Socialist Alliance to fight NSW sell-off

Nurses' rights rally, Wollongong, November 24. Photo: Chris Williams

In the lead-up to the March NSW elections, the Socialist Alliance will campaign under the slogan: “NSW — not for sale! Community need not corporate greed.” It sums up the radical shift in priorities needed in the interest of environmental sustainability and social justice.

Labor will get trashed in these elections. The Victorian election result confirms that. The Keneally Labor government is much more on the nose than the Victorian Brumby government was.

Keneally and her predecessors have taken the ALP government to record lows in the opinion polls (wth just 22% of the primary vote, the December 5 Sun Herald said). Labor’s criminal embrace of the corporate profits-first agenda is the main reason for the damning polls.

In the interest of boosting corporate profits, the government has gone on a privatisation spree; the electricity industry is on the auctioneer’s block. It has run down the public transport system and wasted billions of dollars in various disastrous “public-private partnerships” (PPPs), mostly building tollways.

It’s bad enough that it has run down the rail system, delayed much-needed heavy rail extensions and light rail developments, and poured money into the pollution-creating and still gridlocked road system; but Labor did it in the most wasteful way possible.

An independent study commissioned by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils found that if the toll roads and tunnels had been built by the government, it would have assets worth $12.8 billion on its books and would be at least $4.6 billion better off.

The Keneally government is prepared to blow a further $1-2 billion subsidising the wholesale price of electricity from dirty coal powered stations to guarantee the future profits of the electricity privatisers.

Over the past 15 years, NSW's publicly owned electricity industry generated $15 billion in dividends, income that will now go to private profit. According to Professor Bob Walker of Sydney University, any price the government gets for its electricity privatisation was likely to be ''dwarfed by the potential value to taxpayers from retaining these assets”, said the November 15 Sydney Morning Herald.

Inspired by work done by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), the Socialist Alliance is considering a proposal for a pilot solar-thermal power plant to be built in NSW, near a big regional city such as Broken Hill, as a first investment in a fully renewable energy future.

BZE calculates that a power station that could supply all the electricity needs of such a city could be built for about $700 million. It could become part of a future national network of solar-thermal plant that could help take Australia towards using 100% renewable energy.

The technology, expertise and resources are available. A project like this could focus society on the urgent collective investment we need to make in a renewable energy future.

The billions of dollars wasted on privatisation and PPPs could be invested in better hospitals, schools, public transport, public housing and a serious transition to renewable energy. Hospital waiting lists could be slashed, nurse-to-patient ratios could be lifted to a mandated minimum of 1:4.

There is overwhelming public opposition to the various NSW privatisations registered in numerous polls.

Privatisation is but one aspect of a system that is totally corrupted by the profits-first agenda. Coalmine owning billionaires and developer billionaires have literally bought the NSW state government and the traditional parties of government, Labor and the Liberal-National Party Coalition.

In turn, these politicians have transferred a huge income share from the majority of people to corporate profits monopolised by a tiny minority. We have calculated, using Australian Bureau of Statistic figures, that $2.2 trillion (in today's dollars) has been shifted from wages to profits across Australia since 1974-75!

Profit share of total income in Australia has increased from 16.9% to 27.7%, while wage share has decreased from 62.7% to 54%.

To get away with such a systematic wealth transfer, politicians use age-old techniques of divide and rule. In particular, they use racism, blaming refugees for our economic woes and growing insecurity.

In expensive and socially destructive “law and order” campaigns – a staple of Labor and Coalition state election campaigns — minority communities are targeted. Meanwhile, the jail population grows, with no positive impact on crime, and deaths in custody (particularly of Indigenous Australian) continue.

Politicians are bought with corporate donations, which they then spend on lying, negative TV election advertising.

It is no wonder that a big issue in these elections will be how to end this rot. The Greens have combined with the Keneally government to place limited restrictions on corporate and union donations to political parties. But these corrupt parties are still able to collect millions of dollars from donations, plus from the election funding system — which grossly favours the big parties — to spend on manipulative election advertising.

Let's kill off this multimillion-dollar deception industry that comes with every election and get the state electoral commission to distribute the policies of all parties and candidates contesting the election.

Let's put a limit on politicians’ and top bureaucrats’ incomes. They should be limited to the wage of a skilled worker and they should not be allowed any pay increases unless they are matched with similar increase for ordinary workers, pensioners and the unemployed.

In the new year, the Socialist Alliance will release its election platform, with specific proposals for a new way forward for NSW. We have announced four Legislative Assembly candidates and part of the full ticket of 21 that we plan to run for the Legislative Council.

The Socialist Alliance candidates are just a small part of the committed socialist activists urgently needed to build a new social movement for real change.

There are many more such people out there — people who are already struggling to transform the unjust and unsustainable society we are forced to live in. Only some of them are in the Socialist Alliance. We want to unite all social activists who are critical to mobilising the people's power required to wrest society away from the corporate rich.

That’s why we are approaching activists who aren’t members of the Socialist Alliance, but who share our values, to be part of our upper house ticket.

The Socialist Alliance will be directing its first preferences to the Greens as a general rule. Although we don't think the Labor Party is much better, we will preference Labor ahead of the Liberal-National Coalition and other right-wing parties.

[Peter Boyle is national convener of the Socialist Alliance and will head its Legislative Council ticket in the March 2011 NSW election.]

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