Coalition under fire in lead-up to NSW elections

Susan Price (centre) at the International Women's Day rally in 2018. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

“Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Coalition state government are getting desperate as the election campaign heats up,” according to Socialist Alliance candidate Rachel Evans. “As more and more of its crimes and misdemeanours are exposed, the government is coming under increasing fire from so many directions.”

Evans, who is heading up the party’s NSW Legislative Council ticket for the March 23 election, said: “The government’s neoliberal agenda has been an absolute disaster for the people of New South Wales.

“Its policies of selling off public property and other assets, destroying Sydney suburbs and state forests to build privatised toll roads, privatising sections of the rail and bus network, cutting back TAFE and other public education sectors, attempting to privatise our public hospitals, forced council amalgamations, demolishing football stadiums, increased police powers and strip searching, and the continued ban on pill testing, are just a few of the unpopular policies that may well bring Berejiklian and her reactionary government down,” Evans said.

“The Socialist Alliance is running in these elections under the slogan: ‘Community need not corporate greed’. We also say: ‘NSW is not for sale!’

“We believe this is arguably the most corrupt government in the state's history. Everything is being sold off for the benefit of the Coalition parties’ mates in big business. This has got to stop,” she said.

A recent Essential poll showed Labor with a small lead over the Coalition (51-49%). Labor currently holds 34 seats in the NSW Legislative Assembly. It needs to win another 13 to form government in its own right. Other polls have indicated an even 50-50 split.

Most pundits are predicting a very close result, with many suggesting a minority Coalition government emerging. However, as the number of unpopular actions of the government multiplies, the groundswell of public anger and protest is growing.

The Nationals are in deep trouble in the bush. They have lost two crucial byelections during this term, losing the seat of Orange to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) in 2016 and Wagga Wagga to independent Joe McGirr last year.

This leaves the Coalition with just a six-seat majority in the Legislative Assembly. If they were to lose their outright majority, a period of unstable government could follow.

There is a probability that some right-wing independents and candidates from the SFF and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation could be elected. Such an outcome would push any Coalition minority government further to the right.

If Labor does get across the line, the new government will be under immense pressure from community expectations for changes in the character of the state's administration. So far, however, there are few indications from Labor of major policy shifts in a progressive direction.

On some issues, Labor has responded to community demands. Labor leader Michael Daley has pledged to save the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and build a new one at Parramatta.

He has promised to rebuild the TAFE system and make part of it free.

Labor is also proposing the creation of a new, publicly owned renewable energy power company and has recently announced a plan to tax luxury cars and yachts to pay for more nurses and midwives.

However, on the crucial area of road tollways, Labor is refusing to commit to cancelling Stage 3 of WestConnex. Peter Boyle, who also running on the Socialist Alliance’s Legislative Council ticket, said: “This is a blatant betrayal of the community, the environment and the needs of public transport”.

“Instead of building more privatised tollways, Labor should be pledging to reverse the Coalition’s sale of Sydney's buses and trains, and promising to build a Very Fast Train network to provide a genuine, public transport alternative to more polluting trucks and cars,” Boyle said.

The Socialist Alliance is running a team of 18 candidates for the NSW Legislative Council. The list is headed by Evans, a prominent activist and a key instigator of the successful campaign for marriage equality; Boyle, one of the organisers of the March 3 Fix NSW rally; and Sam Ashby, a unionist and community campaigner in Newcastle.

Other candidates include: Andrew Chuter, a unionist and public transport campaigner; Paula Sanchez, a Latin American solidarity activist, nursing educator and unionist; Phil Craig, a student activist from Western Sydney; Pip Hinman, a feminist and Stop CSG and anti-war campaigner; Raul Bassi, a unionist and solidarity activist with First Nations struggles; and Margaret Gleeson, a Stop Adani activist and retired trade unionist.

Half of the Socialist Alliance ticket is made up of women candidates.

The Socialist Alliance is also standing two candidates for the Legislative Assembly.

Susan Price in running in the seat of Parramatta under the slogan: “NSW, not for sale”. Price has been an active unionist and socialist for more than 20 years and is currently a Socialist Alliance national co-convenor.

In the seat of Newcastle, the Socialist Alliance is standing Steve O’Brien, a TAFE worker, sociologist and librarian, who has also worked extensively in international development.

The Socialist Alliance is actively seeking volunteers to assist with getting its message out in the upcoming election. This includes help with staffing booths during pre-polling and on polling day.

[Supporters can donate via the website. Call (02) 8070 9331 with any offers of assistance. Jim McIlroy is a member of the Socialist Alliance Legislative Council ticket.]

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