Smaller parties celebrate gains in Victorian election

December 4, 2014
Stephen Jolly had the highest vote for a socialist candidate in recent years. Photo: Yarra Socialists.

When Labor claimed victory in the Victorian elections, many of the smaller parties also celebrated their electoral success.

The Greens won their first seat in Victoria’s Lower House, with the victory of Ellen Sandell over the incumbent Jennifer Kanis, the only Labor MP in the Legislative Assembly to lose a seat.

Sandell told Green Left Weekly her first three priorities are “ripping up the contract of the East West Link and investing the money in public transport”, convening a round table of renewable energy experts to see how Melbourne can become a leader on the issue and creating incentives for employers to hire refugees and people from migrant backgrounds.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott had previously declared the state election “a referendum on the East West Link”, a controversial 6.6km cross-city connection, with 4.4km of tunnels that faced massive citizen opposition.

Sandell said: “I think it was [a referendum], and Abbott clearly lost. People clearly said they don’t want the East West Toll Road, not just by electing Labor but by the high vote that the Greens and socialists got in the inner city.”

Sarah Hathway and Sean Brocklehurst stood as candidates for the Socialist Alliance in the seats of Geelong and Pascoe Vale, recording an increased vote over previous elections.

Speaking to GLW, Hathway said: “We were very happy with the level of active support we mobilised in the campaign.

“More than 150 people were involved in the campaign in Geelong and Melbourne, and many of them are now more interested in ongoing activism and radical change, which is what we’re all about.

“Most [voters] were positive about us running as young candidates, whether or not they agreed with all of our policies."

Brocklehurst gained 3.2% in the seat of Pascoe Vale, higher than the organisation’s recent federal and state election results.

“We ran an activist campaign”, Brocklehurst told GLW, “using it to build a big public meeting for Moreland Community Against the East West Tunnel in the electorate, and a city-wide rally for public transport.

"We were also very pleased that our solidarity with the revolution in Rojava gained us support from the Kurdish Association.

“I think we did get quite a few people who liked that there was an alternative to the mainstream parties. This was an opportunity to put our ideas out there: letter-boxing the electorate; getting people out for early voting; talking to people about politics. It is an opportunity that you don’t usually get to put alternative solutions to the problems that we see in society.”

The highest openly socialist vote was for the Socialist Party’s Stephen Jolly, who received over 9% in Richmond. Jolly’s high votes in several state elections are based on his high-profile local activism in the inner north for 20 years, which he has combined with a position on Yarra Council since 2004.

He told GLW: “We had an increase in our vote. We had the highest vote for an openly socialist candidate in a state election in recent years in Australia, so we are absolutely over the moon.

“The community campaign for this election was the ‘stop the tunnel’ campaign, which played a key role in pushing public transport to the top of the political agenda in Victoria … We also played a key role in dragging Labor to a slightly stronger position of opposition than they initially had [for the East West Link].”

The candidates for the socialist parties are hopeful about the future.

Jolly said: “With the council elections in 23 months, we are hoping to see the first socialist council in Australian history [in the City of Yarra]. … We are going to get back to what we do best, which is community campaigning.”

Brocklehurst promised that the Socialist Alliance would continue to push the Labor Party to keep their election pledges over the East West Link.

“We don’t trust them at all,” he said. “We will keep campaigning and pushing them to make sure that this thing is dead.”

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