Julie Gray, a laboratory worker in the health sector and an active trade unionist, is contesting the North Metropolitan Legislative Council seat for the Socialist Alliance in the Western Australian elections on September 6.
Gray told Green Left Weekly: "We've got a two-tier boom happening in WA, with big corporations, especially mining companies, making huge profits out of destroying the Earth while the residents of these mining regions, and in Perth, are paying more for rent, food and transport."
Gray explained that on August 18, BHP announced its sixth consecutive record profit. "The company made $15 billion last financial year, more than 14% more than the previous year. Yet, just two days earlier, the St Vincent de Paul Society in Perth announced that it has run out of bedding and household furniture to give to battling families because charities have had one of the busiest winters ever.
"There is a huge rise in the number of West Australians living below the poverty line, and homelessness is growing." Gray said that the average rent for a three-bedroom house in the suburb of Mount Hawthorn rose in 2006 from $260 to $600 per week. "Believe it or not, rents have gone up even more steeply in 2008, but neither Labor nor Liberal care."
Transport is another big issue for workers, Gray said, especially the cost of petrol and parking. "That's why the Socialist Alliance is proposing free and frequent public transport as a key policy in this election.
"That policy includes attention to the needs of disabled people. People with disabilities currently have to telephone to find out when a bus that can accommodate them is coming through their area. Often it is only once a day."
Immediate action on climate change is a priority for the Socialist Alliance, Gray said. "Australian governments have been stalling. They advertise on TV that we should be saving electricity when big corporations are polluting and using 98% of WA's power. We need legislation to force industry to make the transition to renewable energy now, with clear time lines and targets."
Both major parties support expanding coal-fired electricity production, Gray explained. "The Liberals are even worse; they want nuclear power!"
Gray is a union delegate at her workplace. "I know the day-to-day problems working people face, especially the way rising prices are eating away at our wages. Teachers, nurses and public servants have had to really battle with the government to get pay rises recently, and the outcomes haven't been just.
"At election times, both Labor and Liberal make lovely promises to repair all the damage their policies have caused in the hospitals and the schools. But it doesn't matter which party gets in, all we get is more economic rationalism. The WA government's priority is to serve the mining companies' interests and keep the people at the bottom of the pile quiet."
Both major parties are determined to steal more Aboriginal land for mining, Gray added. "They also want to extend the disastrous Northern Territory intervention into WA, including into Perth suburbs." Slugging families with welfare quarantining reflects "the police-state mentality of both Labor and Liberal".
Gray is calling on people to vote for the Socialist Alliance, "to say that we need fundamental changes to the system that is failing both us and the environment". The alliance is directing its preferences to the WA Greens, then the ALP, the Liberals, and Family First and One Nation last.
To participate in the Socialist Alliance campaign, including on polling day, phone Keith on 0423 302 293, Julie on 0413 445 394 or Nancy on 9218 9608.