Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Interview with Sam Wainwright

Fremantle Herald journalist Brendan Foster conducted this interview with Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle Sam Wainwright in preparation for the article published by the Herald on 18 May 2013 (see picture and here).

What made you want to run in the federal seat of Freo?
We're facing the real possibility that Tony Abbott will become prime minister. His agenda is clear, to take even more wealth out of the pockets of working people and give it to the the big end of town. He'd bring more cutbacks, privatisation and attacks on our rights.

So why are some people sucked in by the Libs? Labor has paved the way for Abbott by caving in to the conservatives on a whole number of issues, especially the mining tax and the gutless way both of them beat up on refugees to distract people from their real problems. You can't fight Coke with Diet Coke. You need to stand for something different. We have confront the ideas of Abbott head on if we are to defeat them.

That's what the Socialist Alliance campaign will be doing. Demonstrating to people that it's possible to create a world where we live in harmony with the planet, share the wealth and let the creative potential of humanity develop. But we have to be honest with people. We've got a long way to go and there's a very rich and ruthless elite who who don't want this. We see our campaign as a stepping stone in a movement for change.

What do you see is the biggest issue facing the port city?
Across Perth the rate of increase in vehicle journeys is growing quicker than our population. In Fremantle this is exacerbated by the growth in traffic to and from the port. There is no car or truck based solution to our congestion problems. Building new roads only stimulates more traffic making the problem even worse. The consequences of this for the environment and public health are catastrophic. Yet both the federal and state governments are still freeway addicts, with no serious vision to qualitatively increase the share of public transport and freight rail. Between them they are about to spend $1 billion on freeways associated with the Perth Gateway project around the airport. But public transport and freight rail projects struggle to get a look-in. To make things worse road freight gets a carbon tax exemption but rail does not. All this has to be turned on its head. The environment, public health and good urban planning need to come first; not endless subsidies for the vehicle and road construction industries.

The number of homeless people in Fremantle has skyrocketed of late? Do you think the current state and federal governments should be held accountable?
Across WA we're facing a housing affordability crisis. People sleeping rough on the street are only the tip of the iceberg. Many more are couch surfing from house to house or are unable to walk out of really unsatisfactory and sometimes abusive home environments. This is a direct and inevitable product of both federal and state government policy. Investment in public housing has not kept pace with demand, shrinking in real terms, and transforming it into residual welfare housing. At the same time the price of private housing has been pumped up by negative gearing and tax exemptions. We have to scrap welfare for landlords and speculators and instead significantly expand public housing and introduce rent controls, like those imposed in New York and Los Angeles.

It's no secret you think the mining boom hasn't benefited everyone? Who do you think are the big losers?
Firstly those on low fixed incomes whose cost of housing has sky rocketed while their pay and pensions barely keep pace with inflation. For them the so-called boom has brought real financial and personal stress. But we've all been losers in the sense that our society has not used this wealth to build the base for a more diversified economy, roll out renewable energy infrastructure or overcome inequality. Instead it's entrenched what's wrong with our current way of doing things.

How would you go about confiscating the billions of dollars from mining billionaires?
To start with the mining billionaires need to pay their share of tax. They only pay about 14% of their profits as tax or royalties. The Gillard government is projected to raise less from its watered down mining tax than the $700 million they'll save by pushing single parents off the pension. A more serious version of the mining tax would raise about an extra $15 billion. The fossil fuel subsidy costs us $7 billion per year. Just a 1% wealth tax on the richest 20% of Australians would raise about $40 billion. Treating capital gains like any other income would raise billions more. There's no shortage of wealth in Australia and there's no reason to cut services to balance the budget.

Ultimately we have to bring the the mining sector into public ownership. This is a democratic and environmental necessity. The profits from the fossil fuel industry have to be used to fund the transition to renewable energy, that is to fund the end of fossil fuel dependence. Clearly this is not possible while this industry is owned by multinational oil, gas and coal companies. They will seek to preserve their profits at any cost to the environment. In fact they threaten the very basis of life on earth. For our common future we have to stop them.

Does it concern you that within less than 5 months Tony Abbott could be PM?
An Abbott government would bring a new assault on workplace rights and civil liberties, further cut backs to social services and even more subsidies to big business. We have to build up the movements, energy and forces to take the fight up to Abbott right now. We need to be prepared to fight the Abbott agenda on the streets, at our workplaces and in our communities if he does take government. It's no time or place for progressive minded people to be moping about in fear and pessimism. We have to prepare the fightback now.

Given both Labor and Libs are ideologically bankrupt do you see Socialist Alliance as a real alternative party for voters?
Both Liberal and Labor are loyal servants of big business, with the Liberals playing bad cop to Labor's good cop. That's the guts of the problem in Australian politics. Socialist Alliance is only a small party of around a thousand members running in a handful of seats. What we need in this country is a serious political force that is 100% on the side of working people, the environment and our communities. Through our campaigns we want to link up with people who feel the same way to build that alternative. By supporting us people help that project.

In doing so we put on the agenda the things that no one else will say, such as the need for expanded public ownership and serious wealth redistribution. Even the Greens are frightened of raising this and have watered down their own inheritance tax policy. Our campaign seeks to be honest with people. We simply can not create a fundamentally more democratic, equitable and sustainable future without breaking the power or big business over our lives.