Building the climate action movement

Guest presenter John Rice, CLEAN South Australia
Telephone presentation David Spratt,
Presenter Mel Barnes, National Environment Committee working group
Chair Leigh Hughes, Canberra

12. Socialist Alliance tasks in the climate action movement

Moved Mel Barnes, Hobart Seconded Various
NOTE Presented on behalf of the National Environment Committee
The world is facing a climate emergency. Most Australians continue to demand strong action on climate change but the Rudd government has failed to respond quickly and adequately. The Liberal opposition has swung to the right and installed a leadership team of climate sceptics.
In 2009, the first grassroots climate summit was held in January, followed by successful national climate emergency rallies in June, the protests at Hazelwood, Victoria in September and at Helensburgh, NSW in October and a mass sit-in at Parliament House in November. There were numerous local actions in response to the Copenhagen talks in December as well as Walks Against Warming in every city.
To win this battle for the future a powerful people’s movement — undoubtedly the greatest ever seen — will need to be organised to confront the vested interests who resist any serious change.
This movement for a sustainable environment will also have to be a great movement of solidarity with the people of the global South.
Resolution 1: That the Socialist Alliance continues to work with local climate groups to build the grassroots climate movement and mobilise people against climate change in 2010.
The Rudd government has proposed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) as the government’s key response to climate change. It is a flawed scheme that will give billions of dollars to polluters, while allowing for carbon emissions to continue rising. Despite being rejected twice in 2009, this legislation will be put to the parliament again in early 2010.
Resolution 2: That the Socialist Alliance continues to oppose the CPRS, or any other emissions trading scheme for Australia, because such schemes delay the structural changes urgently needed to de-carbonise the economy.
In early 2009, the Copenhagen conference was presented as the last chance to stop runaway climate change and as having a good chance at securing a strong international deal. The reality is that the rich nations used the talks to greenwash business-as-usual and legitimise their weak targets.
In 2010 we will need continue to campaign for strong cuts to emissions in Australia, while agitating for a fair deal for poorer nations.
2010 is an election year and we will need to work with climate activists in organising a united and organised national campaigning approach to the federal elections.
In March the second national climate summit will be held. This will be an opportunity for the various groups and activists that make up the climate movement to discuss future strategies in the aftermath of Copenhagen and the looming federal elections.
Resolution 3: That the Socialist Alliance supports the 2010 climate summit and will provide full support in order to make it a success.
The planet is perilously close to reaching key climate tipping points. If these points are crossed then natural feedback loops will begin to warm the planet further and faster.
Radical changes are needed to implement renewable energy and introduce sustainable food production if disaster is to be averted. Stark choices about our priorities will have to be made. The idea that the climate crisis can be solved by technological fixes and market mechanisms is a dangerous illusion.
No half-measures or compromises will be enough in this instance. The laws of chemistry, physics and biology cannot be bargained with or bought off. Either we rapidly reorganise our society so we live in harmony with Nature or we sacrifice a safe climate future.
The environmental policies we need cannot be imposed on the people. Instead, people have to mobilise to confront climate change and environmental decay themselves. To be successful, the movement’s politics must develop to the point where it recognises the fight for a safe climate is also a fight to create an alternative system based on social and ecological justice.
The fundamental enemy of global sustainability is capitalism’s production for private profit. Capitalism cannot survive without constantly regenerating an anti-environmental and consumerist ethic, without constantly expanding beyond natural limits and without deepening the destructive rift between human society and the natural world.
Resolution 4: That in its campaigning work, the Socialist Alliance continues to advocate fundamental social change as a necessary answer to the threat of climate change.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

12a
Moved Ruth Ratcliffe, Adelaide Seconded Various
Replace Resolution 1 with:
That the Socialist Alliance prioritises building the climate emergency movement. We will continue to work with local, state and national climate groups and networks to build the grassroots climate movement. We seek to build a movement which can rapidly shift the mass of the population from ignorance, despair and passivity to enable the emergency action by the mass of ordinary people necessary to preserve a safe climate future.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
12b
Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Wayne Klempel, Melbourne North
Insert the following addendum:
That the Socialist Alliance should promote practical solidarity between the climate movement in Australia and climate activists in the Asia Pacific. In addition, the Socialist Alliance should advocate that the climate movement publicly oppose the Australian government’s threat to withdraw aid from Pacific nations such as Tuvalu, which is campaigning internationally for stronger targets.
WITHDRAWN
12c
Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Margarita Windisch, Melbourne West

That the Socialist Alliance recognises the disproportional negative impact of climate change on Third World countries, which has already led to mass displacement and the deaths of thousands of people. The Socialist Alliance will promote practical solidarity between the Australian climate change movement and climate activists from other countries, especially from the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, the Socialist Alliance will advocate that the climate movement publicly oppose the Australian government’s threat to withdraw aid from Pacific nations such as Tuvalu, which is campaigning internationally for stronger targets.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

12d
Moved Dave Holmes, Melbourne North
That the Socialist Alliance recognises that combating climate change is impossible unless key sectors of the economy (energy, transport, banking) are firmly in public hands as the basis for the huge investments needed to decarbonise the economy. We advocate drawing up a comprehensive national plan with mandatory targets for each sector and enterprise with nationalisation and reorganisation as the penalty for failure.
WITHDRAWN

12e
Moved Simon Butler, Sydney Central Seconded Ben Courtice, Melbourne
Resolution 4
After:
That in its campaigning work, The Socialist Alliance continues to advocate fundamental social change as a necessary answer to the threat of climate change.
Add the sentence:
This includes campaigning for our current policy positions, including the need for public ownership of key sectors of the economy.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTIONS AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

Resolution 1: That the Socialist Alliance prioritises building the climate emergency movement. We will continue to work with local, state and national climate groups and networks to build the grassroots climate movement. We seek to build a movement which can rapidly shift the mass of the population from ignorance, despair and passivity to enable the emergency action by the mass of ordinary people necessary to preserve a safe climate future.
Resolution 2: That the Socialist Alliance recognises the disproportional negative impact of climate change on Third World countries, which has already led to mass displacement and the deaths of thousands of people. The Socialist Alliance will promote practical solidarity between the Australian climate change movement and climate activists from other countries, especially from the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, The Socialist Alliance will advocate that the climate movement publicly oppose the Australian government’s threat to withdraw aid from Pacific nations such as Tuvalu, which is campaigning internationally for stronger targets.
Resolution 3: That the Socialist Alliance continues to oppose the CPRS, or any other emissions trading scheme for Australia, because such schemes delay the structural changes urgently needed to de-carbonise the economy.
Resolution 4: That The Socialist Alliance supports the 2010 Climate Summit and will provide full support in order to make it a success.
Resolution 5: That in its campaigning work, the Socialist Alliance continues to advocate fundamental social change as a necessary answer to the threat of climate change. This includes campaigning for our current policy positions, including the need for public ownership of key sectors of the economy.

13. Socialist Alliance climate campaigning and policy

Moved Ben Courtice, Melbourne West Seconded Various
  1. The Socialist Alliance re-affirms that it will continue to support and propose strong, progressive and ambitious solutions in key debates in the climate movement, and that our climate movement strategy be designed to achieve rapid and constructive changes to government climate change policy, even if this means that all of our desired policy goals are not immediately adopted.
  2. The Socialist Alliance generally supports all practical campaigns if they are likely to reduce or slow emissions, or will increase the capacity of the renewable energy industry. This may include campaigns over local issues like desalination plants and new coal mines, or national issues such as the feed-in tariff and massive financial assistance by government for renewable energy research and development and the establishment of new and innovative projects.
  3. In the debate between carbon trading and a carbon tax, we support the latter while recognising its limitations. A carbon tax is far more accountable than carbon trading, provided it is not combined with elements of carbon trading such as offsets. However, a carbon tax without further regulation allows polluters to pass on costs to consumers without requiring polluters to change the way they operate to reduce or eliminate their emissions. We recognise the need for a large proportion of the revenue gained from a carbon tax to be applied to protect those domestic consumers who are on low and medium incomes from the higher energy prices that would result.
  4. We support the campaign for an industrial scale renewable energy feed-in tariff (FIT) to encourage medium and large-scale renewable energy projects. We are against increasing energy bills for low-income households to pay for the FIT.
  5. We will pro-actively support the campaign for worker-owned and controlled sustainable manufacturing co-operatives developed by Dave Kerin and the Victorian Mining and Energy division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. We also support community efforts (such as the Hepburn Wind co-operative in Victoria) aimed at acquiring their own renewable energy generation capacity.
  6. The Socialist Alliance will continue to build the community climate movement and promote the aim of bringing into being a climate emergency government that can take all the measures possible to stop climate change. We will continue to advocate for our full climate policies to this end. We argue for the movement to prioritise campaigns that undermine pro-market politics and increase the confidence of the climate movement as well as delivering any possible immediate gains as outlined in point 2.
  7. The Socialist Alliance does not pretend that any one of these measures above is likely to deliver an economy and industry which will give us a safe climate, but we recognise that in campaigns there are occasions when we need to support proposals and campaign that are less than ideal to achieve rapid national policy change. Worker co-operatives are a partial solution, or a step along the way, hence our pro-active support. FIT and carbon taxes may produce some positive results in terms of emissions reductions and the development of renewable technology, but do not politically weaken the domination of corporate and market forces over politics.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

13a
Moved Ben Courtice, Melbourne West Seconded Dave Kerin, Victoria at large
Amend all of point 3 to read as follows:
In the debate between carbon trading and a carbon tax, we support the latter in preference to carbon trading, provided that it is regulated, and does not include elements of carbon trading such as offsets. A sufficient portion of the revenue raised by a carbon tax would need to be allocated to protect domestic consumers from the higher energy prices that would result. This protection should be available to low to medium income earners on a means-tested basis. Further revenue from the carbon tax should be provided to low/ medium income earners to “green” their houses and transport.
These provisions do not commit The Socialist Alliance to support any carbon tax regardless of its detail, nor do they indicate that The Socialist Alliance supports a carbon tax as the definitive or main measure to address climate change, but indicate that The Socialist Alliance can support a carbon tax over carbon trading if we judge it politically useful.
The Socialist Alliance will initiate a debate in Green Left Weekly and Alliance Voices on the possible merits and uses of carbon taxes and encourages all branches and members to participate.
Amend all of point 5 to read as follows:
The Socialist Alliance supports community efforts such as the Hepburn Wind Co-operative in Victoria which aim to acquire/ build renewable energy generation capacity for the community.
The Socialist Alliance notes the “Eureka’s Future” project of the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association, currently an initiative of the Victorian District of the Mining Division of the CFMEU. This will see a social enterprise manufacturing solar hot water units for exchange, providing a range of options for workers to purchase, including through their EBA.
The Socialist Alliance supports the establishment of such enterprises as a social sector of the Australian economy, owned and controlled by working people. The Socialist Alliance will pro-actively support the existing project and future such projects by direct participation of The Socialist Alliance members, and by promoting and defending this initiative in other areas of our work. We will particularly seek to integrate this example as an important part of our “green jobs” campaigning and literature in the union and environment movements.
Delete points 1, 2, 6 and 7, and insert new point 1 as below. Re-number remaining points accordingly:
1. The Socialist Alliance promotes a comprehensive environmental strategy, as outlined in our climate charter and other policy, to create a climate emergency government.
The Socialist Alliance generally supports campaigns that will reduce greenhouse emissions or build the capacity of the renewable energy industry, even if they are less than ideal or only partial in their ability to prevent climate change. We will critically consider support for such campaigns and policies as carbon taxes and feed-in tariffs on this basis.

ACCEPTED BY MOVER
13b
Moved Zane Alcorn, Newcastle Seconded Ben Courtice, Melbourne West
(Subject to renumbering as per other amendments)
After point 4 re. feed-in tariff:
The Socialist Alliance acknowledges that a massive rollout of renewable energy, as proposed in our campaign work, will all occur on Aboriginal land.
The Socialist Alliance will seek to build consciousness of the Indigenous struggle within the climate movement, and highlight the fact that any major rollout of wind farms, solar thermal plants, etc, must occur under the direction of the traditional owners of the land upon which such plants are proposed to be built.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

  1. The Socialist Alliance promotes a comprehensive environmental strategy, as outlined in our climate charter and other policy, to create a climate emergency government.
  2. The Socialist Alliance generally supports campaigns that will reduce greenhouse emissions or build the capacity of the renewable energy industry, even if they are less than ideal or only partial in their ability to prevent climate change. We will critically consider support for such campaigns and policies as carbon taxes and feed-in tariffs on this basis.
  3. In the debate between carbon trading and a carbon tax, we support the latter in preference to carbon trading, provided that it is regulated, and does not include elements of carbon trading such as offsets. A sufficient portion of the revenue raised by a carbon tax would need to be allocated to protect domestic consumers from the higher energy prices that would result. This protection should be available to low to medium income earners on a means-tested basis. Further revenue from the carbon tax should be provided to low/ medium income earners to “green” their houses and transport.
These provisions do not commit the Socialist Alliance to support any carbon tax regardless of its detail, nor do they indicate that the Socialist Alliance supports a carbon tax as the definitive or main measure to address climate change, but indicate that the Socialist Alliance can support a carbon tax over carbon trading if we judge it politically useful.
The Socialist Alliance will initiate a debate in Green Left Weekly and Alliance Voices on the possible merits and uses of carbon taxes and encourages all branches and members to participate.

  1. We support the campaign for an industrial scale renewable energy feed-in tariff (FIT) to encourage medium and large-scale renewable energy projects. We are against increasing energy bills for low-income households to pay for the FIT.
  2. The Socialist Alliance acknowledges that a massive rollout of renewable energy, as proposed in our campaign work, will all occur on Aboriginal land.
The Socialist Alliance will seek to build consciousness of Indigenous struggle within the climate movement, and highlight the fact that any major rollout of wind farms, solar thermal plants, etc, must occur under the direction of the traditional owners of the land upon which such plants are proposed to be built.
  1. The Socialist Alliance supports community efforts such as the Hepburn Wind Co-operative in Victoria which aim to acquire/ build renewable energy generation capacity for the community.
  2. The Socialist Alliance notes the “Eureka’s Future” project of the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association, currently an initiative of the Victorian District of the Mining Division of the CFMEU. This will see a social enterprise manufacturing solar hot water units for exchange, providing a range of options for workers to purchase, including through their EBA.
The Socialist Alliance supports the establishment of such enterprises as a social sector of the Australian economy, owned and controlled by working people. The Socialist Alliance will pro-actively support the existing project and future such projects by direct participation of Socialist Alliance members, and by promoting and defending this initiative in other areas of our work. We will particularly seek to integrate this example as an important part of our “green jobs” campaigning and literature in the union and environment movements.

14. Draft policy on steel industry and of mining coking coal

Moved Matt Garner, Illawarra Seconded Chris Williams, Illawarra
NOTE Resolution adopted by Illawarra branch
Scientists are telling us we must phase out coal quickly or risk an uninhabitable planet. Coal burning now accounts for around 36% of Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; mining and handling coal adds even more. Phasing out thermal coal – used for power generation – should begin immediately. With direct government investment in a publicly owned renewable energy sector, jobs and retraining on full pay would be guaranteed for coal-mining and power-station communities. But what about coking (or metallurgical) coal – used in the production of steel? Is it part of the problem or part of the solution?
Steel still necessary
The transition to a low-carbon economy will require the use of steel, in the production of train rolling stock or wind turbines for example. Coking coal is used to extract iron from iron ore, in a blast furnace, to make steel and can therefore be socially useful. The process does pollute however. Oxygen from the iron ore bonds with carbon from the coal to make carbon dioxide. A tremendous amount of energy is required to separate the oxygen from the iron.
Electric arc furnaces are used to recycle steel from old scrap steel, avoiding the need for coking coal. Recycling steel in an electric arc furnace is much less GHG-intensive than manufacturing new steel from iron ore in a blast furnace. Imagine melting down military hardware to manufacture train lines and wind turbines, for example. However, recycled steel alone is not sufficient to meet current demand for steel worldwide. If we plan to continue producing steel at the same rate, we can’t simply end the mining of coking coal overnight.
However, the extent of the climate crisis demands we reduce our GHG emissions across the board. This means rapidly decreasing our reliance on polluting industries and materials that are energy intensive to produce, including steel. We need to radically rethink the way we produce and use such materials.
Transparency and democracy
But for starters we need to know exactly what’s going on. Our major steelworks are subject to government audits to assess carbon emissions but these are difficult to access. Audits need to involve and be made available to the public and independent environment groups. They need to be transparent and open to scrutiny. If companies refuse to cooperate they should be brought under public ownership and democratic control.
Steelworks are big polluters. For example BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla plant on the NSW south coast emits about 11 million tonnes of GHGs into the atmosphere each year - about 7% of NSW’s total greenhouse output. An independent assessment needs to be made of the clean up cost.
We support the “polluter-pays” principle. If companies cry poor they should have to open their books and let the community decide if they can afford to clean-up. For example, every steelworks should be using co-generation to recycle heat and flare gases for electricity generation. Climate change won’t negotiate with the peaks and troughs of the market, such measures should be mandatory.
For the six months to the end of December 2008, BlueScope posted profits of $406.9 million. Imagine if those millions were going back into the public coffers to clean up the industry.
Making steel greener
Destructive coal-mining practices should end. Longwall mining for example is used because it massively increases production and profitability but at great cost to the environment. We support the demands of groups such as Rivers SOS who call for a one kilometre buffer zone between coal mines and key water sources such as rivers and reservoirs.
More funding and research is needed into finding a replacement for coal in steel production. The CSIRO is investigating the use of oil mallee trees and other native hardwoods, for example. They argue steel production could be a net zero-emissions process as each new generation of trees absorbs the carbon emitted from the production process. This research should be continued but significant questions remain. It may be more useful to turn the wood into biochar or leave the trees as a carbon sink. Researching this though would be much more valuable than continuing research into discredited “clean coal” technologies. Another possible alternative is the use of hydrogen gas as a reductant in the blast furnace instead of coking coal. This technology is still under development but has the potential to result in a significant decrease in emissions.
The steel-making process has the potential to be made more efficient by paying close attention to the manufacturing process. This can involve things such as: implementing more modern technology into an older steelworks or minimising internally generated waste by implementing by-product recycling schemes into the steelworks. Every steelworks in operation should be committed to operating at maximum efficiency and where necessary existing facilities should be modernised to ensure this.
Steel is expensive and energy intensive to transport. We call for massive investment in heavy rail and bulk freight to facilitate a shift “from roads to rail”. Diversifying the production of steel—reversing years of specialisation—should also be encouraged to reduce the need to transport large amounts of finished steel around Australia and the globe.
Planning the big picture
More importantly we need strategic planning to reduce our reliance on steel. Steel producers should be compelled to increase the recycling of steel which is much cleaner than blast-furnace steel (only 65% of available scrap metal is recycled in Australia each year). Steel producers should have to maximise the end of life recyclability of products, and governments should encourage scrap availability programs, especially in the electrical and domestic industries where recycling is minimal.
Steel producers should have to source more of their energy needs from renewables, aiming for 100% by 2020. Mandatory targets must be set in these areas.
Manufactured products should be redesigned to reduce the amount of steel necessary in their production, e.g. light weighting. Furthermore, the products that we design and use should be made to last. The government should outlaw planned obsolescence. This is particularly important in the industries that place the most demand on steel production, like the automotive industry for example.
Manufacturers should be required by law to commit to such plans or else be placed in public hands. We can’t allow our planet to be held hostage to the private profits of the big polluters and the industries that demand energy intensive inputs.
The potential of less energy intensive alternatives to steel, such as carbon-fibre composites, need to be explored. Other energy intensive alternatives, such as aluminium, could be utilised if power was sourced from renewable energy.
We need to rethink the things that we are making with steel. Wind turbines, electric trains and solar panels are socially useful, but what about bombs, warships and Joint Strike Fighters?
If society took these approaches to lower the amount of steel we use and increase the quantity of recycled steel used in production, we could significantly reduce the rate of extraction of coal from the earth.
Steel for development
Underdeveloped countries have the right to better living standards and the First World should support and resource their development. At this stage, development necessarily requires the use of steel. While living standards in those countries must be improved, this should not occur at the cost of ruining the environment.
Australia should support and resource Third World development along sustainable lines. Firstly, because of the debt of colonialism and imperialism and the fact that First World industrialisation created the climate crisis. Secondly, because it is both necessary for the survival of the planet and because we are the ones with the resources to do so.
What does this mean for the export of coking coal?
The vast majority of coking coal exported from Australia goes to industrialised countries. For example, 52% of NSW coking coal goes to Japan. Further, it is not all used for steel making, with much used for energy production.
A great deal of this export, and indeed steel production, is also driven by commercial opportunity and marketing from the steel industry, not human need. The “development” currently needing steel may be new coal-fired power stations, mega-dams that cause internal displacement, or cheap export industries that service Western consumers. Thus sourcing steel (or the means to produce it) does not necessarily even mean better living standards.
So the export of coking coal cannot be used to support current modes of unsustainable development, and must be carried out along selective lines.
Jobs and a ‘just transition’
The “Greenhouse Mafia”, powerful lobby groups represented in the coal, steel and other industries, will fight moves to put the planet and people before profit. Many workers and their communities are being told that they must choose between a safe climate future and their jobs, their livelihood.
But the transition to a low-carbon economy isn’t the main threat to jobs. The unquenchable thirst for profits is, and it threatens to destroy life on Earth as we know it. The climate movement needs to unite with working people and demand the government assist communities to move away from coal. In fact, it’s likely the scale of changes needed for the transition will require more workers than are currently employed in Australia.
Australia’s response to climate change must include the phasing out of coal, including the planned phase out of coking coal. But the only possible alternative has to include massive job creation in the renewable energy sector and in the manufacturing of sustainable alternatives to energy intensive materials such as steel. Importantly, communities currently relying on coal-mining and steel production need to be prioritised for infrastructure investment and job creation in the new, sustainable sectors.

AMENDMENT MOVED

14a
Moved Jess Moore, Illawarra Seconded Matt Garner, Illawarra
Change name to “Policy on Coal and Steel”
In the first paragraph, after adds even more insert:
all subsidies to the coal industry must end.
In paragraph What does this mean for the export of coking coal?
After, selective lines, insert:
To facilitate this the coal export industry must be brought under public control. The revenues should be used to establish sustainable alternative industries in communities currently reliant on the coal industries.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

Policy on Coal and Steel
Scientists are telling us we must phase out coal quickly or risk an uninhabitable planet. Coal burning now accounts for around 36% of Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; mining and handling coal adds even more—all subsidies to the coal industry must end.
Phasing out thermal coal – used for power generation – should begin immediately. With direct government investment in a publicly owned renewable energy sector, jobs and retraining on full pay would be guaranteed for coal-mining and power-station communities. But what about coking (or metallurgical) coal – used in the production of steel? Is it part of the problem or part of the solution?

Steel still necessary
The transition to a low-carbon economy will require the use of steel, in the production of train rolling stock or wind turbines for example. Coking coal is used to extract iron from iron ore, in a blast furnace, to make steel and can therefore be socially useful. The process does pollute however. Oxygen from the iron-ore bonds with carbon from the coal to make carbon dioxide. A tremendous amount of energy is required to separate the oxygen from the iron.
Electric Arc furnaces are used to recycle steel from old scrap steel, avoiding the need for coking coal. Recycling steel in an electric arc furnace is much less GHG intensive than manufacturing new steel from iron ore in a blast furnace. Imagine melting down military hardware to manufacture train lines and wind turbines, for example. However, recycled steel alone is not sufficient to meet current demand for steel worldwide. If we plan to continue producing steel at the same rate, we can’t simply end the mining of coking coal overnight.
However, the extent of the climate crisis demands we reduce our GHG emissions across the board. This means rapidly decreasing our reliance on polluting industries and materials that are energy intensive to produce, including steel. We need to radically rethink the way we produce and use such materials.
Transparency and democracy
But for starters we need to know exactly what’s going on. Our major steelworks are subject to government audits to assess carbon emissions but these are difficult to access. Audits need to involve and be made available to the public and independent environment groups. They need to be transparent and open to scrutiny. If companies refuse to cooperate they should be brought under public ownership and democratic control.
Steelworks are big polluters. For example BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla plant on the NSW south coast emits about 11 million tonnes of GHGs into the atmosphere each year - about 7% of NSW’s total greenhouse output. An independent assessment needs to be made of the clean up cost.
We support the ‘polluter-pays’ principle. If companies cry poor they should have to open their books and let the community decide if they can afford to clean-up. For example, every steelworks should be using co-generation to recycle heat and flare gases for electricity generation. Climate change won’t negotiate with the peaks and troughs of the market, such measures should be mandatory.
For the six months to the end of December 2008, BlueScope posted profits of $406.9 million. Imagine if those millions were going back into the public coffers to clean-up the industry.

Making steel greener
Destructive coal-mining practices should end. Longwall mining for example is used because it massively increases production and profitability but at great cost to the environment. We support the demands of groups such as Rivers SOS who call for a one kilometre buffer zone between coal mines and key water sources such as rivers and reservoirs.
More funding and research is needed into finding a replacement for coal in steel production. The CSIRO is investigating the use of oil mallee trees and other native hardwoods for example. They argue steel production could be a net zero-emissions process as each new generation of trees absorbs the carbon emitted from the production process. This research should be continued but significant questions remain. It may be more useful to turn the wood into biochar or leave the trees as a carbon sink. Researching this though would be much more valuable than continuing research into discredited “clean coal” technologies. Another possible alternative is the use of hydrogen gas as a reductant in the blast furnace instead of coking coal. This technology is still under development but has the potential to result in a significant decrease in emissions.
The steel-making process has the potential to be made more efficient by paying close attention to the manufacturing process. This can involve things such as: implementing more modern technology into an older steelworks or minimising internally generated waste by implementing by-product recycling schemes into the steelworks. Every steelworks in operation should be committed to operating at maximum efficiency and where necessary existing facilities should be modernised to ensure this.
Steel is expensive and energy intensive to transport. We call for massive investment in heavy rail and bulk freight to facilitate a shift “from roads to rail”. Diversifying the production of steel – reversing years of specialisation – should also be encouraged to reduce the need to transport large amounts of finished steel around Australia and the globe.
Planning the big picture
More importantly we need strategic planning to reduce our reliance on steel. Steel producers should be compelled to increase the recycling of steel which is much cleaner than blast-furnace steel (only 65% of available scrap metal is recycled in Australia each year). Steel producers should have to maximise the end of life recyclability of products, and governments should encourage scrap availability programs, especially in the electrical and domestic industries where recycling is minimal.
Steel producers should have to source more of their energy needs from renewables, aiming for 100% by 2020. Mandatory targets must be set in these areas.
Manufactured products should be redesigned to reduce the amount of steel necessary in their production, e.g. light weighting. Furthermore, the products that we design and use should be made to last. The government should outlaw planned obsolescence. This is particularly important in the industries that place the most demand on steel production, like the automotive industry for example.
Manufacturers should be required by law to commit to such plans or else be placed in public hands. We can’t allow our planet to be held hostage to the private profits of the big polluters and the industries that demand energy intensive inputs.
The potential of less energy intensive alternatives to steel, such as carbon-fibre composites, need to be explored. Other energy intensive alternatives, such as aluminium, could be utilised if power was sourced from renewable energy.
We need to rethink the things that we are making with steel. Wind turbines, electric trains and solar panels are socially useful, but what about bombs, warships and Joint Strike Fighters?
If society took these approaches to lower the amount of steel we use and increase the quantity of recycled steel used in production, we could significantly reduce the rate of extraction of coal from the earth.
Steel for development
Underdeveloped countries have the right to better living standards and the First World should support and resource their development. At this stage, development necessarily requires the use of steel. While living standards in those countries must be improved, this should not occur at the cost of ruining the environment.
Australia should support and resource Third World development along sustainable lines. Firstly, because of the debt of colonialism and imperialism and the fact that First World industrialisation created the climate crisis. Secondly, because it is both necessary for the survival of the planet and because we are the ones with the resources to do so.
What does this mean for the export of coking coal?
The vast majority of coking coal exported from Australia goes to industrialised countries. For example, 52% of NSW coking coal goes to Japan. Further, it is not all used for steel making, with much used for energy production.
A great deal of this export, and indeed steel production, is also driven by commercial opportunity and marketing from the steel industry, not human need. The “development” currently needing steel may be new coal-fired power stations, mega-dams that cause internal displacement, or cheap export industries that service Western consumers. Thus sourcing steel (or the means to produce it) does not necessarily even mean better living standards.
So the export of coking coal cannot be used to support current modes of unsustainable development, and must be carried out along selective lines.
To facilitate this, the coal export industry must be brought under public control. The revenues should be used to establish sustainable alternative industries in communities currently reliant on the coal industries.
Jobs and a ‘just transition’
The “Greenhouse Mafia”, powerful lobby groups represented in the coal, steel and other industries, will fight moves to put the planet and people before profit. Many workers and their communities are being told that they must choose between a safe climate future and their jobs, their livelihood.
But the transition to a low-carbon economy isn’t the main threat to jobs. The unquenchable thirst for profits is, and it threatens to destroy life on Earth as we know it. The climate movement needs to unite with working people and demand the government assist communities to move away from coal. In fact, it’s likely the scale of changes needed for the transition will require more workers than are currently employed in Australia.
Australia’s response to climate change must include the phasing out of coal, including the planned phase out of coking coal. But the only possible alternative has to include massive job creation in the renewable energy sector and in the manufacturing of sustainable alternatives to energy intensive materials such as steel. Importantly, communities currently relying on coal-mining and steel production need to be prioritised for infrastructure investment and job creation in the new, sustainable sectors.

15. Policy on coal exports

Moved Zane Alcorn, Newcastle Seconded Various
Australia: world’s largest coal exporter
1) Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, which is in turn the most emissions-intensive fossil fuel.
To prevent runaway climate change, the burning of coal must be rapidly phased out. The Socialist Alliance rejects the assertion by the Australian Coal Association that Australian coal exports could simply be replaced “overnight” by other producers if Australian exports were phased out. A phasing out of Australian coal exports would create (at least temporarily) a shortage of supply, sending the price of coal up. The political impact of the world’s largest coal exporter cutting exports would be substantial. The two main uses of coal are in steel production (Metallurgical/coking coal) and electricity production (steaming coal).
Steaming coal
2) Modern renewable energy technology such as wind turbines and “base load” solar thermal with storage present practical alternatives to coal fired electricity.
Other technologies like solar photovoltaic, wave and tidal power, bioelectricity (from crop wastes) and geothermal present promising avenues to further development of renewables.
The Socialist Alliance believes the ongoing use of coal for electricity generation is unjustified given the availability of viable renewable alternatives. Australia must eliminate domestic use of coal fired power, and must also seek to phase out its exports of steaming coal as rapidly as possible. Coal exports could be scaled back on a country by country basis, with those countries best placed to move to renewables (and most obliged given their economic position and historic emissions) having their access to Australian steaming coal scaled back and ultimately eliminated.
Coking coal
3) Currently coking coal is a necessary input in the steel-making process, with no alternative industrial scale method of extracting iron from iron ore. However there exists plenty of scope for the scaling back of steel production to eliminate non-essential use of the resource, as well as expanded recycling.
The Socialist Alliance calls for an expanded program of steel recycling using renewables powered electric arc technology, research into low or zero emissions smelting of iron ore, and the prioritisation of steel production for socially necessary purposes.
However given that as yet coking/metallurgical coal is a necessary element of steel production, The Socialist Alliance calls for coking coal exports to be reduced as much as possible but not necessarily eliminated altogether. The profits from any ongoing coking coal exports should be used for further research into (and implementation of) low or zero emission steel production, i.e. the industry should be publicly owned, not run for profit. For more information see The Socialist Alliance draft policy on steel industry and of mining coking coal.
Japan
4) Japan receives special mention as it is the major importer of Australian coal (both steaming and metallurgical). The Socialist Alliance wishes to develop ties with climate activists, environmentalists and trade unionists in Japan with a view to working together on climate and coal campaigns. The other two major importers are Taiwan and South Korea. Japan has an advanced manufacturing sector which is particularly well placed to move to renewables development and manufacture. Japan’s reliance on Australian coal exports ultimately presents the climate movement in each country with an opportunity to collaborate on a more effective campaign for climate action.
A just transition
5) Trade unions in the mining industry have fought hard for improved wages over the past 100 years and unionised workers in the industry enjoy good wages. Some coal mining communities would be economically (and socially) decimated if the coal industry was to leave without the creation of robust sources of alternative employment. The Socialist Alliance calls for state and federal governments to nationalise the export coal industry and use the revenues to establish alternative industries in communities currently reliant on the coal industry.

Given that Australia needs to embark on a major renewables manufacturing program to decarbonise our energy sector, it is logical that major elements of the new renewables manufacturing industry could be intentionally established in coal communities to provide alternative jobs for coal workers. It should be noted that renewables manufacture is by no means the only alternative industry that could be stimulated in mining communities. The Socialist Alliance calls for retraining of coal workers on full pay. The Socialist Alliance congratulates the Latrobe Valley CFMEU for developing a transition plan for workers in the coal fired electricity sector and calls upon the union to develop such a plan for workers in the export coal industry, and in particular the steaming coal export industry based mainly in the Hunter valley.
International aid
6) Elements of the grassroots’ climate movement in Australia have expressed concern that a phasing out of Australian coal exports could result in developing nations being deprived of access to a cheap energy resource necessary for their economic development. It is important to remember that Japan is the major buyer of Australian coal and that Japan is not a third world country. The other two major buyers of Australian coal, Taiwan and South Korea, are not economic superpowers like Japan however they both possess advanced manufacturing capacity and are thus well placed to produce renewables to replace their coal-fired power stations.
7) The Socialist Alliance wishes to reiterate that as Australian coal exports are phased out, a publicly-owned export industry could ration remaining exports to those least able to afford a transition to renewables. Perhaps more importantly though, the Socialist Alliance believes that as a rich country and historically a major polluter, Australia is obliged to provide free or highly subsidised renewable generation infrastructure to developing countries to assist in achieving a rapid transition to a low or zero-carbon economy.
Stop the expansion
8) Australia is currently experiencing a massive expansion in its coal export industry, with vast new government subsidised rail and port infrastructure being built to facilitate the expansion.
The Socialist Alliance calls for all subsidies to the coal industry to be cut. Local community campaign groups such as the Rivers SOS network are fighting against the expansion, largely due to concern over the damaging effect the new mines will have on water resources and air quality. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the first step towards phasing out coal exports is in fact preventing any further expansion in exports, and supports those campaigning against the expansion.

A ‘Green Ban’ for Caroona?
9) A group of farmers at Caroona, near Gunnedah in NSW, are currently fighting to protect their farmland from being mined. This is the “frontier” of the current massive expansion of coal exports. Caroona is home to a giant flat valley with deep, rich soil and vast underground aquifers, meaning the land is extremely productive and ostensibly drought proof. The farmers at Caroona are quite wealthy and are not what one would think are natural allies of socialists. However, the Socialist Alliance believes that the spectre of the destruction of this extremely productive farmland by mining, in the context of climate change causing crop failure and drought, is an issue which transcends class.
10) The Socialist Alliance calls upon the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) to place a “green ban” on Caroona, in defiance of laws legislated by the former Howard government which would technically allow mining companies to sue (and possibly even bankrupt) the union. The Socialist Alliance believes that if a union cannot strike/ declare a green ban to save such a priceless agricultural resource from the rapacious greed of a mining company, then the laws are clearly unjust and should not be adhered to. A green ban at Caroona, which is something the membership of the union may well support, would set an important precedent. The Socialist Alliance also calls upon the ACTU and the Farmers Federation Fighting fund (currently being used to bankroll the farmers legal team) to indicate a willingness to use their resources and industrial strength to defend the CFMEU if BHP Billiton or Shenhua coal did attempt to sue the union.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

15a
Moved Dominic Hale, Brisbane Seconded Naomi Rogers-Falk, Brisbane
Remove the last two sentences from paragraph 9.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
15b
Moved Justine Kamprad, Fremantle Seconded Dominic Hale, Brisbane
In point 9 replace the words:
a group of farmers
with:
farmers and community members
Remove all text after the words drought proof in point 9 and insert the text:
The Socialist Alliance calls upon the unions whose members would be employed to work in Caroona, most predominately the CFMEU, to place a “green ban” on the project. The loud opposition to this project is broad and deeply felt within the community and this action would set an important precedent for community/ union campaigning.
The Socialist Alliance recognises that this action would be a brave one on the part of the unions. We call upon the ACTU and Farmers Federation Fighting Fund to extend the legal assistance, currently being used for legal action against the project, to defend the unions involved against any legal actions taken by them during this campaign.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
15c
Moved Zane Alcorn, Newcastle Seconded Various
To delete points 1-8 and rename the resolution A Green Ban for Caroona
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
15d
Moved Luke Weyland, Sydney West Seconded
Delete point 10
LAPSED

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

15. A ‘Green Ban’ for Caroona
A group of farmers at Caroona, near Gunnedah in NSW, are currently fighting to protect their farmland from being mined. This is the “frontier” of the current massive expansion of coal exports. Caroona is home to a giant flat valley with deep, rich soil and vast underground aquifers, meaning the land is extremely productive and ostensibly drought proof.
The Socialist Alliance calls upon the unions whose members would be employed to work in Caroona, most predominately the CFMEU, to place a “green ban” on the project. The loud opposition to this project is broad and deeply felt within the community and this action would set an important precedent for community/ union campaigning.
The Socialist Alliance recognises that this action would be a brave one on the part of the unions. We call upon the ACTU and Farmers Federation Fighting Fund to extend the legal assistance, currently being used for legal action against the project, to defend the unions involved against any legal actions taken by them during this campaign.

16. The Socialist Alliance Climate Charter 2009 edition: report on progress and status

NO RESOLUTION SUBMITTED
SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, AFTERNOON SESSIONS

The struggle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights

Presenters Sam Watson National Indigenous Rights Spokesperson Emma Murphy Sydney Central
Chair Peter Robson Sydney Central

MOTION FROM PRESIDING COMMITTEE

Moved Jess Moore, Presiding Committee Seconded Dick Nichols, Presiding Committee
That the incoming National Executive be empowered to edit adopted conference resolutions with regard to grammar, duplication and clarity.
CARRIED

17. On The Socialist Alliance’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights work

NOTE Moved on behalf of the national working group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights
Moved Emma Murphy, Sydney Central and ATSI national working group Seconded Bea Bleile, New England and ATSI national working group
The Socialist Alliance Seventh National Conference acknowledges the important historical role socialists have played in major struggles for Aboriginal rights throughout the last century. Through our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter, we commit ourselves to continuing in this tradition, supporting and championing Aboriginal self-determination and Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs, while linking Aboriginal struggles to other movements, especially the trade union movement.
Aboriginal affairs constitute one of the moral weaknesses of the Rudd government. Actions speak louder than words and hopes raised by the apology on February 13, 2008, have been betrayed by the continuation and expansion of the Northern Territory intervention. The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, a national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is being established from above and does not have any credibility amongst Aboriginal activists who denounce it as a toothless waste of time without a legitimate mandate. This representative body and recent “consultations” with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, which did not allow those attending to properly voice their opinions, are just two examples of how government policy has turned back to assimilation.
The federal government is coming under increasing fire, including growing international criticism, for its expansion and continuation of racist policies of the previous Coalition government. In August, UN Human Rights Rapporteur Professor James Anaya said measures like compulsory income management, imposition of compulsory leases and community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography “overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples’’.
A statement released by another UN Human Rights Rapporteur in December finds that equal access to primary healthcare facilities is lacking, sometimes due to lack of transportation and communication infrastructure, but more often due to direct discrimination and culturally inappropriate services being provided.
Conference recognises the emergence of new national Aboriginal leadership, especially through the campaign against the Northern Territory intervention. Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and across the country have come together to condemn the intervention, and this new leadership is slowly consolidating. The Socialist Alliance pledges to provide support, space and resources for further development.
The Socialist Alliance’s Work in 2010
Aboriginal Rights Coalitions
Branches in cities with existing and healthy Aboriginal rights coalitions will assess whether they have the resources to participate in these and do so if possible.
Trade union work
We recognise the importance of the union movement becoming more involved in the Aboriginal rights movement, and will use our presence in unions and on union bodies to strengthen this relationship. The Socialist Alliance will take the opportunity provided by the interest unions have displayed in the Ampilatwatja walk-off, for example, to get in touch with, or work closer with, unions and unionists we weren’t otherwise working with.
International solidarity
Through Green Left Weekly, and our contacts among the international left, we will seek to establish links between Aboriginal people involved in the various campaigns and revolutionaries and Indigenous activists around the world, especially across Latin America.
New book and policy charter

Launching the new book by Terry Townsend and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter provides an excellent opportunity for educationals and discussion with guest speakers in branches.
Campaign Priorities
End the intervention
The Northern Territory intervention continues to be the pointy end of Rudd Labor’s Aboriginal affairs policy: in fact it is Labor’s policy—the measures introduced as part of the intervention are quietly being rolled out across the country.
For this reason, The Socialist Alliance sees the campaign to end the intervention as crucial, and we will continue to prioritise it.
Concretely, we will:

  • Build and participate in the national day of action on February 13, 2010, and the one on June 21, 2010 and any other mobilisations;
  • Continue to support and publicise the Ampilatwatja walk-off and protest house project, through taking motions of solidarity and pledges for donations to unions, talking it up in our publications, websites etc, building any future national speaking tours and other publicity events; and
  • Help strengthen union opposition to the Northern Territory intervention through taking motions to meetings, actively seeking union endorsement for and participation in any mobilisations, getting articles into union journals etc.


Stop Deaths in Custody campaign
The Socialist Alliance will continue our involvement in the campaigns demanding justice for Mr Ward, Mulrunji and others. In particular, we support the demands of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Western Australia:

  • Call for full implementation of the 339 recommendations of the 1987–1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
  • The GSL security guards to be stood down, and for those responsible to be charged.
  • Compensation for the family of Mr Ward.
  • The use of air transport or video conferencing instead of long road journeys.
  • Health checks for detainees by medical practitioners prior to transportation.
  • Immediate upgrades to and regular checks of detainee transport vehicles.
  • A review of bail terms to avoid unnecessary detention.
  • Accountability—who takes responsibility for a death in custody when it happens in a private contractor’s care?
  • An end to the privatisation of custodial services.
The Socialist Alliance will also be ready to respond, through actions, articles and statements, should any more Aboriginal people die at the hands of police.
Campaign to stop the Brighton Bypass in Tasmania
The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign to stop the Brighton Bypass in Tasmania. The project, which goes through one of the richest areas of Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage should be stopped immediately and the demands of the Aboriginal community should be met to save the 15,000 year old heritage.
Other campaigns
There may be other campaigns, such as around stolen wages in Queensland or new government attacks on ATSI rights, which emerge/gain momentum. The Socialist Alliance will be ready to assess these campaigns, support them and participate in them according to our assessment and resources at the time.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

17a
Moved Alex Bainbridge, Perth Seconded Emma Murphy, Sydney Central
Replace the existing section titled “Stop Deaths in Custody Campaign” with the following:
Stop Black Deaths In Custody Campaign
The Socialist Alliance pledges our continued support and involvement in campaigns demanding justice for Mr Ward, Mulrunji, T.J. Hickey and others. In particular, the Socialist Alliance calls for:

  • The full implementation of the 339 recommendations of the 1987-91 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
  • Termination of the prison service contract between GSL/ G4S and the state of Western Australia, and a complete end to privatisation of custodial services
  • Compensation for the families of Mr Ward, Mulrunji, TJ Hickey and all victims of deaths in custody
  • A new Royal Commission into the death of Mulrunji and other recent deaths in custody, in order to expose the role of the police, and help build momentum for serious charges against those involved in, or who attempted to cover up, a death in custody.
  • An end to government policies and judicial system practices that result in criminalisation and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in prisons.
The Socialist Alliance supports the work and demands of the Western Australian Deaths in Custody Watch Committee. The Socialist Alliance also supports the call for a February 14 National Day of Action for justice for T.J. Hickey.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17b
Moved Rohan Gaiswinkler, Hobart Seconded Emma Murphy, Sydney Central

To be added under the section Other Campaigns
Bilingual Education
On October 14, 2008, then NT Minister Marion Scrymgour announced that the first four hours of education in all NT schools would be delivered in English, putting an end to 34 years of Bilingual Education (B.E.) in the Northern Territory. Ten B.E. programs have been discontinued. The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign to reintroduce B.E. programs in NT schools as this is a critical educational, human rights, and survival of culture issue.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17c
Moved John Gauci, Sydney Central Seconded Pat Donohue, Sydney Central
Insert additional dot point:
The Socialist Alliance will campaign, through state education unions, for the provision of plaques to be placed within public schools that highlight the Indigenous community and language groups for their school.
17d
Moved Dominic Hale, Brisbane Seconded Ewan Saunders, Brisbane
Change the name of the section New Book and Policy Charter to Education
At the end of the section, add the sentence:
Branches should engage with the local Aboriginal community to host “Aboriginal Local History” education forums about culture, language and struggle in the local area and state.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17e (17c amended)
Moved John Gauci, Sydney Central Seconded Pat Donohue, Sydney Central
Under Education, insert the point:
Where appropriate and possible, The Socialist Alliance will campaign, through state education unions, for the provision of plaques to the placed within public schools that highlight the Indigenous community and language groups for their school.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17f
Moved Margaret Gleeson, Brisbane Seconded Dominic Hale, Brisbane
In Campaign Priorities, in the End the Intervention section, insert a dot point after the second dot point to read:
The Socialist Alliance and Resistance (in conjunction with campus solidarity and Aboriginal Rights Coalition groups where appropriate) will seek to organise a “Bus Freedom Ride” in solidarity with the Ampilatwatja walk off to build the broadest solidarity the Indigenous resistance to the Northern Territory Intervention.
17g (17f amended)
Moved Margaret Gleeson, Brisbane Seconded Dominic Hale, Brisbane
In Campaign Priorities, in the End the Intervention section, insert a dot point after the second point to read:
The Socialist Alliance (in conjunction with Resistance and campus solidarity and Aboriginal Rights Coalition groups where appropriate) will approach the Alyawarra people about the possibility of organising a “Bus Freedom Ride” in solidarity with the Ampilatwatja walk off to build the broadest solidarity with the Indigenous resistance to the Northern Territory Intervention.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17h
Moved Dominic Hale, Brisbane Seconded Ewan Saunders, Brisbane
At the end of the first paragraph, add the following sentence:
The Socialist Alliance also recognises the times where the left historically failed to adequately support Indigenous struggle.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17i
Moved Vannessa Hearman, Melbourne North Seconded Various
Insert:
That the Socialist Alliance also supports and gets involved in campaigns against the siting of a nuclear waste dump in Muckaty (120 km north of Tennant Creek). The traditional owners have expressed their opposition to such a waste dump yet the Labor government seems set to continue this proposal which the Howard government set in train.
Insert under the End the Intervention section:
Initiate and participate in a “Macklin Watch” campaign, whereby The Socialist Alliance and other groups, where possible, hold actions, speak-outs, and protests, alongside awareness-raising campaigns, whenever Labor Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin makes an appearance, with the aim to explain about Labor’s rotten Indigenous rights policies.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
17j
Moved Ruth Ratcliffe, Adelaide Seconded Emma Murphy, Sydney Central
To be inserted after the Trade Union work paragraph of section The Socialist Alliance’s Work in 2010
Climate Emergency Movement
The Socialist Alliance recognises that an important alliance exists between Aboriginal and environmental activists, especially in the context of the climate crisis. The Socialist Alliance commits to consciously strengthen this alliance.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

The Socialist Alliance Seventh National Conference acknowledges the important historical role socialists have played in major struggles for Aboriginal rights throughout the last century. Through our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter, we commit ourselves to continuing in this tradition, supporting and championing Aboriginal self-determination and Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs, while linking Aboriginal struggles to other movements, especially the trade union movement. The Socialist Alliance also recognises the times where the left historically failed to adequately support Indigenous struggle.
Aboriginal affairs constitute one of the moral weaknesses of the Rudd government. Actions speak louder than words and hopes raised by the apology on February 13, 2008, have been betrayed by the continuation and expansion of the Northern Territory intervention. The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, a national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is being established from above and does not have any credibility amongst Aboriginal activists who denounce it as a toothless waste of time without a legitimate mandate. This representative body and recent “consultations” with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, which did not allow those attending to properly voice their opinions, are just two examples of how government policy has turned back to assimilation.
The federal government is coming under increasing fire, including growing international criticism, for its expansion and continuation of racist policies of the previous Coalition government. In August, UN Human Rights Rapporteur Professor James Anaya said measures like compulsory income management, imposition of compulsory leases and community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography “overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples’’.
A statement released by another UN Human Rights Rapporteur in December finds that equal access to primary healthcare facilities is lacking, sometimes due to lack of transportation and communication infrastructure, but more often due to direct discrimination and culturally inappropriate services being provided.
Conference recognises the emergence of new national Aboriginal leadership, especially through the campaign against the Northern Territory intervention. Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and across the country have come together to condemn the intervention, and this new leadership is slowly consolidating. The Socialist Alliance pledges to provide support, space and resources for further development.
The Socialist Alliance’s Work in 2010
Aboriginal Rights Coalitions
Branches in cities with existing and healthy Aboriginal rights coalitions will assess whether they have the resources to participate in these and do so if possible.
Trade union work
We recognise the importance of the union movement becoming more involved in the Aboriginal rights movement, and will use our presence in unions and on union bodies to strengthen this relationship. The Socialist Alliance will take the opportunity provided by the interest unions have displayed in the Ampilatwatja walk-off, for example, to get in touch with, or work closer with, unions and unionists we weren’t otherwise working with.
Climate Emergency Movement
The Socialist Alliance recognises that an important alliance exists between Aboriginal and environmental activists, especially in the context of the climate crisis. The Socialist Alliance commits to consciously strengthen this alliance.
International solidarity
Through Green Left Weekly, and our contacts among the international left, we will seek to establish links between Aboriginal people involved in the various campaigns and revolutionaries and Indigenous activists around the world, especially across Latin America.
Education
Launching the new book by Terry Townsend and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter provides an excellent opportunity for educationals and discussion with guest speakers in branches.
Where appropriate and possible, the Socialist Alliance will campaign, through state education unions, for the provision of plaques to the placed within public schools that highlight the Indigenous community and language groups for their school.
Branches should engage with the local Aboriginal community to host “Aboriginal Local History” education forums about culture, language and struggle in the local area and state.
Campaign Priorities
End the intervention
The Northern Territory intervention continues to be the pointy end of Rudd Labor’s Aboriginal affairs policy: in fact it is Labor’s policy - the measures introduced as part of the intervention are quietly being rolled out across the country.
For this reason, The Socialist Alliance sees the campaign to end the intervention as crucial, and we will continue to prioritise it.
Concretely, we will:

  • Build and participate in the national day of action on February 13, 2010, and the one on June 21, 2010 and any other mobilisations;
  • Continue to support and publicise the Ampilatwatja walk-off and protest house project, through taking motions of solidarity and pledges for donations to unions, talking it up in our publications, websites etc, building any future national speaking tours and other publicity events; and
  • Help strengthen union opposition to the Northern Territory intervention through taking motions to meetings, actively seeking union endorsement for and participation in any mobilisations, getting articles into union journals etc.
  • Initiate and participate in a “Macklin Watch” campaign, whereby The Socialist Alliance and other groups, where possible, hold actions, speak-outs, and protests, alongside awareness-raising campaigns, whenever Labor Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin makes an appearance, with the aim to explain about Labor’s rotten Indigenous rights policies.
The Socialist Alliance (in conjunction with Resistance and campus solidarity and Aboriginal Rights Coalition groups where appropriate) will approach the Alyawarra people about the possibility of organising a “Bus Freedom Ride” in solidarity with the Ampilatwatja walk off to build the broadest solidarity with the Indigenous resistance to the Northern Territory Intervention.
Stop Black Deaths in Custody Campaign
The Socialist Alliance pledges our continued support and involvement in campaigns demanding justice for Mr Ward, Mulrunji, T.J. Hickey and others. In particular, The Socialist Alliance calls for:

  • The full implementation of the 339 recommendations of the 1987-91 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody;
  • Termination of the prison service contract between GSL/ G4S and the state of Western Australia, and a complete end to privatisation of custodial services;
  • Compensation for the families of Mr Ward, Mulrunji, T.J. Hickey and all victims of deaths in custody;
  • A new Royal Commission into the death of Mulrunji and other recent deaths in custody, in order to expose the role of the police, and help build momentum for serious charges against those involved in, or who attempted to cover up, a death in custody.
  • An end to government policies and judicial system practices that result in criminalisation and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in prisons.
  • The Socialist Alliance supports the work and demands of the Western Australian Deaths in Custody Watch Committee. The Socialist Alliance also supports the call for a February 14 National Day of Action for justice for T.J. Hickey.
Campaign to stop the Brighton Bypass in Tasmania
The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign to stop the Brighton Bypass in Tasmania. The project, which goes through one of the richest areas of Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage should be stopped immediately and the demands of the Aboriginal community should be met to save the 15,000 year old heritage.
Other campaigns
Bilingual Education
On October 14, 2008, then NT Minister Marion Scrymgour announced that the first four hours of education in all NT schools would be delivered in English, putting an end to 34 years of Bilingual Education (B.E.) in the Northern Territory. Ten B.E. programs have been discontinued. The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign to reintroduce B.E. programs in NT schools as this is a critical educational, human rights, and survival of culture issue.
Muckaty waste dump
The Socialist Alliance also supports and will ges involved in campaigns against the siting of a nuclear waste dump in Muckaty (120 km north of Tennant Creek). The traditional owners have expressed their opposition to such a waste dump yet the Labor government seems set to continue this proposal which the Howard government set in train.
There may be other campaigns, such as around stolen wages in Queensland or new government attacks on ATSI rights, that emerge/gain momentum. The Socialist Alliance will be ready to assess these campaigns, support them and participate in them according to our assessment and resources at the time.