"For a council that won't cost us the Earth", was the slogan for the campaign for the Brisbane City Council by David White, a member of the Socialist Alliance. The council held elections on March 15.
The council, Australia's largest, involves separate elections for mayor and for council members, with Labor and the Liberals vying for control at both levels and a strong bid by the Greens to win one or two seats in the inner-city wards. In the old council, power was shared between Liberal Mayor Campbell Newman and an ALP-controlled council chamber.
The main planks of David White's platform for inner-north Central Ward were "Free and frequent public transport; providing incentives to walk and cycle; positive steps to reduce traffic congestion; make Brisbane Australia's first permaculture city; fairer housing, rates and work; justice for Indigenous communities; and giving real power back to residents."
"Successive councils have failed to tackle the issues of climate change, public transport, over-development, water conservation, cycling facilities, and affordable housing", White said. "Instead, they've wasted millions of our rates dollars on more roads and new tunnels. This must stop now, or our lives will be destroyed by traffic gridlock, polluted air and runaway climate change.
"There is an alternative. We need a safe, sustainable city with quality public transport services, walking and cycling facilities, and clean air and water. A city that gives you real power to control the future of your street and suburb."
White pledged that if elected he would take only the wage of an average worker, giving the balance of a councillor's $118,000 salary to community-run campaigns.
His campaign argued that the cost of free buses could be covered by the savings made by reductions in the costs of subsidies to private road transport. "Total cost to the community of not acting to provide quality bus and ferry services equals well over $1500 million every year."
White and supporters held a March 13 protest near the construction site at the northern entrance to the first of Newman's proposed five road tunnels under the Brisbane River, calling for free public transport and opposing the tunnels.
White also addressed a gathering of people interested in pursuing the goal of a "permaculture city" at the Northey Street City Farm in Windsor on March 9. Participants expressed interest in further discussion, and pledged to support a public meeting with Cuban permaculturist Roberto Perez at the Brisbane City Hall on April 16.