A commentary on Socialist Alliance and the 2007 Federal election

A commentary on Socialist Alliance and the 2007 Federal election

This review aims to stimulate on the issue of the 2007 election campaign and results, and potential policy directions for SA.

The election campaign achieved its primary goal - the end of the Howard regime.

But arguably it did not produce a level of support for SA that we should accept with satisfaction or complacency. Unless we can generate a primary vote of the order of 4% nationally, we cannot expect to be properly considered a part of the serious political landscape. Unless we can present policies which appeal to a broader section of the community, and most of the progressive Left can unite behind SA, this threshold will continue to be unattainable in the short to medium term.

Our campaign was a great effort, given our modest membership numbers and support base, limited financial resources and campaign staff, and the usual failure of the popular media to give our policies or statements any positive exposure.

The ability to gain more publicity could be improved if our national leadership and/or some party representatives had a higher profile, and to whom comments on policy or actions would be sought by the media for comment and broadcast.

Although SA issued a number of policy documents for the campaign, it’s clear that our key policy messages did not register with the majority of progressive voters. While there is no doubt that the YRAW campaign drew much of the support to the ALP that SA could otherwise have expected, we needed to give voters clear and cogent reasons to vote for us rather than the Greens or Labor.

Many voters also seemed unaware that they could vote for SA and then give their second and third preference to the Greens and the ALP. We must work to overcome this misunderstanding and ignorance in future campaigns.

We need to strengthen our appeal to all those voters who are/were concerned about job security, long working hours, quality education and healthcare for their families, financial security, securing and retaining affordable housing, and substantive action to combat climate change. These concerns involve practical and pressing issues which adversely affect the quality of life of many people. Issues such as foreign affairs, refugees, and laws which restrict civil rights and liberties - although important - are not on the minds of the vast majority of voters when they’re in the polling booth. The ALP appealed to many insecure and dissatisfied voters by suggesting that it would take action to deal with their worries. “I have a Plan for Australia’s future - an education revolution, a national plan to fix our hospitals”

We must find new ways to convey the fact that our policies deal with these everyday issues effectively by changing the system that sustains these insecurities and deficiencies.

Very few voters understand what is meant by socialism in practical terms.

The common beliefs about socialism, based on the Cold War era of repression, austerity and authoritarian rule, remain current for most voters who were born before 1970. We must work to dispel these images, to make progress in establishing what we stand for.

It’s arguable that the campaign needed to specifically indicate how our policies would be implemented. These would include a public takeover of the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas, ANL and ANR, the removal of those parts of the National Competition Policy which disadvantage the public sector, re-establishing a healthy manufacturing industry, and modifying regressive taxes like the GST.

We should explicitly state that we advocate a society that incorporates a number of core policies. These are that:

  • secure, safe and fulfilling employment is available to all who are able to work, wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances
  • primary, secondary and tertiary education is to be provided free to all
  • all medical and hospital treatment for illness or accident, including dental, paramedic, preventative and ancillary treatment, is to be provided free to all
  • the people collectively have the right to control the production and price of goods
  • and services, and have the right to own and operate all essential public services and assets
  • all citizens are entitled to a basic guaranteed minimum income
  • childcare and aged care services are to be provided to all without charge
  • urban and regional public transport services are to be provided free to all
  • basic adequate and affordable housing is to be provided to all who require it
  • all citizens have the right to be treated by Government and its agencies withdignity, compassion and respect, without regard for race, political belief, religious affiliation or sexual orientation
  • all persons who are detained or charged on a criminal matter are entitled to free, unlimited legal representation
  • human beings are one element of a complex ecosystem, recognising that our actions affect and impact on the natural environment
  • there must be a rapid conversion to renewable energy and an end to the use of all fossil fuels to prevent runaway climate change
  • the nation’s military forces are to be deployed only for the defence of its citizens,for the purpose of meeting a request for assistance from the government of a country in the our region, or as part of a UN peacekeeping force
  • taxation is to be levied based on a citizen’s ability to pay, and there should be no taxation of any essential goods or services
  • fair trade be encouraged with all countries rather than free trade agreements
  • responsible adults have the right to request or reject medical, hospital and psychiatric treatment, and the right to end their life in a dignity without suffering
  • all citizens must have equal access to sources of information and technology
  • all citizens have the right to directly influence decisions to be made at all levels of government by devolving power to the community level
  • financial assistance and support by Governments should be needs-based only
  • indigenous communities to have the right to self-determination
  • no public enterprises or assets are to be sold without a referendum
  • a national accident compensation scheme [no fault] to be established.

Note that certain rights and guarantees have been excluded from this set of policies if they are already included in international agreements or covenants.