New policies adopted by the 12th National Conference of Socialist Alliance

New policies adopted by the 12th National Conference of Socialist Alliance

International

Solidarity with the Kurdish freedom struggle

The Socialist Alliance recognises the legitimate national aspirations of the Kurdish people, divided by the colonial powers at the end of World War I between four countries (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran).

The struggle of the Kurdish and other communities in the liberated zone in northern Syria (Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria) is of enormous importance for the future of the Middle East. Their attempt to establish a society where all ethnicities and religions can live amicably and cooperatively side by side is profoundly progressive. So too are their efforts to establish a system of grassroots democracy, communal economy and empower women.

The Kurdish people in Turkey, who have suffered severe oppression since the inception of modern Turkey, are today facing renewed state terror. In Iran the Kurdish people endure heavy oppression and regime terror; some have sought asylum in Australia and ended up in the Manus and Nauru detention hellholes.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the most widely supported Kurdish liberation organisation, is still on the West’s terror lists, including in Australia.

Socialist Alliance calls and campaigns for:
  • Solidarity with the Kurdish liberation struggle, especially the struggle to defend the liberated zone in northern Syria.

  • The Australian government to remove the PKK from its terrorism list.

Australia

Defend 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act

Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act — the law against racial vilification — are under renewed attack from the right including the Murdoch media empire and the Coalition government for allegedly impeding free speech.

Since they were introduced in the early 1990s, these sections of the law have not impeded free speech whereas there is bipartisan support for many other laws that have strongly restricted freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to protest.

The law includes an express protection of free speech in section 18D: “Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith: (a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or (b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or (c) in making or publishing: (i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or (ii) a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.”

Subject, to these protections, section 18D makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone in public because of their race or ethnicity.

The law encourages complaints to be dealt with through conciliation through the Human Rights Commission. Just 3% of cases get to court.

The actual numbers of section 18C complaints, while rising sharply since 2011–12, are a tiny fraction of the actual cases of racial vilification taking place. These protections and mediation outcomes ensure that the cases which do result in court action are the result of direct and deliberate racist attacks

This is because the targets of systematic racism are often too disempowered, too uninformed of the law or too intimidated to bring complaints.

The vilification law arose in the wake of independent public inquiries in the 1980s that demonstrated how racial vilification had grave physical consequences for the targets of racism.

Since then there have been many cases of incitement of racial violence by people in positions of power including radio shock jocks such as in 2005 in Cronulla, NSW.

Socialist Alliance supports and campaigns:
  • For rejection of the right's false “free speech” campaign against the racial vilification laws;

  • For recognition that the real danger today is the rise of racism and bigotry; and

  • Against the abolition or weakening of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act as that will further legitimise and encourage racism.

Banking Industry

Supporting statement

The extreme concentration of the banking and financial systems means that ordinary working people lose out on a big scale.

The scandal-ridden four big banks — WestPac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and ANZ — profit-gouge  because they can. There is little regulation or government control.

Australian banks are the most profitable in the OECD: bank profits represent 2.9% of GDP. (Australia Institute). This means that ordinary workers and small businesses are paying more than they would if there was effective competition.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has found that the loan guarantee being enjoyed by the big banks equates to an effective Commonwealth subsidy of up to $4 billion a year.

The following problems derive from the four big banks’ extreme power: fraudulent financial planning advice; exorbitant credit card and home loan interest rates; the refusal by banks to pass on Reserve Bank interest rate cuts in full; bank bill swap rates collusion; the culture of huge commissions and pressure on staff to sell shonky financial products to customers; the massive salaries and bonuses paid to bank CEOs; the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs to low wage countries; and related insurance industry malpractices.

A comprehensive solution to this includes much more than a thorough, independent investigation and exposure via a royal commission, although that is essential.

Such a commission could publicly exposing the profit-gouging of Australia's private financial sector and ensure that the books be opened. It could provide the evidence for charges to be brought against the banking moguls who profit from these crimes and lead to a campaign to nationalise (or re-nationalise in the case of the CBA) the entire banking and financial sector, under community and workers' control.

A push to take back our wealth and assets that have been stolen by the big banks and financial institutions needs to happen.

Socialist Alliance supports and campaigns for:
  1. A comprehensive royal commission into the banking and financial sector, with full powers to enforce testimony and information from bank CEOs and managements.

  2. Put the big banks into public hands. Nationalise the Big Four, under workers' and community control. Full compensation to ordinary small investors.

  3. Place the banks’ massive assets under public ownership, to be used for the good of the community and the environment. These funds could be used to build public works, and to fund public health, housing, education and transportation.

  4. Placing banks in public hands, under community control, could provide essential services to meet society’s needs. Executives would not be paid millions, jobs would stay, interest rates would not be manipulated for profit and fees could be cut.

  5. Banks must provide accessible loans to first home-buyers, small business and small farmers at low interest rates. An end to evictions of home-buyers and small businesspeople who fall behind in payments; reasonable repayment schedules must be arranged.

  6. Government assistance to communities for the formation and maintenance of co-operative banks, at low interest rates.

  7. Major banks to be mandated to invest in socially useful public infrastructure, such as public transport, health, education and recreation facilities and to divest from fossil fuel and environmentally damaging industries.

Animal Welfare

Supporting statement

Society has a duty of care to minimise the physical and psychological suffering of animals and that means ensuring the welfare of animals and protection for animals at risk.

Under capitalism, animals are not treated as sentient beings but as commodities to be exploited for profit.

There is growing opposition to how animals are used for clothing and in sport and entertainment.

In addition, there is a growing opposition to the profit-driven methods used to produce food and the impact this has on animal welfare, on the environment and on human health.

Policy

Socialist Alliance supports and campaigns for:
  • A national framework for the protection of animal welfare and the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of existing laws that criminalise cruelty against animals and regulate conditions for the captivity, transport and slaughter of animals.

  • Restricting experimentation on animals except where there is a clear need and where no alternative methods are possible.

  • An end to the inhumane intensive, factory farming in meat, dairy and egg production.

  • An end to the export of live animals for food.

  • Tightening of comprehensive and enforceable standards for free-range farming practices for all agricultural animals.

  • A national labelling system for foods and other products identifying cruelty-free, organic or free-range products, based on the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, or better.

  • A ban on whale slaughter and lethal and unnecessary research on whales.

  • Alternatives to shark nets and the culling of sharks.

  • A ban on trophy hunting of animals, including Australian native water birds.

  • The abolition of cruel or inhumane use of animals for sport, recreation or entertainment.

Dying with dignity (Voluntary euthanasia)

This policy will be added to the Socialist Alliance Health Charter

Policy

The Socialist Alliance supports and campaigns for the right to choose to die with dignity and to decriminalise assisting a person to carry out their free and informed choice to end their life.

We recognise that the choices of people with disabilities and illnesses are often severely constrained by social exclusion and discrimination and that massive increases in healthcare, welfare, support and inclusion are critical to improve quality of life for all.

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