Two long-time ALP members, Luis Ernesto Almario and Rosendo Duran, announced their resignation from the ALP on February 17. Both will stand as Socialist Alliance (SA) candidates for the Legislative Council in the March NSW state elections.
Almario and Duran are both political exiles from Colombia, forced to leave because of political persecution.
Arriving in Australia in the mid-’80s, Almario joined his local branch of the ALP in Blacktown, and was later active in the ALP Parramatta branch.
Almario is a respected radio announcer, journalist, construction worker and active unionist. He has not returned to Colombia since leaving in 1984, but the Colombian government has continued its campaign against him.
In 2009, he was arrested in San Francisco airport by US Homeland Security, accused of being a “terrorist journalist” and was subsequently deported back to Australia.
For decades, Duran, an agricultural engineer, has campaigned for human rights in Colombia and Australia, and was also a member of the Parramatta ALP branch. He is a leader of the Committee of Colombian Political Exiles based in Sydney.
Their resignation letter is printed below.
After a combined membership of more than two decades, we have decided to leave the ALP. This decision was not taken lightly.
Our experience with the ALP, particularly under Premier Kristina Keneally and the corrupt, undemocratic mafia running the party, has demonstrated that the ALP no longer stands for anything progressive, much less the interests of working class families.
Over the past years, the NSW government has systematically set out to sell all those public assets that are critical to providing decent, reliable services to people. By selling these off to private hands, who will run them for profit, there is no doubt that working families will suffer.
For example, the recent privatisation of electricity retailers will only further increase energy prices, not reduce them.
The ALP says it will stop the sell-off of Sydney Water. But it's been Labor preparing the way to hand over this vital service to corporate interests.
As housing and rental prices soar, the ALP has decided against an expansion of public housing by shelving public housing projects in Sydney’s west.
Similarly, public transport, critical for many of us to get around, has only got worse.
At the same time, the current mafia running the ALP has steadily destroyed what remained of the progressive left in the ALP. It has squashed any form of real rank-and-file participation.
The most recent anti-democratic move directly affected our local Parramatta branch when the head office moved to disenfranchise ALP members and impose their candidate, Pierre Esber. This is despite local support for Julia Finn, who put her hand up for the role and called for a branch vote.
After that, the last branch meeting we attended was comparable to a desert. No one came, besides us! This is despite Parramatta, historically, being one of the most vibrant local ALP branches.
This was the final straw for many of us. For too long, the ALP has tried to use migrants and working people to guarantee their positions in power.
We believe, like many others who have already left or are considering leaving, that the ALP is finished as any kind of progressive or working-class party.
But this does not mean that we will not continue to campaign for social justice and human rights, as we have done for decades, before in Colombia and now in Australia.
Instead, we have decided to join the Socialist Alliance’s Legislative Council ticket for the NSW state elections.
It's time that we, as migrants, stopped simply handing over our votes to the ALP, but stand as candidates to represent our communities' interests.
We will also be campaigning for the local candidate preselected by the Socialist Alliance in Parramatta, Duncan Roden.
We believe that the Socialist Alliance offers migrants, and all working people, a real alternative to the pro-business policies of the major parties. That is why we are calling on others to join us in building a real alternative. Given the current state of the ALP, we are confident that many more will.
Luis Ernesto Almario (former member, ALP Parramatta branch)
Rosendo Duran (former member, ALP Parramatta branch)