Socialists polled well in the Newcastle council elections on September 9. Steve O’Brien, Samantha Ashby and Gayle Dedman won 891 votes (4.13%) in Ward 1.
Their vote was more than 4% in five of the 13 booths, with the highest being in Newcastle East at 7.5%. O’Brien also won 2.10%, or 1909 votes, for Lord Mayor.
The “Community need not developer greed” platform resonated in a context where Labor boasted it would help developers, ignoring the impact on communities.
The socialist team countered that unchecked developer greed had left much of the community disenfranchised. They also argued for a council audit of vacant properties — up to 8,500 premises in Newcastle are vacant — to be undertaken and to mandate 30% low income housing as a part of all major residential developments.
In the last days of the campaign Labor picked up on this theme, announcing that it too was calling on developers to contribute to affordable housing, 15% on private land and 25% on developments on state land.
Other policies of the socialist team, such as advocating park and ride facilities on the old steelworks site, were also adopted by Labor and the Liberal Party-linked independents.
The socialists pointed out that it was more logical to run light rail down the existing rail corridor and avoid the disruption of running it down the city’s main road, Hunter Street.
Arguing that it was “Bad for the environment, bad for health and bad for jobs”, the socialists also demanded that the SuperCars race contract be “ripped up”.
Unlike the Greens, who gave second preference to Socialist Alliance, Labor did not direct preferences to the socialist team. Apparently worried about their polling, on the eve of the elections Labor issued a new how-to-vote card for Ward 1, preferencing the Liberals after the Greens.
The new council is likely to have a Labor–Greens majority, with the Greens returning at least one councillor. With this makeup, Newcastle residents look forward to Labor delivering on its promise to make developers contribute to affordable housing.