Socialists raise the issues in ACT elections


By James Basle

CANBERRA — With less than three weeks till the February 18 ACT elections, voters could be excused for thinking, which elections? Campaigning so far has been very low key. The NSW elections and the by-election for Ros Kelly's federal seat of Canberra have overshadowed the ACT elections.

Two notable exceptions are the Liberal candidate who alleges she had death threats from a member of her own party and Paul Osborne, former Canberra Raiders prop forward, who is running on a platform of police being underfunded and of closing schools.

The Democratic Socialists are raising real issues by standing two candidates for the seat of Molongo: Alison Dellit, a 20-year-old student and activist in the campaign to defeat fees at the Australian National University, and 22-year-old Alex Middleton, an activist in the Community and Public Sector Union.

Seventy-four candidates are competing for 17 Assembly places. There are six registered parties contesting the elections, including the Smokers are Voters and Civil Rights group.

Important issues which have surfaced including health, education, proposals for urban development of green spaces, dual occupancy, women's services including funding of abortion clinics, public service job losses and cuts to government expenditure.

The ALP has formed a minority government over the past three years with Rosemary Follett as chief minister. Its main slogan in the current elections is "Securing Canberra's Future". One mass letterboxed leaflet fails even to mention the word ALP, instead introducing the candidates as the "Follett team".

In one 15-second radio blurb, Follett mentions "better management" three times, which illustrates what the ALP is really campaigning on.

The Liberals talk about "better management, better health, quality education". Yet the Liberals' health statement, along with 50 new hospital beds, also announces the introduction of case mix funding and a $30 million reduction in the health budget over three years.

Whichever is elected, both Labor and Liberal will cut government expenditure and services. The federal government has been reducing funding to the ACT government, and the pressure will be to reduce spending on education or health, as these two items are 40% of total government outlays.

The Democratic Socialist candidates are running on a comprehensive platform including:

  • the right of young people to a job, saving the chesspit (a landmark where a lot of young people hang out) and lowering the voting age to 16;

  • free public education, opposing the closure of schools and against university fees;

  • a well-funded public health system, opposing case mix funding;

  • defending and extending the public service, with no job losses and no trade-offs of conditions;

  • publicly funded abortion clinics;

  • an end to woodchipping in old growth forests;

  • support for an independent East Timor.

According to Dellit, "There is a real war going on against young people, carried out by the major parties and their big business mates. My generation is the betrayed generation, suffering from poverty, with no jobs and inheriting a sick, dying planet.

"Part of the reason I am running in the elections is to show that young people can do it: we can take action and we can win, like the recent occupation at the ANU showed."

A number of other progressive candidates are also running in the ACT elections, including the Moore Independents and the ACT Greens.

To get involved in the Democratic Socialist, campaign ring Alison or James on 247 2424.