Australia: Socialist Party trebles its vote in Victoria State elections

Largest SP poll from public housing voters

In last week’s elections in the Australian state of Victoria, the Socialist Party (CWI) stood its Yarra Councillor, Stephen Jolly, in the seat of Richmond in Melbourne’s inner city suburbs of Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Abbotsford, Clifton Hill and North Fitzroy.
In the last state election, four years ago, the SP got 1.9% (629 votes) in this seat with the same candidate. Two years ago, the SP won a council seat in a ward of Yarra Council (Langridge) that makes up about half of the state seat of Richmond.

For the last two years, many people in this seat have had a taste of the Socialist Party in action, on issues such as fighting for decent, publicly-funded child care, public housing, resisting big business ’development’, campaigning against the Howard government’s industrial relations attacks on workers, and on many other issues. Every week, the campaigning work of Steve Jolly or the Socialist Party is mentioned in one of the local papers. The area also erupted with public protests and campaigns around issues as diverse as fighting neo-Nazi gigs, defending public housing tenants’ rights, and on childcare and planning issues.

This campaigning work by Steve Jolly was reflected by his vote rising from 1.9% (2002) to 6.1% (more than trebling), with 31% of the vote still to be counted, at the time of writing.

At polling booths inside Steve’s Langridge local council ward, the SP vote was even higher. In this area, working people had a direct taste of the SP’s work. For example, at one booth, in Clifton Hill, the SP’s vote increased by 1.8%, in 2002, to 7% in 2006. In North Collingwood, the SP’s share of the vote went from 1.8% to 9.2%. At a polling booth next a high rise public housing estate, in Collingwood, Steve’s vote increased from 3.1% to 11.4%.

The best result for the SP was at the massive Fitzroy public housing estate, where we won 20.3% of the vote, coming second to the Labor Party (ALP) (48.8%), the state party of government, and beating the Liberals (8.6%), the party of federal (national) government, and Greens (18.3%)!

The local residents’ association believe that most ALP votes in this area came from richer homes outside public housing, and that the SP got a majority amongst public housing residents.

Outside the Langridge ward, the SP’s vote doubled or so (e.g. from 1.6% in North Richmond to 4.7%).

With 69% of the vote counted, the Socialist Party are currently on 1,575 votes (6.1%). This is well over the 4% needed to get our election deposit back.

By the time all the votes are counted, over the next few days, we should get over 2,000 votes; a great achievement for a small socialist party contesting an election dominated by big business parties with huge funding and resources.

The seat looks likely to be retained by the Labor’s (ALP) Richard Wynne, whose vote rose from 47.4% (2002) to 48.5% (so far recorded). If Wynne wins, it is expected he will become Victoria State Minister of Housing. As the minister responsible for public housing, with three massive high rise estates in his seat, Wynne is sure to come into conflict with local residents fighting for better conditions.

Left good prospects for 2008 Yarra Council polls

In 2002, the vote for ’left of ALP’ parties (Greens and SP) was 30.5% and now it is 28.9%. This is because the Green vote dropped from 28.6% to 22.8% while, as outlined above, the Socialist Party went from 1.9% to 6.1%.

This shows a leftwing shift in the constituency. Of every 30 people voting ’left of ALP’, in 2002, 28 voted Green and 2 voted Socialist. Now, out of every 30 people voting left of ALP, 23 or 24 voted Green, and 6 or 7 voted Socialist.

Why did this happen? The Greens ran a bad campaign, but the drop in their vote is for more fundamental reasons than that. They were increasingly compared unfavourably to the ’real deal’ Socialist Party and its local councillor, Steve Jolly, including in terms of carrying out of policies that benefit working class residents. This explains the significant realignment of the ’left of ALP’ vote from the Greens to the Socialist Party.

The Victoria state election puts the SP in a very strong position for the November 2008 council elections, when the Socialist Party aims, in alliance with progressive independents, to gain control of Yarra Council and to have the first genuine socialist council in Australia.

The Democratic Socialist Party (DSP)-dominated ’Socialist Alliance’ stood in the Brunswick area, where they got 1.9% (544 votes) and in Footscray, where they got 1.5% (379 votes). Independent socialist and ex-DSP member, Jorge Jorquera, stood in Derrimut, and got 0.9% (238 votes).

(A further report of the Victorian State election will follow, including an analysis of why the ALP won a third-term in office)

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November 2006