Our best ever Conference – in terms of its political analysis, attendence, recruitment, money raised and morale…
The Conference was held at Melbourne’s Trades Hall and was opened by John Gowland from the Perth branch. International messages of support from Belgium, Sri Lanka, Canada, Austria. Germany and Belgium were read out by our Nigerian comrade Wale.
The first discussion was on Australian perspectives. Stephen Jolly led-off the discussion with an overview of the effects of the neo-liberal offensive on health, education and job security. He showed how the policies of Federal Labor and the experience of State Labor governments showed that the ALP was a capitalist party now and in no way an avenue for workers to solve their problems. He outlined the economic upturn had left a large minority behind and millions of others worked longer hours and were heavily in debt.
The crisis in the union movement leadership was discussed, including the lack of a political alternative from even the class struggle unions like the CFMEU. The defeat of Craig Johnston’s Workers First faction in the AMWU was analysed.
Conference discussed the perspectives if Howard was re-elected: a new assault on the working class, big defensive battles, and a deep radicalisation amongst youth. If Labor wins, we predicted a very brief honeymoon, followed by disappointment and the perspective of growing support for the call for a new workers’ party.
After lunch, Irish Socialist Party MP Joe Higgins spoke to over 100 people and outlined the struggles of the Irish working class, the socialist alternative to capitalism, and the inspiring work of his party in Ireland. He also showed footage from Ireland’s national TV station RTE on the bin tax dispute that led to 22 people, including Joe, being jailed last year.
The last session on Saturday was a political report on New Zealand from Tim Bowen as well as a report on the embryonic CWI group in that country. On Saturday night Conference attendees and supporters had a great night at the Celtic Club.
On Sunday Joe gave a report on the work of our comrades in the different sections of our international, the CWI. Then we discussed ideas and strategy for building our party in the next 12 months. The financial appeal led to us moving out of debt – from $11,800 of debt a year ago, to zero debt now.
We elected a new National Committee with Stephen Jolly and Anthony Main re-elected as National Secretary and National Treasurer respectively. Three women joined the party over the weekend, and five more people are close to joining as a result of the Conference.
By Socialist Party reporters