The Socialist Party in Melbourne is preparing a serious campaign to win a seat in the Langridge Ward at the November 27th Yarra City Council elections. This would be a big electoral breakthrough for SP and would come after over a decade of campaigning with the local community over education, environmental and industrial issues.
The municipality covers Collingwood, Clifton Hill, Alphington, Fitzroy and North Fitzroy, Abbotsford, Burnley, Richmond, Cremorne, and North Carlton with the Langridge ward covering the first five of these suburbs.
This incredibly diverse electorate includes the biggest highrise commission flats in Victoria (with many Vietnamese, Chinese, Timorese and poor white families), long established working class families in privately-owned terrace houses, semi-transient tertiary students in shared accommodation, and increasing numbers of professionals ? the area has the highest percentage of tertiary educated people in the State.
The area has the highest Green and Socialist vote in Australia and in 1999 had the highest pro-republican vote nationwide. Historically the biggest ALP and Communist Party branches in Australia were in Richmond. The two main school occupations against the Liberal Premier Kennett?s closures in the early 1990s were in this municipality. Both campaigns were successful.
We believe the residents have been betrayed by the Labor Party and, more recently, let down by the Greens councilors.
For 100 years the area was a Labor-stronghold. They took their support for granted and were punished at the last election when 4 Greens were elected to the 9 person Council, helped by Socialist Party preferences.
While the Greens have done some good things such as announcing the building of a skate board park in Clifton Hill and audits of Child Care centers for asbestos, in the main nothing fundamental has changed. Rates have gone up, fines have gone up in number and cost, and a conservative bureaucracy in the Town Hall has not been challenged. The question of chronic underfunding of Council by successive Governments has been left unanswered.
What are the big concerns of the area that Labor is partially responsible for and the Greens are ignoring? For all the talk of the Greens about public transport and the urban environment there has been little done to help people move away from inner city car usage. A SP councilor will fight for Council staffing of train stations at night and Council-run school buses to encourage parents not to use cars. We would build an urban park (like Ceres in East Brunswick) on the Council-owned golf course in Richmond, which is currently used by the rich from the Eastern suburbs.
Youth services for teenagers are chronically underfunded. We need drop in centers at the high rise flats so teenagers can play pool, access the internet and talk ? not just in working hours, but at nights and weekends. This means more staff and better co-ordination of youth services in the area.
We would reverse privatisation, with a shift to Council-run services based on need not the profits of the corporate world. We would support local workers by using Council control of liquor licences to ensure all hotel, bar and restaurant bosses stick to the health and safety and industrial law.
This is just a taste of the policies that the Socialist Party candidates will be campaigning on over the next few months.
The key question is how to pay for these reforms. Money can immediately be saved from scrapping the use of expensive consultants ? we need substance not image. However to ensure services can be improved without a massive rate increase, Council will have to work with trade unions and other Councils to develop a mass campaign to force Governments to stop bleeding local government dry.
When Council starts showing what is possible with its current $99 million budget, it will be possible to get active support for a real campaign to take on State and Federal Government. The alternative is the all talk, no change approach of the Greens or the out and out neo-liberal approach of Labor.
If you live in Victoria please consider helping our Council campaign. Unlike previous socialist election campaigns, this is not just to raise the ideas but to win. Become part of history and contact us now to find out how you can help, every bit counts.
By Stephen Jolly