Stand up for Refugees – rally 13 August 2010

Corey Oakley of RAC-Vic at Town Hall

Corey Oakley of the Refugee Action Collective speaking outside Melbourne Town Hall

Corey Oakley of the Refugee Action Collective was one of those who addressed a 500-600 strong gathering outside the Melbourne Town Hall last night at the end of a rally called by the Collective under the banner “Stand Up For Refugees”.

The rally began at the State Library with speeches from Adam Bandt,Greens candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne, followed by a representative of the Tamil refugee community who described some of his experiences of arrest and imprisonment at the hands of the Sri Lankan government, after which he sought asylum in Australia. He spent two and a half months in Maribyrnong IDC before being granted a visa. Like the next speaker, Socialist Alliance and Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace, he drew parallels between Australia’s treatment of refugees and the long-standing racism towards the Indigenous peoples; he referred to early ‘scientific’ speculation as to whether the Aboriginal people of Australia were really human, and saw evidence of the same mindset now towards foreigners. Sharon Firebrace saw a move away from democracy in the growing inequality of treatment of Indigenous versus non-Indigenous, demonstrated most recently in the NT Intervention. Sue Bolton, who was MC for the rally, read a long catalogue of instances where Australia had ‘blood on its hands’ in its treatment of asylum seekers, including of course the SIEVX.

After the speeches at the State Library the rally took the message to the streets with a very loud march to the Town Hall, where Corey Oakley of the Refugee Action Collective echoed the earlier remark of Adam Bandt that it was, in his words, ‘scary that we should be here again’ considering that the last election had seen the Howard government thrown out amidst hopes of a better deal for refugees; Adam Bandt began his speech by saying that he wished he hadn’t had to be there, for much the same reason. The final speaker was NZ Green Party MP Keith Locke, and indeed, there was a notable Greens presence throughout, even though the banners of various socialist organisations and the Refugee Action Collective probably outnumbered the green triangles. There were also quite a few ‘non-aligned’, though not on the scale of some past rallies over the issue…

Adam Bandt speaking at State Library

Adam Bandt speaking

Sue Bolton was MC

Sue Bolton speaking at the State Library

Tamil refugee speaking at State Library

A Tamil refugee described some of his personal history

Sharon Firebrace speaking

Sharon Firebrace of Socialist Alliance

Socialist Party stall before the rally

Making a point at the Socialist Party stall

Socialist Alternative banner - No borders, no nations

Banners at the head of the march

The head of the march

Part of the contingent of Greens

Banner - close all detention centres

Banner on march- seeking asylum not illegal

Banner on march - No one is illegal

Keith Locke speaking outside Town Hall

NZ MP Keith Locke speaking outside Melbourne Town Hall

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Build the Mildura Solar Plant – Rally 23 January

Adam Bandt on steps of Parliament House

Adam Bandt, Greens candidate for federal seat of Melbourne, addresses the rally

Adam Bandt, Greens candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne, was one of the speakers at a protest held today on the steps of the Victorian Parliament House as part of an ongoing campaign to save the projected solar power plant at Mildura now seriously in doubt following the collapse of Solar Systems, the company contracted to build it.
(There is a transcript of Adam Bandt’s speech, along with more photos, on Takver’s Flickr site, as well as a report by Takver on Melbourne Indymedia)

Adam Bandt closeup

Adam Bandt making a point

Chris Breen on steps of Parliament House

Chris Breen, speaking on behalf of Save Solar Systems

From the rally flyer:

‘Premier John Brumby said in parliament on Nov 25 “we have $50 million on the table for the Mildura solar project which I am confident will be delivered.” But it hasn’t been delivered. Company Solar Systems, which had the contract to build the Mildura solar power plant, faces liquidation. The administration period has been extended to Feb 17, but Labor is refusing to step in to guarantee the Mildura solar plant.

‘The project would have created 1000 green jobs and powered over 45,000 homes. Kevin Rudd posed over climate change in Copenhagen, but at home Australia’s first large scale solar projects is on the verge of collapse and he has nothing to offer. Why no stimulus for renewable energy? If the market can’t deliver, government must step in.’

The issues, background, and a history of the campaign to date can be found on the Save Solar Systems website. Today’s rally was admittedly small, and there was a call for more people to become actively involved… One possible future action mentioned was a trip to Mildura to make common cause with local residents, who want the plant built.

Save Solar Systems fact sheet:

l The building of the first large-scale solar power plant in Australia is in doubt after its owner, Solar Systems, declared that due to lack of private investment, the company faces collapse.

l John Brumby said in parliament on 25th November “we have $50 million on the table for the Mildura solar project which I am confident will be delivered.”, but Solar Systems has not been sold as a going concern and Brumby wont step in to guarantee delivery. Kevin Rudd has been posing on climate in Copenhagen, but will not commit to Australia’s first large scale solar power plant. Spain has 3000 MW of solar power installed, Australia with vastly more solar potential, has 115 MW. Rudd’s proposed carbon trading legislation, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) will not build the Mildura solar power plant.

l China Light & Power, parent company of TRUenergy who also own Yallourn brown coal power station and mine, was a key investor and have written off their investment refusing to put any more money in, but are continuing their coal investments.

l Over 100 Solar Systems workers have already been made redundant. They are owed $4 million in entitlements. The remaining 43 employees are on leave without pay.

l A new production line (near completion) capable of producing hundreds of solar receivers per week, has been installed in the $23 million Abbotsford factory. Each receiver is capable of powering 30 – 50 homes.

l Solar Systems had the contract to build the Mildura power plant. Construction would have provided around 950 green jobs and there would have been around 50 permanent green jobs running the plant. In addition, thousands of extra jobs would be reinforced in a wide variety of component making fields.

l The Mildura solar power plant would have powered 45,000 homes (the entire Mildura region) and saved 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year. Siting the power station near where power is used would reduce transmission loss of 15% from the Latrobe Valley to Northern Victoria. Solar power has the benefit of peak power on hot sunny days, which coincides with high electricity demand. Storage solutions using hydrogen are being developed for night time power.

l No other company in Australia has the new solar technological capacity to build the Mildura plant if Solar Systems doesn’t. Solar Systems is the world leader in concentrated photo-voltaic solar power. Its photovoltaic solar receivers are 36% efficient compared with 15% efficiency on standard household solar panels, with this efficiency had been increasing by about one percent each year.

l $125 million was pledged to the project both from the federal government and the state government. Only $500,000 has been delivered to Solar Systems. The first milestone of the project—to build a 140-kilowatt demonstration field—was achieved on time in October last year. The rest of the funds are tied to milestones when the power station ramps up to full output in 2011 and 2013. The whole project was expected to cost roughly $420 million

l The 3 other proposed solar projects planned for Australia are based on the same funding model, of private sector run with around one third government funding, these could easily face simlar funding problems. The Solar Systems Mildura project is by far the most advanced proposal to date. If not this project, and this factory, then when and where will the first large scale solar power plant be built in Australia?

l Solar Systems has built functioning power systems in three remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Together they save 420,000 litres of diesel and 1550 tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year. They have also removed the need for daily journeys to buy diesel in some of the most disadvantaged communites in Australia. The future of these plants is in doubt if Solar Systems is liquidated.

l What is the campaign demanding? We demand that the government immediately intervenes to guarantee (i) that the Solar Systems factory in Abbotsford remains open, (ii) that the redundant workers are reinstated and, (iii) that a large scale solar power plant is built in Mildura.

l Get Involved – campaign meetings every Sunday 4.30pm John Curtain Hotel 29 Lygon St Carlton (opposite Trades Hall corner Lygon & Victoria Sts)

Contact: Chris on 0403 013 183 or email savesolarsystems@gmail.com