Issue #1566 26 September 2012
Elected to Council
Battler’s 12 years of activism bears fruit
In the local council elections on September 8 Tony Oldfield was elected to the Auburn City Council in the Second Ward. Tony is a union activist and a member of the CPA; he has been an active campaigner in the Auburn area for many years. He was elected on a community ticket called the Battler, a group that includes a wide range of people from a number of different backgrounds.
The Battler received 9.6 percent of the vote, a total of 1,438 votes.
The work that led to the electoral success in 2012 started almost 12 years earlier with a community campaign to stop the Clyde Rubbish Dump being imposed on the Auburn community by Collex and the Carr state Labor government.
This campaign involved a cross section of the local Turkish Community, small business, the largely Turkish, Gallipoli Mosque and left activists in a successful legal challenge that was won in the Land and Environmental Court. Let’s put that in perspective: the community activists who stood up in the court were not lawyers, they “learned” the law during the case. And they won.
This was followed by the Carr Labor government passing an act of Parliament to override the court’s decision. Angry residents started to see that the Local Council and Parliament were actively colluding with Collex to impose the waste dump.
In the 2004 local council elections Tony and a group of the local activists organised the No Dump Group and won a seat on Auburn Council in the First Ward. Tony ran on a ticket in the Second Ward and received a modest 460 votes.
The group continued to campaign and Tony more than doubled his votes in the 2008 elections. The group began to put out a locality bulletin called the Battler that campaigned around specific local issues and regularly informed the residents of the skulduggery of many of the elected Councillors.
The Battler gained a reputation of telling it “how it was” and was fearless. The Battler and Tony became the target of a law suit for slander. Which by the way we won with “costs” being awarded against the other side.
Eventually the group of activists renamed themselves the Battler and campaigned in the Berala, Regents Park and Lidcombe areas. They built a network of local supporters prepared to letterbox regularly. The Battler is now distributed to the whole of the Second Ward area including Newington, Silverwater and Wentworth Point. A general Battler is delivered to nearly 15,000 letterboxes.
The Battler group built a solid community base in the Berala area campaigning to stop demolition of local shops to be replaced by high-rise and then when the developer went bust in the global financial crisis (GFC) leaving residents a massive hole in the ground, the Battler campaigned for the shops to be rebuilt. We called for the Council to use their powers to compulsorily purchase the land and critically during the GFC we called on the Council to reach out to the Rudd government for funding to help rebuild Berala.
The credibility and respect won for this style of campaigning allowed the Battler to spread into other town centres and build its influence.
The Battler campaigned against rezoning in Regents Park for hi-rise, bad development in Lidcombe and is campaigning against nuclear waste being transferred from Hunters Hill (a posh North Sydney suburb) to the top end of Lidcombe for storage. The Battler’s slogan is “not near our home, not near anyone’s home”.
The Battler’s anti-nuclear waste placards are visible throughout the suburbs of Regents Park and Botanica (a new up-market suburb) in shop windows and front-yards.
In the recent council elections the Battler focused on specific local issues, traffic problems, high-rise development, rezoning, local services, a community centre, a library service, the need to look after small business and no nuclear waste, tailoring different messages for different suburbs.
Our overriding message is always democracy, accountability, transparency and the need for residents to always have a say about what happens in their local area.
Importantly the Battler always draws a class line about the interests of residents, the big political parties and their connections to big business and property developers. Battler supporters hope that the analysis goes beyond left-wing sloganeering and introduces class politics in a fresh and concrete way. The Battler is gradually spreading its influence; we believe it’s a good model for the left.
Really it’s all about winning respect and credibility from working class people.
It’s about meeting the issues that working people face front on. It’s trying to connect the bigger issues like environment, democracy, workers’ rights and the economy to the daily and local issues that impact on people.
The Battler is not a Left Front or, as opponents would like to paint, a Communist Front. It is inclusive and involves people from religious backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds, small business, many ex-Labor Party members, but generally people who are active and concerned about their community.
Our targets for the future are to build the influence of the Battler, get positive change on our local council where Councillors work in the interests of ordinary residents. We want our council to give a lead and advocate for our local residents. Our aim is to become the first place working class residents go to when there is an issue in our communities.
We have a big challenge and hope to spread the ideas of our little project.
Next article – Muslim protests, the reaction and the agendas
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