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Issue #1473      22 September 2010

WA Politics in the Pub

“Beyond the Two Party System”

When the Independents made their decisions and Julia Gillard got the numbers needed for a minority government, many Australians who had never cared nor talked about politics were wondering what was happening – the two-party system had received its biggest shake up in living memory. The Greens not only gained the balance of power with a record nine Senators from July 2011 but succeeded in winning a seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in a general election.

To capitalise on this resurgence of the need and the desire to talk about politics which had been growing in the community, the Perth Branch of the Communist Party of Australia believed it was time to start a regular public forum to debate the urgent social, political and cultural issues of the day - a Politics in the Pub based on the long-running and successful Sydney format.

The venue was the Carlton Hotel, around 30 people attended to hear the three speakers – Greens Legislative Council member Alison Xamon, Socialist Alliance candidate in the recent election for the seat of Fremantle Sanna Andrew and Communist Party of Australia National President Vinicio Molina.

The moderator was Perth CPA Branch Secretary Andrew Hayward. Hayward who noted that Australia has had the two-party system for over 100 years and that Australians have grown increasingly disappointed with it during this time.

Alison Xamon, having taken time off during her hectic parliamentary schedule to address the forum, spoke about the ascendency of the Greens. “It is not a one-off but a growing phenomenon in Australian politics and the federal result is a reflection of what happened in the WA state election in 2008.”

Greens Legislative Council member Alison Xamon

Since the election the corporate media and especially the Murdoch flagship, The Australian, have increased their vitriol against the Greens. They could barely contain themselves when the last of the two Independents sided with Prime Minister Julia Gillard to give her the minority government. “If you listened to the media you would think that the world is about to end,” continued Xamon. The Australian (09-09-2010) had accused Greens’ Senator Bob Brown and his colleagues of hypocrisy over their defeat of the emissions trading scheme; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box.

The previous day their most senior writer Paul Kelly said of the election outcome: “This is a recipe for legislative gridlock and timid policy”. At Time magazine, in an article on the election outcome, guest writer John Lee from the right-wing think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (Sydney) wrote that this has been the first election since the 1970s to not offer a credible foreign policy vision - signalling a retreat to a “fortress Australia” mentality. There was no mention of the Greens’ solid electoral performance.

It would appear that what irritates capital and its clarions is that they do not like challenges to their business as usual which is what Kevin Rudd’s Mining Resources Tax was and which now an ALP minority government with three Independents and a Greens member represents.

Xamon queried why the media are not also asking other groups in our society, including NGOs (Non Government Organisations), public servants, unions and community groups, as Australia is made up of more than just mining companies.

Sanna Andrew, who stood in the seat of Fremantle for the Socialist Alliance, noted that “The major parties ran an ugly campaign towards the right in a bidding war to see who had the most conservative policies.”

Andrew believed that the Greens in Australia should continue to exist on the left of the political spectrum as experience had shown that overseas when the Greens went to the centre or to the right they had a tendency to be co-opted by capital and subsequently suffer losses electorally.

The world needed to overcome the dual crises – climate and financial – if living standards for the majority of humanity were to be improved or even maintained.

Vinicio Molina, in his opening remarks, said “Parliament had become a ‘closed shop’ and this election had been a challenge that would help to break the two-party system.”

However, parliament was not the only strategy through which this could be achieved. In the current system of government changes have often occurred through the action of “faceless men” to remove or swap leaders such as the manoeuvres to oust Kevin Rudd and install Julia Gillard.

Last year in Honduras, President Manuel Zelaya experienced a similar coup by “faceless men” – the business elite of the country together with covert intelligence and military forces from the US – reminiscent of the events which ousted Salvador Allende from power in Chile on September 11, 1973.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the capitalist interests have felt threatened by the ascendency of the Greens and are worried – especially when the Greens gain the balance of power in the Senate that their gravy train will come to an end.

However, concluded Molina, “We have a window of opportunity ahead of us to bring about change for the Australian people.”

Two further Politics in the Pub are planned for October and November on the themes of health and industrial relations respectively.  

Next article – New economic measures in Cuba

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