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Issue #1532      25 January 2012

CPA campaign for Port Adelaide in full stride

The Communist party’s campaign for the seat of Port Adelaide shifted up a gear with its official launch at the Port Dock Brewery Hotel on Saturday. A good crowd of supporters gathered to hear about the Party’s policies for the working class district. A recurring theme during the afternoon was that of unity of the left and how the CPA’s campaign has cemented united front work in Adelaide.

Bob Briton at the campaign launch.

The by-election has been brought on by the resignation of former state treasurer, Kevin Foley. The controversial member was identified strongly with the privatising, guarded, media-managing, pro-corporate government of former Premier Mike Rann, who has also resigned forcing a by-election in the northern suburbs seat of Ramsay. Mr Foley suffered double digit swing against him at many booths at the state election in 2010 and there were concerns in ALP ranks that the Mayor of Port Adelaide Enfield, Gary Johanson, who is running as an independent, could pull off a surprise win in the traditionally safe Labor seat.

A changed electorate

CPA State Secretary, Bob Briton, is running as the Party’s candidate. He contested the state election in the adjacent western suburbs seat of Lee in 2010. The Party waged a highly visible campaign and was rewarded with a solid result – 609 votes or 2.9 percent. The contest may be tougher this time. Many portside, working class areas are no longer included in the Port Adelaide electorate and more affluent, conservative voting areas like Mawson Lakes have been brought in.

The new premier, Jay Weatherill, comes from the left of the right-dominated state Labor Party. The ALP claims to have developed a new style of “debate and decide” rather than “announce and defend”. His performance has been patchy. He has decided to take the contract for the redevelopment of the Port away from the Urban Construct consortium and to develop a new master plan. It remains to be seen if this decision will ultimately favour lower income earners and the community generally rather than wealthy residents and investors who benefited under the old plan.

On the negative side, Weatherill will continue the state government’s love affair with uranium mining and military industries. On a recent trip to the US he claims to have clinched a new weapons making deal with a US corporation. It also remains to be seen if the change of Premier and leadership style will benefit Labor candidate Susan Close, who is also a member of the party’s left faction.

A district with problems

The problems facing the people of the area don’t respect electorate boundaries, however. Pollution from industries granted exemptions from environment protection regulations have taken a heavy toll on the environment. Toxic soil from the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site is being dumped in the area. Increased traffic to the Outer Harbour is eroding the living conditions of residents living near Victoria Road. Many hazardous materials, including uranium yellowcake, are exported through Port Adelaide. One newspaper report boasted that uranium exports would increase five times in the coming years.

Jobs are scarce in the Western suburbs, especially for young people. The Rann government axed 1,400 public sector jobs as a last act of neo-liberal vandalism on the community. The Liberals have promised to cut deeper. Uranium mining and military industries are held out as the hope for the struggling state economy. The Olympic Dam mine has been given the go ahead. The Techport industrial precinct continues to get state government funding to attract weapons manufacturing transnationals to set up shop at Osborne.

The redevelopment of the inner Port, which the government’s Land Management Corporation entrusted to the Urban Construct consortium, has been a disaster. Sales of the first stages of riverside luxury apartments have been slow. Resale values are way down. Plans for subsequent stages have hit snags. One design included a complex in which many bedrooms had no windows!

Left Unity

The CPA has taken up all these issues over the years. Party members joined local Aboriginal people in a campaign to have a Kaurna cultural centre built on the site once occupied by the old CSR sugar refinery. The Aboriginal people were moved off the land onto missions and it was expected that some sort of land justice would result from the redevelopment. A token park was made instead.

The Party has leafleted extensively about the pollution problems facing the area. The local Branches have also campaigned for a reduction in military industries, the scrapping of military-oriented curricula and “partnerships” for high schools and weapons manufacturing companies. The CPA has joined with other members of the local Left Unity umbrella group around this issue and others in recent times. LU representative Pas Forgione spoke at the CPA campaign launch on the weekend. CPA candidate Bob Briton concluded his contribution with this observation:

“I believe we will not make much headway towards our goals of a more just society unless and until we have a strong Communist Party within a strong and united left. I cannot tell you how impressed and grateful we are for the support shown by the Left Unity organisation in Adelaide. Left Unity is made up of members of the CPA, Socialist Alliance, Organise!, the Anti-Capitalist Forum, the Socialist Party, current and former members of the Greens and other progressive individuals.”

He pledged ongoing support for the joint work of Left Unity and expressed the wish for a good result in the by-election in return for the confidence shown by supporters of the CPA’s campaign.  

Next article – Gov’t rejects UNHCR refugees

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