Victoria prepares next steps in Work Choices fight


The Victorian Socialist Alliance held a successful special state conference in Melbourne on June 16. Ninety people attended, with a strong presence from Geelong and Ballarat. The conference also attracted activists from environmental organisations, a range of unions and Latin America solidarity groups.

The morning kicked of with a lively, practical discussion on how best to build the alliance's federal election campaign in a period where the space to the left of the ALP continues to open up and the alliance continues to gain credibility for its varied campaign work. The alliance's increasing refinement of its progressive environmental policies was noted, which has led to the alliance being listed number one political party running in the federal eleciton on the <> site.

The morning session was followed by a very useful panel titled "Defend our rights at work, tear up all of Work Choices". Speakers included sacked Australian Manufacturing Workers Union steward Tony Carvalho, National Tertiary Education Union Monash branch president and alliance member Carol Williams, Gippsland Trades Hall Council secretary John Parker, AMWU organiser and alliance member Chris Spindler, and the "Right to Strike" campaign initiator and Victorian CEPU communications division secretary Len Cooper.

Some of the issues addressed were the need to link union and community struggles, defend workers under attack, build political alternatives to the anti-union ALP, and rebuild fighting, democratic organisations for workers' rights. The discussion culminated in a concrete plan for helping to build the anti-Work Choices campaign by pushing the Victorian Trades Hall Council to call for a mass protest in the coming months, which is not simply an "elect Labor" rally.

The union panel was the first public meeting in Melbourne discussing strategies and tactics on the IR front since the ALP's sell-out, including its announcement to keep the Australian Building and Construction Commission and its vilification of Dean Mighell.

Workshops on fighting Work Choices, socialist solutions to the environment crisis and preparations for the anti-APEC protests all produced concrete proposals. Alliance members will be actively campaigning with the "tear up Work Choices" petition, promoting the alliance in their unions, setting up an environmental working group for members, and building the Stop Bush convergence in September.

The conference heard greetings from El Salvador's Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. Written greetings also came from the Tamil Eelam Women's Organisation and the Eelam Tamil Association Victoria, thanking the Socialist Alliance for its solidarity.

The conference adopted resolutions condemning the arrest of two members of the Tamil community on terrorism charges, simply for raising funds for tsunami victims, and in support of self-determination for Western Sahara. The conference also passed a motion calling for the charges against the G20 demonstrators to be dropped and endorsing the August 31 solidarity rally with the G20 arrestees.

Margarita Windisch (Melbourne) and Jeremy Smith (Geelong) were preselected as the first two members of the Socialist Alliance's Victorian Senate team, with the final ticket still to be decided. The conference established an open federal election campaign committee, which already involved a number of members.

The conference confirmed the Socialist Alliance's connection and real engagement with the broader social movements, and its willingness to take campaign initiatives and help provide solutions to the capitalist crisis. It also highlighted that the Socialist Alliance is currently Australia's main force for non-sectarian, fighting and relevant socialist politics.

Dick Nichols & Margarita Windisch

[Margarita Windisch is the Socialist Alliance's Victorian state convener. Dick Nichols is the national coordinator.]