On the socialist campaign trail


What about your preferences?

At its November 1 meeting the Socialist Alliance national executive decided its recommendation on preference flows for "above-the-line" voting for the Senate. It also urged all SA House of Representatives campaigns to follow the same approach.

The preference flow recommended was: Socialist Alliance; other socialist candidates with the exception of the Socialist Equality Party; radical independents who preference Labor before the Coalition; Greens; progressive single issue parties and independents who preference Labor before the Coalition; the Socialist Equality Party; the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Democrats, then the Coalition parties and the right wing.

(The final Socialist Alliance group voting ticket for the states where it is standing in the Senate can be found on the Australian Electoral Commission website.)

The national executive had to resolve a number of thorny issues, the first of which was whether to preference the Australian Democrats (or its more progressive and activist candidates) before the ALP.

After exhaustive discussion, the decision was to recommend that the Democrats be placed after the ALP, because of flaws and ambiguities in the party's industrial relations policy and because of its Senate voting record. If the Democrats ended up with the balance of power in the Senate, there could be no guarantee that they would support any trade union campaign for the full repeal of Work Choices.

Another challenge was where to place "single issue" parties that might have a more progressive policy than the ALP in their area of political concern, but were not prepared to preference the ALP before the Coalition parties. Some of these parties have been engaged in tight preference-swap arrangements with other "micro" parties (including extreme right-wing formations).

The national executive had no hesitation in placing these forces after the ALP, unless they gave a clear commitment that they would preference progressive candidates and the ALP before the Coalition parties.

A final decision regarded the placing of the Socialist Equality Party, given the Socialist Alliance policy of preferencing other socialist candidates before the Greens, as part of its ongoing effort to build socialist collaboration.

Given the SEP's extreme hostility towards the rest of the left and socialist movement and to unions, and its refusal to preference the ALP before the Coalition parties, the national executive decided to place the SEP after the Greens and any other progressive forces preferencing Labor.

What would socialists do in parliament?

The Auckland-based Residents Action Movement (RAM) has shown the way on utilising elected positions to take up political campaigns, RAM activist and member of New Zealand Socialist Worker Grant Morgan told a Brisbane Socialist Alliance forum on November 7. He was speaking as part of a panel on the topic "what would a socialist do in parliament?"

Other speakers were Socialist Alliance candidate for Griffith Jim McIlroy, and Andrew Rice, representing Brisbane Socialist Alliance candidate and Resistance member Ewan Saunders. McIlroy and Rice outlined ideas for the development of community participation by any elected socialist candidates in future. The meeting also discussed plans for the Socialist Alliance election campaign.

"RAM took a lead in the campaign against a vicious, racist Islamophobic movement which arose in New Zealand earlier this year", Morgan said. "Our elected RAM Auckland councillor used her electoral platform to reach out to people with an anti-racist message.

"Unfortunately, in the recent elections, we lost our only councillor. However, we gained a significant vote. I see a lot of similarities between what RAM is trying to do and the Socialist Alliance in Australia — working to create the political groundwork for the future."

There has been an inspiring response to the "anti-terror" raids on the Maori community in New Zealand, with the broad left, Maori and other community organisations getting together, Morgan added.

Problems at the Big Switch

Socialist Alliance candidates have been having difficulty in getting the Big Switch website, dedicated to rating parties' policies on global warming, to rate the Socialist Alliance climate change policy. For a while the Big Switch had the Socialist Alliance policy at zero out of five, even though our candidate for the Gold Coast seat of Moncrieff, Dr Tim Kirchler, was rated at five out of five!

Various Socialist Alliance candidates wrote to the Big Switch to point out the discrepancy, noting that the Socialist Alliance's policy is rated second most pro-climate — and better than the Greens — on the Vote Climate website (http://voteclimate.org.au).

The Big Switch organisers explained this discrepancy as due to technical problems with the web site's construction.

We hope the Big Switch manages to address the technical problems before the election.

Vicious outbreak of mad sectarian disease

Sectarianism — placing the interests of one's own group before those of the real movements against the capitalist status quo — is a persistent and nasty virus in the body of much of the Australian left.

However, its most pathological strain must surely be that inhabiting the Socialist Equality Party.

In order to get an above-the-line vote for its Senate candidates, the SEP has issued three group voting tickets, one preferencing Labor, a second the Greens and a third the Liberals — a fair share all round

This lunacy is justified by describing all the existing parties — including the Socialist Alliance — as "committed to the existing political set up".

The SEP never gets its hands dirty building any social movement ("radical sloganeering", "protest antics") and describes the unions — and not this or that union leadership — as "instruments for the outright disciplining and suppression of the working class".

[Compiled by Dick Nichols, Socialist Alliance national coordinator.]