More on the draft transport policy

Urgent appeal. Socialist Alliance needs to submit an updated list of over 1500 members to the Australian Electoral Commission to maintain our electoral registration and appear on the ballot at the next federal election. We're asking all existing members and those interested in joining to confirm your willingness to support our electoral enrolment by filling in this form.

Thanks to Helen for her suggested amendments to my redraft of the party's transport policy. This is my response.

I accept the various editorial amendments (section numbers, spelling and missing or extra words and so on).

I accept the amendments around disability and social equality. However, the proposed amendment in this regard in section 1 (the paragraph starting “lack of access”) should instead be in section 3, at the end of the first paragraph, continuing to discussion of inequalities.

Some of these amendments also need editorial work.

I accept the amendments referring to the elimination of bus services (section 7) and the experience of bus service campaigning in Melbourne (section 9). I also accept that in section 7, in the paragraph starting 'with comprehensive public transport services', the reference to 'rail' is unclear and should be 'Heavy and light rail' instead.

I don't accept the remaining amendments.

I believe we need to consider this document as a policy statement, not a full critique and planning paper. In some cases, the proposed amendments are just too detailed (and/or not relevant where they are made and repeating points made elsewhere).  For the most part, the same amendments are specific to Melbourne. Their inclusion would skew the policy in a Melbourne-centric way, just as the draft policy is Sydney-centric. So, for example, I had decided not to include discussion of 'demand-based' versus 'supply-based' provision of public transport, as Helen has now proposed in section 1.

Similarly, this draft of the policy calls for free-to-use provision (no fares) of urban public transport and explains why. The policy should not discuss the specific problems of Myki and PSOs in Melbourne. Branches will need to provide the examples relevant to their place and time in the campaigning material they produce.

The policy's proposal to provide both comprehensive and accessible, and free-to-use urban public transport also explains why it proposes to have staff (drivers, conductors on 'dummy' light rail carriages, guards on trains, and station staff) accessible at all times on the system for passenger assistance, but not conductors on all trams (or even, logically, on buses, which had conductors several decades ago). In fact, Helen (and Doug Jordan) argued on the GreenLeft discussion list in 2010 that having conductors generally on trams requires having fares as the justification for conductors. Moreover, having conductors on that basis is not necessary to restore employment in the sector, since the massive expansion in services required (to provide for a minimum six-fold increase in use) will create jobs and then some.

Finally on three specific proposed amendments

  • In section 1, the discussion of a benefit to capitalism from the symbolism of affluence and patriarchy of the car. This symbolism is in fact not a direct benefit to capital, as the section otherwise discusses, but helps explain how private car ownership, which is, is upheld.
  • With regard to the amendment in section 2 about corporate closure of or influence on public transport networks, the corporations acted directly in Los Angeles but, as far as I know, only influenced policy in Australian cities. Both examples should be given, in the right places.
  • The discussion of 'interim measures' of lower car speed limits, traffic calming, etc as the end of section 8, on free public transport. Not only is this amendment not relevant to that section, it does not discuss interim measures towards a comprehensive public transport system.

I have sent details about this response to Helen for her consideration.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the conference. I ask any conference delegate who would like to support this draft as now amended at conference to contact me.