By Steve Rogers
CANBERRA — Australian National University student and anti-fees campaigner Alison Dellit will be contesting the February 18 ACT elections as a Democratic Socialist candidate. Twenty-year-old Dellit is also a well known campaigner for the right of women to choose abortion. She will be standing in the central Canberra seat of Molonglo.
An active member of the socialist youth group Resistance, Dellit is one of the youngest candidates in the elections. She intends to raise a wide range of youth issues. Dellit told Green Left Weekly that the issues which she will campaign on were key to young people's future.
"Decisions made today in closed Labor cabinet meetings are damning this generation to a hopeless future. School leavers cannot find work; they are driven into never-ending petty training for non-existent jobs.
"Those occupations with job prospects are being closed off for people from poor backgrounds by the government encouraging fees for education. We are witnessing the gradual privatisation of education. University education may again become the privilege of the well off", Dellit warns.
The ACT government's police move-on powers are an attack on young people forcing them out of areas where they can congregate at no cost. Another move which Dellit says will affect young people is the planned closure of the Garema Place Chess Pit, a central point for young people to gather and relax.
"While I will be focusing on youth issues, these affect the whole community. The lack of jobs for young people, the destruction of their future, is of concern to everyone. I will also be talking to secondary students, those too young to vote — the politically dispossessed. These young people are extremely worried that by the time they try to enter university, there will be up-front fees which block their entrance."
The newly formed electorate of Molonglo covers Canberra City, North and South Canberra and most of Woden. It also includes the Australian National University, site of the recent chancellery occupation.
The election has important implications for the future of Canberra. A new electoral system has been introduced which drastically increases the vote needed for candidates to win. This will make it more difficult for third party and independent candidates to gain election.
It also marks a watershed for social services in the ACT. Both the governing Labor Party and the opposition Liberals are planning extensive attacks on these services. In recent months the Labor government has undertaken preparations for privatisation of many services.
At present the government has responded to cuts in federal funding by running a deficit budget. The creation of a separate ACT public service on July 1 has laid the basis for massive job cuts by either party after the elections. Public transport, which is already heavily restricted, is expected to be one of the first services to experience cuts.
Dellit has called for the extension of these services. "The government has completely fallen in with the economic rationalist arguments. We have to put forward a clear alternative. We have to say that a social service or a job for an unemployed person is worthwhile for its intrinsic value, not because it provides profits to investors."
Dellit has also called for the ACT government to fulfil its obligations to the residents of Ainslie Village, a low-cost accommodation community. The residents have fought a long battle to win some control over their lives, including the imposition of a 24-hour a day picket through some of the coldest weeks of last winter. Despite inquiry findings in their favour, the Labor government has consistently refused to give these residents a say in the running of their community.
While the law banning an independent abortion clinic in the ACT was repealed last year, ACT women continue to travel to Sydney in their thousands each year because of the continuing real restrictions on abortion in the ACT. Dellit has identified this as an important issue.
"The ACT government should legislate in favour of women by removing all references to abortion from the criminal code. This is a medical procedure, not a crime", she says. "In addition it should provide any necessary resources for the establishment of an abortion clinic in the ACT."
Dellit will be speaking alongside representatives of the Michael Moore Independents, the ACT Greens and the Australian Democrats at a forum on "Alternatives to Labor and Liberal" sponsored by Green Left Weekly on Thursday, December 1, at 7.00pm in Room 4, Griffin Centre, Bunda Street, Civic. For more information phone 247 2424.