The Socialist Party will be contesting the seat of Melbourne in this year’s federal election. The party’s candidate will be former City of Yarra Councillor, and Secretary of the UNITE union, Anthony Main. The Socialist Party will strive to offer a progressive alternative to the ALP and Greens who have been in a defacto coalition at a federal level for most of the past 3 years.
The seat of Melbourne is unique in that it is the only federal lower house seat held by the Greens. At the last election many people voted for the Greens candidate Adam Bandt in the hope that he would be somewhat different to the major parties. Unfortunately Bandt has proved to be little different to his ALP predecessor.
Bandt, now deputy leader of the Greens, has propped up the Gillard minority government – one of the most right-wing governments ever to rule Australia. He has voted for budgets that include cuts to jobs and services, voted for the ineffectual mining tax that has kept mining profits in the hands of billionaires and has praised the carbon tax despite the fact that it will not reduce carbon emissions and gives millions in subsidies to the big polluters.
Many had hoped that Bandt’s electoral office would not only be a place where residents could get help with issues but also a hub of social activism. Far from that, his office is seen as dysfunctional, and since being elected the Greens in Melbourne have become almost an exclusively electoral party. They are rarely involved in any campaigns and if they are it is purely to canvas for votes.
Bandt’s main opponent in this election will be the ALP candidate Cath Bowtell, who is the Victorian President of the ALP. In 2010 Bandt defeated Bowtell 56-44 on a two-party preferred basis thanks to preference flows from the Liberals. If the Liberals choose not to preference Bandt this time around it will make things much harder given that last time he lost the primary vote 36% to 38%. To win Bandt will have to buck the trend which has seen the Greens vote drop in most recent elections and increase his vote substantially.
It is not ruled out that the Greens can hold onto the seat especially given the deep seated anger that exists against the ALP. Many people will want to punish the ALP for increased cost of living pressures, rising unemployment and a failure to seriously act on climate change.
Bandt’s dilemma is that on the one hand he has been a part of supporting the measures that have negatively impacted on people’s lives. On the other hand he is trying to present himself as something better than the ALP. With this in mind the Greens have spent the last few months desperately trying to decouple themselves from the ALP as that party sinks deeper and deeper into crisis.
The truth is that the Greens do not have a political or economic alternative to the major parties. Therefore when they are in positions of power they act in much the same way. They refuse to understand that real reforms are won through movements of people and campaigns. What happens in the parliament is usually just a reflection of what has already been won on the ground.
That is what sets socialist representatives apart from all the different types of capitalist MPs and Councillors. Take the City of Yarra as an example. Yarra makes up part of the seat of Melbourne and the Socialist Party has had Stephen Jolly elected to this Council since 2004. Anthony Main was also on the Council between 2010 and 2012.
At no time has the Socialist Party had more than 2 votes out of 9 and yet it has managed to win a plethora of victories for the local community. Schools, kindergartens, childcare centres, community rooms and parks in Yarra have been saved, and often improved, thanks to Socialist Party campaigns.
Most recently the Socialist Party led a campaign to stop the privatisation of open space at the Fitzroy and Richmond public housing estates. Despite having not one vote in the State parliament the government was forced to back down in the face of organised opposition. This is just one example of how mass action and community organisation can get real results.
Residents in the seat of Melbourne don’t need another do-nothing MP. They need a fighter and a community campaigner who will act as their voice in the parliament but who will also use the position to help organise and mobilise the local community. Melbourne would be likely to win much more if this was the representation they had.
A socialist MP in Melbourne would also be able to play a role in shifting the national political debate. Far from just focusing on local issues a socialist in the parliament would put forward progressive solutions to all of the major issues of the day.
For example instead of allowing the big mining companies to pillage natural resources a socialist solution would be to bring the mining industry into public hands. Then the wealth that is created could be used to fund socially useful projects instead of just lining the pockets of a few mining magnates. We could also ensure that the most environmentally efficient methods were used.
If the big four banks, the utilities and the big manufacturing and energy firms were also in public ownership, a democratic plan of production could be drawn up to solve many of society’s problems and quickly address the grave threat of climate change.
By investing in renewable technology, public transport, public housing and services like health and education we could save the environment and create the jobs and services that we need. Far from a situation where our living standards are going backwards, we could use society’s wealth to improve the lives of all.
A socialist MP would fight for a society that prioritises people’s needs, not corporate profits. Part of the process of changing society for the better is building a political alternative to all of the parties that support the profit-first system. The election of a socialist MP would be a positive step towards this goal and towards the building of a new party that actually represents the interests of ordinary people.
A socialist MP would be different from the rest as they would not see themselves as representatives of one or another section of big business but as a genuine representative of the people. If elected Anthony Main has pledged only to take the wage of an average worker. He will donate the rest back to social movements, campaigns and other worthy causes. This is in stark contrast to all of the other parties and politicians.
As we move into more difficult economic times, residents in Melbourne are going to come under increasing pressure. It is likely that an Abbott Liberal government that is at the beck and call of big business will be elected. They will be intent on making ordinary people pay for capitalism’s economic woes. Residents need an MP who is prepared to stand with them not someone who is prepared to be a part of this unjust process. Anthony Main has pledged to do just that – we urge all Melbourne residents to support him.
By Socialist Party reporters