The following proposal on preference policy for the Socialist Alliance in the next federal election comes from the Democratic Socialist Party, which discussed the issue at the July 9 meeting of its National Executive.
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This founding conference of the Socialist Alliance resolves:
Note on the proposal
By Dick Nichols
The main problem that Socialist Alliance preference policy has to solve is whether, and on what conditions, to preference the Greens before the ALP.
If our policy could be decided solely on the basis of the policies of the other parties then there would be no problem — Green policy is more progressive than Labor’s.
The problem arises because many local Green groups, which decide Green preferences, are indifferent as to whether the ALP or Coalition wins seats, and hence indifferent as to whether Labor or the Coalition (“the major parties” in Green lingo) form government.
On this basis the Greens indulge in horse-trading with the ALP over points of their policy and punish the ALP with split tickets or non-direction of preferences if they can’t get a deal.
The Socialist Alliance is not indifferent as to whether the Coalition or Labor forms government. We want to see a Labor government, but not because it is going to be markedly less reactionary than the Coalition. Rather, it’s because the experience of Labor in government is a precondition for further breaking down Labor’s political hegemony over working people. That can only come about through combining their experience of Labor’s brand of economic rationalism with the ongoing building of the Socialist Alliance.
This stance means that for the House of Representatives, where the issue of government is determined and where Green preferences may help elect Liberal candidates, we must preference the ALP before the Greens in any seat where the Greens do not preference the ALP before the Coalition parties.
However, in the Senate, where who will govern is not the issue, our main aim, besides getting Socialist Alliance candidates elected, should be to increase the representation of candidates who are more progressive than Labor, chiefly the Greens. Progressive politics in this country would gain from a greater presence of progressive “dissidents” in the Senate, as can be seen from the role played by Bob Brown on many issues.
Therefore, even though the Socialist Alliance would disagree with any Green preference policy that did not preference the ALP over the Coalition parties and even though Green preference policy might conceivably place one more Liberal and one less ALP hack on the Senate benches, we should still preference the Greens over Labor in the Senate.
It will be important for Socialist Alliance local groups to explain this preference policy to Green members and voters, especially to the many young people who are anti-corporate in sentiment and are being drawn towards the Greens. The core of our argument should be that there is no way that the body of Green policy (let alone genuine sustainability) can be realised unless the mass of the working people who presently vote ALP are won to a mass red-green alternative. Electoral tactics including preference policy have to be subordinated to this end. Horse-trading over this or that policy point in exchange for Green preferences might achieve a few gains at the margin—if an ALP government gets elected and sticks to its promises—but in strategic terms it only acts against weakening ALP hegemony.