Undoubtedly the best thing about the election result was that people — everywhere — were talking about politics.
Some of the discussion was about the hung parliament where neither major party won majority support. Because the result wasn’t clear, it gave everybody an opening to form and express an opinion about what should happen next.
Other parts of the discussion surrounded the sudden emergence of political issues that had been completely ignored in the “boring” election campaign. The war in Afghanistan is the best example.
The deaths of several Australian soldiers helped spark this discussion but another critical element was the election breakthrough by the Greens — a party with an anti-war platform.
To some extent the same thing happened with Aboriginal rights, same-sex marriage and compassionate approaches to refugee rights. These discussions happened not only in the community but in the establishment media as well.
The big increase in the Green vote (and the election of progressive independent Andrew Wilkie) represents a shift to the left in Australian politics. This is an opportunity for the whole progressive movement, socialists included.
However, if we want strong action to stop climate change (for example), no capitalist government will give it to us for free. Not even a capitalist government that requires the parliamentary support of a progressive party like the Greens.
The same applies for workers’ rights, same-sex marriage, and justice for refugees and Aboriginal people. We need to fight if we are to win these kinds of changes.
This is a lesson that was understood more widely in the past in Australia than it is now. Militant unions helped win many of the progressive changes that we take for granted today.
The old Communist Party at one point had more than 20,000 members. While it made political mistakes related to it support for the Stalinist dictatorship in the Soviet Union, it was a party that organised its members to fight for progressive change. We need a strong party like that again.
The swing to the Greens shows there is an increased sentiment of people who want a better world and people who are prepared to vote today may be prepared to fight tomorrow.
Now is a good time to get involved in the progressive movement and with groups like the Socialist Alliance. The future is ours to make.