Adele Carles became the first Green MP to be elected to the Lower House of the West Australian State Parliament on May 16. At the Fremantle by-election the Greens received a primary vote of 44 per cent to Labor’s 37 per cent.
This result was helped by the fact that the Liberal Party did not stand in the seat, but nevertheless it also shows that many voters are seeking a more progressive alternative to the Labor Party. With the absence of a mass workers party, the Greens are the recipients of this mood in certain areas.
Fremantle has been a traditional Labor stronghold since 1924, but it seems now that many voters have had enough of Labor’s open commitment to big business. In the years to come the Greens could well win more Lower House seats at a state level especially in inner city Melbourne and Sydney.
With the onset of recession in Western Australia, the Greens have taken advantage of the opposition to the State Liberal Government. The Liberals, led by Colin Barnett, plan to cut over $1 billion from the state budget during the next 2 years. This will threaten many jobs and services.
Labor offers no alternative to the diet of cuts and favours to big business. The Labor candidate for Fremantle was Peter Tagliaferri who is a millionaire businessman and the Mayor of Fremantle. The Labor Party head office installed Tagliaferri as the candidate against the wishes of local party members. This did not help his standing amongst the voters.
It was well known that Tagliaferri had recently upset local government workers by attacking their pay and conditions. This led to the Australian Services Union (ASU), who represents local government workers, putting out a leaflet opposing him.
The Socialist Alliance also stood in the seat and their candidate Sam Wainwright performed well at the candidate’s debate which attracted 400-500 people. Wainwright won credible 2.3 per cent of the vote.
While this victory for the Greens shows that many people are seeking an alternative to the big business parties, unfortunately the Greens have a record of caving into pressure once they are in elected positions. This has been seen internationally and in various local councils across Australia.
In many cases the Greens continue to vote for neo-liberal budgets which include cuts and rate hikes for ordinary people. The worst current international example is in Ireland where the Greens are in a coalition government with the right wing party Fianna Fail. With the economic downturn hitting hard the Greens are making working people pay for the crisis while bailing out the banks and the speculators.
While the Greens do have many progressive polices they limit themselves by only working within the framework of elections. They have no alternative economic program and only seek to tinker at the edges of the system rather than change it. The reality is that capitalism is prone to economic crisis and needs to be replaced with a system that is based on public ownership, and democratic planning.
While supporting everything that is progressive about the Greens, ordinary people need to campaign for the establishment of a new workers party in Australia. We need a mass party that not only stands for ordinary people but campaigns for socialist policies as an alternative to economic crisis and environmental destruction.
By Socialist Party reporters