Carr Government passes Auburn rubbish dump law
by Peter Mac Despite widespread public opposition the NSW Government has passed special legislation to overrule a Court decision and enforce construction of a huge new garbage facility at Clyde, in Sydney's Auburn local government area. The new law overturns a "thumbs-down" ruling from the NSW Land and Environment Court, which found that the new facility would have major adverse impacts on local residents. As reported in last week's Guardian, the openly-ventilated facility would eventually accept garbage from the entire Sydney region, creating enormous health and traffic problems in the Auburn area. The contracting firm Collex, which proposes to build the facility, has become a major contributor to Labor Party coffers. Its French parent company Vivendi has been convicted of bribery and corruption in three countries and is currently facing allegations of similar practices in another three. In his pursuit of the "Auburn solution", NSW Premier Carr has exhibited astonishing determination, and an arrogant contempt for residents of a predominantly working-class area. When the Court ruling was handed down, in a speech reminiscent of a "dyed in the wool" Liberal Party politician, he denounced opponents of the project as blocking the efficient disposal of Sydney's waste, and depriving local people of employment in the new facility. He also claimed the decision would adversely affect those formerly employed at the old Woodlawn open cut mine, just outside Goulburn, which the government proposes be used as a landfill site for Sydney's waste. Under a deal worked out with Collex to use the mine, the retrenched miners' unpaid entitlements would be met by Collex once landfill operations commenced. It is obvious this can not happen until the collection and transport problems are sorted out. It now appears that the contract with the Government obliges Collex to "seek access to the existing (waste) transfer stations" in order to process the waste there before loading it in sealed containers for transport by rail to Woodlawn. Privatisation The real problem is not the totally understandable and justifiable reaction of local residents, but rather the government's commitment to privatisation of public services, and the secret terms of its contract with Collex. There are two major problems here. Firstly, this is not a binding requirement under the contract, and Collex can seek other means of processing the waste. Secondly, although still government- owned, the existing waste stations would require extensive upgrading. It would also require the agreement of their existing managers, Waste Services NSW, who as a partially-privatised company are now interested in gaining the maximum return for use of their facilities by competitors such as Collex. The end result is that Collex simply decided that all this was too expensive, and opted for alternative means of processing the waste — hence the Auburn project. Carr's despicable attempt to blame the local residents for the terrible problems of the Woodlawn miners is highly reminiscent of Liberal Party "divide and rule" tactics. The NSW Government has continued to alienate ever-increasing sections of the public by selling off or leasing government-owned land (including historic sites) and supporting development at all costs, and then vilifying those who object. For example, in recent years they have either tried, or are still attempting, to lease off the historic North Head Quarantine Station to a private hotel chain, sell off a huge chunk of the old Callan Park site, and sell off large parts of redundant industrial harbour sites. And now in the Collex case they have even shown their willingness to over-ride the court system and introduce special legislation to enforce a multinational development proposal. However, as the recent struggle over the Callan Park site showed, the government can be beaten. After massive protests the government withdrew plans to sell of ten percent of that site. Battles are continuing over other sites. The Green Party has in the past called for the banning of donations from developers to political parties. An ever-increasing segment of the community, including local action groups such as the Auburn Community Alliance and the No Dump Residents Association, will be echoing this demand.