For real equality social justice and action on climate change

October 29, 2010
Socialist Alliance candidates standing in the November 27 Victorian elections. From left to right, Margarita Windisch (Footscray

The seat of Brunswick is arguably the most hotly contested seat in the November 27 Victorian parliamentary elections. Based on results at the recent federal election, the new Labor candidate, Jane Garrett, is tipped to beat Greens candidate Cyndi Dawes by only 0.6% of the vote.

Learning from the criticism of Labor’s negative federal election campaign, Garrett has adopted the slogan “equality, social justice and tackling climate change” in a bid to win back voters from progressive parties.

The slogan is backed by claims Labor will “phase out” Hazelwood — Victoria's highest emitting brown coal-fired power station — support live music in Brunswick; expand schooling in Brunswick; and meet our transport needs.

Unfortunately, this campaign is just more spin aimed at duping the electorate.

The Victorian Labor government has forced through unpopular urban development proposals such as the demolition of historically significant buildings and the approval of excessively high, multi-storey residential complexes.

These proposals have all been strongly opposed by the public. Planning minister Justin Madden has responded to this opposition by using new laws to “call in” more than 233 planning applications, approving them without proper community consultation.

In July, the state government released a climate change white paper, which it used to boost its “green” credentials. But the white paper’s detail reveals how small Labor’s commitment to a safe climate is.

Labor recognised the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's call for 25-40% emissions cuts by 2020 on the 1990 baseline (which is well below the now recognised need for 100% emissions cuts by 2020 in first world countries). But despite this, it adopted a 20% target on 2000 levels.

In 1990 terms, this would amount to only a 9% cut in emissions.

By “phasing out” Hazelwood, Labor in fact means replacing an equivalent of just two of the power station’s units — only a quarter of its generation — and is spending $50 million on the new Dual Gas Morwell power station, which causes as much pollution as a black coal power station. Labor has and committed to just 5% of Victoria’s electricity to be sourced from solar by 2020.

Labor has also failed to build new public infrastructure such as schools and public transport, and has let private electricity and water operators slug households for the costs of upgrades while raking in big profits.

If this doesn't sound like a record of social justice, equality and tackling climate change, it’s because it’s not. It's more lies — lies the community is resoundingly rejecting. A poll by the Australian released on Octiber 28, showed Labor's support in Victoria had dropped to 35%, while the Greens were at 19%.

So what do real policies on social justice, equality and tackling climate change look like?

The Socialist Alliance’s policy puts community need before corporate profits. We believe a change in government priorities can deliver what the community needs. But to achieve this, we need a different way of doing politics — communities must be in control and empowered to drive change.

The Socialist Alliance has developed a climate policy based on the science and the urgent need to act to avoid climate emergency. This includes recognising the work of Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), a group that has developed a detailed, fully costed plan to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020.

The Socialist Alliance calls for all of Hazelwood power station to be replaced with renewable energy generation within the term of the next government, based on the work undertaken by BZE.

We also call for an organised transition plan in the Latrobe Valley, so that the government will guarantee new jobs for those workers affected by the shift away from dirty electricity.

We oppose the new Dual Gas Morwell power station. The $50 million Labor has committed to the project should go towards setting up local renewable energy manufacturing as an alternative jobs provider.

To tackle increasing utility prices and to secure the transition to renewable energy, the state government must bring the energy industry back into public ownership. The market is not capable saving the environment.

More central public housing should be used to meet the growing housing need in Melbourne. But it can’t be done without proper consultation with the entire community: all major development proposals should go to community referenda.

The state government “call in” laws must be scrapped and all new developments must include the necessary investment in upgrades to public services such as public transport,
high schools and open spaces.

Over the past two decades of Labor and Liberal governments, public services have been gutted. The strain on the community has never been greater. A government serious about meeting community needs must act now to spend on public services and infrastructure.

[Trent Hawkins is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Brunswick in the Victorian state elections.]

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