The Socialist Alliance's New South Wales state conference, held in Newcastle on July 21, emphasised the struggle against global warming and against the Howard government's hated Work Choices legislation.
"Change the system not the climate", a public forum held as part of the conference, featured retired coalminer and Save Anvil Hill campaigner Graham Brown, Vanessa Bowden from climate action group Rising Tide, Upper Hunter coalminer Peter Kennedy, and Save Our Rail campaigner Julie Norbury. Paula Morrow, Greens candidate for Newcastle, and Kamala Emanuel, the Socialist Alliance's national environment coordinator, also spoke on the panel.
The meeting was chaired by the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Newcastle, construction worker and unionist Geoff Payne. Payne told Green Left Weekly that the alliance wants to help draw together the political and community forces that are serious about fighting global warming and stimulate useful discussion around action. "Our campaign slogan is 'People before profits, planet before profits'", Payne told GLW.
Sixty people attended the conference, the first to be held outside of Sydney. Socialist Alliance state co-convener Alex Bainbridge introduced a discussion about the election campaign, pointing to the ongoing need for a strong, united socialist pole in Australian politics.
Socialist Alliance members have received significant corporate media coverage around their organising in support of Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef, reflecting the fact that the alliance is the largest and most prominent socialist group in Australia, Bainbridge told the conference. The alliance should use the election campaign to strengthen itself, he said.
A motion moved during the discussion by Raul Bassi called for the alliance to explore the option of an "open Senate ticket" — that is, a Senate ticket that takes advantage of the alliance's electoral registration but includes activists that are not members of the organisation. This would involve drawing up a limited platform specifically for the open ticket.
This resulted in a lively discussion about the importance of promoting a socialist platform and the practicality of organising such a ticket in the time left before the election. The motion was ultimately defeated. An alternative motion authorising the state executive to preselect additional candidates to the Senate ticket "if it felt this would help build Socialist Alliance" was adopted.
A Senate ticket including union activist Susan Price, environment campaigner Kamala Emanuel and Wollongong anti-war activist Tim Dobson was selected. There was a resolve among participants to "hit the deck running" in the election campaign. A feature of the campaign will be a "climate change roadshow" to promote the alliance's soon-to-be-released charter on the issue throughout NSW.
The conference also discussed the protests against US President George Bush being organised for the September APEC summit in Sydney, opposition to the Howard government's invasion of Indigenous lands in the Northern Territory, campaigning for queer rights and same-sex marriage, and the call for a further national day of protest against Work Choices.