Australia: Labour landslide in Victoria State elections means more cuts

Within 48 hours of Labour being re-elected in a landslide, Victorian unions (many of whom played a key role in mobilising to get Labour in power) were being rebuffed by Labour leader Steve Bracks in their demand for industrial manslaughter legislation to penalise bosses who kill or injure workers. State public servants have also been told not to expect a sympathetic response from the ’Labour’ government.

This government, like all ex-workers’ parties internationally (Labour in Britain and New Zealand, SPD in Germany etc) has a neo-liberal policy and represents the interests of sections of the capitalists, not the working class.

Bracks called the election at the earliest possible date to ’’get in early’’ before the impending battles: the looming war on Iraq, conflicts with state government employees over wages and conditions, the Federal Government’s attack on the CFMEU and the Grocon dispute and more.

The working class and middle class were not ready on 30 November to put the Liberals into power. As we predicted, the election was a like a parole board hearing for the Liberals after their crimes in power in the 1990s (closing over 300 schools, sacking 10,000 teachers etc). The ’parole board’ declared "go back to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 or the keys to office". The cheap populism of Liberal leader Doyle on speed limits, opposing Labour’s opportunist restrictions of logging and amazing hypocrisy on health and education cut no ice with workers, especially young workers.

The heavy defeat for the Liberals, losing over 20 seats, is a blow to the Federal Government, Grocon and the MBA who needed state government police to give the Royal Commission any teeth.

The Greens will be disappointed that they did not win any seats in the inner city suburbs. However they won a huge amount of state funding by getting their 8% state-wide vote. They will continue to position themselves as the soft left alternative to Labour. Not yet in power anywhere outside Yarra City Council the majority of their voters have not yet seen the Greens in action. It would be a fatal mistake if the Greens were to try to emulate the Greens in Germany, where since in power they have carried out neo-liberal policies and have not therefore carried out any of the progressive reforms they promised.

Only a socialist programme of bringing the commanding heights on the economy under workers’ control and management would allow reforms to be implemented on a lasting basis. To carry this out, the working class in Australian needs to establish a genuine new mass workers’ party from the unions, community groups, environmental activists and radical youth.

Labour’s opportunism in the last weeks of the campaign, especially in slowing down logging of old growth forests, ate into the Green vote. In turn, the Green vote ate into the Socialist Party (CWI section in Australia) vote. The highest Green vote in Victoria was in the seat of Richmond.

Socialist vote

We received 2% of the vote, while the Socialist Alliance (SA) candidates in the neighbouring three seats received 1.8% in Brunswick 1.0% in Melbourne and 1.7% in Northcote. This was despite the Green vote being higher in our seat than in these other three seats.

SA also stood in two other seats, Footscray and Lara (in Geelong). Here they were drawn top of the ballot paper. Being top of the ballot paper usually means at least 1.5% on top of the genuine vote due to the ’donkey vote’. So the SA’s 2.6% in Footscray and 2.6% in Lara was in actual fact their worst results.

It is clear that the SP’s election team run by Nicki Jonas and Harriot Stewart who mobilised the biggest team we have ever had in an election campaign did an amazing job. 25,000 houses received SP leaflets, SP posters were stuck up all over the electorate, and stalls and door knocking took place.

We will continue to stand in elections in our own name and to spread the influenced of socialist ideas in working class communities.

However, our main focus is the movement of the working class and the youth. We must prepare to intervene in the industrial battle around the defence of Australia’s most militant and strongest union, the CFMEU (construction division), the battles between Labour in Victoria and state government employees, the looming war on Iraq and the anti-war movement, the ongoing battle for refugee rights, and the fight against the growing neo-Nazi problem in Melbourne.

The SP is building for a summer camp on December 21st/22nd, which our young members in particular are looking forward to.

Finally, congratulations to all SP comrades who participated in the election campaign, and deepest thanks to all non-SP members who helped us out.

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