Victorian election special: Vote left and progressive

Issue 
Socialist Alliance candidates for the Victorian state election, Sarah Hathway for Geelong (left) and Sean Brocklehurst for Pasco

The Victorian Coalition government looks set to go down in an ignominious defeat at the November 29 state election.

Several recent polls have given Labor a healthy lead of about 56% to 44% in two-party preferred terms.

The Coalition was narrowly elected — to everyone’s surprise (including their own) — in 2010, and thus look like being the first one-term government in Victoria since 1955.

The corrupt nature of the Coalition has been exposed. The Liberals were forced to dump anti-abortion bigot Geoff Shaw this year after Shaw used parliamentary resources to help his business interests.

Initial Coalition premier Ted Baillieu was forced out last year after it was revealed he had helped disgraced cops find new work and had stymied a new anti-corruption commission from revealing the extent of rottenness in the upper echelons of business and politics.

Continuing a long tradition in local and state politics, two Liberal candidates, and local councillors, in south-east Melbourne were recently de-selected after coming under investigation by the state Ombudsman for allegedly taking bribes from developers.

The Coalition is also on the nose from ploughing ahead with the insanely expensive East West Link —$18 billion and rising. A strong grassroots campaign has convinced many that this project will do nothing for traffic congestion, but will handsomely profit Coalition mates running toll road construction and road freight corporations.

Vilifying and trying to drive down the wages and conditions of nurses, ambulance officers and teachers has not won the Coalition many friends. Nor has the rank nature of two candidates sacked in August after sexist and racist comments on social media came to light.

Leading Geelong Young Liberal and campaign organiser Scott Harrison’s involvement, up to at least 2010, in the neo-Nazi Church of Creativity, exposed in the November 12 Age, has not been a good look either.

Victorians should welcome the dumping of the reactionary, austerity-mad shambles that is the Victorian Coalition. Labor has made some promises around health, education and transport that if actually implemented would be some improvement. But Labor in office is always neo-liberalism Lite.

The previous Steve Bracks and John Brumby Labor governments of 1999 to 2010 cut business taxes, capped public sector wage rises to below inflation and massively increased the role of big capital in infrastructure projects, such as the useless $18 billion Wonthaggi desalination plant.

Green Left Weekly supports a political alternative that unambiguously stands for working people and the environment before of profit.

We call for a vote for socialist and radical left candidates where they are standing, a vote for Greens otherwise, and for preferences to flow to Labor before the Coalition.

The Socialist Alliance, which supports GLW, is standing young activists in two lower house seats: Sean Brocklehurst in Pascoe Vale and Sarah Hathway in Geelong.

The Socialist Alliance platform demands a reversal of TAFE cuts, the expansion of public housing, a ban on coal seam gas mining, and sustainable job growth through the expansion of public health and education and the nationalisation and retooling of the car industry. This campaign is strongly linked to grassroots activism such as the campaign to stop the East West Link and for better public transport.

The other openly socialist campaign is that of Socialist Party Yarra councillor and prominent activist Steve Jolly for the lower house seat of Richmond.

The Greens are standing in every lower house seat and upper house district. Their state-wide lower house polling has varied from 13% to 18% this year. It looks likely they will retain and possibly increase their three seats in the Legislative Council, and they are serious contenders in several inner-city Legislative Assembly seats.

A couple of other parties are raising important issues, even if they are not putting forward a comprehensive platform.

Save the Planet is running in two Legislative Council regions and three Legislative Assembly seats to campaign around the climate emergency. Their insistence on the necessity of a rapid and drastic economic transition is correct and some specifics of what a low carbon economy would look like are worthwhile. But their lack of clarity over how this may be achieved and their deliberate avoidance of a broader social and economic platform is naïve.

The Animal Justice Party (AJP) is running in each Legislative Council region and several Legislative Assembly seats to highlight instances of cruelty to animals such as live export of livestock, factory farming, animal testing of cosmetics, puppy mills and jumps racing. Such practices result from putting profits before humane practice and the AJP puts forward worthwhile legislative reform in these areas.

Phil Cleary, a prominent campaigner on various issues and former independent federal MP, is running for the Legislative Council in the Northern Metropolitan region. Cleary generally puts forward progressive positions, such as speaking out against greedy developers and against violence against women.

The stance of the group he has chosen to run with, Voice for the West, is not so clear. It espouses some socially liberal rhetoric but also puts forward free market solutions in areas such as education and housing. It, for example, explicitly supports the privatisation of public schools under the disastrous, anti-union US “charter schools” model. We cannot then recommend a vote for Cleary.

The overall result of the election could pose some challenges for the left and progressive forces, particularly the Greens. Labor is polling well but a Labor minority in either the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council is a distinct possibility. We caution the Greens against entering into any Labor-led government, as this is likely to lead to Greens cover for austerity policies, as happened under the 2010-2014 Tasmanian Labor-Greens government.

The Greens may be right in allowing minority Labor government to rule ahead of a conservative government. But we should insist that the Greens do not compromise progressive principles to do so. The big business-friendly Labor Greens carbon price under the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard governments of 2010-13 severely undermined Australian efforts to fight climate change.

In our undemocratic society the corporate elite and the unelected armed forces, police, courts and bureaucracies hold most power.

But elections are a time when many people think more about and can be involved in politics. Let’s use the elections as much as we can to kick out the worst pro-business politicians, to promote radical ideas, and to build social movements for radical change.

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