Socialists target Victorian upper house seat

Steve Jolly. Photo:

A coalition of socialists announced on February 5 that they are forming the Victorian Socialists to field a ticket to contest the Northern Metropolitan Legislative Council seat in the November state election.

Australia’s two largest socialist organisations — Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative — are coming together for the first time to help get Yarra councillor and long-time socialist activist Stephen Jolly into the state’s upper house.

Socialist Alliance Moreland councillor Sue Bolton will be second and Socialist Alternative member Colleen Bolger will be third on the Victorian Socialists ticket. Several unions and residents’ groups have already indicated their support.

Jolly was originally elected to the Yarra Council in 2004 and has been re-elected three times, always with a bigger margin. Jolly’s role in winning Yarra Council’s support for the community campaign against the East West Link in 2013-2014 was critical to building the campaign that eventually stopped the toll road.

Jolly is renown for his activism on and off council, including supporting public housing tenants, for quality housing and against privatisations. He is a construction worker and has been involved in many campaigns against greedy developers and supporting workers’ rights.

Bolton, who was first elected to Moreland in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, is also renown for her tireless work with marginalised communities. She founded Toxic Free Fawkner, which forced the clean-up of a site which was heavily contaminated with dioxin. She has worked with families to force Moreland Council to reverse its decision to axe its after-hours child respite service.

Bolton has also shown her willingness to stand up to racists, including supporting a community-led anti-racism rally in 2016. She has been active in the refugee rights’ movement for decades.

Bolger, an asbestos lawyer, helped organise a high school walk-out in support of East Timor, helped found Students for Palestine and has been involved in campaigns for refugee rights. She helped organise Occupy Perth and the campaign to defend Wikileaks in Melbourne.

The Northern Metropolitan seat encompasses some inner-north suburbs in which Jolly and Bolton are well respected as a result of their council work.

There are five seats in the electorate and they are currently held by two ALP, one Liberal, one Greens and one Reason Party (formerly the Sex Party). Fiona Patten from the Reason Party won the fifth position with 2.85% of the primary vote.

The Victorian Socialists are aiming to get more than 6% of the primary vote and enough preferences to get Jolly elected.

Jolly said in a video on the site the ticket was initiated because of pressure from below.

“So many people … have been left behind by the major parties and the old neoliberal policies that have dominated … for the past 40-years.

“It’s unfortunately the far-right who are tapping into that anger and anti-establishment mood … it’s about time the left started stepping up to try and fill that vacuum.

“We have also been influenced by events from afar such as the [Bernie] Sanders and the [Jeremy] Corbyn campaign. Nothing like that exists in Australia right now, but [it] has definitely influenced our decision to come together for the first time and stand a joint ticket.”

Bolton told Green Left Weekly that a united socialist election campaign allows the socialist movement to get its ideas and solutions for the myriad problems people face out a lot more broadly — itself is a very positive thing.

“Currently, the establishment politicians and media can get away with using racism to scapegoat African and Muslim communities. This diverts working people from identifying the real cause of their economic hardship and therefore also getting involved in the movements to change things.

“This joint ticket allows us an opportunity to not only point out that the big corporations and greedy developers are responsible for unaffordable housing, unemployment, expensive electricity and water bills and a privatised public transport system, but that there are alternatives to this neoliberal agenda.

Commenting on the significance of the united ticket, Bolger told GLW: “It’s great to see how excited people are about the prospect of Steve being elected and having a socialist voice in parliament. [He is] someone who could be a voice for every struggle, be supporting every picket line and be commenting on issues from a socialist viewpoint. It would be a shot in the arm for the left more broadly. It’s a chance to make socialist ideas meaningful to wider numbers of people.”

In the 24 hours after its website went live on February more than 500 people joined the Victorian Socialists. The party needs 500 members to register with the Victorian Electoral Commission.

Jolly told GLW that if elected he’d use his position to “to advocate for working class people and for socialist ideas. Equally importantly, I would use the resources and profile of the position to help mobilise communities in struggle.”

Jolly said that if he was to become an MP he would only take an average wage “as it’s a basic requirement of any genuine working-class representative to live the same way as the community you claim to represent”.

Fred Patterson from the Communist Party of Australia was elected to the Queensland state parliament in 1944 after being a councillor. If Jolly was to be elected in November, he would be the second socialist to be elected to a state parliament.

To find out more about the Victorian Socialists and how you can get involved click here.

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