Put a socialist in NSW parliament

October 17, 2014
Steve O'Brien is running in the Newcastle byelection on a platform that puts people before profits.

NSW ALP Senator John Faulkner, luminary of the Labor left, has been complaining of the structural flaws in the party for decades. Despite being a long-time beneficiary of the party’s factionalism, almost 10 years ago he was writing of the “shared venality” of party apparatchiks that led it back beyond factionalism. “It is feudalism, and it is killing the ALP.”

Last week he was at it again in his address to the “Light on the Hill Society” at Revesby Workers Club in western Sydney.

Calling for “bottom up” reforms, which included a prohibition on binding factional votes, he pointed out the result of ALP factionalism in NSW: “The stench of corruption which has come to characterise the NSW Labor Party must be eliminated … The party which gave you Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Craig Thompson and promoted Michael Williamson as its national president must now be open to scrutiny and its processes subject to the rule of law. “

Faulkner was also critical of the way public funding of elections, which amounted to more than $180 million in the past four national elections, has been used by factions in the Labor Party. He says that these taxpayer funds must be subject to “rule of law” obligations that should be imposed on the parties receiving them. “If you break the law in the Labor Party you should be subject to the rule of law in the courts.”

A similar point was also made by former Neville Wran minister, Rodney Cavalier, in his recent submission to the NSW expert panel on the review of political donations. He argued that it was taxpayers who had “funded the takeover” of the NSW ALP by factional operatives.

Cavalier’s solution was to propose the abolition of public funding unless the parties receiving them had strict, democratic rules that were overseen by a regulatory body authorised to inquire into party activities. This would enable individual party members to “seek relief through the courts” in order to end factional abuse of party rules.

What this signifies is a recognition that, in the ALP at least, there is no prospect of reform from within so it must be imposed by state statute.

The prospect of the major political parties voting in the NSW parliament to have their internal affairs scrutinised by an independent judicial authority with powers that could ultimately see some of those voting for it being jailed for their activities is, to put it gently, rather remote.

In the NSW state elections that will be held next March, the one thing that the ALP will not do is draw attention to the fact that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has made findings of corrupt conduct against former state Labor ministers Ian Macdonald, Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi.

The alleged rorting of election funding laws by the parade of Coalition MP’s presently before ICAC is also unlikely to figure prominently in the Coalition election literature.

The Coalition will fall over backwards telling us how chastened and contrite they are at the “few rotten apples” in an otherwise uncontaminated barrel of MPs. While they’re at it, they’ll try to disguise the details of their privatisation plans.

The ALP will have us believe that only a Labor Party in government in NSW can guarantee opposition to unpopular federal policies such as the proposed increase in tertiary education fees and the $7 GP co-payment. They will hope that the electorate has a collective loss of memory — it was the ALP who first introduced both when in government in Canberra.

Neither of the major parties will remind us that of the 39 coal seam gas exploration licences granted by the previous Labor government, 30 of them were approved by Obeid and Macdonald. Given the corruption findings against these two ex-ministers a royal commission into the granting of these licences should be a priority.

The Socialist Alliance is an anti-capitalist political party whose extra-parliamentary aims are to build alliances with whoever is willing to participate in the broadest possible campaigns against neoliberal austerity, war, injustice and oppression.

Its members are active participants across a range of community movements that include the fight for refugee rights, equal love, solidarity groups supporting the struggle for Aboriginal rights, women’s and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights and the environment that put people before profits. We are active trade unionists committed to defending and extending workers’ rights and protecting jobs.

We believe that building campaigns on the ground and contesting elections are complementary. This is why Steve O’Brien will be contesting the Newcastle byelection on October 25. In the March state elections, Susan Price will be standing in the Sydney seat of Summer Hill and a team of at least 15 candidates will be standing in the upper-house.

The people of NSW who believe the state should not be for sale deserve a real choice in these elections. If you can help distribute leaflets and posters, on polling booths, or financially, please contact Steve O’Brien on 0490 122 377 for the Newcastle byelection, or Pip Hinman on 0412 139 968 for the NSW state election.

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