BY GARY MEYERHOFF
DARWIN — With counting completed in the August 18 Northern Territory elections, the Socialist Alliance's Peter Johnston, a veteran anti-racism campaigner, led the charge with 4.5% of the vote in Fannie Bay, an excellent result, followed closely by Gary Meyerhoff with 4.2% in Nightcliff.
Meredith De Landelles polled surprisingly well in Wanguri with 3% of the vote, despite the fact that no campaign stalls were held in this electorate. The markets are the Socialist Alliance's strongest campaigning ground in the Top End, and there are no markets in the Wanguri electorate.
Alliance campaigners were able to reach a broad range of individuals through its campaign, many of them very interested in its people-not-profits approach.
The alliance's focus on one main issue, the anti-social conduct act and its dramatic escalation of police powers to harass Aborigines, was of major benmefit. In the two months prior to the election the Socialist Alliance organised three rallies at parliament house, the last of which, held the day before the election, attracted 100 people.
What does all of this mean for socialism in the NT?
For a start, say alliance members, there's now 4% of the population that needs to be reached and encouraged to become active participants, not just than passive voters.
The campaign also proved that socialism isn't a dirty word any more: alliance campaigners spoke openly about their stance on radio news, on talkback and in the local press, putting drug law reform, mandatory sentencing and socialism itself on the dinner tables of many NT residents.
The Socialist Alliance is now seeking to become a force in keeping the newly-elected ALP to its promises, especially on mandatory sentencing and "public order". The plan to establish a refugee detention centre at HMAS Coonawarra, in Darwin, is also likely to be a focus of protest.