An ongoing investigation by the Socialist Equality Party
Why an independent inquiry is essential
The Socialist Equality Party and the Committee for a Workers Inquiry have published an eight-page statement "Support the Workers Inquiry". It explains the necessity for an independent Workers Inquiry to examine all the circumstances surrounding the growing evidence of leukaemias, cancers and other severe health problems throughout the Wollongong area.
At least 15 young people living or working in the suburbs just to the south of the Port Kembla steelworks and copper smelter have contracted leukaemia since 1989. This is at least five times the state average. Seven of the victims have died, including four former students and one former teacher from Warrawong High School.
The statement explains that this epidemic is not, however, confined to Warrawong High. It is part of a broader crisis. Residents throughout the area, as well as current and former BHP and copper smelter workers, have begun to bring forward reports of widespread cancers and other serious medical problems.
In every case, the state government's Illawarra Public Health Unit has refused to investigate. It has dismissed the concerns of residents out of hand, claiming that their illnesses must be "coincidences".
This is despite the fact that the entire region is overshadowed by the steelworks and other heavy industries. Poisonous and noxious fumes belch out daily. The night sky is constantly lit up with an orange haze. In many suburbs, homes and schools have been built on toxic landfill.
The statement outlines the facts already established by the preliminary investigation conducted by Workers News, including the following:
The SEP initiated the campaign for a Workers Inquiry to provide a means for ordinary working people to oppose the official cover-up of this health crisis, probe the conditions which have given rise to it and organise a common struggle against those responsible.
A Workers Inquiry is needed because the leukaemia investigation set up by the Carr Labor government, being conducted by the Public Health Unit, is nothing but a whitewash. The Health Unit has been given the job of continuing the years of government suppression of the relationship between the ill-health of workers and their families and the industrial pollution produced by BHP and other major companies.
The statement makes a special appeal for workers -- both blue collar and white collar -- from BHP, the copper smelter, the mines and other industries to come forward with information. They can do so anonymously if they fear victimisation.
The statement explains: "The aim of the Workers Inquiry is to start to reverse the situation in which BHP, the government and the entire corporate elite can conspire together to wreck workers' lives in the pursuit of profit. Its objective is to alter the balance of forcesby exposing the roots of the health crisis, making the facts widely known and developing an independent movement for social change.
"Only when the working people begin to actively intervene, guided by the necessity to fundamentally re-organise society, will they be able to defend their own needs and interests and those of their families and communities.
"We urge all residents, workers and students to attend the regular meetings of the Committee for a Workers Inquiry and to actively participate in its work -- by circulating information, giving evidence, helping prepare testimony and, above all, encouraging the widest possible discussion on the political issues raised by the inquiry."