Last Sunday some 5,000 people marched from Sydney’s Town Hall to NSW Parliament House to protest against Premier Mike Baird and the NSW state government. After Aunty Jenny Munro’s fiery Welcome to Country, MC Alex McKinnon took the stage. He said the people speaking at the rally didn’t have much in common on the surface but the actions of the Baird government had made them sit up and wonder: Whose city is this? (The speakers were former Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne, WestConnex Action Group campaigner Pauline Lockie, DJ Tyson Koh, Greens parliamentarian David Shoebridge and anti-coal seam gas activist, ‘Frackman‘ Dayne Pratzky. Highlights from their charged and passionate speeches follow the pictures below.)
McKinnon called Baird’s government ‘morally bankrupt, causally authoritarian religious fundamentalists. People devoid of imagination, consumed by pettiness. This government doesn’t work for the people who voted for it but for the corporations who pay for it.’ It is a government so terrified of its own people that it makes protests illegal. This is about whether we live in a democracy or just the appearance of one. ‘The only thing more potent than their contempt for you is their fear of you. If we are smart, angry, persistent, their days are numbered.’
That pretty much sums up why I was there. The chainsawing of 31 trees on Anzac Parade earlier this month in the face of massive community protest knocked me over the edge. This is on top of Mike’s determination to build the WestConnex tollway, to amalgamate local councils, turn the Bay Precinct into another Barangaroo, support coal seam gas mining, maintain the lockout laws, forcibly remove pensioners from public housing in Millers Point, privatise disability services, build the bridge over Anzac Parade, destroy thousands of indigenous artefacts unearthed by the work on the light rail, give police power to jail protesters. The list goes on, as MC Alex McKinnon made clear: fine bike riders more than cars that speed through school zones, allow James Packer’s monstrous casino, close down women’s shelters. These 12 pictures speak a thousand words:
Highlights from the speeches.
Darcy Byrne, aka the real mayor of Leichhardt: Mike Baird is completely out of control. We will resist his rule. On 12 May in an autocratic act Baird got rid of 42 mayors and every councillor in the councils they represent. He plans to exterminate another 23 mayors. The only mayors that remain are in marginal Coalition seats.
With Casino Mike winter has come to inner Westeros. When he looks at our communities he sees dollar signs and development opportunities.
Let us not stoop to simplistic invective, because we have something Baird is afraid of: together we can stand up and make sure his government is abolished at the next election, in 3 years’ time, at the ballot box.
Pauline Lockie, introduced as ‘a big pain in the arse for the state government’: The $16.8 billion WestConnex tollway proposal is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the southern hemisphere, if not the biggest. The Baird government’s own figures show it will actually make congestion on roads worse.
If you feel like you don’t know much about WestConnex, or you don’t really understand what it’s all about, then I can assure you that you are not alone, and it’s not your fault. It’s part of a deliberate strategy by the Baird government to do everything it can to shut down transparency around this tollway, so that it can try to bulldoze as much of WestConnex through our city as possible before people realise the truth: WestConnex is a scam. Baird’s ultimate goal is to sell us out to his mates in big business.
The world is littered with roads that have failed to relieve traffic congestion. In fact, they’ve made it worse.
Every kilometre of this tollway will cost over $0.5 billion and yet it just duplicates roads we already have.
Paris, New York City, San Francisco and Seoul are not just not building roads like WestConnex – they’re tearing them down. And traffic gets better.
The Federal Auditor General is investigating the Turnbull government’s injection of $2 billion into WestConnex. Stopping federal funding to WestConnex is a great way to prevent it.
Tyson Koh, anti lockouts campaigner: I think this is almost unprecedented. This is not just about one issue but about a whole range of issues all directed at one man: the Premier.
Protesting the lockout laws is about access to our city. We are losing our city. The live music scene has suffered a huge blow. Who’s standing up for young people? Who’s standing up for bands? Not the Premier. Sydney’s so much more than casinos, highways and apartments. It’s about the spirit of its people. I’m asking Baird and his government to listen.
David Shoebridge: The real problem with Mike Baird is: where do you start?
His government has destroyed local democracies not just in inner western Sydney but also on NSW’s mid north coast. The Gloucester Council stood up to AGL’s Gloucester coal seam gas project – and then the Baird government sacked the council and appointed pro-mining John Turner to run it, and the Great Lakes and Greater Taree councils which are being amalgamated as the Mid Coast Council.
But people did not lie down. The Knitting Nannas stood up to the new administration run by a guy in the employ of a gas seam company, interrupting the first Mid Coast Council meeting last week.
In one afternoon the chainsaws came down and destroyed the lungs of our city, the fig trees of Anzac Parade.
Police powers: we are at the risk of becoming a police state with laws like the ‘consorting laws‘ and new anti-protest laws which make it a crime for Knitting Nannas to stand in front of a CSG truck. Three weeks ago the NSW State Government passed ‘public safety order‘ legislation. These ‘public safety orders’ will last for the rest of your natural life, with no appeal to any court in the state. They haven’t started using these laws yet but the machinery is in place to turn this state into a police state.
Dayne Pratzky: I want to leave a legacy to our children and our children’s children [by preventing coal seam gas mining]. We need to occupy council meetings like we did in Forster. We have to bring the rest of the state with us with our hearts and minds. There’s no white knight. You are the white knight. We need to make sure these mongrels don’t occupy the senate in the next federal election.
As they say in Pratzky’s film Frackman: ‘Ordinary people have got to step up and become heroes.’