by Des Pensable, 2016
There was a massive anti-government protest in Sydney earlier this month involving several thousand people from a coalition of groups which is significant as it is unusual for so many Sydneysiders to voice their grievances in the streets.
The reason involves multiple instances where the Baird government has been accused of un-democratically forcing a wide range of unpopular changes on communities around the state.
It should be remembered that Mike Baird was the clean new face to what has been called the most corrupt government in Australia’s history.
In just a few months this year Premier Baird has gone from the popular “Teflon Mike” with an innocent boyish smile to unpopular “Casino Mike” involved in forcing people to accept his conservative dictatorial edicts much like Campbell Newman in Queensland and we saw what happened to him.
Aussies are not happy being forced. There is much unhappiness and discontent in NSW, so let’s look at the issues.
- Forced Council Amalgamations
In September, 2014 the NSW Government released its Fit for the Future (FFTF) program following a three-year Independent Review of Local Government. The Greens were highly critical of the terms of reference of the review.
However, the announcement forced dozens of democratically elected mayors and council members out of a job to be replaced by Baird appointed administrators until new council elections can be held next year.
This has obviously upset the personal future ambitions of many in the councils which are often stacked with local business and real estate people. Previous council mergers have highlighted many pitfalls.
The people in merged council areas have been very vocal, disrupting councils and claiming a loss of identity and grass roots representation. They have also been highly critical of government claims of public involvement and some of the appointed administrators.
From a state politics point of view the opposition leader, Luke Foley claims that it is all about gerrymandering council boundaries to help install Liberal councils. Whatever is true it has upset many people all over NSW.
WestConnex is a motorway scheme currently in the early stages of construction in Sydney. The scheme proposes to build or upgrade some 33 kilometres to the Sydney motorway network. The total cost of WestConnex is estimated at $15 billion and has been described as “the biggest transport project in Sydney since the Harbour Bridge”. It opens the door for a lot of corruption.
It has been criticised by the NSW Auditor General over failures of proper governance. and the Lord Major of Sydney, Clover Moore has called for an independent inquiry into it. The Greens strongly oppose it while Labor appears to be in favour of the project. It has been the subject of escalating public protest where residents in affected suburbs have predicted wide spread non-violent public disobedience.
You don’t make people happy by forcing them to sell their homes and running toll ways through their neighbourhoods Mike Baird.
- CSG Mining
Coal seam gas (GSG) mining has been very controversial in NSW for several years. With considerable opposition to it throughout the state of NSW especially in the Sydney catchment area and outer Sydney suburbs.
At Bentley in northern NSW there was a real battle to stop it being introduced with hundreds blocking the gas company’s drilling rig. The government threatened to send hundreds of police to break up the protest camp ‘Liberty’ but at the last minute pulled back from the confrontation.
CSG became an election issue with the Baird government promising to buy back the most controversial gas mining leases which it did but it refused to ban CSG mining altogether and later offered more leases for sale.
More than two thirds of Australians and 85% NSW residents polled around the state are in favour of a CSG ban but the government refuses. Consequently, there are anti-CSG protests all over the state. You need to ban CSG mining Mike Baird.
- New Coal mines.
Australia has signed to the Paris Global Warming agreement to reduce carbon emissions. Global warming scientists have called for more than 90% of fossil fuels to be kept in the ground to avoid catastrophic Global Warming. However, the Australian government has decided not to support keeping our coal in the ground but rather the opposite, to sell as much as possible as quickly as possible.
In NSW there has been much controversy and protest over the destruction of the Leard State forest to build the Whitehaven coal mine and recently the approval for the Shenhua company to build a large coal mine on fertile farming land in the Liverpool plains. Secret plans have also been leaked to build as many as 16 more new mines in the Hunter valley.
This has caused large numbers of usually conservative farming community to stage noisy protests against both the Baird and federal LNP governments. The farmers are also unhappy with the Nationals which support CSG and coal mining in NSW. Ignoring the farmers will be your downfall Mike Baird.
- The NSW Anti-protest Laws
In March this year the Baird government bought in a law banning protests. Needless to say there were immediate protests about the law changes from the public, opposition party politicians and concerned lawyers worried about the trends in Australia to curtail citizen’s rights.
It sounds crazy to any sane person but it will be illegal for ordinary citizens to non- violently and peacefully protest about fossil fuel companies poisoning their air and water. A poll found that 61.4% of NSW citizens are opposed to the new laws.
Many farmers are furious that their elected National Party members of parliament sold them out by supporting the bill. It’s now illegal for them to take virtually any action that will protect themselves, their farms and the health of their rural community.
Actions as simple as locking a gate or blocking a driveway can be illegal. They are liable to $5500 fines for obstructing any company going about its business poisoning the environment and 7 years in gaol for their civic moral duty to take care of their neighbours and families.
It’s an attack on our civil rights and our democracy says the NSW Law Society and many people in NSW agree. You don’t make people happy by taking away their democratic rights Mike Baird.
- NSW TAFE Privatisation
There has been massive growing concern and opposition to the Baird government privatisation of the NSW TAFE and the subsequent loss of thousands of TAFE jobs. In a Vote Compass survey in 2015, 70.7% of 36,000 in NSW voted that TAFE should receive more funding while only 3.1 % that it should receive less funding.
A report highly critical of the Baird government’s privatisation of TAFE concluded that it was failing. NSW people are not happy with the destruction of the TAFE by the Baird government and unhappy with the quality of the private course judging by the increasing drop out rates.
You don’t make people happy by privatising a TAFE education system that has worked perfectly well for decades depriving our children of high quality skills and taking away teaching jobs Mike Baird.
- Lock Out Laws.
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin for many of the young in Sydney have been the Sydney lock out laws which led to a thousands strong protest in February. These have dramatically curtailed the revelry in the centre of Sydney by restricting the hours for purchase of alcohol and closing the numerous pubs, bars, discos, clubs and restaurants at 3 am.
This has been widely criticised by not only the many businesses catering for the revelry but also many in Mike Baird’s own party. A recent review was carried out where over 1800 submissions were made both for and against the lock out laws.
You won’ get the votes of the young Mike Baird by taking away their access to alcohol and entertainment.
Wherever you go in NSW at the moment people at all levels in our society are complaining about issues that affect them directly. The problem is that most of them seem to stem either directly or indirectly from actions of the Baird state LNP government which is becoming more authoritarian. Some are already calling it a police state. Consequently, it’s difficult to see how the current government will last beyond the next state election.
It will also be interesting to see if any of this malcontent helps to fuel a change in the federal LNP government in the coming elections already internationally known for its poor human rights attitude.
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