Radical alliance to run in WA election

November 29, 2000


PERTH — Radical left groups and activists have joined together to run in the next Western Australia state election, due early in 2001. Democratic Socialist candidates Anthony Benbow (Fremantle) and Roberto Jorquera (Perth), Socialist Party candidate Neil Gray (Maylands) and well-known Aboriginal activist Yaluritja (aka Clarrie Isaacs, standing in North Metropolitan Region) have all pledged support for each other's campaign.

"The coming together of this alliance is an encouraging step forward for electoral left unity, especially with the current political situation in WA", said Jorquera, who is also the Democratic Socialist Party's Perth-Fremantle district secretary.

The last 12 months of WA politics have seen Premier Richard Court's Liberal-National Coalition government stumble along in an atmosphere of crisis. "Their failure to supervise finance brokers saw thousands of retirees ripped off for literally millions of dollars", Benbow told Green Left Weekly.

"Court's government has squandered our resources — despite the sale of WA's rail freight and gas utility Alintagas the budget remains in deficit, and Court has plans to hand even more to the corporate sector. Not satisfied with $5 million for a bell tower, they now want around $180 million to go the developers of the proposed Convention Centre".

There has also been scandal over hospital administration. One hospital CEO has been sacked and another "restructure" of the health bureaucracy promised. Meanwhile, industrial action by nurses, doctors and hospital staff is ongoing.

Attacks on the rights of Aboriginal people also continue. Court's proposed laws attacking the right of Aboriginal people to negotiate over mining claims was only overturned by the Senate in November. The campaign to end logging in old-growth forests continues, and there have been a range of localised campaigns against government and planning decisions that threaten the environment.

"In some ways the current situation harks back to 1993 — a government in crisis, and the opposition waiting to be elected by default", said Benbow.

"However, there are some big differences. When Court was elected in '93 we knew the Coalition would come in swinging the axe — and they did — within a couple of months major state enterprises had been privatised or shut, and the workers were left out on the street. Services were cut and costs rose.

"The ALP is now the one waiting in the wings, but you don't feel that they will come in with that same purpose, to start reversing the damage of the last eight years. Instead [ALP leader] Geoff Gallop is as right-wing as Court. For example, if it wins government the state ALP will retain mandatory sentencing remain.

"Gallop is running even harder on 'law and order' than Court", Jorquera noted. "The assistant police commissioner, Bob Kucera, is a high-profile Labor candidate, and Gallop is promising to put 250 more police on the beat if elected."

The DSP is keen to use the state election to continue to raise the issues that people have been protesting about in the anti-corporate campaign. "We see the continued dominance of the corporate sector in politics here, as around the globe", said Jorquera.

"The Coalition and the ALP are both anxious to reassure business that profits will not be threatened. The ALP is trying to portray itself as the more 'responsible' economic manager, to win the support of the ruling class. This offers nothing for working people."

Gray agrees: "No one else is raising socialist policies. We want to prioritise the needs of people and that requires getting the money out of the coffers of the big corporations to actually provide what people need — good health, education, infrastructure and social welfare. We have to expose the unfair parliamentary system which is rigged against us. They have the media, the big corporations, and the money — even if we did win a majority in parliament we would have to still mobilise outside the parliament. That is where the real power lies."

Jorquera argues that such mobilisations are crucial. "The success of the S11 protests in Melbourne and also here shows that people are willing to mobilise against corporate tyranny, and when we do we have an impact. We should use all opportunities to build towards protests on May 1 next year."

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