Attack the Stack

On Sunday 23rd of May I spoke at the “Attack the Stack” rally in Darlinghurst.  Attack the Stack are a well organised and dedicated group of local residents who are angry about the state government’s failure to filter the emissions from the Eastern Distributor tunnel ventilation stack, or to even properly monitor what is coming out of the stack in the first place.

Below is the text of the speech I gave at the rally. 

***

Protesters wearing dust maks point at the big ugly emmissions stack

AT THE LAST COUNCIL MEETING I PUT UP A COMMUNITY CREATED NOTICE OF MOTION ASKING FOR 2 THINGS – MONITORING AND FILTERING OF THE STANLEY STREET STACK AND PORTAL AND THE CREATION OF AN URBAN FOREST AND COMMUNITY GARDEN TO TRY AND AMELIORATE THE IMPACTS OF THE EMISSIONS FROM THIS STACK.

SADLY THE RESPONSE FROM THE CLOVER MOORE INDEPENDENT TEAM WAS TO STRIKE OUT EVERY POINT IN MY MOTION AND REPLACE IT WITH A GENERALISED MOTION THAT ONLY REFERRED TO THE COMMUNITY GARDEN AND THE DRAFT GREENING SYDNEY PLAN.

 IT WAS ONLY WHEN MY COLLEAGUE CHRIS HARRIS AMENDED THE AMENDMENT THAT WE GOT A COMMITMENT TO AT LEAST DO A REPORT ON THE REQUESTS THAT THE COMMUNITY HAD MADE VIA MY MOTION. 

THIS SIMPLY ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR ALL OF US HERE TODAY.  EVERYONE HERE TODAY IS AWARE OF THE IMPACTS THAT A TUNNEL LIKE THIS CAN HAVE ON HEALTH. 

WE’VE ALL HEARD THE CLAIMS FROM THE RTA THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO FILTER THE TUNNEL BECAUSE THE LEVELS OF PARTICULATE EMISSIONS DON’T EXCEED THE THRESHOLD THAT MAKES THEM DANGEROUS. 

SADLY, THERE IS NO SUCH THRESHOLD, NO LEVEL WHERE IT CAN BE SAFELY SAID THAT THE AMOUNT OF FINE PARTICULATES IN THE ATMOSPHERE IS LOW ENOUGH NOT TO CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS. 

THE RTA THRESHOLD IS SIMPLY THE LEVEL AT WHICH SOME UNACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRAT HAS DECIDED THE NUMBER OF ADDITIONAL DEATHS FROM LUNG CANCER, HEART ATTACKS, BRONCHITIS AND ASTHMA ATTACKS IS ACCEPTABLE.  THAT THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN GROWING UP WITH LIFELONG ALLERGIES AND INCREASED RISK OF NUMEROUS DISEASES IS ACCEPTABLE. 

ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNMENT THE EXTRA DEATHS AND SUFFERING IS SO ACCEPTABLE THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO FILTER THE TUNNEL’S VENTILATION STACKS.  THE NUMBER OF LIVES TO BE LOST IS ACCEPTABLY SMALL ENOUGH TO MAKE IT NOT WORTH THE EXPENSE OF FILTERING THE TUNNEL.

SO ACCEPTABLE THAT LAND ADJACENT TO THE STACK CAN BE SOLD OFF FOR MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO BUILD LUXURY APARTMENTS – THE RESIDENTS OF WHICH WILL HAVE AN “ACCEPTABLE” INCREASED RISK OF DISEASE AND PREMATURE DEATH.

SADLY, IN NSW, IF THE RTA WANTS TO SELL OFF LAND TO IMPROVE ITS BOTTOM LINE IT GETS THE GREEN LIGHT FROM THE GOVERNMENT STRAIGHT AWAY. NO MATTER WHAT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY WANT, NO MATTER WHAT THE EFFECTS ON HEALTH MAY BE.

THE GOVERNMENT WAS HAPPY TO MOVE THE STACK WHEN THE OWNERS OF THE WESTFIELD TOWER AND THEIR RETIRED POLITICAL CUSTOMERS OBJECTED TO IT BEING NEAR THEIR BUILDING BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE GREATER COMMUNITY THEY JUST DON’T CARE.

WHY?  

BECAUSE THIS STATE GOVERNMENT, AND THE LIBERAL OPPOSITION TOO, HAVE A LONG STANDING COMMITMENT TO TREAT THE CAR AS KING AND THE ELITE AS THEIR FINANCIAL BENEFACTORS.

THEY WOULDN’T WANT TO UPSET THEIR POLITICAL DONORS LIKE WESTFIELD BUT WHEN IT COMES TO COMMUNITIES ANYTHING GOES.

ONE ONLY HAS TO LOOK AT THE UNNACCEPTABLY LARGE NUMBER OF PLANS FOR NEW RAILWAYS AND OTHER PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE THAT THIS GOVERNMENT HAS ABANDONED TO REALISE THAT THEY HAVE DECLARED SYDNEY TO BE A CITY OF CARS – THAT WHENEVER SYDNEYSIDERS WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE THEY SHOULD GO THERE INSIDE A TONNE OF METAL, BURNING DWINDLING FOSSIL FUEL RESERVES AND PUMPING CO2 INTO THE ATMOSPHERE IN THE PROCESS. AND BECAUSE OF THIS THE RTA, AS THE SERVANT TO THE ALMIGHTY CAR, HAS BECOME A LAW UNTO ITSELF.

YET DESPITE THE EXALTED STATUS GIVEN TO IT BY A COMPLICIT GOVERNMENT THE RTA STILL TIME AND AGAIN FAILS IN ITS JOB, AS CAN BE SEEN ON SYDNEY’S STREETS EVERYDAY.   THE STREETS ARE CAUGHT IN GRIDLOCK CONDITIONS WHERE CARS CRAWL ALONG DURING PEAK HOUR – AND THE PEAK IS NOT JUST AN HOUR ANYMORE BUT NOW TAKES UP HALF THE DAY. THE GOVERNMENT’S SOLUTIONS ARE ALWAYS TO SIMPLY BUILD MORE ROADS. 

WHEN ALL THE SPACE TO BUILD A ROAD ON HAS BEEN TAKEN UP BY APARTMENT BLOCKS AND SHOPPING MALLS THE SOLUTION JUST BECOMES “DIG A TUNNEL”.  AND THE WORST EFFECTS OF THIS SHORTSIGHTED PLANNING ARE SUFFERED BY PEOPLE LIKE THE RESIDENTS OF EAST SYDNEY AND THE STUDENTS AT SCEGGS WHO SPEND ALL DAY BREATHING IN THE EMISSIONS THIS MADNESS CAUSES.

CONSIDERING THE SUFFERING THIS GOVERNMENT HAS CAUSED TO THE COMMUNITY, AND WILL CONTINUE TO CAUSE FOR DECADES TO COME, IT IS HIGH TIME THEY GAVE SOMETHING BACK.  

THE COMMUNITY HAVE MADE TWO VERY SIMPLE AND REASONABLE REQUESTS – THAT THE STACK BE FILTERED AND THAT THE LAND AROUND THE STACK BE PUT TO SOME GREEN COMMUNITY PURPOSE – SUCH AS AN URBAN FOREST OR COMMUNITY GARDEN.

UNFORTUNATELY THE RTA HAS BEEN BLINDED BY STUBBORNNESS AND GREED.

THEY REFUSE TO FILTER BECAUSE OF STUBBORNNESS ABOUT THEIR ASSESSMENT OF THE DANGERS THE STACK WILL CAUSE – AN ASSESSMENT WHICH FAILS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE INTERACTION BETWEEN THE VARIOUS COMPONENTS IN THE COCKTAIL OF POLLUTANTS THAT WILL EMERGE FROM THE TUNNEL.  A TUNNEL IN WHICH PARTICULATE MATTER EXCEEDS WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION DAILY EXPOSURE STANDARDS BY MANY TIMES. 

STUBBORNNESS THAT THE MONITORING THAT LED TO THEIR CONCLUSIONS IS ACCURATE DESPITE THE NATIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL EXPLICITLY STATING THAT SUCH MONITORING “CANNOT RELIABLY PREDICT THE SIZE, NATURE AND IMPACT OF ADVERSE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES”.

THEY REFUSE TO LET THE LAND BE USED BY THE COMMUNITY BECAUSE OF GREED.  GREED FOR THE ALMIGHTY DEVELOPER DOLLAR – THE MEAT AND DRINK OF THE MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES. 

ALL THAT MATTERS IS PUTTING UP APARTMENTS AND GETTING THEIR DEVELOPER MATES ON SIDE TO ENSURE THAT THE DONATIONS WILL KEEP ROLLING IN AS THE STATE ELECTION APPROACHES.

THE AIR QUALITY IN THIS CITY IS A TOXIC STEW BECAUSE THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY CARS BUT INSTEAD OF DOING SOMETHING SENSIBLE LIKE CONSIDERING A CONGESTION TAX THE STATE ENCOURAGES MORE TRAFFIC BY TUNNELLING UNDER OUR SUBURBS AND SPEWING EVER MORE CARS AND THEIR EMISSIONS INTO THE INNER CITY.

IT’S TIME THE RTA AND THE GOVERNMENT LISTENED TO THE RESIDENTS, WHO HAVE TO LIVE WITH THESE EMISSIONS, AND MONITORED THIS STACK AND ALL THE VENTILATION STACKS IN THE CITY. 

IT’S TIME THEY ABANDONED PLANS TO BUILD NEW BUILDINGS ON THE LANDS SURROUNDING THESE STACKS AND GAVE THE LAND BACK TO THE COMMUNITY.

NOW AS WE APPROACH AN ELECTION YEAR WE MUST SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – THE COMMUNITIES OF SYDNEY HAVE CAMPAIGNED AGAIN AND AGAIN AGAINST THESE NOXIOUS VENTILATION STACKS AND IT IS TIME THE GOVERNMENT, AND THE OPPOSITION, WHO ARE GUILTY OF COMPLACENCY IN THIS MATTER, LISTEN OR PAY THE PRICE AT THE BALLOT BOX.

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