Protest at Baillieu government’s regressive policies on renewable energy in Victoria – 29 September 2011

Monster power plug and cord

Premier Baillieu has pulled the plug on renewables in Victoria

There were protests today in Melbourne,Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo at the Baillieu government’s policies on renewable energy development in Victoria, with the slashing of the solar feed tariff and prohibitive restrictions on the location of new wind farms:

The laws give landholders the right to veto any wind development within 2 km of a dwelling and ban them completely within 5km from regional cities. Other whole regions like the Macedon Ranges are excluded from any wind farm developments.

“We don’t know of any more restrictive laws on wind farms in the world” Courtice said.

“Baillieu is currently approving extensions to coal mines less than 2km from residential areas. All Victoria’s coalmines are inside the exclusion zones where you can’t build wind farms. This is not what Victorians want in the 21st century.”
(FoE media release)

The protest in Melbourne was at Parliament House, and featured a gigantic power plug, which MC Ellen Roberts of Friends of the Earth assured us had been dumped earlier by the Premier and Energy Minister Michael O’Brien … There was also a good turnout of turbines, banners and placards. Speakers were Ben Courtice from FoE, Mick Lewin from the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, Steve Dargavel, AMWU state secretary, and Mark Wakeham of Environment Victoria.
See report also on Yes to Renewable Energy.
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Anti-Gillard protests at Park Hyatt in Melbourne – 28 September 2011

Protesters at main entrance to hotel

Same-sex marriage and refugee activists were the main groups protesting outside the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne today when Prime Minister Julia Gillard was delivering a speech to a lunch of the AsiaLink and Asia Society. The main beneficiaries of the protest speeches and chants, however, were probably the large numbers of uniformed and undercover/plainclothes police on duty: however she entered the building it is certain she avoided a face-to-face meeting with the 200 or so protesters. (See report in Sydney Morning Herald. By avoiding the protest Ms Gillard deprived herself of a present some had been planning to give her for her 50th birthday on Thursday – see image below.)
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Protester hold up a placard with a red heart - a birthday present for Julia Gillard
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The protest assembled outside the main entrance and moved back and forth between there and the side entrances. At each stop there were speakers and chants, alternating between the two main issues. In addition to speakers from Equal Love and the Refugee Action Collective the protest heard from Carl Katter, half-brother of anti-gay Independent MP Bob Katter, and Malaysian refugee activist Angeline Loh, who surprised even experienced campaigners with the revelation that the ‘protections’, such as they would be, for asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia under the swap deal would only last until the asylum seekers were assessed by UNHCR to be refugees, at which point they would become illegal immigrants under Malaysian law, and subject to the same treatment refugees experience there…
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The weather took a hand not long after Julia Gillard’s presumed arrival, and the protest wound up at about 12.45.

More on Walmadan – September 24 and 27, Melbourne

Campaign supporters line up with candles on steps of Victorian Parliament
Melbourne supporters of the campaign against the Woodside gas hub project at Walmadan/James Price Point in WA have continued their activities: last Saturday saw the second Community Gathering at Northcote Uniting Church, organised by Walmadan is Calling, and last night there was a candlelight vigil at the Victorian Parliament House, organised by United Peoples of Australia.

Immediately before the vigil there was also an info night at Kindness House in Fitzroy, and many attended both events. It was a moonless night and the weather was kind:
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The Community Gathering was less fortunate, at least as regards the weather: it was cold and blustery outside for the first part of proceedings, an acknowledgment of traditional owners and smoking ceremony, followed by speakers and music. Later in the evening the bands took over inside the church.
Video of the gathering can be seen on EngageMedia here, or on YouTube:
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In addition to her message to the protesters at Walmadan, Alex Bhathal also announced an initiative to hold Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson accountable to the people of his electorate of Batman, in which the gathering took place and where she and many of those involved live. For details of a petition to Federal Parliament which voters in the electorate were and are invited to sign, follow this link.
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MC for the occasion was Kim Murata, who also joined Marie Casanova and Dandelion Jackson on stage. As well, Elijah Augustine and other members of his family plus Tim Parry of what is now the Melbourne branch of Save the Kimberley got people dancing with a rendering of Stompin Ground; Greg Thorpe sang a song for the Kimberley written in collaboration with Rodney Augustine; Tim Parry shared a song he wrote while up at the blockade. Inside the church there were performances by Jessie Lloyd and the Sunshine Sisters, The Promises, and
Captain Groove followed by Lamarama to wrap things up. Snippets of all this on the accompanying video.

Refugee activists picket SERCO offices – Melbourne, 16 September 2011

Protesters fill the footpath outside the office building

Members and supporters of the Refugee Action Collective, Victoria, including contingents from Monash and Melbourne Universities, held a protest today outside the Melbourne office of SERCO, the company which holds the contract for running Australia’s immigration detention centres. Protesters assembled first at the corner of William and Bourke Streets before marching down to the office building at number 535, where there was a strong force of police and security guards waiting for them. A series of speakers, mostly from RAC, addressed the protests and passers-by, who were also offered information leaflets detailing some of the recent statistics of suicide and self-harm in the centres, as well as abuse of detainees by SERCO staff. To mark the six suicides since October 2010, the outlines of bodies were drawn in chalk on the footpath for office staff to see on leaving the building.
Advance notice was also given of a planned protest on 28 September, when Julia Gillard is due to be speaking at the Park Hyatt hotel – see the Facebook event

See also notice of today’s protest on the RAC-Vic website

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Remembering “the other September 11″ – Trades Hall, Melbourne, 11 September 2011

Commemorative plaque in foyer of Trades Hall

Commemorative plaque in foyer of Trades Hall

As mentioned in the previous post, LASNET commemorated the 1973 coup in Chile with speakers, music and a showing of the film ‘The Black Pimpernel‘ at Trades Hall yesterday:
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Beginning of film screening
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Background to the coup and the situation in Chile today was provided by Rodrigo:
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Rodrigo speaking before the film

Rodrigo speaking before the film


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Poster of Allende from 2008

Enough is Enough! For Chilean Students, Workers & Mapuche People! – Federation Square, Melbourne, 10 September 2011

On the eve of the anniversary of not only the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, but also of the 1973 CIA-backed Pinochet coup which overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, LASNET organised a rally in solidarity with students, workers, and Indigenous people currently struggling against another right-wing government in Chile, that of Sebastian Piñera (see analysis by Council on Hemispheric Affairs).

The rally alternated speech and song, the latter in Spanish, and passers-by were offered a leaflet, the text of which is reproduced below. LASNET also plans a commemoration of the 1973 coup at Trades Hall tomorrow – see Remembering the Other September 11. (There is, of course, another reason for commemorating this date, as a speaker pointed out at the end: Melbourne’s own “9/11″, the World Economic Forum of 2000 … See http://www.takver.com/history/s11.htm)

See also http://chilesolidarity.org

Text of leaflet:

While much of the world’s attention this year has been turned toward events in the Northern hemisphere – the Arab Spring, the Spanish and Greek street assemblies, the riots in the UK, the violence in Libya- an equally interesting and potentially more radical movement has been taking place in Chile. Chilean students and the poor who have been excluded from “the Chilean miracle” of American-trained free marketeers have waged fierce battle with the cops. One teenager has been killed in the streets, shot by police in Macul, a borough of Santiago. Initial reports described the victim as a protester; later ones say he may have been an onlooker. His family places the blame squarely on the police. Whatever the final determination, he was a casulaty in a conflict that has pitted Chilean youth against a social order that is old, decrepit, and brutal.

The Chilean movement has emerged in the throes of winter in the Southern hemisphere, with young people going out into the icy streets, braving the elements, of course, and, more importantly, directly challenging the Chilean state and its gendarmes, showing determination and resolve in the face of the military police. These cops are the ‘carabineros’ of sinister memory under Pinochet. Their vehicles include armored personnel carriers, and they shoot water cannons at demonstrators. They more resemble an occupying army than a riot squad.

We want to remember Manuel Guttierrez Reinoso, the teenager killed on the night of August 24, but we want to do more than that: we want to actively support the broader rebellion and struggles in Chile. We see something in the protest movement there that we identify with: it is a struggle that is ours as well. The Chilean protests began as a student movement demanding the right to public education, and at no cost to students, even at the university level. The protests began on a whimsical note, with mass “kiss-ins” and other creative gestures. What made Chile different from Australia was the Chilean workers and the poor saw the students’ fight as one they should support as well. As the movement spread, it encountered stiff resistance from the state and its armed wing, the police. What started with a kind of poetry turned into social movements struggles[sic].

With this rally today September 10 in Melbourne-Australia, we are supporting the main sectors actively opposing the neoliberal policies, we are supporting the Mapuche (Indigenous people in Chile and Argentina) in their struggle for autonomy and self-determination, asking the right-wing government to stop the repression and discrimination against them; today we are supporting the workers’ struggles for better conditions and to stop the casualisation which is conducted to impoverish Chilean society, we need to stop neoliberal policies, we need to build something different to capitalism; all [are] welcome in this endeavour.

Farms not Fossil Fuels – Rally against coal mine planned for Bacchus Marsh, 1 September 2011

No New Coal ... banner and protesters at City Square

Opponents of a planned open-cut coal mine at Bacchus Marsh, local residents as well as Melbourne-based environmentalists, held a rally at the City Square today as part of a campaign to halt this expansion of Victoria’s dirty coal industry:

[From Media release:]

Background info:

* Mantle Mining currently has a huge exploration license (386 km2) around Bacchus Marsh that includes black and brown coal and coal seam gas.
* Mantle intends to commence test drilling in September to confirm the quality of brown coal deposits.
* Once confirmed they will apply for a mining license through the Victorian Dept Primary Industries (DPI).
* The application for the exploration license was advertised in local papers, which do not get delivered to the area the exploration is to occur in, so locals were unaware of the application and missed the 21 day deadline to lodge formal objections.
* Locals first knew about it when they were contacted by Mantle telling them that DPI had issued them with an exploration license and they would be drilling on the road side, and may need to come into their land.
* Residents report that when they said “I don’t want you to access my land”, they were informed they had no right to prevent this, and that Mantle could take them to court to gain access.

See also details of the project on Source Watch, and ‘Bacchus Marsh residents to rally against Mantle Mining’, The Courier 31 August 2011

Shaun Murray introducing speakers
The rally began conventionally with speakers introduced by Shaun Murray of Stop HRL: Victoria McKenzie-McHarg of Environment Victoria, who gave a summary of the issues, and Deborah Porter of the Moorabool Environment Group, who described the situation of the locals:

Victoria McKenzie-McHarg speakingDeborah Porter

Victoria began by saying how disappointing she found it that after ten years of campaigning, with all the information well and truly available, governments were still talking of expanding the coal industry, clinging to the past, a dirty coal past. She said she would not in fact object to coal if it could be proven to be clean, but there was no evidence of this. This was a matter of digging up prime agricultural land, and the farmers affected had only just heard; they had mining executives turning up on their doorsteps and bullying them to allow access. She contrasted this with the position on wind farms, where residents up to two kilometres are to have a power of veto, while farmers here only 200 metres from the drilling have no-one listening. She stressed the importance of the community coming together and making the government listen. And it was not just Bacchus March affected: all over Gippsland there are licences granted and people being told that there is nothing they can do. It was good to see so many turn out at such short notice, but the need was for whole communities to come out.

Deborah illustrated the theme of the rally by pointing out that if she were not in Melbourne protesting she would be back home working on the farm. She focussed on the company’s claim to have given the statutory advice to affected landholders, displaying a tiny column from The Age; other notice had been given in local papers ‘that never get delivered’.

…………………

After these speeches participants in the rally were invited to join a march along Collins Street to the Exhibition Street office of Cygnet Capital, the company that has taken over the underwriting of the mining project following the withdrawal of Intersuisse Ltd under pressure from environmentalists. What was known only to a few, however, was that four activists were at that moment entering the office and chaining themselves together …

Banner No New Coal ... leading march up Collins Street

Heading up Collins Street

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Police and protesters waiting for lift in ground-floor corridor

There was a bit of a wait for the lifts ...


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Four activists chained in circle on floor surrounded by supporters

The four chained together


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Management were not particularly happy, and of course eventually police reinforcements arrived and the usual warning about arrest for trespass was given. But not before someone inside decided on a little private surveillance:
Person with phonecam throught window of inner office
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Police reinforcements in corridor outside office

Police reinforcements - by the end of the action a total of 19 was counted...


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After some discussion it was agreed that supporters would leave, while the four who were chained together would wait to be arrested:
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Police and the four remain behind in outer office

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There followed a long delay while police sent for boltcutters and went through their procedures, before eventually the four emerged to applause:
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The four emerge, still holding placards

… and joined the remaining protesters outside:
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The four and others with large banner outside office building
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It seemed doubtful at first whether the boltcutters would be equal to the task:
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Police officer testing rather small boltcutters

… though apparently the padlock was weaker than the chain, and the police were duly able to leave with the spoils:
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Police leaving with chain and placards