It was standing room only at the Port Dock Hotel on January 21 as Communist Party of Australia members and friends gathered to launch CPA secretary Bob Briton’s campaign for the state seat of Port Adelaide.
The seat, formerly held by South Australian treasurer Kevin Foley, is being contested in a by-election to be held on February 11.
The adjacent seat of Ramsay, formerly held by SA Premier Mike Rann, is also up for election. Both Rann and Foley resigned from state Parliament at the end of 2011. The Liberals are not contesting either seat.
Despite the rapid development of high-priced apartments in the area, Port Adelaide retains a tradition of staunch working-class activism.
CPA activists have been involved in ongoing campaigns against the redevelopment of the port.
At the launch, Briton said: “We want the redevelopment of the inner Port to pay proper recognition to the Aboriginal and working class heritage of the Port and to stop planning ghettoes for the rich.”
The controversial Newport Quays development has been shelved by the new-look ALP administration of Jay Weatherill. But it remains to be seen whether there will be genuine community consultation for ongoing development of the area.
The January 24 Adelaide Advertiser reported that support for the ALP in the seat jumped from 37% to 48% following the announcement that Newport Quays was being shelved.
Another major issue in the port is toxic emissions from various industries in the area, including Adelaide Brighton cement and an Incitec Pivot chemical and fertiliser factory.
The Environment Protection Authority requested a halt to the Newport Quays development in 2010 amid concerns over toxic air and the risk of explosion.
Briton will campaign for the “state government to apply tough environmental laws and workplace laws so as to repair some of the damage done in communities like Port Adelaide”.
The CPA will continue its campaign against the militarisation of the port. The Techport industrial precinct, located in the Port Adelaide electorate, receives hefty state government subsidies to manufacture weapons.
Some Adelaide high schools are being targeted with extra funding to funnel students into the “defence” industries.
Briton calls for “cuts to military spending and the proceeds spent on public health, education and other vital community services; the state government to stop its assistance to military industries coming to the state and ‘partnering’ our high schools and sustainable jobs to be fostered by the state government and to slow down the expansion of uranium mining by profit hungry corporations”.
Left Unity — a broad coalition of groups and individuals, including the CPA, Socialist Alliance, anarchist group Organise and Adelaide anti-capitalist forum — is supporting Briton’s campaign for the Port Adelaide.
Left Unity activist Pas Forgione told Green Left Weekly: “We are delighted and honoured to support Bob because he's willing to confront directly the causes of our environmental, economic, and social problem: neo-liberalism specifically, and capitalism more generally.
“He's courageous and honest enough to recognise this. This distinguishes him from other candidates, even more progressive ones from the Greens. He's willing to fight not only the symptoms but the causes. He refuses to compromise on this — as does Left Unity.”
Briton thanked Left Unity for its support: “I cannot tell you how impressed and grateful we are for the support shown by the Left Unity organisation in Adelaide”.
He said the campaign work Left Unity has done such as last year’s vigil against the Defence Industries Expo is “a glimpse of the potential for united front work in South Australia”.
The successful launch of the campaign for Port Adelaide built on the Communist Party’s strong campaign in the nearby seat of Lee in the 2010 state election. Briton won 2.9% of the vote.
However, redrawn boundaries of the Port Adelaide seat will exclude poorer areas of the Port and include more affluent suburbs such as Mawson Lakes. This may make it difficult to improve the vote count from this campaign.
But the launch's diverse and enthusiastic crowd, and the well-established plans for door-knocking and street corner meetings, indicate Briton’s campaign will still have many successes in offering a real alternative to voters in Port Adelaide and encouraging them to get involved in the ongoing campaigns to put people and planet before profit.
[Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to help with letterboxing, doorknocking, how to votes or just to find out more about Bob’s campaign.]