BY SUZIE AMBROSE
DARWIN — The prediction of the March 7 NT News editorial — "No votes for ratbags" — was disproved in the March 16 elections for Lord Mayor of Darwin. Socialist Alliance candidate Ruth Ratcliffe received 1057 votes after preferences or 3.6% of the formal vote, beating 8 of the 15 other candidates.
"These are votes for refugee rights, for long-grassers' rights and against Territory Labor's draconian drug house laws", Ratcliffe told Socialist Alliance supporters at the March 17 celebratory BBQ. Ratcliffe also reflected on the authority Socialist Alliance had established by standing candidates in the NT, federal and mayoral elections, all in the previous eight months. "People have seen that not only do we stand in elections but we're active in campaigns on the street all year round", Ratcliffe said.
The excellent Socialist Alliance vote was achieved despite the alliance's decision to encourage members to participate in a March 14 refugee-rights rally, even if it meant they were unable to help staff election booths the following day. Because of this decision, the Socialist Alliance only covered three polling booths. "On the booths where people handed out Socialist Alliance material we did get a higher vote, so we can only imagine the kind of result if we'd been able to cover all the booths" Ratcliffe told Green Left Weekly.
Open about her political affiliations, Ratcliffe campaigned on a clear radical platform. She called for safe injecting rooms and drug decriminalisation and the repeal of by-laws used to harass, fine and imprison the long-grassers (homeless, usually Indigenous people); and opposed the Coonawarra refugee detention centre and mandatory detention of refugees.
On a budget of just $200, Socialist Alliance activists publicised this platform at local markets, community rallies, on talkback radio and posters. In contrast, another candidate, Gina Gamble, spent an estimated $40,000 on a pro-development, pro-"law and order" campaign and received only 855 votes.
The Socialist Alliance directed preferences to Dawn Lawrie, who has previously sought pre-selection for the Labor Party and been an independent MLA for the Darwin suburb of Nightcliff. Lawrie received the highest primary vote, closely followed by former CLP minister Peter Adamson. Preferences are still being counted.
From Green Left Weekly, March 27, 2002.
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