NSW elections: Back into the two-party box?

Issue 
Socialist Alliance campaigner in Marrickville. Photo: Peter Boyle.

If the last federal election promised the beginnings of a break from the two-parties-for-capitalism electoral system that has plagued Australian politics for the past century, the March 29, 2011 NSW election seems to be a lurch in the other direction.

The Liberal-National Coalition won dominance of the Legislative Assembly and (with small right-wing parties) control of the Legislative Council because a large number of working class voters punished the Labor party with a -13.5% swing.

The Sydney Morning Herald estimated that 623,500 voters deserted the ALP and most of these voted for the Coalition.

The Greens vote increased by about 2% in the Legislative Council and probably gained one seat there (giving them a likely five seats in this upper house). But the Greens appear to have failed to win the Legislative Assembly seat of Marrickville, which they were tipped to win. The Greens may have a chance of winning Balmain after distribution of preferences – but it will be tight.

The left-wing independent Gordon Bradbery, a popular Wesley Uniting Church minister who was sacked for his progressive views, looks like winning the seat of Wollongong. The Socialist Alliance and other leftists in Wollongong supported his campaign.

The Socialist Alliance increased slightly or held its vote. Pip Hinman, its well-recognised candidate, got 1.9% of the vote in Marrickville (1.6% in the 2007 election). The Socialist Equality Party also stood James Cogan as an independent in this seat and took 1.3% with the top spot on the ballot paper.

Zane Alcorn, another well-known Socialist Alliance candidate, won 1.7% in Newcastle and Rod Noble, a leader of the Progressive Labour Party, won 3% stranding as an independent in the same seat.

Duncan Roden, who ran in the federal election in the same area, won 1.6% in Parramatta. Paola Harvey won 1.4% in Keira (one of the seats in the Illawarra area). Daicy Olya, a late Socialist Alliance candidate in Fairfield, won 0.7% of the vote.

In the Legislative Council, where the Socialist Alliance won 15,142 votes in 2007, it appeared to be down slightly by 0.15%.

The Socialist Alliance used its election campaign to further unify the left. Its Legislative Council ticket included several left independents and several leftists who had just broken from the Labor party.

The Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia also initiated a joint left statement on the elections and CPA members helped out with the Socialist Alliance campaign in western Sydney on polling day.

The critical dynamic of this election was the large number of traditional Labor voters in working-class areas deserting straight to the Liberal-National Coalition rather than to the Greens or to left-wing parties.

Many progressive booth workers reported the heart-sinking sight of many working-class voters grabbing just the Liberal how-to-votes and rushing into the polling booth.

Some in the Greens may be thinking their party needs to abandon some of its more progressive policies to win more votes. But in reality, what the Greens should do is be more conscious of working class interests.

The party alienated many working class people with its embrace of the Gillard federal Labor party’s regressive carbon pricing scheme (which is to morph into a pollution rights trading scheme). This gave the climate change denialists a free kick.

If the Greens want to win the mass of working people to the fight for serious action on the climate change crisis, they need to champion public investment in renewable energy and public transport, funded by taxing the big corporations, which are ripping out record super profits and are also the biggest polluters.

Regressive carbon taxes (which operate like the GST to shift the tax burden from the rich to the poor) will not produce the scale or urgency of investment needed. They will destroy the chance of mobilising the great majority against the powerful vested interests that are blocking real action on climate change.

The left needs to work harder to unify and work closely with the Greens to advance progressive struggles.

If we want to reverse this lurch back to the two-party system (in which the working class alternately punishes and rewards Labor or the Coalition and gets absolutely nowhere) the Greens and the left need to reach out more effectively into working class heartlands.

[Peter Boyle was the Socialist Alliance lead upper house candidate in the NSW elections.]

Comments

More like the 1.4 party system. A massive vote for the right on the heels of the election that almost led to Tont Abbott being PM.

I voted Labor and Greens for the first time ever during the last Federal election because i thought it would be a change for the better but never ever again will I/We be fooled .Greens have nothing to do with the environment this is only secondary if at all an excuse for them being a full on communist party hiding under the guise of so called Green .BTW FYI I'm a 44 yo male in adelaide.Nothing will ever make me or my wife vote Labor,Greens or any Independent for that matter .Once bitten ! Gillard will go before the next election and Abbot may also go but either way we are screwed but still going to vote Liberal.Both at a state and Federal level.

Issues that we hate are the carbon tax con job, The excessive arrivals of boat people and illegals with the troubles that they bring and we are told!! to tollerate at our expense,security and identity as a graet nation And where are these hydrogen fuell stations that are to be built to supply the developing zero emmisions and vehicle technology that we realy need. I believe you call it infrastructure !!! Yes people there are Hydrogen electric vehicles out there being developed but not encouraged by our government or the middle east?!! these vehicles have a excellent range plenty of power and you don't need a power socket at all.The Hydrogen provides the power cell the needs to create electricity,This is Green energy.

"Never Again" appears to be an annoying troll. If you're a Lib voter why comment here other than to be annoying?
NSW election results were very disappointing but Labor only have themselves to blame by adopting all the policies in the last 16 years that, they (rightly) stated in their advertising, would be a feature of the O'Farrell Liberal government.
Also have to consider the role of corporate media in re-cementing the idea of there only being two parties to choose from, and the role of the corporate media in hoodwinking....sorry, selling the Liberals to the NSW voters.
The Corporate Media is the propaganda arm of the Ruling Class most of the time, and the majority of the Working Class can't see through it here at this time, it being a low point in the class struggle.
That's where Independent and Left Wing Media such as Green Left Weekly become vital.

"I voted Labor and Greens for the first time ever"

Translation: I'm a hardened right wing hack who likes to pretend to be all naive and innocent to suck you in (then my head turns 360° and I start spewing green vomit and it's time to get out your crucifix/put a stake through my heart/etc)

Not very subtle or very bright, really.

Ben C

'Never again', Unfortunately is becoming the 'Norm',These people live in a fantasy world based on the Media that they immerse themselves in.Never considering for a second that they are being manipulated into racist,selfish,GREEDY ignorant fools.Always looking for someone else to blame for the damage that their over indulgent lifestyles are causing.Using Denial to postpone the inevitatable,rather than admitting the ugly truth that would harm their lifestyle and bank balance.These are the people that make me ashamed to say that I am Australian,these people are no longer the exception they are the norm,and are quite prepared to sacrifice every life form on the planet,safe in the knowledge that they won't be around long enough to pay their dues.Until some way is found to overcome the greed of these people there will be no change.Unfortunately I believe that the only way that this will ever happen is to isolate the gene responsible and remove it from the pool,before it removes every other species,after all isn't this the way we deal with every other destructive feral species ?