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Monday, May 05, 2008

May Day targets NSW power sell-off by Pat O’Donohoe, Sydney

About 2000 people attended the May Day rally in Sydney this year. The rally had been moved from the traditional first Sunday of May to Saturday, May 3, so that it could begin and end outside the state ALP conference in Darling Harbour.

The protest focused on plans being pushed by NSW premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa to privatise the state electricity — an issue being hotly debated inside the conference (see article on page 8). The rally began with chants such as “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Michael Costa’s gotta go!” and “What do we want? Costa out! When do we want it? Now!”.

The crowd heard that 40,000 signatures had been collected on a petition that would be presented to the ALP conference, calling on the state ALP government not to privatise power in NSW. Unions NSW secretary John Robertson told the rally “Your presence here today sends a message to everyone inside [the ALP conference] of opposition to the privatisation of electricity in NSW”. Penrith Your Rights at Work activist Linda Everingham reminded the rally of the power of organised labour, saying that before the last state election “this government was dead in the water and … the only thing that got it re-elected was Work Choices!”.

Kate Fairman, director of the Nature Conservation Council, spoke of the importance of the power industry in confronting climate change: “It is not in big business’s interest to save electricity … Selling off our power is a mad idea now, because we must reduce our emissions, not lock them in for decades … They should not be throwing this responsibility away, they should be doing everything in their power to address climate change.”

Other speakers included Robin Banks from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, power industry union delegates Amanda Lane and Les McAlister, and Maritime Union of Australia Sydney branch assistant secretary and Sydney May Day committee secretary Paul McAleer. After a short march around Darling Harbour, Greens MP John Kaye told the rally that they had reminded Costa and Iemma that they “do not own the power industry that they want to sell.” The rally finished with an address by Rami Meo of the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine.

Chris Williams reports that 200 people rallied in Wollongong in opposition to the power sell-off. After marching, the crowd heard speakers from the NSW Teachers Federation, the Port Kembla branch of the Maritime Union of Australia and the Save Killalea Alliance. The rally voted in favour of two motions, one in solidarity with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, in support of their May Day strike against the Iraq war, and the second in solidarity with Iraqi workers struggling against the occupation of their homeland by US and allied forces.

Leslie Richmond reports from Adelaide that in the wake of the ALP state government’s moves to slash compensation levels for injured workers and with a growing union campaign of opposition, around 1000 people marched from Victoria Square to a rally at Adelaide University, chanting anti-government slogans and singing songs mocking premier Mike Rann. The rally was addressed by state Greens MP Mark Parnell; John Camillo, state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, and SA Unions secretary Janet Giles.
From: Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #749 7 May 2008.

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