really we’re a single issue lobby group.”

Lewis said that during the election campaign, the No Gas group decided “to try and attract some people who wouldn't be traditional Greens voters, to think this was the most important issue in their life and they ought to review who they normally voted for”.

The big swing to the Greens, compared with a statewide swing against them, suggests many people voted for the Greens to protest against the gas hub.

Lewis said a poor vote across the state may be because: “The fracking issue has come so late in the piece.”

Fracking has only recently gained attention in the Kimberley. Fewer people outside Broome know of the effects of fracking, and the challenge for the campaign now is to spread this awareness further to raise the number of opponents of the gas hub.

Campaigning across the entire Kimberley electorate is difficult with an area of 419,078 square kilometres — larger than Germany. Many small communities are remote and hard to access, particularly during the wet season. Getting the message out to more people in the region would take serious resources.

The Liberals invested a huge amount of money in its campaign. It bought wrap-around covers for regional WA newspapers to plaster with advertisements designed to look like news articles. TV ads and billboards were also big campaigning measures.

The No Gas group is run entirely by volunteers. It meets outside to avoid paying money for a room, raises all its finances from donations and relies on members to put promotional banners outside their houses.

The fact that the Greens got a higher vote than the Liberals in the Broome booths and come close across the Kimberley region is a testament to the power of the community campaign against the resources of the mining corporations and the Liberal party.

With the election over, the campaign is now pressuring federal environment minister Tony Burke to not give approval for the project and is preparing to defend sacred Aboriginal burial grounds.

[This article by Zeb Parkes was written for Green Left Weekly #957 published on 16 March 2013.]

Friday, March 15, 2013

International Women's Day rally

The Green Left TV video above is from Perth's International Women's Day rally on 8 March 2013.

The theme of the rally was "Justice, Equality, Freedom from violence: we want it all". This was, in part, a response to Julie Bishop's comment a month or so earlier that women can't "have it all". Bishop was commonly understood - and no doubt intended - to mean that women should not expect to be able to have both children and a career. This comment was an attack on women's rights because nobody ever says that men cannot have children and a career.

Issues of equal pay for women were strongly taken up at the rally with Tessa Coleman and Sanna Andrew speaking respectively about the successful campaigns by nurses and ASU members. The nurses won a 14.75% pay rise over three years in the face of vicious intimidation by the Barnett government during the election campaign. The ASU won a five year long battle at Fair Work Australia for equal pay in the community services sector.

Kaila De Cinque spoke about the ongoing prevalence of rape culture on university campuses and the need to campaign against violence against women. Another theme was opposition to the federal government attacks on sole parents.

WA police celebrated international women's day in their own special way by arresting a young woman who was in the rally pushing her young child in a pram. The rally responded by chanting "stop police attacks, on gays, women and blacks".

The rally took place on International Women's Day itself, which this year fell the day before the WA state election. Perth Area Feminist Action felt it was important to go ahead with the rally even though some political forces were prioritising the election the next day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rally for Recall workers in Perth CBD - Wed 13 March

The Recall strike (more details here) has entered its 21st day and it’s time to send a message to the major shareholders of the company.

Meet at 11.30am Wed 13th March 2013 at the information kiosk in Forrest Place, Perth to march and protest outside one of Recall’s key shareholders in the CBD.

For those who can’t make it to the action, sign the petition at and donate to the fighting fund at

Call Alex Falconer on 0417 248 433 for more information.

Green Left TV video about this dispute

Friday, March 8, 2013

How to vote Socialist Alliance on March 9

Socialist Alliance recommends a first preference vote for Socialist Alliance with preferences to the Greens and then Labor before Liberal.

In seats where we're not running and in the upper house, we recommend a vote for the Greens and then Labor before Liberal.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A tribute to Hugo Chavez: hero and fighter for socialism

This memorial will pay tribute to Hugo Chavez - one of the most prominent heroes of socialism for the 21st century.

All supporters of the Bolivarian revolution are invited to participate in and endorse this event.

6:30pm Wed 13 March

Perth Activist Centre
15/5 Aberdeen St, Perth (next to McIver station)

Kamala Emanuel
Nancy Herrera
Nick Everett
Elizabeth Hulm 
Selected videos of Chavez speaking
other speakers to be announced

Hosted by Socialist Alliance. Endorsed by Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, Communist Party of Australia & Revolutionary Socialist Party.

Attend on Facebook:

Hugo Chavez Frias – visionary, fighter, companero

Statement of the Socialist Alliance (Australia)

The Socialist Alliance in Australia expresses its deepest sympathies with the people and government of Venezuela on the death of Companero Hugo Chavez Frias on March 5. His passing is a huge loss for all peoples, across Latin America and the globe, struggling for a world free of inequality, exploitation and oppression.

It is testament to Hugo Chavez’s great leadership that, while mourning his death, we are also confident that the Bolivarian revolution and the new movement for socialism of the 21st century that Chavez inspired will be continued by the mass of people, to whom he worked so hard to give power.

Hugo Chavez emphasised repeatedly that the people, not he himself, were the motor force of revolution. But his visionary leadership, and his uncompromising battle for the fundamental social transformation that is needed to save humanity and the planet was history changing, and inspired millions of people in their day to day struggles for justice, peace and freedom. Chavez’s contempt for and refusal to be cowed by the most powerful imperialist leaders in their drive to own, control and destroy everything in the name of private profit empowered us all to struggle harder, gave us more courage to challenge the brutality of capitalism and consigned the capitalist rulers’ declaration of the “end of history” to the dustbin of history.

Chavez’s visionary leadership against inequality, exploitation and environmental destruction was based on an understanding that, in his own words: “Time is short. If we do not change the world now there may be no 22nd century.” The majority of Venezuelans agree, electing him as their president five times. Chavez’s most recent re-election, last October, was the result of his public commitment to deepening the democratic socialist revolution.

Hugo Chavez may no longer be physically present with the people to carry out that platform, but he, his ideas and he example will live on for generations in the hearts and minds of all those committed to ending the savageness of capitalism and putting people and the planet before profits.

The Socialist Alliance will honour the memory of Hugo Chavez through continuing our work in solidarity with the Venezuelan people’s Bolivarian revolution, struggling for socialism of the 21st century in our own country, and internationalising Chavez’s profoundly humanitarian, peaceful, democratic and ecological vision for all humanity.

Long live Chavez!
Long live people’s power!
Long live socialism!

March 6, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Election Night Party

Join us as we cheer on the results of progressive candidates in the state elections:

Sat 9 March
from 6pm onwards

21a Jarvis St,

P.S. It is not too late to volunteer to help on a polling booth or to make a donation to our election campaign

Ph Alex 0413 976 638 to help 

Support striking Recall workers

National Union of Workers members are fighting for a union agreement with a 4% pay rise. The company is playing hard ball and calling for police support against community support protesters. After two weeks, the strikers are standing strong.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dennis Simmons (Kaiber) performs The Waugul at Occupy Cottesloe

"The Waugul" by Kaiber (Dennis Simmons). Performed at "Occupy Cottesloe - Colin Barnett has got to go" on March 2, 2013. This was one week before the state election and was organised by Occupy Perth. Public land was claimed on the Cottesloe beach foreshore for the event.

More from Green Left TV here.

Support the striking workers at Recall Documents

[Information below supplied by Community Solidarity in support of the National Union of Workers strike at Recall Documents.]

Dear Supporter of Workers Rights,

Workers at Recall Documents have been on strike for over a week. Their Enterprise Agreement has expired and they are seeking a union agreement (National Union of Workers) and a 4% pay rise. The employer is refusing both and instead offering a 3% p.a. pay rise. These workers have a democratic right to a union negotiated agreement which is what the overwhelming majority of them have indicated they want.

They need your support, financial and moral, no matter how great or small. In particular they need supporters to attend the community protest between 5am and 10am this Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, 449 Victoria Rd Malaga.

Please pass this request around your networks. For more information contact Owen on 0414 072 968 or visit the National Union of Workers site.

Sam Wainwright for
Community Solidarity

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Protesters have fracked parliament house

[This media release was issued by No Fracking WAy on 3 March 2013.]

Activists from campaign group “No Fracking WAy” fracked parliament house on the 3rd of March. The fracking was attended by state government representatives including Department of Mines and Petroleum director Will Pineapple, Minister for the Environment and Water Bill Smarmion, and WA Premier Barnett Shale. Outraged members of the general public questioned the government representatives about risks to health and the environment.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a controversial technology used for the extraction of natural gas. Full scale commercial fracking is set to begin in WA in 2014.

“Rumours that fracking has destroyed farmland and killed cattle are completely false. Fracking is perfectly safe. The cattle are lying, just like everybody else who has a problem with hydraulic fracturing, which is actually the clean energy of the future,” the Hon. Bill Smarmion told the crowd.

“Fracking is good for the environment. It is already doing wonderful things for Western Australia's biodiversity. It is bringing in wonderful new species, such as shifty Texas oil barons, sleazy politicians, and ruthless corporate executives,” said DMP director Will Pineapple.

“A re-elected Liberal government will continue to provide the highest possible protection to Western Australia's unique terrestrial landscapes by fracking your brains out,” Premier Barnett Shale told the crowd.

“We expect to extract trillions of cubic feet of gas from parliament house. Parliament house is always full of hot air. We will make a lot of money,” said No Fracking WAy campaigner Greg Glazov.

The fracking of parliament house is part of a major expansion of the petroleum industry in Perth, also to include a Cottesloe gas hub in the Premier's backyard.

Media Contacts
The Hon. Bill Smarmion: 0412 109 160
Premier Colin Barnett Shale: 0417 339 931
Greg Glazov: 0467 173 522

WA prison officers follow nurses, take strike action

WA Prison Officers' Union banner at rally against
Black deaths in custody in 2010
Prison officers across Western Australia are on strike in an effort to force the Barnett Liberal government to promise a wages and conditions package to prison workers as it did last week to WA nurses.

The WA Prison Officer Union (WAPOU) is demanding a 14% wage increase over three years and measures to alleviate the chronic overcrowding and under-staffing in WA prisons.

The State's prison population has grown by 25% over the previous three years as a consequence of unjust "law and order" policies (such as mandatory sentencing) taken by the Barnett government. 13 out of 14 prisons in WA are already beyond capacity.

The Barnett government's plan for expanding the network to accommodate the growing prison population will still leave a deficit of 1,200 beds by 2015, according to the WAPOU. The union is also campaigning against government plans to save funds by capping the number of prison officers, cut back on overtime pay by not filling roster vacancies and further privatisation of the state's prison system.

The WA Prison Officers Union (WAPOU) is choosing to strike now ahead of the WA state election on March 9 because the government has refused to negotiate with the union over pay and conditions since September last year.

Like the nurses last week, the WAPOU is committed to pressing their demands using the most effective weapon they have to achieve results: industrial action.

John Welch from the WAPOU told ABC news "There will be no prisoners going to court, there will be no visits" until the union's issues are addressed. Pickets outside all the state's prisons continue this week.

[This article by Chris Jenkins was written for Green Left Weekly on March 2, 2013.]

Saturday, March 2, 2013

WA nurses accept 14% pay rise

About 10,000 nurses and midwives across Western Australia were threatened with disciplinary action and deregistration by the state’s director general if they went ahead with a 24-hour strike on February 25.

The evening before the planned action, WA premier Colin Barnett intervened to offer the nurses a 14% pay rise over three years.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) members accepted the offer after voting at a mass meeting on February 25.

The state Liberal government had previously claimed it could not negotiate with the nurses’ union while acting as a “caretaker” government before the March 9 state election.

ANF state secretary Mark Olson challenged the premier’s claim, accusing the state government of refusing to meet the union for months. Olson promised to make nurses' pay a key battleground for the upcoming state election.

Despite Western Australia being the most expensive state in which to live, wages for nurses have fallen to now stand sixth behind most of Australia’s states and territories. To alleviate this margin, the ANF is demanding a 20% pay rise over the next three years.

The Liberal government has previously set a limit on pay rises to 3% a year, which Olson says will not even keep up with the rate of inflation, and will consequently mean a further cut in nurses’ wages. Other issues related to working conditions and charging nurses for staff parking are other important points of dispute.

Nurses have also won a removal of the car parking fees from all hospitals, except for Royal Perth and the new Fiona Stanley Hospitals, no loss of conditions and the retention of the current workloads clause.

Some areas are still being negotiated. Nurses agreed that negotiations will start after the state election on March 9.

[This article by Chris Jenkins was written for Green Left Weekly #956.]

New mental health act ignores social issues

In Western Australia, mental illness is the second highest cause of disease for women and the fourth highest cause for men.

Premier Colin Barnett has responded by publishing a green paper for public discussion for a new Mental Health Act. The proposed act contains provisions that would improve the rights of people subjected to a Compulsory Treatment Order (CTO), but it negates those same provisions by allowing the treating psychiatrist to simply ignore them.

WA authorities are trigger happy when it comes to CTOs. Last year, there was a well-publicised scandal of a man who was incorrectly subjected to a CTO when police mistakenly confused him with someone else who suffered a mental illness.

The WA Mental Health Law Centre (MHLC) and a practicing psychiatrist told Green Left Weekly there are many such cases of CTOs based on mistaken identity in WA that receive no publicity.

A significant cause of WA’s problems is the mining boom. A February 13 report by the federal Standing Committee on Regional Australia into fly in-fly out mining jobs found that there is growing evidence of binge drinking and self-destructive use of amphetamines and cocaine among young, cashed up male mining workers.

Doctors and hospital emergency departments all over WA report that the drinking, drug use, boredom and exhaustion caused by the mining companies’ employment practices is producing a crop of crazed young men causing havoc in the health system.

Combining this with the 27% wage gap between men and women in WA — compared with 17% Australia-wide — and the reasons for WA’s mental health problems and its gender imbalance are clear.

When the Liberal government’s austerity and general hostility to social justice is added to the mix, it leads to a crisis. That is what grips the WA mental health system at the moment.

Having rejected demands for an independent inquiry for years, the Liberal government finally commissioned Professor Bryant Stokes in November 2011 to look into the system. What he reported was chilling: care in WA mental health hospitals is so appalling that a large number of patients commit suicide the same day that they are released from treatment.

The government sat on Stokes’ 107 recommendations, and the planned mental health act will make the situation worse.

People with mental illness can currently write directives during lucid periods, to guide health practitioners when the person needs care.

But Barnett’s planned changes will allow treating psychiatrist to simply ignore those directives and can decide on treatment. The patient would be unable to refuse.

The WA chief psychiatrist will supervise the treating psychiatrist, but that oversight can be delegated to the treating psychiatrist, making a mockery of the “supervision”.

The bill has provisions for the patients to name carers to look after their interests. But the treating psychiatrist can choose to exclude them at their whim.

There will be a Mental Health Tribunal to which the patient can appeal. However, there is no provision for the patient to be told of their rights and the treating psychiatrist can ignore tribunal treatment recommendations for up to eight weeks.

The MHLC said the treating psychiatrist can avoid review simply by temporarily changing the patient’s status from compulsory to voluntary the day before their case comes before the tribunal, without telling the patient. The tribunal then has no power and immediately afterwards the patient can be placed under a new CTO.

Second opinions for the treatment of patients under CTOs, which are currently subject to abuse – a doctor at the same hospital can do a cursory examination — will be further weakened under the bill. If a patient under a CTO can obtain a proper second opinion there will be no mandatory requirement for the treating psychiatrist to respond.

The law would also remove the right of mental health advocates to visit and inspect mental health facilities.

The Director of Health and Disability Services, who is the last ditch option for a patient under a CTO to obtain an investigation into their treatment, will only have “conciliation” power under the new law.

The reports will also not be confidential, meaning that patients who complain about mistreatment may find themselves at the mercy of the staff who they have previously named if they ever find themselves back in the same wards.

Improving the situation for WA people with mental health problems will require a multi-pronged approach.

Firstly, the government needs to fund more community mental health teams to work with people in the community, alleviating the need for hospitalisation.

Spending on regional mental health facilities urgently needs to be ramped up. Kalgoorlie hospital, for example, survives by flying in psychiatrists from Perth on short-term arrangements.

The MHLC, a not-for-profit organisation that represents people subjected to CTOs and survives on a shoe-string budget, needs a substantial financial injection.

Beyond these immediate matters there are larger sociological issues needing attention.

The destructive nature of fly in-fly out employment practices in the resources industries needs to be ended. Forcing workers to work 12 hour shifts on rotating shift rosters, doing mind-numbing repetitive tasks is beyond the capability of a human being to cope.

Australian unions famously began the struggle for the eight-hour day in 1856. That struggle has to be refought and re-won. Alongside that there must be genuine gender pay equity to reduce women’s social oppression, which grinds on their mental well-being.

Finally, the power of Big Pharma must be broken. The drug companies promote their drugs as modern day shackles for mental health patients. The concept of control of patients has been substituted for the concept of recovery from illness.

[This article by Barry Healy is from Green Left Weekly #956.]

Kimberley rally forces response from Labor and Liberal

The campaign against the gas hub at Walmadan (James Price Point) in the Kimberley received a massive boost when around 20,000 people marched through the streets of Fremantle and attended a vibrant and political ``Concert for the Kimberley'' on February 24.

Headlined by high profile music acts like the John Butler Trio and Missy Higgins, the concert was the latest in a series of campaign events around the country spearheaded by the Wilderness Society and John Butler. The purpose of the campaign is to save the Kimberley environment and in particular to stop the proposed gas hub at James Price Point.

The gas hub is controversial because the state government has used compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land to get the site for the gas hub and because the environmental consequences of the development are enormous.

In addition, because there is major opposition from within the Broome community, one feature of the project is that a corporation (Woodside) and the state government are riding roughshod over local people.

There has been a lot of speculation in recent months that the costs imposed by community opposition and legal hurdles are making the project's proponents look towards other options including an offshore, floating gas hub.

The state government has decidedly rejected the proposition of a floating gas hub arguing that ``benefits'' to the Western Australian community (including an allocation of gas to the local gas market and the ``benefits package'' for local Aboriginal communities) would not be available in the event of an offshore development.

State premier Colin Barnett has forcefully said that, while there may be lower costs offshore, the project would still be profitable with a James Price Point gas hub and his government is not prepared to give approval to an offshore development.

This broader context means that environmentalists are increasingly confident that a victory on the gas hub campaign is possible. The size of the February 24 concert therefore has major significance.

Commenting on the rally, Wilderness Society WA co-ordinator said that ``the only two times in recent history that we've seen rallies of this size in Perth have been for the old growth forests and Ningaloo, and both campaigns went on to great success''.

While this doesn't account for the 2003 anti-war rallies and the mobilisations against WorkChoices it does indicate in stark relief the prospects for a victory in this campaign.

Hot on the heals of the Kimberley concert, the state government announced a massive new national park in the Kimberley and a significant extension to the planned Great Kimberley Marine Park. The new national park would be greater than Kakadu – currently Australia's largest.

The announcement by the government itself is very similar to plans announced by the ALP opposition on February 22.

While both promises have been rightly welcomed by environmentalists, they both ignore James Price Point. Both Barnett and and Labor opposition leader Mark McGowan have strongly insisted that the gas must be processed onshore. McGowan, however, has hinted that he may consider a different site to James Price Point.

The fact that both leaders are forced to respond to the campaign is another indication of its strength. So far, however, both McGowan and Barnett are siding with corporate interests against the community.

While it has not been a feature of the Wilderness Society campaign, one aspect of community interest is the question of whether the gas should be extracted at all?

Gas is after all a fossil fuel which will add more carbon pollution to the atmosphere if burnt. However, even mining the Browse Basin (the source of gas for the gas hub) is projected to release between 30-40 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year – almost half of WA's current emissions – before the gas even gets to be sold.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has raised this issue as has the Socialist Alliance which marched at the rally carrying signs for ``100% rewnewable energy'' and ``Renewables not gas''.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge was written for Green Left Weekly #956.]

Green Left TV on the Kimberley Concert and march

Photos by Alex Bainbridge

Friday, March 1, 2013

Refugee Rights convergence to Yongah Hill

Refugee Rights Action Network, in conjunction with refugee groups around the country, is organising a major convergence to the Yongah Hill (Northam) detention centre over the 26-28 April (ANZAC day weekend).

There will be a mass protest on the Saturday 27 April.

Cost of the weekend (including bus fare and food):

Saturday only: $50 solidarity/$25 waged/$15 concession

Whole weekend: $100 solidarity/$40 waged/$25 concession

Register now to help make the event successful.


International Women's Day rally 2013

International Women's Day Rally 2013
Justice, Equality, Freedom from violence: We want it all!

Friday 8 March, 5.30pm
Murray St mall, Perth (outside Perth Underground station)

2012 saw an upsurge of feminist activism, with women in India leading the international struggle against sexual violence.
Let us build on this momentum and come together to demand:
  • self-determination for Indigenous women and their communities
  • reverse the cuts to sole parents' payments
  • close the gender pay gap - support the nurses' pay campaign
  • stop violence against women - guarantee funding for women's refuges
and much, much more.

This event is open to adults and children of all gender identities. Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to attend and the rally will support their right to breastfeed wherever and however they choose to do so.

Attend on Facebook:

Organised by Perth Area Feminist Action. Find us on FB, phone 0434 058 330 or email