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Life is a Beach

John C

First there was the theft of water from the Murray-Darling Basin by corporations and a few shonky primary producers, now we have business “entrepreneurs” wanting our beaches.

A few weeks back the Charles Sturt Council which covers the Adelaide seaside suburb of Henley Beach made a decision to introduce paid street parking.
 
Henley Beach is a popular beach which is utilised by the local community and the broader Adelaide population for family leisure activities year round. It is especially popular in summer where people can take their family for some reprieve from the scorching Adelaide temperatures. It is one of the few remaining inexpensive family days out.
 
The decision to introduce paid parking met with stiff community opposition in the form of a well-supported petition and public protest. The council has now been forced to reverse its decision.
 
Two years ago, extensive and expensive ($8.4m) redevelopment and landscaping works were completed at Henley Square, next to the beach. One could argue that it looks nicer than before but quite frankly it was pretty good as it was, and no significant functionality has been added. One could question the need for such a project, given other priorities that must be met by councils.
What it has done, is make the area appear “trendier”. But why change the area in this direction?
 
In the struggle against paid parking, it came to light that a group of local business people linked to the Henley Beach Business Association have been making plans to turn Henley Beach into a Riviera style facility. It would only involve the rental of beach chairs, nothing more they said. No one believes this, and is seen by those with any foresight as a foot in the door to eventually make the beach an exclusive area.
 
This would mean paying to use the beach. It is strongly suggestive that the changes to parking and the seaside remodelling were part of the process of introducing this obscene idea by stealth, rather than outright.
 
A day at the beach is part of the fabric of the Australian lifestyle for ordinary Australians. The notion of paying to use something provided freely by nature and which has been traditionally seen as a public facility is the antithesis to the Australian way of life.
 
It might appear a bit trivial to write about such a seemingly minor issue as a day at the beach in a publication such as this when there are bigger concerns, such as housing affordability, wages and democratic rights. However it is related to this bigger picture.
 
As capitalism becomes more desperate in its search for sources of profit, it invariably leads to the expropriation of more and more of the things that we take for granted.
 
Take for example, the introduction of road tolls in parts of Australia in relatively recent years. This is criminal. Ordinary Australians pay their taxes, it should be a basic right that road use be free. We are paying road tolls because corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, resulting in insufficient public funds to build infrastructure. The money collected from road tolls ends up in the coffers of these very same corporations.
 
Surely, having paid our taxes and after a day’s/week’s work we are entitled to unwind at the beach with our families without having to pay for it. Next we will be expected to wave our credit card each time we want to use the toilet in our homes. Better not give the capitalists more ideas!
 
This raises the question of what are the Australian values on which Malcolm Tamebull wants to test applicants for Australian residency? Perhaps there could be a postal survey on what working Australians consider to be Australian values! Business “entrepreneurs” can then sit the Australian values test and if they fail, they will be deported.
 
If a beach-use toll is introduced at one beach, it will only be a matter of time before this is duplicated in other parts of Australia. Worse still, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility for big capital to want control rights over our beaches.
 
Just as the community defeated the introduction of paid parking at Henley Beach, so will community action lay to rest any attempts to make a beach-use toll fly.
 
The people united will never be defeated.

 

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