Community campaigners Sarah Hathway and Angela Carr are contesting the Victorian elections in Lara and Geelong, respectively, for the Socialist Alliance (SA).
Hathway, a resident of Norlane for the last four years with her partner and 4-year-old daughter, is a health union organiser and final-year social work student.
Making the energy transition to renewables and the environment safe is one of her current campaign focuses. She is working with others to oppose Viva Energy’s proposal for a gas hub in Corio Bay.
Asked why she decided to run, Hathway told Green Left she is angry that Labor has not helped ameliorate the growing inequality in Geelong’s northern suburbs.
“Sure the pandemic made things worse, but the rise in cost-of-living pressures in suburbs like Norlane and Corio is very visible.”
Hathway said that there is a need for “much more public housing” but that Premier Daniel Andrews has “refused to even agree to the push for 20,000 new homes”.
Carr, a community services worker and the convenor of the Geelong Housing Action Group, told GL she is furious about growing inequality.
“Housing in Geelong is in absolute crisis; it is nothing short of a humanitarian disaster. Average working-class people are becoming homeless each day. They are being pushed out of the unaffordable rental market. There are families sleeping in cars, on couches and in tents all over the region.”
Carr, a working mother of three, said she too expected much more from a Labor government.
“At the federal level we’ve seen how it is refusing to back away from tax cuts for the rich. Here in Victoria, they claim to be promoting equality, but delivery is poor.
“Labor has failed to address the growing need for better services.
“Mental health support across the region for children, young people and adults is poor, wait times are long and, often, accessing counselling comes at a cost.
“People are increasingly getting pushed to the margins. People in Geelong need free and timely access to all health services.”
Hathway said there is a strong sense of community in Geelong and that “a great number of resident-driven initiatives that merit more of a platform”.
The Geelong Renewables Not Gas (GRNG) campaign, started in 2019, has brought together an important alliance of people from diverse political backgrounds who are intent on making change.
GRNG has just finished rounding up submissions to get the Victorian government to reject Viva Energy’s proposal for a floating storage and degasification unit near its Geelong refinery which would import liquefied national gas for the state's energy grid.
“We don’t need this dangerous stop-gap measure,” Hathway said, “if Labor would commit to public renewable energy solutions".
“I hope to use my candidacy to amplify such campaigns,” she said.
SA, with an office in Geelong Trades Hall, is well known because its members are committed to resident-driven and union campaigns for reforms that have a real impact on people's lives.
“I joined SA because it was clearly well-organised and took initiatives in a non-sectarian way,” Hathway said.
“Improvements in social, economic or political rights requires a struggle: they are not handed to us because, inevitably, they threaten profit-making.
“It’s important to have a class focus,” Hathway said, “but that does not stop us from working on campaigns with people who have a different approach, or do not agree on every detail”.
Carr said a majority of residents in regional Victoria are feeling the crunch of inflation and the concurrent lack of a pay rise.
“Our wages have not risen for over a decade while the costs of everyday items such as food, utility bills and medicines continue to skyrocket.
“Linked to that is the housing affordability crisis both for those currently renting, wanting to rent and those paying mortgages for whom interest rate rises month on month for the last 5 months is very worrying.
“The government’s effective abandonment of public housing and shift to social or community housing operated by for-profit or not-for-profit non-government sector organisations has failed.
“SA is campaigning for 100,000 public housing properties to be built over four years. We also need immediate rent freezes and to mandate developers to turn over 30% of developments for public housing. We are also opposed to and will stop the privatisation of the public housing sector.”
SA acknowledges that housing and other social and economic problems are interrelated and need to be addressed by state and federal governments.
However, Hathway said, without a community-campaign approach, the problems are not going to be addressed.
[Socialist Alliance Geelong is launching its campaign at Geelong Trades Hall on October 15 at 6pm.]