SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Congratulations World! & Greens Fight Tunnel

Sea Shepherd in Melbourne recently 

I can't believe it! What wonderful news greeted us on waking this morning. Finally - whaling in the Southern Ocean has been banned by the International Court of Justice, and Japan has agreed to abide by the ruling.
On my walk this morning, I alternately smiled and cried, thinking about the whales gambolling in the Antarctic waves safe at last from the threat of destruction. I knew exactly where I wanted to be - aboard one of the Sea Shepherd vessels, partying on its deck with its heroes.


Please can I come to your party?

Earlier this week I saw a wonderful film called Sharkwater, which I recommend to you. I was overwhelmed by the bravery of the whale warriors that it depicted. Captain Paul Watson and his crews deserve all our gratitude and the gratitude they will undoubtedly receive from generations to come.
Of course they didn't do it alone. Thank you too to Greenpeace, Bob Brown, and the numerous other champions who have been fighting for the whales in the courts, in their communities and behind the scenes.
Which brings me back to the meeting I attended last night in the CBD at the office of our Federal Greens Minister, Adam Bandt. A small group of people representing community groups opposing the East-West Link, tunnel picketers, the Fitzroy Legal Service, Greens parliamentarians or their representatives and Greens staffers met to discuss where they are up to with their respective campaigning and to hear the proposals of the Greens for their next moves.
It was a very informative meeting and it was most interesting to hear from Adam Bandt, whose opinion about future strategies is very aligned with those of us tunnel picketers.
The crux of the matter, he agrees, is how to convince the State Labor party to tear up the contracts, should they be signed before the election. This is critical because even though Labor parliamentarians to a man and a woman opposed the tunnel in scathing terms at yesterday's Hearing, their leader was still saying after Sunday's mighty rally, where the resounding cry to Labor speakers was: 'Tear up the contracts', that he would  honour them.
The Greens response to Labor intransigence is to utilize the strategy which worked so brilliantly for them in returning Adam Bandt to Federal Parliament despite the major parties' conniving. That strategy is community organising.
The Greens aim to train 40 - 50 core volunteers, to organise 20 'contact events' (door knocks or phone banks), to knock on 6,000 doors, to make 2,000 phone calls, to get 1,000 Trains not Tollroads placards on homes and to sign up 5,000 people to the campaign. I loved those maths and to feel the strong Greens organisation moving into action behind us. This is the postcard they have produced to stimulate support:


But it also felt somewhat strange that it has taken the Greens this long to move into the action phase of their campaign. Having just celebrated our six month anniversary - thank you, Keith - it feels like we tunnel picketers have been fighting forever.
But this morning's triumph has reminded me that often it requires a flotilla of people resisting in a range of different ways to secure success:
For me, the Sea Shepherds are analogous to the Socialist Party-led Tunnel Picketers. Although bruised and battered, we will never give up, and are practised at keeping the issue in the media spotlight. Then there are all those hard-working people who have made submissions and/or are attending the Hearings. There are also groups organising rallies, protests, stunts, regional visits (with or without caravans). There is a legal team investigating the legal possibilities. And then there are the Greens, who as well as applying pressure in parliament, are putting their strategising nous and experience and skills at co-ordination at the service of the cause.
With all this talent on board, today it seems to me that we are invincible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bodies on the line: Napthine's attack in Tunnel Picket land (Wednesday lunchtime)

I'm still trembling. Where do we live? Today at lunch time I responded to the call for a snap action in Smith Street Collingwood, where Premier Napthine was treating the Departments of Health and Human Services to the benefits of his expertise and human empathy. We picketers waited outside for him as he left the below ground car park in a chauffeured government car. 
I couldn't believe it - when we stepped in front of the emerging car with our placards, the car didn't stop. It just kept on coming. Rosie lay on the ground in front of it. If she hadn't been dragged away by security, she would have been severely injured:


And the car just kept on coming: 


And coming:



He's in there

Right out on to Smith Street into the path of trams and other cars. There was no way it was going to stop:


Afterwards we discovered that the car had run over Toby's ankle.


The ambulance arrived and an officer tended to him, just as I had to leave to return to work.


That car was never going to stop no matter who was hurt. Where do we live???

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fangs of the Beast (Tunnel Picket Tuesday)

Fanged motorist

With vitriol dripping from his fangs: 'Get a job!' screamed the red-faced, middle-aged driver, his designer glasses glinting in the early morning sunlight. Stuck in the traffic exiting the Eastern freeway in his SUV, whose aspirational, personalised number plate: 'Goldie' said it all, this motorist seized the 'golden' opportunity to abuse us. As we responded with our most irritating: 'Have a nice day' and 'Thank you!' his colour heightened. I, for one, enjoyed this chance to actually have a real person to grapple with, rather than the faceless beast that so often confronts us.


Back again

After the government said that they had 'completed' the drilling, we had thought our picketing days were over. Until we learned at the weekend that activity was recommencing at the old site on the corner of Brunswick Street and Alexandra Parade.
This time there is no drilling equipment in the cage, but instead two hazardous waste trucks. The presence of these trucks suggests that the object is to take water samples via the bore hole, something that might well be necessary since this area - the site of the old Gasometer - was recently 'outed' as being highly contaminated.
But why two large truck-fulls of contaminated water is required is a puzzle.


Catching up on beauty sleep

Puzzling too is that, instead of working, the workers spent their time snoozing in their trucks or standing around. There was also a large police presence and an ambulance in attendance, which suggests that some action was expected. But by the time I left at 8.15am, no work had commenced, as far as we could see, and there was certainly no action. So we had a great opportunity to just kick back and admire the view:


Glorious sight - the sky, not the divvy wagon

And I spent time speculating with fellow picketers about why anyone would opt to become the fangs of the beast. All that dripping vitriol, heightened blood pressure and rage seems a particularly poisonous way to start the day.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MARCH IN MARCH: 'Whose streets?' 'OUR streets!'

High noon outside the State Library

Today was wonderful. There was a  huge crowd - maybe 40,000, but expect the press to say 'a few thousand' - with numerous agendas, but united in their opposition to the Federal Government.
It was exhilarating to be part of it. Here are some faces and placards from today:





Sea Shepherd



Some faces were familiar:

Hard working Socialist Party member

I was so proud to see our banners rounding the corner into Swanston Street!


At last! Serial Pests surrounded by serial pests


Banner with horsey guard of honour

The atmosphere of this non-partison, grass roots march was fantastic. People were so friendly, laughed when they were drenched by flash showers and generally had a ball. Emma Goldman's famous saying inevitably sprang to mind: 'If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.'

Emma Goldman - with us in spirit


Friday, March 14, 2014

East-West Link Hearing Rookie (Friday)

Where it's all happening

I skived off from work for a couple of hours today because I was keen to see for myself what the Hearing about the East-West Link was all about. But nothing had prepared me for this trial by boredom.
To be fair, as I had come from work, I was late, so was utterly ignorant about the dramatis personae. I could see my fellow protestors at a distance in the audience, but had no one to fill me in on the action - or rather inaction.
As photography is forbidden in the Hearing, I didn't have that to divert me. I wished I could draw so that I could produce pictures like court artists do, where everyone looks like extras from 'Breaking Bad'. But drawing is way beyond me.
To pass the time, I took to calculating how much of the public purse might be being expended on this room full of suits, debating the merits and demerits of a project that should never have seen the light of day in the first place. I ended up nearly cross-eyed with boredom, in awe of my fellow protestors, some of whom endure this experience daily.
Fortunately they briefed me during morning tea break, to which I had been briefed to bring biscuits. Obviously the powers-that-be are on an economy drive and can't run to snacks. On my way to the Ladies, I noticed an ominous presence in the bar:


Not the guest, but the Grand Prix flags

Recently the peace of our days has been disturbed by the roaring of the Formula 1 cars miles away in Albert Park. The citizens, who protested long and hard against the abomination of re-locating the Grand Prix in Albert Park, lost that fight. Spotting the flags, arrogantly displayed in the very place where we are struggling to save our own park from destruction, made me shiver.
Perhaps I should have said I noticed two ominous presences. Everywhere I go these days the police seem to be hanging out, and today was no exception.


Police presence

Four officers were stationed in the lobby of the hotel - after all, who knows what those crazy protestors might do next?
By the time I had to leave the Hearing I had learned who was who. There was Stuart Morris, QC for the Linking Melbourne Authority, trying but failing to box Eric Keys, an expert for the City of Melbourne, into a corner. Another City of Melbourne expert, Jim Higgs, was trying, unconvincingly in my opinion, to make the case that there were creative ways to minimise the impact of the East-West Link on Royal Park.
I was sorry to have to leave in the end and will definitely return next time I have a few spare hours. Fortunately there are a further 21 days of hearings to choose from. Submissions by the Moonee Valley, Yarra, Darebin and Moreland councils, professional, business and community organisations as well as individual citizens will be well worth listening to, I'm sure. So get down to the Mercure and give them your support. In my experience, rookies (especially those bearing cookies), are guaranteed a warm welcome.




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Misfortune Cookies at the East-West Link Hearing (PTUA)


A misfortune cookie, anyone?

This morning the Public Transport Users Association staged a clever stunt outside the Mercure Hotel, venue for the ongoing East-West Link Hearing. I was happy to be asked to attend to take photos.
Pauline morphed into a bespangled fortune teller, complete with crystal ball, giving Hearing participants and passers-by the benefits of her predictions should the disastrous Link ever be built:

Fortune teller at work

There were some people for whom the fortune teller's predictions were old news:


No surprises for Brendan, a stalwart opponent of the East-West Link

There were others undoubtedly hearing these predictions for the very first time:


Protestor in the making

Messages in the cookies advised: 'When at the crossroads, take the train. Avoid the trucks' and 'Rails Beget Trains. Roads beget Traffic.' This food for thought, as well as for the stomach, received a particularly enthusiastic response from some passers by:


And I had a pleasant surprise myself. Tom Pikusa, barrister for Protectors of Public Lands Vic and Royal Park Protection Group, said that one of the experts for the Linking Melbourne Authority was recently forced to admit that the tunnel would only relieve traffic congestion for 5 years! 5 years at the cost of 8 billion dollars. Surely once that news gets out, the arithmetic will speak for itself.
Congratulations to PTUA staff and volunteers for a clever, playful and timely stunt:

Outside the Mercure Hotel this morning





Monday, March 03, 2014

Who's the Monkey? Tunnel Picket Tuesday

Encaged

It occurred to me this morning, that preoccupied as I am with the picketers and the police, I have given little thought to a crucial element at the centre of this drama - the drillers. We picketers have suffered so many insults over recent months that I want to make it clear that comparing the drillers to monkeys is not meant as an insult.
When I was a child, the Melbourne Zoo - 'The Monkeys' as it was called back then - was a very different place. The monkeys were housed in tiny, concrete cages, where conditions were shocking. Observing the drillers today that image sprang to mind.


Just like the monkeys, the drillers too are stuck in a small, crowded, exposed space, whatever the weather. And on occasion it has been around 40 degrees. Their working conditions are appalling, surely a Health and Safety hazard. There are no toilets on site. They get no break from the workplace; once they have crossed the picket line in the morning darkness, they are encaged for the rest of the day. They are constantly open to observation and occasional taunting by the curious. Requiring a bodyguard to keep working, they live with the ongoing stress of drilling in a war zone.
Who would want their job?


Today our spirits were buoyant. The poll published yesterday, in the Herald Sun of all places, identifying that a mere 15% of Victorians favour the East-West Link over other transport options fuelled our guarded optimism. The Age also featured a poll the previous day that had the approval rating for the project running at only 24%. These low figures might be one explanation for the increased number of toots this morning and the increased friendliness and even murmurs of dissent among police.

Having a chat

The picketers decided to disperse early, and take a well-earned rest.
Wandering home through the shimmering light of the Edinburgh Gardens, I concluded that the main contender for monkey status is Premier Napthine himself. He is practised at beating his chest and trumpeting his supremacy. He counters challenges with aggression. But perhaps even he is beginning to realise that, especially if he can find a way to save face, the time has come to limp off into the jungle.