WA State Conference: Climate change and the struggle for justice in 2008-2009

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On Saturday November 15 around 25 Socialist Alliance members and supporters in Perth gathered for our annual State Conference.

The feature of the afternoon was a talk on the capitalist recession and it’s implications for the fight against climate change given by Adelaide comrade Renfrey Clarke. He gave a direct and confronting presentation that made it clear how Australian big business and the Rudd government are unwilling and unable to make the slightest steps that have any hope of preventing climate change. He laid bare the need for workers and communities to take democratic control over the industries and processes that are vital to creating a sustainable future for human life on earth.

A big thanks to Renfrey for giving up his time and income and coming across the Nullabor.

After a break comrades summarised the main areas of our work her in the West:

  1. Julie Gray spoke about the recent WA State Election in which she was the SA candidate for North Metropolitan (an upper house electorate that takes in all of northern greater Perth). On polling day alone around two dozen new contacts were gained for SA. With some comrades out of the state the decision to run was made at the last moment with very few resources. Julie explained how the experience had confirmed the value in running up the flag and having a go, and the respect it had won her among her workmates.
  2. Natasha Moore explained the essential role that she and other SA members had played in establishing the Aboriginal Rights Coalition. This group has organised many protests against the NT intervention and attracted over fifty people to a recent film screening. She also recounted what it was like attending the convergence against the intervention that coincided with the official apology to the Stolen Generations.
  3. Annolies Truman reported on the environmental campaigning work done by SA members in the Perth Hills. Comrades there have helped initiate a local climate change group that has taken on the immediate task of fighting the building of a new and massive electricity sub-station project that will service electricity fed from a new coal fired power station that the government also intends to build. The Perth Hills branch has also supported the campaign against the introduction of GMO crops. On her return from Cuba comrade Annolies will be doing a tour of WA’s South-West to speak about her visit and screen the film “Power of Community”. This is an initiative of an SA member and organic farmer in the South West.
  4. Sam Wainwright summarised the Rudd government’s IR policies and the need for SA to aggressively expose their shortcomings. In particular he drew attention to the role that SA members are playing in exposing the continued harassment of workers and unions by the ABCC. SA members have played a vital role in the Community Solidarity group that has carried out a number of actions to highlight the terrible ABCC powers in the face of almost complete inaction by the peak union body UnionsWA. He also remarked on how SA counts in its still small ranks activists playing important roles in the fight for workplace rights and conditions in diversity of unions and industries; including the MUA, AMWU, CSA (state public service), ASU, NTEU and HSU. In each one of these unions there are SA members who are not just members or delegates, but activists and organisers leading struggles.
  5. Nancy Herrera almost single-handedly ensures that SA helps sustain campaigns in solidarity with the peoples of Latin America. She plays a leading role in the AVSN, ACFS and Peace and Justice with Columbia groups. As well as summarising these groups’ activities she explained her efforts in helping the Salvadoran community to go beyond purely social events and to organise active support for the left and workers movements in El Salvador.
  6. Unfortunately comrade Khalid Hassan couldn’t attend to report on activities in the Sudanese community and significance of The Flame because of a fund raiser for a recently arrived Sudanese family that lost their house and belongings in a fire (an unintended irony to say the least). However the meeting congratulated him for organising a film showing on Aboriginal rights that attracted over twenty people, including twelve from the Sudanese community. Sudanese leftists like him are eager to understand Australian politics and society, especially our history of racism and the experience of indigenous people. It also gave the other SA members a chance to meet these Sudanese socialists for the first time.

After the discussion of our work and tasks the comrades elected our delegates to the National Conference and our State Executive.

Sam Wainwright and Julie Gray were chosen to be our joint Co-Convenors; while Keith Westbrook and Justine Kamprad are the representatives of Perth and Fremantle branches respectively. Perth Hills branch will choose its representative at a branch meeting after Barry Healy and Annolies Truman return from their trip to Venezuela and Cuba.

With the formalities out of the way the comrades tucked into a big traditional roast dinner organised by Perth Hills member and Cuba solidarity stalwart Len Howle.