Socialist Alliance to contest council elections
BY LINDA WALDRON
MELBOURNE — "I'm not interested in the mobile phone or being addressed as 'Councillor'. What is important is to give the city back to the people. It's time the council reflected the interests of residents, small business, the poor and the marginalised. Let us take the city back from the large corporations", says Chiarina Pascuzzi of her campaign in the Melbourne City Council elections.
Pascuzzi, an administrative manager who has lived all her life in Fitzroy and Carlton, will be running in the elections as a Socialist Alliance candidate.
Pascuzzi told Green Left Weekly that Socialist Alliance will use the campaign to expose the cosy relationship between the council and big business.
In 2000, over $7.2 million dollars was given by the council in direct subsidies to big businesses — for example, a $70,000 subsidy was handed to the World Economic Forum; $100,000 to the employers body, VECCI; $50,000 to the Grand Prix and $122,975 to the Olympic Torch Relay. The Council also provides early-stage capital for emerging biotechnology companies.
Outsourcing of government services is another source of big-business handouts. Waste disposal and street sweeping are already outsourced with other municipal services to follow. In 1999-2000 over $700,000 was awarded to parking companies and Swanston Trams. A total of $12 million dollars has been directed to consultancy plans for the city planning scheme, Melbourne 2010.
Over 56% of the council's budget is derived from rates which are set at a flat percentage for both business and residents, instead of being levied on a progressive index. While business and residences pay a flat rate, businesses are nonetheless privileged in voting rights. They are allocated two votes for the council elections while residents are only permitted one.
Alejandro Rodriguez, a long-time Latin American solidarity activist, is also a Socialist Alliance candidate in the election. Rodriguez served as a UN observer during the independence ballot in East Timor in 1999, and calls for a sister-city relationship between Dili and Melbourne.
"The immense support by the people of Melbourne to stop the massacres in East Timor reflects the solidarity of the people. The Melbourne City Council should subsidise scholarships and training for the East Timorese."
Rodriguez has also been an active participant in the Friday night blockade of the Nike Superstore, two blocks from Melbourne Town Hall.
"Companies like Nike are directly responsible for the plight of workers and peasants in South America and Asian countries", he said. "The MCC should support citizens' right to express their opinions in public and demonstrate against human rights abuses here and overseas."
Socialist Alliance will campaign for reversing the privatisation of municipal services, free public transport in the CBD, the establishment of safe injecting rooms and needle exchanges, refuges for homeless, unemployed and dispossessed people, funding for community programs and services and an end to subsidies for big business.