By Pip Hinman
MELBOURNE — About 350 people attended the Rainbow Alliance's election campaign launch here on February 17. Speakers included Rainbow candidates Nigel D'Souza, standing in Batman; Christine Craik, standing in Melbourne Ports; Senator Janet Powell, heading the Independents' Network ticket in the Senate and her number two, Michael Hamel-Green; Phil Cleary, who is contesting Wills; Len Cooper, secretary of the Communication Workers' Union; Rob Durbridge from the New Left Party; and Jo Camilleri, national spokesperson for Rainbow Alliance.
Rainbow candidates outlined their policies, which included Aboriginal land rights and Aboriginal self-determination; an emergency employment program, the money for which would be generated by a levy on all but the lowest 40% of income earners; the closure of all toxic industries, including the uranium mining industry, and the development of alternative energy sources; the expansion of the public sector and community services; a guaranteed minimum income; a progressive taxation system with a 65 cents in the dollar marginal rate for very high incomes; a non-aligned foreign policy and non-provocative defence policy.
According to Camilleri, Rainbow Alliance's entry into the political arena is "only a small beginning ... but a launching pad to mobilise new energies". The immediate goal, he said, was to re-elect Janet Powell and Phil Cleary.
"We all need to come together", Camilleri said. "Rainbow Alliance cannot do it alone, Janet Powell cannot do it alone, Phil Cleary cannot do it alone, the unions cannot do it alone. Rainbow Alliance wants to bring all the fragments together."
"If we're to have a new society", Powell said, "we need long-term vision ... and a deep concern for the survival of democracy". The Independents' Network Senate ticket has been expanded to include Anne O'Rourke and Laurie Levy, both Rainbow Alliance members. Phil Cleary also endorsed the call for a new left politics and for new alliances.
Democratic Socialist candidate for Melbourne Di Quin agreed with the sentiment for a new broad red-green alliance. "It's a pity that we were not included on the platform, because our policies are similar, if not identical in parts, to those outlined by the Rainbow candidates", Quin told Green Left.
"There are some seats where a number of progressive candidates are standing against each other, minimising the message the progressive vote could be sending to the Labor and Liberal parties. There is no one political force that can take the place of a really broad progressive alliance.
"Without an inclusive approach, any new formation will undoubtedly founder. We should extend the alliance networking to all interested forces. We have to start now, and not wait until after the elections, broadly on how to build a new red-green political alliance in this country. The New Zealand Alliance has shown us the way. We cannot afford to wait until the next elections to work this out."