This NSW election, like the Victorian and Queensland polls before it, hinges on growing public opposition to Tony Abbott’s federal government and the neoliberal policies implemented by Labor and Coalition state governments.
The sell-off of public assets and services, cuts to the public sector, unsustainable development, mining and unprecedented handouts and tax cuts to corporate interests and the super rich are now standard practice, and people have had enough.
Mike Baird’s Coalition government is the direct representative of big business in this state, and stands for the most right-wing policies on privatisation, public sector cutbacks, environmental degradation and social policies.
But Labor's record in government is also far from clean. Its pro-business record in NSW speaks for itself. We must not forget the corrupt and conservative policies Labor pursued when it was last in power. Previous Labor governments tried to privatise public electricity assets and only a big public campaign led by some unions, and widespread opposition within the Labor Party, stopped them. On the key issue of the WestConnex tollway, Labor is trying to have a bob each way. They are supporting two of the three planned road tunnels and opposing one. This policy has been dubbed “WestConnex Lite”.
In the past year, Australia has witnessed increased community and union mobilisation — March in March, Save Our Reef, big climate protests, communities united against coal seam gas and new coalmines, and the growing campaigns for public transport, such as the No WestCONnex Campaign in Sydney and Save Our Rail in Newcastle. The recent March 4 union and community national day of action inspired tens of thousands of unionists to mobilise around the country.
This groundswell of resistance is accompanied by a growing disillusionment with “politics as usual”. Our experience on the election campaign trail has been that people are more open to alternative ideas and visions. Socialist Alliance has had a positive response to its message of "Community Need, Not Corporate Greed" and our "people and planet first" political outlook.
This campaign, we've talked to a range of activists from several social movements, to unionists, community activists and residents who turn up to candidate forums who are genuinely interested in alternative viewpoints. At meetings, I have found voters are genuinely looking around for a serious alternative, for a party they can identify with and one that articulates what they have been feeling and thinking.
Another positive sign of this openness was the support we have received from the NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) Construction Division for our campaign.
The NSW Greens have mounted a strong campaign in NSW, with candidates in every seat, as well as a full ticket in the Legislative Council. While they are not in a position to form government, they hope to retain and even increase their representation in both houses of NSW Parliament.
So, is a vote for Socialist Alliance a wasted vote? The answer is no, and there are good reasons why.
First, thanks to our preferential system, in the Upper House, and in the seats of Summer Hill and in Newcastle you can give a vote first to Socialist Alliance, then to the Greens, then other progressive candidates, followed by Labor ahead of the Liberals, Nationals and other right-wing candidates.
Second, having a socialist in parliament can amplify the voices of community, workplace and social campaigns and activists, so they have a better chance of being heard. We have to use all avenues at our disposal, including parliament, to build the movements to defend and mobilise our class. Direct and participatory democracy is all about empowering people so they become the organised force for social change.
[Susan Price is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the NSW wlection and one of the party’s national co-conveners.]