Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bolton was elected to Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in the October 27 elections.
The election provided a shake-up with the ALP losing three councillors and its outright majority on council. The Greens retained two councillors although their vote dropped in all three wards.
The Socialist Alliance gained its first councillor position in Victoria and a Liberal Party member was elected to Moreland Council for the first time. The Democratic Labor Party retained its councillor.
Bolton received 9.5% of the first preference votes in the council’s north-east ward, which covers Coburg, Fawkner and part of Brunswick. Twenty-four candidates contested the four available positions in the ward.
Bolton came third on first-preference votes, behind Greens candidate Lenka Thompson with 14.37% and Australian Labor Party member Michael Teti with 10.42%. Liberal Party member Rob Thompson got 9.39%.
Although the ALP candidates generally exchanged preferences, a large number of people who gave their first preference to an ALP candidate disregarded the how-to-vote cards and gave their second preference to Bolton.
Unlike Bolton, who clearly campaigned as a Socialist Alliance candidate, the Liberal candidate, Rob Thompson, campaigned as an “independent”. Thompson had a large budget for big posters and billboards of him wearing a fluoro vest. On polling booths, Thompson’s booth workers all wore fluoro vests. Many of his voters wouldn’t have realised that he was a Liberal candidate.
Socialist Alliance campaigned on the theme of “community need, not developer greed”.
It called for a campaigning council that would fight for issues such as mandatory height limits on new developments, improved public transport in the area, opposition to the privatisation of public housing, an end to privatisation of council services such as rubbish collection, no increase in residential rates beyond the rate of inflation, while making gambling venues, developers and big business pay more rates.
While taking up a range of local issues, Socialist Alliance also called for council to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people by banning contracts with companies such as Veolia that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
More than 70 people helped with the campaign. Bolton said the campaign had received support from activists in unions and a range of other groups campaigning around issues such as public housing, education, refugee rights, Aboriginal rights and others. It also attracted activists involved in international solidarity campaigns, such as those for the rights of Tamils, Kurds, and other oppressed groups.
Bolton said that this support was a result of Socialist Alliance’s history of building such campaigns. She said, “I intend to be an activist councillor. I will work with community groups to fight for the rights of residents”.
Bolton said there had been a backlash against the Greens as well as Labor in Moreland, particularly in the southern ward, because they were seen as failing to stand up for residents against inappropriate development.
Pointing to the strong votes for the Socialist Party in Yarra council and for Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bull in Geelong, Bolton said this shows that “people will support a socialist approach to issues facing working people”.