The Latin American revolutions, left unity and solidarity

Presenters Stuart Munckton and Jim McIlroy, Latin America Solidarity Working Group
Chair Anabel Morales, Sydney Central

23. Support for the Latin American revolution

Moved Stuart Munckton, Sydney Central Seconded Jim McIlroy, Sydney Central
NOTE Submitted by The Socialist Alliance’s working group on Latin America solidarity
Preamble
In recent years, mass movements of the oppressed across Latin America have arisen to challenge neoliberalism and US corporate domination. These movements have exploded in response to the brutal neoliberal polices enforced in the 1980s and 1990s by the US government, international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These polices, known as the Washington Consensus, led in the 1990s to an increase in the number of poor in the region by 14 million, while US banks and corporations secured US$1 trillion in profits between 1990 and 2002. In the 1990s, more than US$178 billion-worth of state-owned industries were privatised.
Since the 1990s, popular resistance has grown across the region. Mass movements of the oppressed have successfully stopped the implementation of neoliberal polices that would have greatly worsened the conditions of the oppressed. In a number of countries, pro-US neoliberal governments have been overthrown by popular uprisings.
In some cases, the popular movements have put in power radical governments that seek to implement, to varying degrees, popular demands. This governments, which include Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, have linked up with the Cuban government to spearhead a Latin America-wide push for pro-people regional integration and unity.
This has led to the internationalisation of the pro-poor social missions in Venezuela, established with Cuban assistance, to other nations such as Bolivia and Ecuador. It has led to the creation of a range of new regional institutions to challenge US and corporate domination, such as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA); PetroCaribe; Bank of the South (Bancosur); and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).
In other countries, pro-US right-wing governments face resistance from powerful movements of the oppressed. This includes the Alan Garcia government in Peru, facing sustained resistance from a range of social movements, spearheaded by the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, and the Felipe Calderon government in Mexico, facing mass resistance spearheaded by electricity workers.
US imperialism and the local oligarchies are carrying out a counter-offensive aimed at rolling back the social gains for the oppressed and the moves towards regional integration and unity. This includes through the military coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected, left-wing government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras; the seven new US military bases in Colombia; the continued US government funding of pro-US political parties and groups to help destabilise and overthrow popular governments; the use of sanctions against popular governments (most notably Cuba, but also less extreme sanctions against Bolivia and Venezuela); a sustained black propaganda campaign against popular governments and movements in the corporate media; among many other tactics.
All of these tactics, which aim to promote war in the region, are aimed at destroying the revolutionary movement that has risen to challenge corporate domination. Mass struggles, such as the heroic resistance of the Honduran people, are resisting this offensive. The future of the continent is being fought over in a series of running battles between the powerful and the oppressed.
Policy
  1. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the Latin American revolutionary movements challenging corporate exploitation, foreign domination and neoliberal policies. The successful example of popular power winning important gains the for the oppressed provides inspiration to those struggling everywhere. We welcome the success of mass movements in a number of countries in placing governments in power that seek to implement policies that strengthen popular democracy and social justice for the oppressed, and weaken foreign domination by increasing national independence and regional unity.
  2. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the call, first promoted in 2005 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on the need to construct a “socialism of the 21st century”. This call, emerging from Latin America’s mass revolutionary movements, is of great importance for the socialist movement internationally and all movements struggling against the destructive polices of the capitalist system.
  3. The Socialist Alliance supports every step forward that strengthens the independence and unity of Latin American nations against imperialist domination. We support all struggles and measures that seeks to meet the needs, and increases the rights, of the oppressed peoples in Latin America. We support initiatives, such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), that strengthen regional unity and integration to challenge corporate domination and advance the interests of the oppressed.
  4. The Socialist Alliance opposes all attempts by the United States, other foreign powers or the Latin American elite to reverse the gains won by the mass movements of the Latin American oppressed. We condemn all attempts by foreign powers or the local elite to overthrow sovereign governments by whatever means. We condemn the funding by the US government and associated organisations of political parties and other organisations inside sovereign Latin American nations in order to advance US and corporate interests. We condemn the militarisation of the region and the push to war by the US and its allies in Latin America.
  5. The Socialist Alliance supports the creation of broad-based movements in solidarity with Latin America, that seek to defend democracy and national sovereignty, and oppose attempts by the US or other powers to attack and destroy popular movements and governments.
  6. The Socialist Alliance condemns the mainstream media’s distorted and false coverage of the popular struggles and governments in Latin America, which seeks to create support for attempts by US imperialism to reverse the popular gains, defend corporate interests and re-establish US domination over the region. The Socialist Alliance supports all attempts to counter this “media terrorism” by the alternative media and solidarity organisations.
  7. The Socialist Alliances calls on the Australian government to reject the policies of the US government that seek to undermine the sovereignty of Latin American nations and protect its domination of the region. We call on the Australian government to take an explicit stand in defence of democracy and the right to sovereignty of Latin American nations, and to pressure the United States to cease its policy of seeking to undermine and overthrow sovereign governments.

AMENDMENT MOVED

23a
Moved Stuart Munckton, Sydney Central Seconded John McGill, Adelaide
Replace in point 1, third sentence:
a number of countries in placing governments in power
with
in countries, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia
Amend point 3 to add the following sentence at the end:
Other such policies include nationalisations debt cancellation, land reform, government-funded social programs and measures to increase popular participation in decision making.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT BELOW)

Preamble
In recent years, mass movements of the oppressed across Latin America have arisen to challenge neoliberalism and US corporate domination. These movements have exploded in response to the brutal neoliberal polices enforced in the 1980s and 1990s by the US government, international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These polices, known as the Washington Consensus, led in the 1990s to an increase in the number of poor in the region by 14 million, while US banks and corporations secured US$1 trillion in profits between 1990 and 2002. In the 1990s, more than US$178 billion-worth of state-owned industries were privatised.
Since the 1990s, popular resistance has grown across the region. Mass movements of the oppressed have successfully stopped the implementation of neoliberal polices that would have greatly worsened the conditions of the oppressed. In a number of countries, pro-US neoliberal governments have been overthrown by popular uprisings.
In some cases, the popular movements have put in power radical governments that seek to implement, to varying degrees, popular demands. This governments, which include Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, have linked up with the Cuban government to spearhead a Latin America-wide push for pro-people regional integration and unity.
This has led to the internationalisation of the pro-poor social missions in Venezuela, established with Cuban assistance, to other nations such as Bolivia and Ecuador. It has led to the creation of a range of new regional institutions to challenge US and corporate domination, such as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA); PetroCaribe; Bank of the South (Bancosur); and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).
In other countries, pro-US right-wing governments face resistance from powerful movements of the oppressed. This includes the Alan Garcia government in Peru, facing sustained resistance from a range of social movements, spearheaded by the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, and the Felipe Calderon government in Mexico, facing mass resistance spearheaded by electricity workers.
US imperialism and the local oligarchies are carrying out a counter-offensive aimed at rolling back the social gains for the oppressed and the moves towards regional integration and unity. This includes through the military coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected, left-wing government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras; the seven new US military bases in Colombia; the continued US government funding of pro-US political parties and groups to help destabilise and overthrow popular governments; the use of sanctions against popular governments (most notably Cuba, but also less extreme sanctions against Bolivia and Venezuela); a sustained black propaganda campaign against popular governments and movements in the corporate media; among many other tactics.
All of these tactics, which aim to promote war in the region, are aimed at destroying the revolutionary movement that has risen to challenge corporate domination. Mass struggles, such as the heroic resistance of the Honduran people, are resisting this offensive. The future of the continent is being fought over in a series of running battles between the powerful and the oppressed.
Policy
  1. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the Latin American revolutionary movements challenging corporate exploitation, foreign domination and neoliberal policies. The successful example of popular power winning important gains for the oppressed provides inspiration to those struggling everywhere. We welcome the success of mass movements in countries, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia that seek to implement policies that strengthen popular democracy and social justice for the oppressed, and weaken foreign domination by increasing national independence and regional unity.
  2. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the call, first promoted in 2005 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on the need to construct a “socialism of the 21st century”. This call, emerging from Latin America’s mass revolutionary movements, is of great importance for the socialist movement internationally and all movements struggling against the destructive polices of the capitalist system.
  3. The Socialist Alliance supports every step forward that strengthens the independence and unity of Latin American nations against imperialist domination. We support all struggles and measures that seeks to meet the needs, and increases the rights, of the oppressed peoples in Latin America. We support initiatives, such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), that strengthen regional unity and integration to challenge corporate domination and advance the interests of the oppressed. Other such policies include nationalisations debt cancellation, land reform, government-funded social programs and measures to increase popular participation in decision making.
  4. The Socialist Alliance opposes all attempts by the United States, other foreign powers or the Latin American elite to reverse the gains won by the mass movements of the Latin American oppressed. We condemn all attempts by foreign powers or the local elite to overthrow sovereign governments by whatever means. We condemn the funding by the US government and associated organisations of political parties and other organisations inside sovereign Latin American nations in order to advance US and corporate interests. We condemn the militarisation of the region and the push to war by the US and its allies in Latin America.
  5. The Socialist Alliance supports the creation of broad-based movements in solidarity with Latin America, that seek to defend democracy and national sovereignty, and oppose attempts by the US or other powers to attack and destroy popular movements and governments.
  6. The Socialist Alliance condemns the mainstream media’s distorted and false coverage of the popular struggles and governments in Latin America, which seeks to create support for attempts by US imperialism to reverse the popular gains, defend corporate interests and re-establish US domination over the region. The Socialist Alliance supports all attempts to counter this “media terrorism” by the alternative media and solidarity organisations.
  7. The Socialist Alliances calls on the Australian government to reject the policies of the US government that seek to undermine the sovereignty of Latin American nations and protect its domination of the region. We call on the Australian government to take an explicit stand in defence of democracy and the right to sovereignty of Latin American nations, and to pressure the United States to cease its policy of seeking to undermine and overthrow sovereign governments.

24. Draft resolution on The Socialist Alliance’s Latin America solidarity work

Moved Jim McIlroy, Sydney Central Seconded John McGill, Adelaide
NOTE Submitted by The Socialist Alliance’s working group on Latin America solidarity. These motions are moved in the context of the draft policy on support for the Latin American revolution.
1. Preamble: The development of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela is the main motor force for the growing anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements across Latin America. As such, building solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez is a centrepiece of socialists’ Latin America solidarity activity. In Australia, the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, as a broad coalition of organisation affiliates and individual activists organised through local committees, is currently the most effective vehicle for extending and strengthening solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution.
Resolution: That the Socialist Alliance help to build the AVSN by actively supporting its national projects, including speaking tours, conferences and solidarity brigades to Venezuela, and strive to help set up or build AVSN committees in each city where there is a The Socialist Alliance branch and the resources available.
  1. Preamble: The construction–led by the Cuban, Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions–of a strengthening anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist bloc in Latin America through regional integration projects such as ALBA, the Bank of the South, etc, is an important development in world politics that must be reflected in the left’s approach to building Latin America solidarity today. This developing cooperation between left and revolutionary governments and peoples in the region is a major challenge to imperialist domination in Latin America and globally, and is provoking an imperialist counter-offensive (eg: Honduras coup, new military bases in Colombia, etc).
Resolution: That the Socialist Alliance strive to strengthen united action in solidarity with all progressive forces and processes in Latin America by participating in or initiating campaigns in solidarity with specific peoples/governments under attack by imperialism, and participating in or initiating broader Latin America solidarity coalitions wherever possible, such as the Latin America Social Forum in Sydney, the Latin America Forum Melbourne and the Latin America Solidarity Conferences.
3. Preamble: In addition to helping to build independent Latin America solidarity organisations and networks, The Socialist Alliance, as the largest socialist organisation in Australia, has an important role to play in linking the struggles and advances for socialism in Latin America and the anti-capitalist struggle in Australia. The processes taking place in Latin America are not separate from the struggles of the working class and oppressed in Australia, and through its activities in many progressive campaigns and movements in Australia, as well as in Latin America solidarity networks, The Socialist Alliance can build links between these struggles. This will strengthen both the Latin America solidarity campaigns and the left in Australia.
Resolution: That this national conference endorse the formation of a Socialist Alliance Latin America solidarity work committee to meet as needed to nationally coordinate Alliance members’ solidarity work, and which will report and be accountable to the National Executive. Further, that all Socialist Alliance branches be encouraged to establish a local Latin America solidarity work committee to coordinate local members’ work and report to the branch in this area of activity as needed.
4. Preamble: Green Left Weekly’s excellent reporting and analysis of the political developments and processes in Latin America, in particular in Venezuela, and its unique status as the only Australian media with a permanent bureau in Latin America, makes it a highly valuable resource for strengthening Latin America solidarity in Australia.
Resolution: That Socialist Alliance members’ active in Latin America solidarity work promote the purchase of Green Left Weekly subscriptions by all Latin America solidarity organisations and activists. To assist that, and help strengthen Latin America solidarity in Australia, the Socialist Alliance will continue to collaborate with other member organisations of the Latin America Social Forum to produce and distribute a regular Spanish-language supplement in Green Left Weekly.
5. Preamble: The call from the International Meeting of Left Parties held in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 19-21, for discussions to begin to found a “Fifth Socialist International” marks a significant step forward for strengthening anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist unity in action at a time when the massive crises of capitalism demand it. For organisations like the Socialist Alliance, which since its formation has striven for greater left unity in Australia, progress towards greater left and socialist cooperation and coordination internationally will assist our aims and struggles.
Resolution: That this conference endorse the decision of the Socialist Alliance National Executive meeting on December 3, 2009, that “The Socialist Alliance support the “Caracas Commitment”, the declaration of the International Meeting of Left Parties held in Caracas on November 19-21, 2009”, and “support the special resolution adopted by the International Meeting of Left Parties to convene a working group and conference to prepare for the founding of the Fifth Socialist International, and participate in whatever ways possible in the preparatory discussions and meetings”.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

(Proposed amendments arising from January 3 Latin America Solidarity Workshop)
24a
Moved Jim McIlroy, Sydney Central Seconded Various
In preamble to resolution 1:
Replace:
Venezuela is the main motor force for the growing anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements across Latin America
with
Venezuela is a leading factor in the growing anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements across Latin America
In resolution 1 add:
The Socialist Alliance branches should affiliate to AVSN where possible.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
24b
Moved Jim McIlroy, Sydney Central Seconded Various
In resolution 2, add Canberra Latin America Forum, and add at end as well as Latin American organisations such as the FMLN and URNG.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
24c
Moved Jim McIlroy, Sydney Central Seconded Various
Add at end of preamble to resolution 3:
We also need to look to take Latin America solidarity work into other areas, such as the mainstream media.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
24d
Moved Jim McIlroy, Sydney Central Seconded Various
Add at end of Resolution 4:
In the first place, we should seek to organise meetings to launch the second Green Left Weekly Latin America supplement, due in the first part of this year.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
25d
(Additional proposals arising from January 3 LA Solidarity Workshop)
  1. Strengthen ties between the Latin American revolutions and the Indigenous rights movement in Australia, including visits between Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador and Aboriginal Australia.
  2. Strengthen links between Latin American revolutions and the environment movement in Australia, including continuing to publicise sustainable Cuba example.
  3. The Socialist Alliance to publish a pamphlet containing Latin American revolutionaries’ speeches to Copenhagen Conference, plus Fidel’s columns.
  4. To note proposal for New Zealand Bolivarian Solidarity Conference in Auckland, September 2010.
  5. Support strengthening of solidarity work with Bolivia, including possible future visits, and investigate possibility of solidarity brigade(s).
  6. Support the Free the Cuba Five Committee sponsored tour of Australia in March 2010.
  7. To add a special resolution on Honduras:
The Socialist Alliance condemns the military coup and fraudulent presidential election in Honduras in 2009. Arising from the Open Letter to Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, initiated by Green Left Weekly, we call on the Australian government to:
  • Join governments across the world by clearly denouncing the coup and demanding Manuel Zelaya be immediately restored as president;
  • Cut all diplomatic, political, cultural or economic ties that the Australian government may have with Honduras until Zelaya is reinstated;
  • Join the Organisation of American States in refusing to recognise the outcome of the fraudulent November 29 presidential election;
  • Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners; and
  • Pressure the United States administration to act on its previous verbal criticisms of the coup and cut all ties with the coup regime, and end its ongoing training of the Honduran military.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

NOTE: These motions are moved in the context of the draft policy on support for the Latin American revolution.
1. Preamble: The development of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela is a leading factor in the growing anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements across Latin America. As such, building solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez is a centrepiece of socialists’ Latin America solidarity activity. In Australia, the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), as a broad coalition of organisation affiliates and individual activists organised through local committees, is currently the most effective vehicle for extending and strengthening solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution.
Resolution: That the Socialist Alliance help to build the AVSN by actively supporting its national projects, including speaking tours, conferences and solidarity brigades to Venezuela, and strive to help set up or build AVSN committees in each city where there is a Socialist Alliance branch and the resources available. Socialist Alliance branches should affiliate to AVSN where possible.
2. Preamble: The construction—led by the Cuban, Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions—of a strengthening anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist bloc in Latin America through regional integration projects such as ALBA, the Bank of the South, etc, is an important development in world politics that must be reflected in the left’s approach to building Latin America solidarity today. This developing cooperation between left and revolutionary governments and peoples in the region is a major challenge to imperialist domination in Latin America and globally, and is provoking an imperialist counter-offensive (e.g., Honduras coup, new military bases in Colombia, etc).
Resolution: That the Socialist Alliance strive to strengthen united action in solidarity with all progressive forces and processes in Latin America by participating in or initiating campaigns in solidarity with specific peoples/governments under attack by imperialism, and participating in or initiating broader Latin America solidarity coalitions wherever possible, such as the Latin America Social Forum in Sydney, the Latin America Forum Melbourne, Canberra Latin America Forum and the Latin America Solidarity Conferences, as well as LA organisations such as the FMLN and URNG.
3. Preamble: In addition to helping to build independent Latin America solidarity organisations and networks, The Socialist Alliance, as the largest socialist organisation in Australia, has an important role to play in linking the struggles and advances for socialism in Latin America and the anti-capitalist struggle in Australia. The processes taking place in Latin America are not separate from the struggles of the working class and oppressed in Australia, and through its activities in many progressive campaigns and movements in Australia, as well as in Latin America solidarity networks, the Socialist Alliance can build links between these struggles. This will strengthen both the Latin America solidarity campaigns and the left in Australia. We also need to look to take Latin America solidarity work into other areas, such as the mainstream media.
Resolution: That this national conference endorse the formation of a Socialist Alliance Latin America solidarity work committee to meet as needed to nationally coordinate Alliance members’ solidarity work, and which will report and be accountable to the National Executive. Further, that all Socialist Alliance branches be encouraged to establish a local Latin America solidarity work committee to coordinate local members’ work and report to the branch in this area of activity as needed.
4. Preamble: Green Left Weekly’s excellent reporting and analysis of the political developments and processes in Latin America, in particular in Venezuela, and its unique status as the only Australian media with a permanent bureau in Latin America, makes it a highly valuable resource for strengthening Latin America solidarity in Australia.
Resolution: That Socialist Alliance members’ active in Latin America solidarity work promote the purchase of Green Left Weekly subscriptions by all Latin America solidarity organisations and activists. To assist that, and help strengthen Latin America solidarity in Australia, The Socialist Alliance will continue to collaborate with other member organisations of the Latin America Social Forum to produce and distribute a regular Spanish-language supplement in Green Left Weekly. In the first place, we should seek to organise meetings to launch the second Green Left Weekly Latin America supplement, due in the first part of this year.
5. Preamble: The call from the International Meeting of Left Parties held in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 19-21, for discussions to begin to found a “Fifth Socialist International” marks a significant step forward for strengthening anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist unity in action at a time when the massive crises of capitalism demand it. For organisations like the Socialist Alliance, which since its formation has striven for greater left unity in Australia, progress towards greater left and socialist cooperation and coordination internationally will assist our aims and struggles.
Resolution: That this conference endorse the decision of The Socialist Alliance National Executive meeting on December 3, 2009, that “The Socialist Alliance support the “Caracas Commitment”, the declaration of the International Meeting of Left Parties held in Caracas on November 19-21, 2009”, and “support the special resolution adopted by the International Meeting of Left Parties to convene a working group and conference to prepare for the founding of the Fifth Socialist International, and participate in whatever ways possible in the preparatory discussions and meetings”.
Additional resolutions
  1. Strengthen ties between the Latin American revolutions and the Indigenous rights movement in Australia, including visits between Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador and Aboriginal Australia.
  2. Strengthen links between Latin American revolutions and the environment movement in Australia, including continuing to publicise sustainable Cuba example.
  3. The Socialist Alliance to publish a pamphlet containing Latin American revolutionaries’ speeches to Copenhagen Conference, plus Fidel’s columns.
  4. To note proposal for New Zealand Bolivarian Solidarity Conference in Auckland, September 2010.
  5. Support strengthening of solidarity work with Bolivia, including possible future visits, and investigate possibility of solidarity brigade(s).
  6. Support the Free the Cuba Five Committee sponsored tour of Australia in March 2010.
  7. To add a special resolution on Honduras:
The Socialist Alliance condemns the military coup and fraudulent presidential election in Honduras in 2009. Arising from the Open Letter to Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, initiated by Green Left Weekly, we call on the Australian government to:
  • Join governments across the world by clearly denouncing the coup and demanding Manuel Zelaya be immediately restored as president;
  • Cut all diplomatic, political, cultural or economic ties that the Australian government may have with Honduras until Zelaya is reinstated;
  • Join the Organisation of American States in refusing to recognise the outcome of the fraudulent November 29 presidential election;
  • Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners; and
  • Pressure the United States administration to act on its previous verbal criticisms of the coup and cut all ties with the coup regime, and end its ongoing training of the Honduran military.

MONDAY, JANUARY 4, AFTERNOON SESSIONS

Environment policies

Chair Simon Butler, Sydney Central

25. The Socialist Alliance Policy on public transport

Moved Chair Seconded Dave Riley, Brisbane
NOTE Prepared by Graham Matthews, Sydney West, who was unable to attend conference. All amendments were therefore voted.
Preamble
The following draft of a public transport policy for The Socialist Alliance expands and extends existing national policy, by incorporating work done for the NSW state elections in 2007, articles for Green Left Weekly and other research. It attempts to both illustrate the problems with the existing situation, where inadequate provision of public transport disadvantages poor communities and the environment and point the way to an socially and ecologically sustainable alternative.
Provision of adequate public transport to service all communities is a social and environmental imperative. Private road transport (both cars and trucks carrying freight) are a major contributor to carbon pollution, while lack of access to public transport places a huge burden on poorer communities in particular.
Reliance on private transport costs at least $39 billion a year, according to Rapid and Affordable Transport Alliance (RATA). Of this, $21 billion is lost due to road congestion and $18 billion for traffic accidents. The Socialist Alliance believes that immediate government action — at a federal, state and local level — must be taken to reverse the heavy reliance on private transport in Australia.
1. Car dependence — a recipe for poverty
Griffith University researchers Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe published Oil Vulnerability in the Australian City in December 2005. The study attempted to determine the potential social impact of increasing petrol price rises on residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, based on their dependence on cars and their socio-economic status.

“Clearly, outer-suburban areas, locations that contain low socio-economic status populations, and suburbs which have high levels of car dependence will be most affected by [petrol price] increases”, Dodson and Sipe argue.

Their study found that because of the relatively poor provision of public transport in outer-urban areas of Australia’s major cities, particularly “circumferential” public transport (i.e. public transport that links suburbs with each other, rather than the city centre), residents were forced to rely more heavily on private cars than more affluent, inner-city residents.

Part of the problem is that provision of public transport does not meet greatest need, Dodson and Sipe found. “The major capital cities each have extensive metropolitan rail networks but the numbers of services running on them are far below system capacities. There is typically little integration between modes particularly between the rail and bus networks and the use of local buses as feeders to the higher capacity rail systems is underdeveloped”, they argue.

What public transport is available in cities does not generally help the most economically disadvantaged. For instance: “In Sydney the high socio-economic status households of north Sydney have been able to capture among the best quality public transport services in the city, while lower socio-economic status groups in fringe areas receive much poorer services”, Dodson and Sipe argue.

In August 2008, Dodson and Sipe updated their research in Unsettling Suburbia: The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities, with information drawn from the 2006 Census (conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), which showed that the situation had grown worse. In Melbourne, “42.3% saw their oil and mortgage vulnerability worsen during the 2001-06 period”, the report found. In Sydney, the figure was 41%, while in Perth the figure was 39.5% and Adelaide 38.5%. Only in Brisbane was the situation “largely static”.
In Roads, Railways and Regimes: Why some societies are able to organise suburban public transport — and why others can’t, published in October 2007, Griffith University researcher Chris Harris said the neglect of public transport had been a “policy of contrived ‘state failure”‘. The failure is most common in English-speaking countries going back to the 1950s and 1960s.

“It is clear that the rise of ‘automobile dependency’ to the levels seen in the English-speaking world — where there is often not a public transport alternative, or only a ramshackle one — was a policy choice”, Harris said.

“To paraphrase the tag line to Doctor Strangelove, it was as if policymakers in all the English-speaking countries simultaneously ‘learned to stop worrying and love the automobile’.”

Lack of public transport has also been found to be a serious impediment to finding a job. The Urban Research Centre of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) was commissioned by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils to prepare a report on job prospects for western Sydney until 2031. It assessed the state government’s target of creating an extra 235,000 jobs.

The UWS study, North west and west-central Sydney employment strategies, was published in November 2008. It found that one of the major barriers to job creation was the lack of public transport in western Sydney.

“It is clear that public transport in Western Sydney has suffered from chronic under-investment,” the report said.

“The region’s rail network has remained largely unchanged in coverage since the 1930s, while over 120 kilometres of motorway have been developed at a time when Western Sydney’s population has increased dramatically. As a result the region is heavily car-dependent. “Journey times for commuters on key parts of the rail network have actually increased over the last twenty years.”

2. The real cost of private transport
In his Thirty Year Public Transport Plan for Sydney, University of Technology Sydney researcher Garry Glazebrook estimates the environmental costs of private car transport, including greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise and water pollution to total over $2 billion a year. All this cost is born by the community.
“Cars are thus our most expensive mode, costing 86c per passenger-km compared with 47c for rail and 57c for bus (all figures include externalities and for 2006)”, Glazebrook argues. “Our current transport system is too heavily weighted to cars, the most expensive and least sustainable mode.”
According to RATA, “Transport is Australia’s third largest source of carbon pollution providing 14 per cent of total emissions. It is the fastest growing sector and accounts for about 34 per cent of household greenhouse gas emissions.
“Road transport (cars, trucks, light commercial, buses) accounts for about 90 per cent of total transport emissions. Emissions from road transport were 30 per cent higher in 2007 than in 1990 and even with the implementation of abatement measures these emissions are projected to be 67 per cent higher in 2020 than 1990 levels.”
This effective privatisation of transport options also comes at a significant environmental cost. Under the federal government’s proposed carbon trading scheme, such costs would largely be passed onto individual commuters.

The University of Western Sydney Urban Research Centre argues that: “As climate change mitigation efforts continue and an emissions trading scheme is introduced, the residents of Western Sydney will face increasing financial pain as the inequities in decades of transport investment in Sydney become even more apparent”.

3. Freight transport
According to the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Two-thirds of domestic freight uplifted in Australia is hauled by road and 26 per cent by rail. Road transport accounts for 80 per cent of freight movements when the distance travelled is less than 100 kilometres.”
Greenhouse gas emissions from road freight haulage are projected to rise by at least 27% in the next 10 years. In its 2006 policy statement Moving On, the NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union argued that the NSW government had to reduce reliance on road freight by increasing the use of rail freight. The report says:
“At a metropolitan scale, the NSW government needs to have a strong focus on increasing the proportion of freight transport by rail to reduce environmental impacts and congestion. This means providing new rail freight infrastructure and multi-modal terminals in appropriate areas.
“At subregional and local scales, the NSW government should explore innovative freight delivery options that provide an alternative to road transport as well as implementing measures to reduce the environmental impact of road freight transport (e.g. through improvements in vehicle technology and efficiency).”
According to RATA:
“Rail uses two-thirds less fuel than road per tonne of goods carried and has more than three times the environmental efficiency of road haulage.
“Some 27 per cent of Australia’s containerised imports arrive at Port Botany each year and 90 per cent of these end up in western Sydney. Road transport accounts for 86 per cent of Sydney’s freight task and this is increasing.
“Rail freight capacity must be increased faster than increases in the total freight capacity to alleviate road congestion, reduce land and resource use wasted by additional roads and reduce air and water pollution. Melbourne has similar issues but with the added burden that the container port has become a de facto truck park due to inefficiencies of service.”
In order to facilitate a transition from road-haulage to rail transport of freight, the Socialist Alliance advocates:
  • Extend the rail freight network with dedicated freight-only links in order to remove heavy vehicles from local roads.
  • Introduce and enforce penalties to stop unauthorised heavy vehicle access to local roads.
  • Nationalise all privatised tollways and abolish tolls for light vehicles and buses.
  • Make business pay for its transport by introducing electronic tolling for heavy freight vehicles on all major roads and freeways, and discounted, volume-based charges for rail freight.
  • Replacing semi-trailers and “B-doubles” as the major inter-city freight mode.
  • Electric and hybrid vehicles to replace commercial trucks and vans for the urban transport of freight
  • Fund the retraining of long-distance truck-drivers at full-pay, for ecologically sustainable work, as demand for road-haulage declines. The cost of this to be paid by a special levy on freight companies.
  • Phase-out the use of coal trains as the coal-mining industry itself is phased out. Use these lines for freight and/or passenger services.


4. Strategic planning
The poor provision of public transport in Australia is not simply the failure of any particular government, but a failure of strategic planning over many years. As cities have grown, public transport infrastructure has generally failed to keep pace.
Ron Christie, a former head of NSW State Rail and the Roads and Traffic Authority presented a report to the NSW government in June 2001, Long-term Strategic Plan for Rail. The report outlined a 10-year strategy for increasing the geographic spread, capacity and reliability of the Sydney suburban rail network.
“Unless the ‘reach’ of the rail system is extended in this way, Sydney will be doomed to a future under which more than half the urbanised metropolitan area, and especially those areas at more distant locations, will not be serviced by the rail system, creating and reinforcing significant inequalities in access to employment, education and other community facilities”, Christie said.
The “Christie report” was shelved by the NSW Labor government.
“Switching the balance of new infrastructure provision towards public transport, walking and cycling would not only assist to achieve currently relevant planning objectives but would hedge our urban systems against potential impacts of rising fuel costs”, Dodson and Sipe argue in The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities.
“Continuing the present model of road-driven urban transport policy may only make any eventual adjustment to accommodate higher fuel prices more painful, complex and fractious. The pain of such adjustment would invariably fall most heavily on the more disadvantaged members of our communities.”
The Socialist Alliance advocates that public transport be subject to a long-term strategic plan, which is prepared through extensive community consultation. Such a plan must stipulate that all new development incorporate extension to the existing heavy rail corridors where possible, or the construction of new lines to service population growth areas where necessary. Such a plan would include:
  • Making all new urban development dependent on the provision of adequate public transport.
  • Provision of adequate cycleways and walking paths must also be incorporated into all plans.
  • Provision of buses and light rail must be seen as an adjunct to the provision of heavy rail only, and not a less costly, less effective alternative.
  • Expanding bus priority programs and strategic bus lanes.
  • Upgrading railway stations, light rail and bus stops, ferry wharfs and interchanges to provide adequate seating, shelter, bicycle storage and decent facilities for the disabled.
  • Planned integration of taxis and taxi cooperatives into the system.
  • All plans must be presented to residents and workers of a given area for amendment and approval before implementation and must be subject to ongoing scrutiny and approval from the affected community.
  • Provision of road transport must be a secondary consideration to the provision and continual upgrade and improvement of public transport options. No new motorways.
5. Solving the public transport crisis
As a critical measure to reduce Australian carbon emissions and as a urgent priority to reverse social and economic equality, the Socialist Alliance advocates a massive short-term increase in government spending on the provision of public transport infrastructure.
Such spending must be socially accountable to residents and workers (see 4. “Strategic planning”, above). In order to make-up for 50 years of neglect, such public spending must guarantee the following:
  • A complete overhaul of suburban and intra-urban passenger rail systems. Capacity of tracks (line amplification), rolling stock and stations must be increased to meet current demand and expected demand over 10 years.
  • The extension of the heavy-rail suburban network in all major cities, to accommodate the existing population and projected population growth over the next 30 years.
  • Upgrading the interstate and country rail network to allow trains to travel more quickly.
  • The provision of light rail on high-density suburban bus routes (such as central Sydney), to replace buses and private vehicles where feasible.
  • The construction of European ‘metro’ rail only as an adjunct to heavy rail services, and only on shorter routes.
  • Fully staff the networks-staff on every station and a guard/conductor on every train and tram. End government attacks on public transport workers.
  • End the unfair impost on island communities by fully funding passenger and light vehicle ferries, in particular to and from Tasmania; fully fund air transport to remote outback and island communities.
  • Re-open closed rural rail lines where the infrastructure still exists and provide passenger rail services to communities which need them. Alternatively provide a replacement bus service to meet community needs.
  • Use bus services only for short trips, from transport hubs to population centres and shopping centres. Bus and train timetables must be properly synchronised.


6. Public transport – not for profit
Public transport is a public service. Whether it is allowing workers to get to and from work, or individuals to travel to shops, hospitals, to see family/friends or for recreation, it is a social obligation of government to provide it. Giving communities access to adequate public transport also tends to reduce private car use, which reduces carbon emissions.
The Socialist Alliance believes that government must seek to provide the most modern, fuel efficient, low-carbon impacting and most far-reaching public transport possible.
Public transport must not be run for profit, but in the interest of commuters and residents.
In order to keep public transport public, the Socialist Alliance advocates the following:
  • Re-nationalise all privatised public transport and rail freight; nationalise all bus routes.
  • An end to public-private partnerships
  • Reverse the “corporatisation” of state-run public transport authorities. Public transport must be run to minimise ecological impact and maximise service delivery, not to make profit.
  • Public transport must be run by boards elected at a regional level from among public transport workers, commuters and residents, with full power to approve/reject all management and planning decisions. Members of such boards to be accountable and recallable by their constituencies at any time.
7. Make it frequent, make it free
In order to encourage as many people as possible to make the switch from private car transport to public transport, the Socialist Alliance believes that a three-month trial of free public transport should be conducted across all urban, regional and rural areas. If the trial confirms a significant increase in public transport patronage, it should be made permanent.
In 1996, the Belgian city of Hasselt made public transport free. Between 1996 and 2006, usage of public transport increased by as much as 1300%. It is likely that such a step would have similar results in Australian cities.
Public transport in most Australian cities is already heavily subsidised. In 2008/09 alone, the NSW public transport system absorbed grants totalling $4.2 billion, according to the NSW Department of Transport.
The June 10 2009 Sydney Morning Herald reported on findings in a report commissioned NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). It showed that for every train journey taken, the broader community saves $6 in lower air pollution and less road congestion. When the alternative of commuters taking their cars is factored into the equation, the real social saving goes up to $15.80 for each train trip.
The average subsidy paid for such trips is $4.20. Each train trip represents a big social saving.
In Sydney, making public transport free would cost the state government about $1 billion a year.
When compared to the massive social and environmental savings from increasing public transport use and decreasing private car use, this spending is more than justified.
The extra costs of proving free public transport should be paid by those who would benefit most — employers. The Socialist Alliance supports a payroll tax on all employers of over 10 employees and a special levy on developers ho benefit from development near transport hubs.
The Socialist Alliance advocates:
  • A national three-month trial of free public transport, to be made permanent if successful in persuading people to abandon private car use for public transport in significant numbers.
  • Free carriage of bicycles on public transport
  • Ending all tax concessions for company and company-purchased cars
  • The imposition of a public transport levy on all CBD employers with more than 10 staff, along the lines of the French versement de transport.
  • Special levies on developers who gain access to commercially profitable sites close to railway stations and bus interchanges.
  • The reclassification and redeployment of all public transport staff whose job has been the sale of tickets to passenger assistance/security functions, with no loss in pay or conditions.
  • Rebuilding public transport staff numbers to ensure safe, comfortable and efficient services.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

25a
Moved Susan Austin, Hobart Seconded Linda Seaborn, Hobart
Change:
The Socialist Alliance advocates: a national three-month trial of free public transport, to be made permanent if successful in persuading people to abandon private car use for public transport in significant numbers.
to
The Socialist Alliance advocates free public transport
CARRIED
25b
Moved Susan Austin, Hobart Seconded Linda Seaborn, Hobart
Change:
The imposition of a public transport levy on all CBD employers with more than 10 staff, along the lines of…
to
Increase the corporate tax rate to help pay for these initiatives.
NOT MOVED
25c
Moved Ben Courtice, Melbourne West Seconded Various
On point 4, dot point 3, delete the words:
and light rail
Insert the words:
and light following the word heavy
(so text reads of heavy and light rail only)
CARRIED
25d
Moved Dave Holmes, Melbourne North Seconded Sue Bolton, Melbourne North
Under Section 7, after The Socialist Alliance advocates:
Delete first dot point (referring to a trial of free public transport).
LAPSED WITH ADOPTION OF 25a
25e
Moved Dave Riley, Brisbane Seconded Mike Crook, Brisbane
Addendum at end of document:
The Socialist Alliance supports free public transport and will set up and run a national free public transport campaign which seeks to resource and support actions at the local level.
CALL FOR COUNT
FOR 42 AGAINST 22 ABSTENTIONS 5
CARRIED
25f
Moved Dick Nichols, Sydney Central Seconded Various
Under 6. Public transport - not for profit, dot point 2:
Delete
Nationalise all bus routes
and replace with
Stop the privatisation of suburban and outer suburban bus routes. Public ownership of bus companies should be the norm.
26g (proposed amendment to 25f)
Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Dave Holmes, Melbourne North
Add to last sentence of 25f
and private routes in major cities should be taken back into public ownership.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER OF 25f
AMENDEDMENT 25f AS AMENDED CARRIED
25g
Moved Dick Nichols, Sydney Central Seconded Various
Addendum (at the end of the document):
To adopt this draft (as amended by conference) as The Socialist Alliance’s interim public transport policy, but to solicit suggestions for improvement from The Socialist Alliance members, with the incoming National Executive to adopt an updated text before the forthcoming federal election.
CARRIED

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

Preamble
The following draft of a public transport policy for The Socialist Alliance expands and extends existing national policy, by incorporating work done for the NSW state elections in 2007, articles for Green Left Weekly and other research. It attempts to both illustrate the problems with the existing situation, where inadequate provision of public transport disadvantages poor communities and the environment and point the way to an socially and ecologically sustainable alternative.
Provision of adequate public transport to service all communities is a social and environmental imperative. Private road transport (both cars and trucks carrying freight) are a major contributor to carbon pollution, while lack of access to public transport places a huge burden on poorer communities in particular.
Reliance on private transport costs at least $39 billion a year, according to Rapid and Affordable Transport Alliance (RATA). Of this, $21 billion is lost due to road congestion and $18 billion for traffic accidents. The Socialist Alliance believes that immediate government action — at a federal, state and local level — must be taken to reverse the heavy reliance on private transport in Australia.
1. Car dependence — a recipe for poverty
Griffith University researchers Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe published Oil Vulnerability in the Australian City in December 2005. The study attempted to determine the potential social impact of increasing petrol price rises on residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, based on their dependence on cars and their socio-economic status.

“Clearly, outer-suburban areas, locations that contain low socio-economic status populations, and suburbs which have high levels of car dependence will be most affected by [petrol price] increases”, Dodson and Sipe argue.

Their study found that because of the relatively poor provision of public transport in outer-urban areas of Australia’s major cities, particularly “circumferential” public transport (i.e. public transport that links suburbs with each other, rather than the city centre), residents were forced to rely more heavily on private cars than more affluent, inner-city residents.

Part of the problem is that provision of public transport does not meet greatest need, Dodson and Sipe found. “The major capital cities each have extensive metropolitan rail networks but the numbers of services running on them are far below system capacities. There is typically little integration between modes particularly between the rail and bus networks and the use of local buses as feeders to the higher capacity rail systems is underdeveloped”, they argue.

What public transport is available in cities does not generally help the most economically disadvantaged. For instance: “In Sydney the high socio-economic status households of north Sydney have been able to capture among the best quality public transport services in the city, while lower socio-economic status groups in fringe areas receive much poorer services”, Dodson and Sipe argue.

In August 2008, Dodson and Sipe updated their research in Unsettling Suburbia: The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities, with information drawn from the 2006 Census (conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), which showed that the situation had grown worse. In Melbourne, “42.3% saw their oil and mortgage vulnerability worsen during the 2001-06 period”, the report found. In Sydney, the figure was 41%, while in Perth the figure was 39.5% and Adelaide 38.5%. Only in Brisbane was the situation “largely static”.
In Roads, Railways and Regimes: Why some societies are able to organise suburban public transport — and why others can’t, published in October 2007, Griffith University researcher Chris Harris said the neglect of public transport had been a “policy of contrived ‘state failure”‘. The failure is most common in English-speaking countries going back to the 1950s and 1960s.

“It is clear that the rise of ‘automobile dependency’ to the levels seen in the English-speaking world — where there is often not a public transport alternative, or only a ramshackle one — was a policy choice”, Harris said.

“To paraphrase the tag line to Doctor Strangelove, it was as if policymakers in all the English-speaking countries simultaneously ‘learned to stop worrying and love the automobile’.”

Lack of public transport has also been found to be a serious impediment to finding a job. The Urban Research Centre of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) was commissioned by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils to prepare a report on job prospects for western Sydney until 2031. It assessed the state government’s target of creating an extra 235,000 jobs.

The UWS study, North west and west-central Sydney employment strategies, was published in November 2008. It found that one of the major barriers to job creation was the lack of public transport in western Sydney.

“It is clear that public transport in Western Sydney has suffered from chronic under-investment,” the report said.

“The region’s rail network has remained largely unchanged in coverage since the 1930s, while over 120 kilometres of motorway have been developed at a time when Western Sydney’s population has increased dramatically. As a result the region is heavily car-dependent. “Journey times for commuters on key parts of the rail network have actually increased over the last twenty years.”

2. The real cost of private transport
In his Thirty Year Public Transport Plan for Sydney, University of Technology Sydney researcher Garry Glazebrook estimates the environmental costs of private car transport, including greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise and water pollution to total over $2 billion a year. All this cost is born by the community.
“Cars are thus our most expensive mode, costing 86c per passenger-km compared with 47c for rail and 57c for bus (all figures include externalities and for 2006)”, Glazebrook argues. “Our current transport system is too heavily weighted to cars, the most expensive and least sustainable mode.”
According to RATA, “Transport is Australia’s third largest source of carbon pollution providing 14 per cent of total emissions. It is the fastest growing sector and accounts for about 34 per cent of household greenhouse gas emissions.
“Road transport (cars, trucks, light commercial, buses) accounts for about 90 per cent of total transport emissions. Emissions from road transport were 30 per cent higher in 2007 than in 1990 and even with the implementation of abatement measures these emissions are projected to be 67 per cent higher in 2020 than 1990 levels.”
This effective privatisation of transport options also comes at a significant environmental cost. Under the federal government’s proposed carbon trading scheme, such costs would largely be passed onto individual commuters.

The University of Western Sydney Urban Research Centre argues that: “As climate change mitigation efforts continue and an emissions trading scheme is introduced, the residents of Western Sydney will face increasing financial pain as the inequities in decades of transport investment in Sydney become even more apparent”.

3. Freight transport
According to the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Two-thirds of domestic freight uplifted in Australia is hauled by road and 26 per cent by rail. Road transport accounts for 80 per cent of freight movements when the distance travelled is less than 100 kilometres.”
Greenhouse gas emissions from road freight haulage are projected to rise by at least 27% in the next 10 years. In its 2006 policy statement Moving On, he NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union argued that the NSW government had to reduce reliance on road freight by increasing the use of rail freight. The report says:
“At a metropolitan scale, the NSW government needs to have a strong focus on increasing the proportion of freight transport by rail to reduce environmental impacts and congestion. This means providing new rail freight infrastructure and multi-modal terminals in appropriate areas.
“At subregional and local scales, the NSW government should explore innovative freight delivery options that provide an alternative to road transport as well as implementing measures to reduce the environmental impact of road freight transport (e.g. through improvements in vehicle technology and efficiency).”
According to RATA:
“Rail uses two-thirds less fuel than road per tonne of goods carried and has more than three times the environmental efficiency of road haulage.
“Some 27 per cent of Australia’s containerised imports arrive at Port Botany each year and 90 per cent of these end up in western Sydney. Road transport accounts for 86 per cent of Sydney’s freight task and this is increasing.
“Rail freight capacity must be increased faster than increases in the total freight capacity to alleviate road congestion, reduce land and resource use wasted by additional roads and reduce air and water pollution. Melbourne has similar issues but with the added burden that the container port has become a de facto truck park due to inefficiencies of service.”
In order to facilitate a transition from road-haulage to rail transport of freight, the Socialist Alliance advocates:
  • Extend the rail freight network with dedicated freight-only links in order to remove heavy vehicles from local roads.
  • Introduce and enforce penalties to stop unauthorised heavy vehicle access to local roads.
  • Nationalise all privatised tollways and abolish tolls for light vehicles and buses.
  • Make business pay for its transport by introducing electronic tolling for heavy freight vehicles on all major roads and freeways, and discounted, volume-based charges for rail freight.
  • Replacing semi-trailers and “B-doubles” as the major inter-city freight mode.
  • Electric and hybrid vehicles to replace commercial trucks and vans for the urban transport of freight
  • Fund the retraining of long-distance truck-drivers at full-pay, for ecologically sustainable work, as demand for road-haulage declines. The cost of this to be paid by a special levy on freight companies.
  • Phase-out the use of coal trains as the coal-mining industry itself is phased out. Use these lines for freight and/or passenger services.
4. Strategic planning
The poor provision of public transport in Australia is not simply the failure of any particular government, but a failure of strategic planning over many years. As cities have grown, public transport infrastructure has generally failed to keep pace.
Ron Christie, a former head of NSW State Rail and the Roads and Traffic Authority presented a report to the NSW government in June 2001, Long-term Strategic Plan for Rail. The report outlined a 10-year strategy for increasing the geographic spread, capacity and reliability of the Sydney suburban rail network.
“Unless the ‘reach’ of the rail system is extended in this way, Sydney will be doomed to a future under which more than half the urbanised metropolitan area, and especially those areas at more distant locations, will not be serviced by the rail system, creating and reinforcing significant inequalities in access to employment, education and other community facilities”, Christie said.
The “Christie report” was shelved by the NSW Labor government.
“Switching the balance of new infrastructure provision towards public transport, walking and cycling would not only assist to achieve currently relevant planning objectives but would hedge our urban systems against potential impacts of rising fuel costs”, Dodson and Sipe argue in The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities.
“Continuing the present model of road-driven urban transport policy may only make any eventual adjustment to accommodate higher fuel prices more painful, complex and fractious. The pain of such adjustment would invariably fall most heavily on the more disadvantaged members of our communities.”
The Socialist Alliance advocates that public transport be subject to a long-term strategic plan, which is prepared through extensive community consultation. Such a plan must stipulate that all new development incorporate extension to the existing heavy rail corridors where possible, or the construction of new lines to service population growth areas where necessary. Such a plan would include:
  • Making all new urban development dependent on the provision of adequate public transport
  • Provision of adequate cycleways and walking paths must also be incorporated into all plans.
  • Provision of buses and light rail must be seen as an adjunct to the provision of heavy and light rail only, and not a less costly, less effective alternative.
  • Expanding bus priority programs and strategic bus lanes
  • Upgrading railway stations, light rail and bus stops, ferry wharfs and interchanges to provide adequate seating, shelter, bicycle storage and decent facilities for the disabled.
  • Planned integration of taxis and taxi cooperatives into the systemAll plans must be presented to residents and workers of a given area for amendment and approval before implementation and must be subject to ongoing scrutiny and approval from the affected community.
  • Provision of road transport must be a secondary consideration to the provision and continual upgrade and improvement of public transport options. No new motorways.
5. Solving the public transport crisis
As a critical measure to reduce Australian carbon emissions and as a urgent priority to reverse social and economic equality, The Socialist Alliance advocates a massive short-term increase in government spending on the provision of public transport infrastructure.
Such spending must be socially accountable to residents and workers (see 4. Strategic planning, above). In order to make-up for 50 years of neglect, such public spending must guarantee the following:
  • A complete overhaul of suburban and intra-urban passenger rail systems. Capacity of tracks (line amplification), rolling stock and stations must be increased to meet current demand and expected demand over 10 years.
  • The extension of the heavy-rail suburban network in all major cities, to accommodate the existing population and projected population growth over the next 30 years.
  • Upgrading the interstate and country rail network to allow trains to travel more quickly
  • The provision of light rail on high-density suburban bus routes (such as central Sydney), to replace buses and private vehicles where feasible.
  • The construction of European ‘metro’ rail only as an adjunct to heavy rail services, and only on shorter routes.
  • Fully staff the networks-staff on every station and a guard/conductor on every train and tram. End government attacks on public transport workers.
  • End the unfair impost on island communities by fully funding passenger and light vehicle ferries, in particular to and from Tasmania; fully fund air transport to remote outback and island communities.
  • Re-open closed rural rail lines where the infrastructure still exists and provide passenger rail services to communities which need them. Alternatively provide a replacement bus service to meet community needs.
  • Use bus services only for short trips, from transport hubs to population centres and shopping centres. Bus and train timetables must be properly synchronised.
6. Public transport – not for profit
Public transport is a public service. Whether it is allowing workers to get to and from work, or individuals to travel to shops, hospitals, to see family/friends or for recreation, it is a social obligation of government to provide it. Giving communities access to adequate public transport also tends to reduce private car use, which reduces carbon emissions.
The Socialist Alliance believes that government must seek to provide the most modern, fuel efficient, low-carbon impacting and most far-reaching public transport possible.
Public transport must not be run for profit, but in the interest of commuters and residents.
In order to keep public transport public, the Socialist Alliance advocates the following:
  • Re-nationalise all privatised public transport and rail freight;
  • Stop the privatisation of suburban and outer suburban bus routes. Public ownership of bus companies should be the norm and private routes in major cities should be taken back into public ownership.
  • An end to public-private partnerships
  • Reverse the “corporatisation” of state-run public transport authorities. Public transport must be run to minimise ecological impact and maximise service delivery, not to make profit.
  • Public transport must be run by boards elected at a regional level from among public transport workers, commuters and residents, with full power to approve/reject all management and planning decisions. Members of such boards to be accountable and recallable by their constituencies at any time.
7. Make it frequent, make it free
In order to encourage as many people as possible to make the switch from private car transport to public transport, the Socialist Alliance believes that a three-month trial of free public transport should be conducted across all urban, regional and rural areas. If the trial confirms a significant increase in public transport patronage, it should be made permanent.
In 1996, the Belgian city of Hasselt made public transport free. Between 1996 and 2006, usage of public transport increased by as much as 1300%. It is likely that such a step would have similar results in Australian cities.
Public transport in most Australian cities is already heavily subsidised. In 2008/09 alone, the NSW public transport system absorbed grants totalling $4.2 billion, according to the NSW Department of Transport.
The June 10 2009 Sydney Morning Herald reported on findings in a report commissioned NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). It showed that for every train journey taken, the broader community saves $6 in lower air pollution and less road congestion. When the alternative of commuters taking their cars is factored into the equation, the real social saving goes up to $15.80 for each train trip.
The average subsidy paid for such trips is $4.20. Each train trip represents a big social saving.
In Sydney, making public transport free would cost the state government about $1 billion a year.
When compared to the massive social and environmental savings from increasing public transport use and decreasing private car use, this spending is more than justified.
The extra costs of proving free public transport should be paid by those who would benefit most — employers. The Socialist Alliance supports a payroll tax on all employers of over 10 employees and a special levy on developers ho benefit from development near transport hubs.
The Socialist Alliance advocates:
  • Free public transport
  • Free carriage of bicycles on public transport
  • Ending all tax concessions for company and company-purchased cars
  • The imposition of a public transport levy on all CBD employers with more than 10 staff, along the lines of the French versement de transport.
  • Special levies on developers who gain access to commercially profitable sites close to railway stations and bus interchanges.
  • The reclassification and redeployment of all public transport staff whose job has been the sale of tickets to passenger assistance/security functions, with no loss in pay or conditions.
  • Rebuilding public transport staff numbers to ensure safe, comfortable and efficient services.
The Socialist Alliance supports free public transport and will set up and run a national free public transport campaign which seeks to resource and support actions at the local level.
Process: To adopt this draft (as amended by conference) as the Socialist Alliance’s interim public transport policy, but to solicit suggestions for improvement from Socialist Alliance members, with the incoming National Executive to adopt an updated text before the forthcoming federal election.

26. Draft population and climate change policy

Moved Leigh Hughes, Canberra Seconded Simon Butler, Sydney Central
For centuries, simplistic population theories have been advanced to explain poverty, hunger, famine, disease, war, racism and unemployment. Climate change is just the latest in this long list of issues that has been seized on by supporters of population control. In each case, the real social and economic causes of these social ills have been glossed over.
Advocates of population control say that one of the most effective measures we can take to combat climate change is to sharply reduce the number of humans on the planet. This mistakenly correlates the trends of population and ecological harm, and so misdiagnoses the root causes of the current environmental crisis.
People are not pollution. The real cause of climate change is a capitalist economy based on never-ending expansion, locked into burning fossil fuels for energy and reliant upon unsustainable agriculture.
Unless we transform the economy and society along sustainable lines as rapidly as possible, we have no hope of securing an inhabitable planet, regardless of population levels. The struggle for an alternative model of development, based on meeting the needs of people and planet, should be our main concern.
Population-based arguments fail to acknowledge that humanity will affect the environment very differently in a zero-emissions economy. Making the shift to a zero-waste economy powered by renewable energy is really the most urgent task we face. Limiting the population of a certain species of primate is of least concern.
The survival of any species, including our own, depends upon the ecosystems that surround and nourish them. These ecosystems are themselves interconnected and facilitate the transfer and conversion of materials necessary for life. Across the globe these cyclical and dynamic processes, from the thermohaline circulation of the vast oceans to the protein factories of the smallest cell, form the Earth’s biosphere.
These connections combine lifeless chemical elements, a mere corner of the periodic table, into the rainforests and reefs of the world. To sever these complex connections is to sever the thread of life—and that is what humanity has done, but not by breeding.
Those who blame our current woes on “overpopulation” substitute abstract formulae for the complex ecological reality and mechanically translate population growth into environmental “impact”. They forget that the problem of monoculture cropland and the factory farm is not the numbers of their inhabitants, but their failure to form interconnected ecosystems. They forget that the problem of industrialised fields and unproductive cities are not their tenants, but the ecologically alien linearity of their chain of production and consumption.
The ecological thought of socialists is based on the concept that, “we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst”. We, and our economies, are embedded in the biosphere, as are all species. Far from “impacting” negatively on the biosphere, the net contribution of life to life has been positive. From phytoplankton to krill, cycad to crocodile, butterfly to human, life itself creates the basis of life.
Species may multiply enormously, yet still be sustainable, as long as diverse and robust ecosystems are maintained. This process of internal regulation is dynamic, with the growth in the population of one species often regulated by matching growth in another, by expansions in ecological complexity and reach, or by the emergence of new ecological niches. Humanity need not come to destroy, but to fulfil the lives of our fellow species.
Socialists well understand that our economy no longer works in rhythm with the biosphere; that it no longer fulfils its original purpose of sustaining its host. We see a heart in cardiac arrest, damaging the tissues that surround it; killing its owner. Our goal should not be to shrink the heart, or tear it out, but to restore a natural beat.
The world is not experiencing runaway population growth. While population is growing, the rate of this growth is slowing down and is expected to peak by mid-century. In contrast, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is rising rapidly. The increasing absorption of the biosphere into the capitalist sphere of production is driving this increase—not population.
Larger population growth rates in the Third World are a consequence of dire poverty and restrictions on women’s ability to control their own fertility. Raising living standards globally, eradicating hunger and poverty, improving health care, providing access to education and achieving greater equality for women are all necessary for a safe climate with global justice. That these actions will result in lower birth rates is not a reason to pursue them. We fight for justice not to reduce our stock of humanity, but to raise our stake in it.
We cannot allow migrants to be blamed for corporate Australia’s addiction to fossil fuels. Migrants and refugees should be welcomed and invited to take part in the movement for a safe climate. They are not responsible for government policies or the greed of the big polluters.
We should reject the simplistic formula that sees migration from low to high emission countries as adding to global pollution – as if a pile of coal was ceremonially burnt by customs officials for each new arrival. Demand for energy, food and shelter need not be met by a supply of fossil fuels, monocultures and concrete. Only the type of the economy determines if it is.
At its worst, population control schemes put the blame for climate change on the poorest people in the global South – those least responsible for the problem in the first place. What horrors will be the practical policies that tie birth rates to carbon emissions? Will poverty and paternalism create a “Sterilisation for SUVs” trade? We already see worse, in the vampiric international trade for kidneys, but we should have better benchmarks for our future.
It is wrong to view the people of the global South as just passive victims of climate change. In truth, they are the pivotal agent in the campaign to avert global warming. We need a strategy of building stronger links and collaboration with movements for climate justice in the global South – not drawing up plans to reduce their numbers.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

26a
Moved Dave Bell NSW at large Seconded Ken Muir, Sydney Central
To replace resolution 26 with the following:
In the past simplistic population theories have been advanced to explain poverty, hunger, famine, disease, war, racism and unemployment. Climate change is just the latest in this long list of issues that have been seized on and explained by “population theories”. In each case, the real social and economic causes of these social and climatic ills have been glossed over.
Some advocates of population control say that one of the most effective measures we can take to combat climate change is to sharply reduce the number of humans on the planet.
Of greater priority is making the shift to a zero-waste economy powered by renewable energy. This is really the most urgent task we face. This is our prime political task.
The real cause of climate change is a capitalist economy based on never-ending expansion, locked into burning fossil fuels for energy and reliant upon unsustainable agriculture, fishing, forestry, etc.
Unless we transform the economy and society along sustainable lines as rapidly as possible, we have no hope of securing an inhabitable planet, regardless of population levels. The struggle for an alternative model of development, based on meeting the needs of people and planet, should be our main concern.
Population controls may need to be considered despite the social transformation of living standards rising globally: eradicating hunger and poverty, improving health care, providing access to education, contraception and achieving greater equality for women.
History indicates that this social transformation can preclude the need for population controls. Nevertheless such controls may be necessary and shouldn’t be dogmatically excluded from consideration.
26b (26a amended)
Moved Dave Bell, NSW at large Seconded Various
Replace resolution 26 with:
In the past simplistic population theories have been advanced to explain poverty, hunger, famine, disease, war, racism and unemployment. Climate change is just the latest in this long list of issues that have been seized on and explained by “population theories”. In each case, the real social and economic causes of these social and climatic ills have been glossed over.
Some advocates of population control say that one of the most effective measures we can take to combat climate change is to sharply reduce the number of humans on the planet.
Of greater priority is making the shift to a zero-waste economy powered by renewable energy. This is really the most urgent task we face. This is our prime political task.
The real cause of climate change is a capitalist economy based on never-ending expansion, locked into burning fossil fuels for energy and reliant upon unsustainable agriculture, fishing, forestry, etc.
Unless we transform the economy and society along sustainable lines as rapidly as possible, we have no hope of securing an inhabitable planet, regardless of population levels. The struggle for an alternative model of development, based on meeting the needs of people and planet, should be our main concern.
Achieving a sustainable population will be best tackled through the social transformation of living standards rising globally: eradicating hunger and poverty, improving health care, providing access to education, contraception and achieving greater equality for women. History indicates this.
26c
Moved Leigh Hughes, Canberra Seconded Simon Butler, Sydney Central
The Socialist Alliance will postpone a decision on population and climate policy beyond this conference to allow for a debate in Alliance Voices, Green Left Weekly and in branches.
PROCEDURAL MOTION Simon Butler, Sydney Central
To suspend standing orders and allow two speakers for and against the amendment (26c).
CARRIED
26d
Moved Paul Benedek, Brisbane Seconded Various
The Socialist Alliance rejections simplistic populationist theories to explain climate change.
The Socialist Alliance will facilitate a debate in Alliance Voices, Green Left Weekly and branches in order to develop a policy on population and climate policy
AMENDMENT 26C WITHDRAWN
AMENDMENT 26B WITHDRAWN
AMENDMENT 26D CARRIED

27. Environmental refugees

Moved Chair Seconded Matt Garland, Illawarra
NOTE: Resolution of Garry Hill (New England) who was unable to attend conference.
Some Socialist Alliance members are calling on Australians to sign a United Nations Organisation pact that we accept environmental refugees. As everyone on the planet is affected by the environment, therefore everyone can apply and have to be taken with at least 85% of the global population having a lower living standard than us, that will mean an impossible flood of people. In a recent report on climate change an increase of 1-metre sea levels in Australia will mean a quarter of a million homes will be affected and major airports roads and bridges will be inoperative. There was no mention of power failures, agricultural land and where to put millions of displaced Australians, but clearly these will be problems. All this clearly ads up to obvious havoc: why create more?
LOST

28. Resolution on Lake Cowal

Moved Zane Alcorn, Newcastle Seconded Various

The Socialist Alliance calls upon the NSW government to order the closure of the Lake Cowal open pit goldmine. The mine is operated by Canadian company Barrick gold.

The mine uses in sodium cyanide and other process chemicals which end up in a tailings dam. The tailings dam subsequently has the potential to release poisonous dust containing cyanide, arsenic and cadmium into the air which could contaminate agricultural land in the region. Lake Cowal is itself an ephemeral lake, which is periodically subjected to major flooding.
The lake is a wetland of international significance – home and breeding ground to thousands of water birds when full, including numerous endangered species.
There exists a very real danger that during a flood season the tailings dam may burst its banks and contaminate the Kalara/Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers and ultimately a major section of the Murray Darling Basin. The mine itself draws vast amounts of water from underground aquifers, however the Murray Darling basin is strained and cannot support unnecessary thirsty projects such as the mine.
The Mooka and Kalara families of the Wiradjuri nation are custodians of the lake and are vehemently opposed to the mine. The Mooka and Kalara people have waged a sustained campaign to have the mine stopped and closed.
Lake Cowal is described as the “sacred heartland” of the Wiradjuri nation and is home to culturally significant artifacts.
The Socialist Alliance supports the Mooka and Kalara peoples quest to assert their sovereignty over Lake Cowal, and calls for the mine to be closed and a full rehabilitation of the site to be carried out at the expense of Barrick Gold, under the direction of the traditional owners.
CARRIED

29. Policy on agriculture

Moved Duroyan Fertl, Sydney Central Seconded Various
The problem
Since the introduction of modern agriculture, the quality of Australia’s soils has dropped dramatically. Inappropriate agricultural practices and methods have led to ongoing soil loss, salinity and soil structure across the country, threatening the viability of many rural communities, and endanger Australia’s future food security.
In many areas, irrigation water is dangerously over-allocated, frequently wasteful and used on inappropriate crops, and is becoming more and more scarce, threatening the viability of agriculture in many parts of Australia.
At the same time, agricultural profits have increasingly gone to non-productive commercial sectors. In 1900, 40% of the food dollar went to farmers; now it is less than 15%, as farmers are forced to receive lower and lower prices under threat of cheap imports.
Farm workers, many of them casual labourers, are among the worst paid and suffer some of the worst working conditions of Australian workers, and unemployment and poverty in rural Australia continue to rise. As a result, the average farming age continues to rise because young people are put off by the economic and environmental challenges of farming.
The Socialist Alliance believes that the long-term sustainability of agriculture is an essential component of the well-being of Australia’s economy, society and environment, and must be reformed in order to save it, and the environment, from the catastrophic effects of current practices.

Sustainable agriculture

The term “sustainable agriculture” is profoundly misused by governments and agribusiness, while current agricultural research and education is overwhelmingly geared—not to developing truly sustainable agriculture—but to increasing farm outputs and corporate profits at the expense of the environment and farming communities.
The sustainable agriculture that The Socialist Alliance stands for means farming based on natural processes, requiring the development of well functioning agro-ecosystems both above and below ground, and providing nutritious for people’s needs while causing no degradation to the natural environment, and adequate income and working conditions for farmers and farm workers.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Phase out agribusiness farming in the Murray-Darling basin and regulate for sustainable water use in irrigation, including changing land-use practices and water efficiency practices.
  • Withdraw free irrigation water licences from wool, lamb and beef farming enterprises, and review irrigated rice and cotton growing licences.
  • Phase out pesticides and synthetic fertilisers by and replace by harnessing biological capture of carbon and nitrogen, and reprocessing urban waste, including sewage, into organic fertilisers.
  • Encourage mulching, composting and reduced-tillage farming through development grants and incentives.
  • Ensure effective management and removal of invasive species, pests and diseases
  • Encourage pest and disease minimisation by reliance on factors such as enhanced natural immune systems of plants, related ecological principles.
  • Prevent use of genetically modified organisms until exhaustive, independent, testing can definitively prove they do not have potential to cause harm to people, livestock or the environment, and introduce strict laws and fines against contamination.
  • Increase and maintain crop diversity.
  • Extend public funding of agricultural research and education to ensure the further development of sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable farming communities
Unsustainable farming practices, environmental degradation, economic pressures and the effects of drought and climate change are seriously threatening the viability of our rural and agricultural communities.
The Socialist Alliance believes that most existing farming communities can be made economically and socially viable again, but only through a drastic overhaul of the agricultural sector and its practices. We will consult and work alongside communities in finding solutions to the problems they face, encouraging public participation in both creating and implementing specific the measures needed.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Provide funding, resources and training to farming communities to make the transition to sustainable agriculture.
  • Launch a massive, publicly-funded, sustainable agriculture conversion program in combination with sustainable agriculture organisations.
  • Rewrite farm employees’ industrial awards to ensure that farm employees, including casuals, receive comparable pay and conditions to other workers.
  • Prevent the forced sale of indebted farms and provide alternative funding on the basis of ongoing agricultural viability.
  • Encourage national agricultural self-sufficiency, minimising the need for food imports and strengthening the Australian farming sector.
  • Encourage farming cooperatives, local farmers markets, and state or cooperative marketing authorities.
  • Encourage producer cooperatives to ensure all farmers receive a fair price from processors and retailers.
  • Increase Landcare funding assistance for farmers to increase the sustainability of local farms and farming communities.
  • Food processing and trading practices that reduce transport, packaging and waste, including encouraging processing in productive regions.

Food security—at home and abroad

There are few things more important than maintaining a secure and reliable supply of healthy food. Australia is more than capable of providing for most of the food needs of its population, and should assisting our neighbours in the region—especially in the developing world—by sharing our sustainable agricultural practices and surplus food in order to improve the well-being of humanity as a whole.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Increase and redirect agricultural research into the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems and regions.
  • Restrict the use of prime agricultural land for urban development or mining.
  • Increase the scope of agricultural education, including at a primary and secondary school level
  • Encourage the creation of urban and peri-urban “city farms”, community and “permaculture” gardens to maximise the proportion of food produced in cities and large towns, improving both food quality and reducing emissions from unnecessary transport.
  • Increase foreign aid aimed at developing self-sufficient sustainable food production practices in developing countries.
  • Withdraw from the World Trade Organisation and develop fair trade policies with like-minded countries.
  • Increase our foreign food aid programs in order to help prevent all unnecessary starvation and malnutrition.
Agriculture and climate change
Agriculture accounts for around 16% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and current agricultural practices—from fertilisers to food transport—consume huge quantities of fossil fuels. Land clearing and outdated forestry practices account for a further 6% of our greenhouse emissions.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Encourage a shift away from fossil-fuel based chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
  • Encourage “carbon farming”: increasing the amount of carbon locked in the soil and the ecosystem through methods such as permanent reafforestation and the use of sustainable farming practices such as composting.
  • Prevent industrial biofuel or biochar production or broadscale carbon “offsetting” through unsustainable plantations that locks up prime farming land.
  • Put an immediate end to land clearing, and support restoration and remediation of native vegetation and ecosystems, reducing the release of greenhouse gases and limiting serious soil degradation.
  • Put an end to feed-lots, and develop sustainable grazing practices, in order to improve soil stability, water availability and reduce methane emissions from livestock.
  • Risk management for climactic changes that minimise the effects of weather extremes – require agricultural practices to adapt to climactic limitations.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

29a

Moved Duroyan Fertl, Sydney Central Seconded Kamala Emanuel, Perth
Amend the draft policy as shown (changes from original text indicated in bold italic underlined):

The problem

Since the introduction of modern agriculture, the quality of Australia’s soils has dropped dramatically. Inappropriate agricultural practices and methods have led to ongoing soil loss, salinity and soil structure collapse across the country, threatening the viability of many rural communities, and endanger Australia’s future food security.
In many areas, irrigation water is dangerously over-allocated, frequently wasteful and used on inappropriate crops, and is becoming more and more scarce, threatening the viability of agriculture in many parts of Australia. Access to water has been turned into a tradeable commodity, allowing speculative trading in “water rights” that has led to over-allocation, severe financial pressure on family farms, and serious damage to ecosystems as vital ground water and river systems are depleted.
At the same time, agricultural profits have increasingly gone to non-productive commercial sectors. In 1900, 40% of the food dollar went to farmers; now it is less than 15%, as farmers are forced to receive lower and lower prices under threat of cheap imports. Farm workers, many of them casual labourers, are amongst the worst paid and suffer some of the worst working conditions of Australian workers, and unemployment and poverty in rural Australia continue to rise. As a result, the average farming age continues to rise because young people are put off by the economic and environmental challenges of farming.
Australian agriculture is also threatened in the most fundamental way by climate change. The present global trend of greenhouse emissions will, if continued, make most agricultural production in this country impossible by the final decades of the century. Emissions from the rural sector, primarily of enteric methane from cattle and sheep but including nitrous oxide from synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, are meanwhile the second-largest element in Australia’s greenhouse accounting.
The Socialist Alliance believes that the long-term sustainability of agriculture is an essential component of the well-being of Australia’s economy, society and environment, and must be reformed in order to save it, and the environment, from the catastrophic effects of current practices.

Sustainable Agriculture

The term “sustainable agriculture” is profoundly misused by governments and corporate agribusiness, while current agricultural research and education is overwhelmingly geared – not to developing truly sustainable agriculture – but to increasing farm outputs and corporate profits at the expense of the environment and farming communities.
The sustainable agriculture that The Socialist Alliance stands for means farming based on natural processes, requiring the development of well functioning agro-ecosystems both above and below ground, and providing nutritious for people’s needs while causing no degradation to the natural environment, and adequate income and working conditions for farmers and farm workers.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Phase out corporate agribusiness farming in the Murray-Darling basin and regulate for sustainable water use in irrigation, including changing land-use practices and water efficiency practices in line with long-term water sustainability.
  • Review the allocation of free irrigation water licences to wool, lamb and beef farming enterprises, and review irrigated rice and cotton growing licences.
  • Reverse the process of water privatisation and put all water allocations under public control. Private ownership of water resources is inimicable to sustainable agriculture and the public good and cannot be allowed to continue.
  • Reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides and fertilisers by harnessing biological capture of carbon and nitrogen, and reprocessing urban waste, including sewage, into organic fertilisers.
  • Encourage mulching, composting, and no-till and reduced-tillage farming through development grants and incentives.
  • Ensure effective management and removal of invasive species.
  • Encourage pest and disease minimisation by reliance on factors such as enhanced natural immune systems of plants, integrated management and related ecological principles.
  • Prevent use of genetically modified organisms until exhaustive, independent, testing can definitively prove they do not have potential to cause harm to people, livestock or the environment, and introduce strict laws and fines against contamination.
  • Increase and maintain crop diversity
  • Extend public funding of agricultural research and education to ensure the further development of sustainable agriculture.

Sustainable Farming Communities

Unsustainable farming practices, environmental degradation, economic pressures and the effects of drought and climate change are seriously threatening the viability of our rural and agricultural communities.
The Socialist Alliance believes that most existing farming communities can be made economically and socially viable again, but only through a drastic overhaul of the agricultural sector and its practices. We will consult and work alongside communities in finding solutions to the problems they face, encouraging public participation in both creating and implementing specific the measures needed.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Provide funding, resources and training to farming communities to make the transition to sustainable agriculture.
  • Launch a massive, publicly-funded, sustainable agriculture conversion program in combination with sustainable agriculture organisations and farming communities.
  • Rewrite farm employees’ industrial awards to ensure that farm employees, including casuals, receive comparable pay and conditions to other workers.
  • Prevent the forced sale of indebted farms and provide alternative funding on the basis of ongoing agricultural viability.
  • Encourage national agricultural self-sufficiency, minimising the need for food imports and strengthening the Australian farming sector.
  • Encourage farming cooperatives, local farmers markets, and state or cooperative marketing authorities.
  • Encourage producer cooperatives to ensure all farmers receive a fair price from processors and retailers.
  • Increase Landcare funding assistance for farmers to increase the sustainability of local farms and farming communities.
  • Food processing and trading practices that reduce transport, packaging and waste, including encouraging processing in productive regions.
  • Support the research, development and production of farm machinery, chemicals and biological products that supports better, safer and more affordable farming practices.
  • Increase research and development of more efficient agricultural water use practices.

Food Security – at home and abroad

There are few things more important than maintaining a secure and reliable supply of healthy food. In a world where over a billion people are starving, the deliberate destruction of food crops is criminal. Food should be produced and distributed to satisfy need, not to make profits.
Australia is more than capable of providing for most of the food needs of its population, and should assist our neighbours in the region – especially in the developing world – by sharing our sustainable agricultural practices and surplus food in order to improve the well-being of humanity as a whole.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Increase and redirect agricultural research into improving the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems and regions.
  • Restrict the use of prime agricultural land for urban development or mining.
  • Increase the scope of agricultural education, including at a primary and secondary school level.
  • Encourage the creation of urban and peri-urban “city farms”, community and “permaculture” gardens to maximise the proportion of food produced in cities and large towns, improving both food quality and reducing emissions from unnecessary transport.
  • Expand on projects like Food Bank, redistributing “excess” food to meet social needs, preventing food wastage and ensuring public access to nutritional food sources.
  • Increase foreign aid aimed at developing self-sufficient sustainable food production practices in developing countries.
  • Develop “fair trade” policies with like-minded countries and increase foreign food aid programs in order to help prevent starvation and malnutrition.

Agriculture and Climate Change

Agriculture accounts for around 16% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and current agricultural practices – from fertilisers to food transport – consume huge quantities of fossil fuels. Land clearing and outdated forestry practices account for a further 6% of our greenhouse emissions.
Preventing climate disaster will require that net emissions from the rural sector be ended. At the same time, carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere through reforestation, including farm forestry, and improved farming practices.
Soil carbon levels need to be enhanced through encouragement of no-till and organic farming methods. Land currently used as low-grade pasture, or which climate change renders too dry for cropping, must be returned to native vegetation or employed in an environmentally responsible way for tree farming.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Encourage a shift away from fossil-fuel based chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
  • Encourage “Carbon farming”: increasing the amount of carbon locked in the soil and the ecosystem through methods such as permanent reafforestation and the use of sustainable farming practices such as composting.
  • Expand research on the production and use of biochar in order to increase crop yields, water retention, and plant nutrient availability, to enrich soil biota and to reduce reliance on synthetic fertilisers.
  • Prevent industrial biofuel or biochar production or broadscale carbon “offsetting” through unsustainable plantations that lock up prime farming land.
  • Permit land clearing only when offset by the reforestation of equal areas of similar native ecosystems.
  • Promote the restoration and remediation of native vegetation and ecosystems, reducing the release of greenhouse gases and limiting serious soil degradation.
  • Develop sustainable grazing practices, in order to improve soil stability and water availability.
  • Sharply reduce cattle and sheep numbers and improve stock management to minimise methane emissions per head.
  • Drastically cut the numbers of feral ruminants, especially camels.
  • Risk management for climactic changes that minimise the effects of weather extremes – require agricultural practices to adapt to climactic limitations.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
29b
Moved Simon Cunich, Newcastle Seconded Duroyan Fertl, Sydney Central
In the new amended version (29a), insert the words:
only in exceptional circumstances and
into the dot point on land clearing, so that it reads:
Permit land clearing only in exceptional circumstances and only when offset by the reforestation of equal areas of similar native vegetation.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
29c
Moved Simon Cunich, Newcastle Seconded Duroyan Fertl, Sydney Central
Under Food Security, add to the sixth point:
and seek to prevent “food dumping”.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
29d
Moved Kamala Emanuel, Perth Seconded Jess Moore, Illawarra
Reword to indicate the difference between what we advocate as government and what we will do. For example, replace:
The Socialist Alliance will
with
The Socialist Alliance will fight for a government policy that will
REJECTED BY MOVER
LOST
29e
Moved Chris Slee, Melbourne North Seconded Various
To defer the adoption of the resolution to the next National Conference
REJECTED BY MOVER
LOST
29f
Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Dave Holmes, Melbourne North
To adopt the resolution as interim policy, and publish in Alliance Voices with a view to soliciting comment from members and with the National Executive having the power to adopt a final version.
CARRIED

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

The problem

Since the introduction of modern agriculture, the quality of Australia’s soils has dropped dramatically. Inappropriate agricultural practices and methods have led to ongoing soil loss, salinity and soil structure collapse across the country, threatening the viability of many rural communities, and endanger Australia’s future food security.
In many areas, irrigation water is dangerously over-allocated, frequently wasteful and used on inappropriate crops, and is becoming more and more scarce, threatening the viability of agriculture in many parts of Australia. Access to water has been turned into a tradeable commodity, allowing speculative trading in “water rights” that has led to over-allocation, severe financial pressure on family farms, and serious damage to ecosystems as vital ground water and river systems are depleted.
At the same time, agricultural profits have increasingly gone to non-productive commercial sectors. In 1900, 40% of the food dollar went to farmers; now it is less than 15%, as farmers are forced to receive lower and lower prices under threat of cheap imports. Farm workers, many of them casual labourers, are amongst the worst paid and suffer some of the worst working conditions of Australian workers, and unemployment and poverty in rural Australia continue to rise. As a result, the average farming age continues to rise because young people are put off by the economic and environmental challenges of farming.
Australian agriculture is also threatened in the most fundamental way by climate change. The present global trend of greenhouse emissions will, if continued, make most agricultural production in this country impossible by the final decades of the century. Emissions from the rural sector, primarily of enteric methane from cattle and sheep but including nitrous oxide from synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, are meanwhile the second-largest element in Australia’s greenhouse accounting.
The Socialist Alliance believes that the long-term sustainability of agriculture is an essential component of the well-being of Australia’s economy, society and environment, and must be reformed in order to save it, and the environment, from the catastrophic effects of current practices.

Sustainable Agriculture

The term “sustainable agriculture” is profoundly misused by governments and corporate agribusiness, while current agricultural research and education is overwhelmingly geared – not to developing truly sustainable agriculture – but to increasing farm outputs and corporate profits at the expense of the environment and farming communities.
The sustainable agriculture that The Socialist Alliance stands for means farming based on natural processes, requiring the development of well functioning agro-ecosystems both above and below ground, and providing nutritious for people’s needs while causing no degradation to the natural environment, and adequate income and working conditions for farmers and farm workers.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Phase out corporate agribusiness farming in the Murray-Darling basin and regulate for sustainable water use in irrigation, including changing land-use practices and water efficiency practices in line with long-term water sustainability.
  • Review the allocation of free irrigation water licences to wool, lamb and beef farming enterprises, and review irrigated rice and cotton growing licences.
  • Reverse the process of water privatisation and put all water allocations under public control. Private ownership of water resources is inimical to sustainable agriculture and the public good and cannot be allowed to continue.
  • Reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides and fertilisers by harnessing biological capture of carbon and nitrogen, and reprocessing urban waste, including sewage, into organic fertilisers.
  • Encourage mulching, composting, and no-till and reduced-tillage farming through development grants and incentives.
  • Ensure effective management and removal of invasive species.
  • Encourage pest and disease minimisation by reliance on factors such as enhanced natural immune systems of plants, integrated management and related ecological principles.
  • Prevent use of genetically modified organisms until exhaustive, independent, testing can definitively prove they do not have potential to cause harm to people, livestock or the environment, and introduce strict laws and fines against contamination.
  • Increase and maintain crop diversity
  • Extend public funding of agricultural research and education to ensure the further development of sustainable agriculture.

Sustainable Farming Communities

Unsustainable farming practices, environmental degradation, economic pressures and the effects of drought and climate change are seriously threatening the viability of our rural and agricultural communities.
The Socialist Alliance believes that most existing farming communities can be made economically and socially viable again, but only through a drastic overhaul of the agricultural sector and its practices. We will consult and work alongside communities in finding solutions to the problems they face, encouraging public participation in both creating and implementing specific the measures needed.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Provide funding, resources and training to farming communities to make the transition to sustainable agriculture.
  • Launch a massive, publicly-funded, sustainable agriculture conversion program in combination with sustainable agriculture organisations and farming communities.
  • Rewrite farm employees’ industrial awards to ensure that farm employees, including casuals, receive comparable pay and conditions to other workers.
  • Prevent the forced sale of indebted farms and provide alternative funding on the basis of ongoing agricultural viability.
  • Encourage national agricultural self-sufficiency, minimising the need for food imports and strengthening the Australian farming sector.
  • Encourage farming cooperatives, local farmers markets, and state or cooperative marketing authorities.
  • Encourage producer cooperatives to ensure all farmers receive a fair price from processors and retailers.
  • Increase Landcare funding assistance for farmers to increase the sustainability of local farms and farming communities.
  • Food processing and trading practices that reduce transport, packaging and waste, including encouraging processing in productive regions.
  • Support the research, development and production of farm machinery, chemicals and biological products that supports better, safer and more affordable farming practices.
  • Increase research and development of more efficient agricultural water use practices.

Food Security—at home and abroad

There are few things more important than maintaining a secure and reliable supply of healthy food. In a world where over a billion people are starving, the deliberate destruction of food crops is criminal. Food should be produced and distributed to satisfy need, not to make profits.
Australia is more than capable of providing for most of the food needs of its population, and should assist our neighbours in the region – especially in the developing world – by sharing our sustainable agricultural practices and surplus food in order to improve the well-being of humanity as a whole.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Increase and redirect agricultural research into improving the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems and regions.
  • Restrict the use of prime agricultural land for urban development or mining.
  • Increase the scope of agricultural education, including at a primary and secondary school level.
  • Encourage the creation of urban and peri-urban “city farms”, community and “permaculture” gardens to maximise the proportion of food produced in cities and large towns, improving both food quality and reducing emissions from unnecessary transport.
  • Expand on projects like Food Bank, redistributing “excess” food to meet social needs, preventing food wastage and ensuring public access to nutritional food sources.
  • Increase foreign aid aimed at developing self-sufficient sustainable food production practices in developing countries and seek to prevent “food dumping”.
  • Develop “fair trade” policies with like-minded countries and increase foreign food aid programs in order to help prevent starvation and malnutrition.

Agriculture and Climate Change

Agriculture accounts for around 16% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and current agricultural practices – from fertilisers to food transport – consume huge quantities of fossil fuels. Land clearing and outdated forestry practices account for a further 6% of our greenhouse emissions.
Preventing climate disaster will require that net emissions from the rural sector be ended. At the same time, carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere through reforestation, including farm forestry, and improved farming practices.
Soil carbon levels need to be enhanced through encouragement of no-till and organic farming methods. Land currently used as low-grade pasture, or which climate change renders too dry for cropping, must be returned to native vegetation or employed in an environmentally responsible way for tree farming.
The Socialist Alliance will:
  • Encourage a shift away from fossil-fuel based chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
  • Encourage “Carbon farming”: increasing the amount of carbon locked in the soil and the ecosystem through methods such as permanent reafforestation and the use of sustainable farming practices such as composting.
  • Expand research on the production and use of biochar in order to increase crop yields, water retention, and plant nutrient availability, to enrich soil biota and to reduce reliance on synthetic fertilisers.
  • Prevent industrial biofuel or biochar production or broadscale carbon “offsetting” through unsustainable plantations that lock up prime farming land.
  • Permit land clearing only in exceptional circumstances and only when offset by the reforestation of equal areas of similar native vegetation.
  • Promote the restoration and remediation of native vegetation and ecosystems, reducing the release of greenhouse gases and limiting serious soil degradation.
  • Develop sustainable grazing practices, in order to improve soil stability and water availability.
  • Sharply reduce cattle and sheep numbers and improve stock management to minimise methane emissions per head.
  • Drastically cut the numbers of feral ruminants, especially camels.
  • Risk management for climactic changes that minimise the effects of weather extremes – require agricultural practices to adapt to climactic limitations.
Resolution adopted as interim policy. To be published in Alliance Voices with a view to soliciting comment and with the National Executive having the power to adopt a final version.

Getting Australia out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Freedom for Palestine!

Presenters Pip Hinman, Sydney Central and Aaron Benedek, Sydney Central
Chair Duncan Roden, Sydney West

30. Resolution on Afghanistan

Moved Pip Hinman, Sydney Central Seconded Various
The Socialist Alliance recognises that there was never any legal or moral justification for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001: this is not a “good war”.
The war is being prosecuted by the US-NATO forces as part of the US imperialism’s long-term strategic political and economic interests in the region under the guise of being a “war on terror”.
Bipartisan Australian support for the invasion and occupation is both a product of the US-Australia war alliance and Australia’s own economic interests in that region.
Australia’s military presence does not act as a positive counterweight to the US military: not only does it provide political legitimacy to the US-NATO command. Australian troops have been involved in the shooting of civilians, including children.
It’s clear from all the social and development statistics that after nearly nine years of war, life for ordinary Afghan civilians has dramatically deteriorated. Women have not been liberated.
The increasing number of civilian causalities, including women and children, is another feature of this war.
We also note the increasing number of US-NATO military casualties and applaud those soldiers who have taken a stand against the war.
The Socialist Alliance believes that there can be no democracy, or significant economic and social development, for peoples subjected to an occupying power.
Further, laws instituted by puppet regimes, at the behest of those occupying powers, do little to further the political and economic rights of the vast majority in Afghanistan.
We also oppose this war being spread into Pakistan, and support the brave efforts of democratic forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan to build a political current to counter the reactionary fundamentalists and the occupation forces.
Therefore, the Socialist Alliance calls on the Australian government to:
  • Immediately withdraw the Australian troops.
  • Pay war reparations and send aid for civilian-based reconstruction efforts.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

30a
Moved Helen Patterson, Sydney West Seconded Christine Keavney, Sydney Central
Add third dot point:
End support for the US war plans in the region. This includes any extension of the war into Pakistan and any US plans to attack Iran, and Yemen.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
30b
Moved Marie Muir, Sydney East Seconded Various
Addendum:
The Socialist Alliance condemns the use of private contractors in Afghanistan and other war zones. We call on the Australian government to cease using private contractors and to protest against countries such as US, British interests using these contractors.
30c (Amendment to 30b)
Moved Justine Kamprad, Perth Seconded Michael Crook Brisbane
Add including mercenaries after private contractors
ACCEPTED BY MOVER OF 30b

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

The Socialist Alliance recognises that there was never any legal or moral justification for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001: this is not a “good war”.
The war is being prosecuted by the US-NATO forces as part of the US imperialism’s long-term strategic political and economic interests in the region under the guise of being a “war on terror”.
Bipartisan Australian support for the invasion and occupation is both a product of the US-Australia war alliance and Australia’s own economic interests in that region.
Australia’s military presence does not act as a positive counterweight to the US military: not only does it provide political legitimacy to the US-NATO command. Australian troops have been involved in the shooting of civilians, including children.
It’s clear from all the social and development statistics that after nearly nine years of war, life for ordinary Afghan civilians has dramatically deteriorated. Women have not been liberated.
The increasing number of civilian causalities, including women and children, is another feature of this war.
We also note the increasing number of US-NATO military casualities and applaud those soldiers who have taken a stand against the war.
The Socialist Alliance believes that there can be no democracy, or significant economic and social development, for peoples subjected to an occupying power.
Further, laws instituted by puppet regimes, at the behest of those occupying powers, do little to further the political and economic rights of the vast majority in Afghanistan.
We also oppose this war being spread into Pakistan, and support the brave efforts of democratic forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan to build a political current to counter the reactionary fundamentalists and the occupation forces.
Therefore, the Socialist Alliance calls on the Australian government to:
  • Immediately withdraw the Australian troops.
  • Pay war reparations and send aid for civilian-based reconstruction efforts.
  • End support for the US war plans in the region. This includes any extension of the war into Pakistan and any US plans to attack Iran, and Yemen.
The Socialist Alliance condemns the use of private contractors, including mercenaries, in Afghanistan and other war zones. We call on the Australian government to cease using private contractors and to protest against countries such as US, British interests using these contractors.