Western Australia will go to the polls on April 5 to re-elect its federal Senators.
The election was called to fix a mammoth electoral bungle, which left many Western Australians questioning the democracy of the political system.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam appealed for a recount of the Senate vote when it looked like he had narrowly lost his seat to the Palmer United Party in the September federal election. During the recount, it came to light that 1375 votes had gone missing, and the result of the election was declared void. Six seats are up for re-election.
Now that the Tony Abbott government’s true agenda is clearer to the public, it will be interesting to see whether Western Australians vote differently this time around. The Coalition’s campaign focus for last year's election was largely on scapegoating refugees.
It was silent about its intentions to slash funding to the public service, health care and education, attack workers' rights, and launch a full-scale war on the environment. The Senate re-election is a chance for the emerging movement against the Abbott government to show its strength. The outcome is likely to influence the future of Australian politics.
Now the Coalition is focused on scrapping the carbon tax and mining tax, characterising them as “anti-Western Australian”. Both taxes are deeply flawed, but voters should be aware that Abbott does not share the same concerns over them as ordinary people.
The problem with the carbon tax is that it compensates the biggest polluting industries while pushing the cost onto working people. The mining tax's problem is that most of its benefits flow toward the rich. Abbott, on the other hand, wants to get rid of them to pave the way for bigger attacks on working people and the environment.
The Labor Party is getting plenty of campaign mileage out of Abbott's attacks, repeatedly referring to the job cuts, education cuts and homelessness. However, Labor had its chance to demonstrate an alternative, and failed miserably. Under the former Rudd/Gillard governments, Labor cut $2.3 billion from higher education, sent refugees to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, refused to pass equal marriage rights laws, failed to address the housing crisis, extended the Northern Territory intervention, and presided over the expansion of the gas fracking industry.
Ludlam’s campaign is resonating with people across the country. He made a skilful parliamentary speech welcoming Abbott to Western Australia because “every time you open your mouth the Green vote goes up.” The speech attracted 480,000 online views in five days.
Ludlam told Abbott: “If your image of Western Australia is of some caricatured redneck backwater that is enjoying the murderous horror unfolding on Manus Island, you are reading us wrong. Every time you refer to us as the 'mining state', as though the western third of our ancient continent is just Gina Rinehart's inheritance to be chopped, benched and blasted, you are reading us wrong ...
"Your thoughtless cancellation of half a billion dollars of Commonwealth funding for the Perth light rail project has been noted. Your blank cheque for [WA Premier] Colin Barnett's bloody and unnecessary shark cull has been noted. Your attacks on Medicare, on schools funding, on tertiary education -- noted. The fact that your only proposal for environmental reforms thus far is to leave minister Greg Hunt playing solitaire for the next three years while you outsource his responsibilities to the same premier who presides over the shark cull has been noted too.”
The Socialist Alliance is running two candidates, Alex Bainbridge and Chris Jenkins. The Socialist Alliance is campaigning to resist Abbott's attacks, and nationalise the banking, mining and energy sectors. This is the most coherent alternative to Abbott's agenda currently before the Western Australian electorate.
“A key goal of our campaign," Bainbridge told Green Left Weekly, "is to help defeat the Abbott agenda of cutbacks, attacks on unions and destroying the environment. We do this both by highlighting the political alternative and by building grassroots movements of opposition on the ground.
“Calling for public ownership of the mines and banks is feasible and realistic, even if not everyone realises this yet. Venezuela and Bolivia show us recent examples of where private companies have been taken over by the government to be run democratically in the public interest. We intend to do this here as well, which is the only way to reverse Abbott's agenda in the long term.”
Commenting on the Greens emphasis on winning the balance of power in the senate, Bainbridge said, “We look forward to the prospect of Abbott's grip on the senate being weakened if we can 'take back one seat' in the April poll but a key message of our campaign is that this is not enough. We need to build grassroots movements of opposition like the March in March, and huge, broadly supported protests against the budget if we are truly to stop Abbott in his tracks."
[To help with the Socialist Alliance campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can support SA's campaign by making a donation. Payments can be made:
* Deposit or Transfer to: Socialist Alliance State Committee [CBA, BSB: 066 003 Account: 1014 0921]
* Post cheque or money order made out to "Socialist Alliance" to PO Box 204, Northbridge 6865
* Come into the Activist Centre (15/5 Aberdeen St, East Perth - next to McIver station) (we're there most of the time but may be best to phone first to check 9218 9608 or 0413 976 638.)
* Make a credit card payment over the phone (ph 9218 9608 or 0413 976 638)]