Chris Jenkins: ‘Keep public assets in community hands’

February 16, 2017
Chris Jenkins at a refugee rights rally in Perth.

Western Australia goes to the polls on March 11. Green Left Weekly spoke to Chris Jenkins, who is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Fremantle about what is at stake.

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What are some of the key issues you want to raise this state election?

In contesting the state election, the Socialist Alliance hopes to start a public discussion about who is genuinely entitled to use the resources we have as a society and the processes by which they are allocated.

The WA Liberal Party consistently proves its a friend of big business and only exists in parliament to convert public assets into profit. The [Colin] Barnett government oversaw the resources boom, which channelled most of the wealth into the hands of the private banks and mining corporations. Now Barnett has the nerve to cry poor.

For most working people in WA, the only evidence of the economic explosion was an increase in the cost of living. Barnett is now seeking to continue his profits-first agenda with the proposed privatisation of Fremantle Port and Western Power. This is despite their contribution to public finances and their role in keeping electricity costs down.

Public assets must remain in the community's hands to provide much-needed services, such as low-cost public housing, sustainable transport options and renewable energy, for the benefit of everyone, not just shareholders.

Speaking of public utilities, in your election material you have called for the reopening of the Fremantle Hospital Emergency Department. Why is that and do you think that would have popular support?

Fremantle is a large and growing urban and business centre, with an industrial port situated directly alongside. The number of people working in Fremantle’s CBD is expected to grow, with 1500 public sector jobs being transferred into the area by 2020.

Overall the population of Perth is rising and concentrating resources in the Fiona Stanley Hospital will cause problems of access and equity in the future.

What we need is a comprehensive and prevention-focused healthcare system, which can be achieved more easily at the community level.

At 28 you are a relatively young candidate, the youngest in the contest for Fremantle. What role do young people have in campaigning for social change today?

Young people have always faced the reality of inheriting the legacy of older generations. But now with the deepening environmental, social and economic crises around the world there has never been a more important time for young people to make themselves heard.

There are plenty of burning social issues like youth unemployment, budget cuts to TAFE and defending the Safe Schools program. It is no coincidence that staunch young people, particularly women, comprise a majority at many of the mass actions to defend the Beeliar Wetlands.

We place great confidence in the ability of young people to take a lead in winning a better future for everyone.

Recent polls have shown the Liberals on the decline and the likelihood of a return of Labor to government. As a candidate for a smaller party, what would you say to people making the “play it safe” argument and calling for a vote for Labor?

One thing I’ve noticed in this campaign is the confusion about how the preferential voting system works, leading some people on the progressive side of politics to lean towards Labor in order to not “waste” their vote.

However, under preferential voting, if your first choice of candidate is not elected, your vote passes on with full value to your second preference and so on down the line.

The ALP depends on being slightly less heinous than the Liberals to maintain its support base. Yes, it has now come out officially against Roe 8 [highway project], promising to tear up the contracts if elected, but this only happened once the community pressure had grown to a point where they were compelled to do so.

Genuinely progressive, community-based parties should not have to be forced into doing the right thing. They should be at the forefront of the struggle for social justice.

What Australian politics urgently needs is a broad and united left-wing movement, capable not only of counteracting the rightward trend of the other parties but also to fight for genuine and lasting change in our society.

The Socialist Alliance is committed to building that movement. I say to all progressive community members, including Labor and Greens candidates, to vote for the policies and the vision and not for the party.

In doing so, you will be supporting the clearest expression of left-wing ideas this election, and you need not worry about this “letting the Libs in” as our preferences, as always, follow a principled path from most progressive to least.

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