Following on from its successful state election campaign last year, Victorian Socialists is standing three candidates in the forthcoming federal election: Sue Bolton in the seat of Wills, Kath Larkin in the seat of Cooper, and Jerome Small for the seat of Calwell.
Green Left Weekly’s Alex Bainbridge spoke to Sue Bolton about the block the major parties pose to progressive politics and why it is important to support socialist candidates.
What struck you the most about this budget?
This budget does bugger all for anyone on a low income and gives handouts to the wealthy and corporations.
All the income tax cuts are a one-off; they will be eaten up with increases in the cost of living. If you’re on a low income, you get pretty much nothing from these tax cuts.
The $75 one-off payment for electricity prices is just that: a one-off payment. It’s a cynical exercise. Electricity prices have increased out of sight because of privatisations, and this is an ongoing issue.
Coal-fired power stations or one-off payments won’t bring down electricity prices. Only by renationalising the whole energy industry and planning the move to sustainable energy would we have a chance of bringing down prices while also reducing emissions.
The other shocking thing in this budget is that the “surplus” is based on ripping money out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The NDIS is not a good system to allocate funds to people with a disability. The reason the government has underspent on the NDIS is because it has made it so hard for people to get access to the funding for the disabilities services they need.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions issued a meme saying a pay rise is better than a tax cut. What do you think?
Definitely! A pay rise is better than a tax cut.
The income tax cuts – which are mainly directed at the already wealthy - will be taken from workers through cuts to our services.
That’s what the focus on tax cuts is all about: it’s about cementing in corporate tax cuts. The Coalition government is trying to create the impression that it is increasing people’s income, but it does not want to change the industrial laws to allow for a wage increase.
The Coalition is using the income tax cuts as a way of distracting workers because it is aware that people are hurting, but it still needs them to get re-elected. This is not the way to resolve workers’ cost of living issues.
Why is it worth supporting the socialists?
It is definitely worth voting for a socialist, but not just leaving it at that. It is important that progressives help the left talk about solutions to working people’s economic difficulties, and not leave it to the right wing. [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison has no answer for working-class people. And neither does Labor, with its small target strategy.
In the Victorian elections, we came fourth in the Northern Metro upper house seat (out of around 20 parties). This was a very good result given this was just a few months after the party formed.
We got a very good result because we started to raise working class issues in a way that hadn’t been done before while also taking up the need for better policy on refugees, taking a stand against racism and supporting real action on tackling climate change.
Our message was two-pronged, and working class people responded well to that.
Corporations know Labor is a safe pair of hands for them. That means it is not a safe pair of hands for working class people. So we need socialists to talk up policies that will deliver more jobs and housing and reduce the cost of electricity and water.
The Greens do have policies on these matters, but they are not an anti-capitalist party which means there are real limitations on the sorts of solutions they put forward.
Another important reason to help secure a strong vote for Victorian Socialists, even if it is difficult for us, is that when socialist candidates stand it pressures the Greens and Labor to adopt more progressive polices. I’ve seen this happen in many elections. If socialists are not running, the other parties tend to lean more rightward.
There was a debate in the Victorian Socialists about its approach to preferences. What is your view?
The Victorian Socialists governing council decided, after a lot of debate, not to indicate a preference between Greens and Labor, but to say both should be preferenced ahead of the Liberals and the far right.
My view, and it’s also the position of Socialist Alliance, is that this is a mistake. Unfortunately we were outvoted but we hope it can be reconsidered.
We feel it is important to preference the Greens before Labor, and Labor before Liberals and the far right.
While we have criticisms of the Greens, their policies are still to the left of Labor. They have better policy on industrial relations, refugee rights and the phasing out coal and gas, to name a few key ones. They oppose all new coal, such as the Adani mine, and want a just transition for workers in the move to 100% renewable energy.
Preferences tell supporters about how we rank other parties’ policies. It would be better for the socialist campaign if our preferences reflected that differentiation.