After 1370 votes went missing during the Western Australian senate election last year, the vote was declared void. Another election has been called for April 5.
The difference between this election and the last one is that the agenda of prime minister Tony Abbott is clearer. Anti-Abbott sentiment was particularly dramatic at the March in March rally, which drew 3000 people in Perth.
Commenting on the March in March, Greens senate candidate Scott Ludlam told Green Left Weekly: “This government is unifying people across a very broad base of Australian society, such that you can have land rights activists, trade unionists, people campaigning on marriage equality, forest protection or refugee rights right across the board.”
Rural Western Australia has also been galvanised. March in March rallies were held in Geraldton, Margaret River, Denmark and Broome. The rural rallies reflect profound changes in the political landscape. Rural WA has become increasingly politicised in the past few years, particularly over the James Price Point gas hub, the coalmine proposal for Margaret River, gas fracking, genetically modified food, and education cuts.
Many people disaffected with the Abbott government are helping the Greens campaign for Ludlam to win a senate seat. According to Ludlam, over a thousand people will volunteer for the Greens on election day.
“I've never seen a volunteer mobilisation like this before,” Ludlam told GLW.
“I think in part what we are seeing is a positive reaction to our agenda, and a very strong counter-reaction to the aggressive tactics being pursued by the Abbott government. These are hard times for people with progressive values in Australia. People are being murdered in our care in prison islands. It's hard to keep our focus when we're being attacked from so many different fronts. But people aren't taking it lying down.
“Just to speak for Western Australia, I am really encouraged by the strength of the movement we're building.”
Socialist Alliance senate candidate Alex Bainbridge also emphasised the importance of mass movements, looking toward Latin America as inspiration. “Even if we had a socialist government in Australia, we would still need the support of active grassroots campaigns to genuinely break the power of the big corporations,” Bainbridge told GLW.
“There is the current process of social change unfolding in Latin America where countries like Venezuela and Bolivia are beginning to take mines and other industries into public ownership or cooperatives to be used for the common good. The Latin American revolutions are beacons of hope to the world and we want to bring that hope to this country as well.”
Progressive parties are campaigning around a wide range of issues during the election campaign. The Greens are campaigning around energy, climate change, transport, affordable housing, refugee rights and the renewable energy target. As well as the usual animal rights issues, the Animal Justice Party is also campaigning around the hugely unpopular shark cull.
The Socialist Alliance and the WikiLeaks Party have both emphasised the need to break the back of corporate power, as well as campaigning around a wide range of progressive causes
Speaking about the Socialist Alliance campaign to bring the mining, banking and energy sectors under public ownership, candidate Alex Bainbridge told GLW: “The mines and banks are some of the most profitable industries in this country. We need to take this wealth out of the hands of billionaires who are destroying the planet and ruining people's lives, and put it into the hands of people and communities.
“This is the only way to ensure a fair and effective transition to an economy with zero carbon pollution and to begin a process of democratisation of investment decisions in the economy.
“The mines and banks belong in the hands of the community to be used for social good, not the greed of billionaires. These are highly monopolised industries that were not created by the likes of Gina Rinehart but were built by the hard work of the people who are employed by these corporations.”
In contrast to the dishonesty of the Abbott government, the Greens, HEMP and the WikiLeaks Party have all emphasised honesty and accountability in their campaigns.
WikiLeaks Party campaign coordinator Gerry Georgatos said: “WikiLeaks has stared down lying governments and transnational agencies for eight years, we will do likewise in the Australian Senate.”
A total of 77 candidates are running. There are many progressive parties running, but not all of them are preferencing other left-wing parties, choosing to enter into unprincipled deals with right-wing parties in the hope it will get them elected.
HEMP is preferencing Labor and the Palmer United Party ahead of the Greens, and Katter’s Australia Party ahead of Labor. This is despite the Greens having a much better policy on drugs and harm minimisation, compared with Labor, Katter’s Australia Party and the Palmer United Party, which do not support marijuana decriminalisation.
Independents Russell Woolf and Verity James and The Sex Party are all preferencing Labor ahead of the Greens.
A “small parties coalition” is also confusing the preferences. Some small parties have cut deals with each other simply because they are small, regardless of policy. HEMP has cut a preference deal with the right-wing Shooters and Fishers Party, preferencing them ahead of Labor and the Greens.
WikiLeaks is preferencing Labor’s Louise Pratt ahead of the Socialist Alliance, the Pirate Party, and every Greens candidate except Scott Ludlam.
Expecting a preference deal, HEMP and the Sex Party preferenced the WikiLeaks Party highly. WikiLeaks partially backed out of the deal and preferenced Ludlam ahead of them because he has been an outspoken supporter of many of the issues WikiLeaks stands for.
On the whole, the Greens and Pirate Party preferencing is principled this time around. The Greens are also pushing for an end to group voting tickets, to make it possible to vote for preferences above the line. The Socialist Alliance proudly renounces any deals, strictly preferencing according to policy.