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Issue #1493      16 March 2011

NSW state elections March 26

Vote left and progressive alternative

One of the big questions in the NSW state elections on March 26 is where disillusioned ALP voters direct their votes – to the Liberals and other extreme right-wing forces or to the Greens and other left and progressive candidates, including left ALP and Socialist Alliance candidates? Labor looks set for a crushing defeat after 16 years of unpopular, anti-people policies bathed in the stench of corruption.

The Communist Party of Australia and the Communist Alliance have decided not to stand candidates but instead work to help get as many left and progressive candidates as possible elected in order to build a force in Parliament that can help defend working people from Liberal and employer attacks after the election.

The CPA has decided that its members should work for the Greens, to help maximise their vote and increase the possibility of Greens being elected to the NSW Parliament.

In the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) the CPA recommends voting first for the Greens and then for best left and progressive candidates in their electorate.

In the Legislative Council (Upper House), the CPA recommends voting first for the Greens, second for Andrew Ferguson (number 6 on the ALP ticket), and then for Socialist Alliance candidates. This means that ballots will have to be filled out below the line and for at least 15 candidates. (See page 2 for details)

As in past elections the CPA recommends voting Labor before the Coalition parties and other ultra-right wing candidates.

The Communist Party of Australia sees the NSW elections as an opportunity to weaken the stranglehold of Labor and the Coalition parties – what is known as the two-party system – and begin building a left and progressive political alternative in the parliamentary sphere.

The Guardian interviewed three candidates in the forthcoming elections: Jamie Parker from the Greens who is standing in the Lower House seat of Balmain, Andrew Ferguson who will be number six on the ALP Upper House ticket and Peter Boyle who heads the Socialist Alliance ticket for the Upper House. They were asked what they see as the key issues in the state elections on March 26.

Jamie Parker

Jamie Parker has been active in social justice and environmental issues for many years and was elected the NSW President and subsequently the National Environment Officer of the National Union of Students. He studied economics at Macquarie University and later did a Masters Degree with Honours in political economy at the University of Sydney. When he left university he worked in The Greens Parliamentary Office for several years, then left to establish his own business. He was first elected to Leichhardt Council in 1999 and has been mayor since 2008. He has also served as the Convener of The Greens NSW:

“My family immigrated to Australia in the late 1960s after my father had sailed into Sydney harbour when working as an engineer in the merchant navy.

“My father’s first job was as a fitter at Balmain ferries shipyards and my mother, the daughter of a dock worker in Liverpool England, took up employment in the local factories.

“My childhood experience of strikes and the difficulties of a hard working family influenced by views on life and encouraged me to speak out to challenge the exploitation of people and the environment.

“I am into my third year as the Mayor of Leichhardt Council and was first elected to Council in 1999. I’ve served the community in a range of roles including Deputy Mayor for several years and the Chair of the Council environment committee.

“In September 2008 the Greens received the highest vote of any party and I was elected with five other Greens (total of 6 out of 12 Councillors). We were successful due to our principled position on development and social issues while both the ALP and Liberals suffered from their previous decision to preference each other and share the Mayoralty between themselves and an independent from 2004-2008.

“I am the first in my family to have attended university and have an undergraduate degree in Economics and a Master in political economy from the University of Sydney.

“I am a great supporter of APHEDA (the overseas humanitarian aid agency of the ACTU) and for over 15 years travelled to the Thai/Burma boarder to support the Burma Labour Solidarity Organisation which works with exploited Burmese migrant workers. I am also a founding member of the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma.

“I am committed to social change, protecting the environment and defending workers rights.

“Some of my key priorities are:

  • “Opposing the privatisation and economic rationalist agenda of both the ALP and Liberals which has seen not only electricity but lotteries and our waste services privatised. I was proud to be a strong defender of Sydney Ferries after the ALP government attempts to “market test” the ferry services. I proudly display the framed letter of appreciation from the workers at Sydney Ferries (AMWU, MUA and ASU) in my Council office recognising my support for the campaign.
  • “Stronger public services by investing in public health, education and transport services. It is clear that our community services and workers need support for a fairer NSW.
  • “Clean economy and green jobs by fast-tracking investment in renewable energy, not new coal, to tackle climate change, in order to transform the NSW economy and create new jobs.
  • “Investment in public transport by prioritising public transport investment instead of toll roads, shifting more freight onto rail and extending the light rail to the CBD.
  • “Defending workers and trade union rights is a key element of my priorities. With the likelihood of a Liberal government we need strong advocates to work with unions to defend trade union and workers’ rights. The Greens worked tirelessly against the Coalition’s WorkChoices and continue to oppose the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). There is an urgent need to oppose (federal) harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws in NSW which would reduce the rights of union officials and reduce workers’ entitlements.
  • “Planning for people, not for profit, by repealing Part 3A planning laws that allow the Minister alone to decide on developments and putting the needs of communities before big developers and corporate donors.
  • “Cleaning up of NSW politics by banning political corporate donations, ending the culture of secrecy and delivering more open government. In NSW we need a government that serves people’s interests not vested interests.

“I am proud to have many unionists working on my campaign and have been encouraged by the level of support for our progressive agenda. I recently attended a Save Sydney Ferries rally where I signed Unions NSW’s “Better State Plan”. I have also committed myself to the “Support for TAFE 5 Point Pledge” promoted by the NSW Teachers’ Federation.

Andrew Ferguson

Andrew Ferguson is the Vice President of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and has been a member of the Labor Party for 40 years. He worked with the CFMEU and its predecessor the Building Workers Industrial Union for 30 years – 10 years as union secretary. Prior to that he was a union organiser, organising workers across building sites in Sydney and regional NSW. He is standing as an ALP candidate for the NSW Upper House. Andrew is also well known for his solidarity work with struggles in Chile, in Colombia and in support of Cuba. When asked about the state elections, Andrew said:

“I have been a member of the Labor Party for nearly 40 years. I joined as a teenager. My federal local Member of Parliament was Tom Uren and I was inspired by his leadership of the anti-war movement. I observed a Member of Parliament who made a significant contribution inside the Parliament as Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Labor government. I saw a government intervene in the market to help improve the quality of life of our cities and promote regional development. Equally important, I saw a Labor MP lead a mass movement ‘outside of the Parliament’ against the war in Vietnam.

“I saw a government purchase the Glebe Housing Estate to allow thousands of working class people to live in the inner city of Sydney, rather than being displaced to the periphery. I was active as a university student supporting the Green Bans of the Jack Mundey BLF [Builders Labourers Federation]. I have a great interest in the quality of life of our cities. A big part of my interest is fighting for affordable housing, also fighting for a better public transport system. We need to build a mass movement to fight for a better Sydney.

“Inevitably coming from a union background I am dedicated to the issue of workers’ rights. I think there will be a conservative victory at the March 26 elections and we will be confronted with a Liberal Coalition government that attacks in particular the public sector. Protecting the jobs of public sector workers, their wages, working conditions and their job security will be a major challenge for the union movement and Labor MPs who are committed to workers’ rights. Voting inside the Parliament against the attacks is five percent of the responsibility. The big challenge is to organise mass opposition.

“We also expect in the private sector an attack upon the benefits for injured workers. Most workers in NSW now work under federal awards but their workers’ compensation entitlements are governed by state legislation. We are specifically concerned that the Liberal government will please the employers by abolishing protection for workers injured and or killed travelling to and from work. That is a major issue for shift workers who often suffer from fatigue and for workers who travel long distances to and from work. It is also a big issue for workers in the building trade who work long hours in a physically arduous industry, often driving to work and going home late at night in the dark.

“I am disappointed with the decision of the NSW Greens not to preference Labor. I was very critical of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party when they preferenced Family First, and in fact assisted in the election of a conservative to the federal Senate. I think the Greens and the Labor Party need to recognise the importance of working together. We need to stop the Liberal Party, the Shooters’ Party and the extreme Right from controlling the Upper House of the NSW Parliament. The reality is this decision by the Greens will help the Liberals to win a number of Lower House seats in the Parliament. It may also help the extreme right to control both houses of the Parliament.

“The last time the Liberals controlled both houses of [Federal] Parliament, we got WorkChoices and some of the worst workplace laws in the world. I think that the parties to the left of the Liberal Party need to recognise the importance of the movement rather than the narrow interests of their own party. The reality is some of the leaders of the Greens have no class politics. However, I urge all Green voters and socialists to preference and work co-operatively.”

When asked about his membership of the Labor Party Andrew said:

“I’ve often found my membership of the Labor Party frustrating. On some occasions I’ve thought of leaving the Labor Party and joining a left political party. However I made a decision to stay inside the Labor Party and to fight for a progressive agenda inside the Labour Party. I’ve seen the left of the Party and the union movement successfully campaign against privatisation of electricity. If there had been no struggle inside the Labor Party with the support of a struggle outside of the Labor Party we would have seen the complete privatisation of electricity, Sydney Ferries and many other public assets and services.

“If I’m elected to Parliament I don’t regard my job as simply to speak and vote on issues in the Parliament. I’m interested in being a left political leader that is very active in the mass movement, be it at the workplace or in the community. I intend to make a difference and urge socialists to assist me being elected to the NSW Parliament.

Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle is the national convenor of the Socialist Alliance, and will be standing as the lead candidate on their Legislative Council ticket. The Socialist Alliance is running a full ticket of 21 candidates. Peter has spent most of his working life on the paper Green Left Weekly and before that at Direct Action. He has worked in a number of jobs, including for what used to be Telecom and as a metal worker before becoming a full-time political activist. Peter outlined what the Socialist Alliance sees as the key election issues:

“We are running under the slogan ‘NSW not for Sale’, first of all making clear our opposition to the privatisation agenda which we see as the shared agenda of both the ALP and of the Coalition.

“More generally we are using this anti-privatisation message to highlight the perils of the whole profit orientation that lies behind it. That basically treats the assets of the state as something to be used to enhance corporate profit instead of enhancing the needs of the people of the state and most importantly, the future of our country in the face of the threat of climate change.

“So basically that’s our slogan: ‘New South Wales – Not For Sale! Community Need Not Corporate Greed!’

“We do use the privatisation of the power industry as the focus point for what we see as the most important issue to take to this election because we believe that it is very important that the power industry be kept in public hands. In fact we think the privatisation that has been carried out should be reversed in order to make a very dramatic investment in renewable energy resources to set the target of doing the transition in ten years to complete renewable energy.

“It has been shown that it is entirely technically possible today, in the NSW context, to achieve such a transition by building major solar and thermal power stations in the inland and banks of wind power along the coast. So we think there is a plan for this, it has been put forward by the Beyond Zero Emissions campaign.

“We are also using it to point out that we are opposed to the market-based approach that the federal Labor government, together with Greens support, are trying to implement through the carbon pricing scheme.

“We don’t believe it will achieve the necessary transfer of investment into renewable energy that is needed to meet the challenge.

“Just as importantly it will not guarantee, no market measure will guarantee, a just transition for all the workers whose jobs are in the coal and other fossil fuel-related sectors that should be protected. So we think if you leave this to the market you are going to jeopardise the future of a lot of people, consumers are going to be made to pay while the big corporations come with the hand out. So we say this scheme just doesn’t work. Politically it won’t work because it is alienating the majority of ordinary people and because of corporate interests who are blocking addressing climate change.

“We acknowledge that it is highly likely that we will have a Coalition government and we will be facing a big attack on workers’ rights and jobs in the next few years. So we see our election campaign not just as electioneering but as part of a process of preparing broad alliances to help carry out the fightback based on workers and the workers’ movements, fundamentally against the impending attacks.”  

Next article – Wis Gov believes he’s following orders from the Lord

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