SA campaigns strongly in midst of ALP disaster

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Socialist Alliance pushed ahead strongly with its campaign to put socialist politics before the Queensland electorate, as the ALP government faced annihilation in the state election held on March 24. Although everyone knew the government was unpopular, the sheer size of the LNP win took all commentators by surprise.

The political fall-out from the electoral disaster, which has left Labor with only seven or eight seats compared to the LNP's probable 78 in an 89 seat House of Assembly, after a record two-party swing of 15% away from the Bligh government, will be felt for many years to come - federally as well as on a state level. For a fuller overview of the Queensland election, see Green Left Weekly.

Meanwhile, SA held its own, and experienced a modest swing in its favour in the three seats it contested. In South Brisbane, with around 70% of the vote counted on Saturday night, our candidate Liam Flenady had gained 365 votes, or 2%. This compares with a final vote for Sam Watson, our candidate in the 2009 state election in the same seat of 275 votes, or 1.5%. The increase in 2012 is more notable given the strong personal support for Sam as a well-known leader of the Murri community in the area. (Which is not to say Liam didn't have a personal support base also: several musicians in particular stated their backing for Liam on the polling booths on election day!)

Mike Crook, running for the second time in the seat of Sandgate for SA, had 347 votes, or 1.53%, on Saturday night, compared to a final total of 361, or 1.3%, in 2009. The comparison is somewhat complicated by the fact that Mike was listed at the top of the ballot this time.

However, unlike in South Brisbane, SA did not have capacity to distribute how-to-vote cards on the day, relying mainly on corflutes with Mike's name and photo on A-frames around the key booths, together with a number of SA members and supporters spruiking support.

It should be noted that Socialist Alliance is not yet a registered party in Queensland, so our party name was not listed on the ballot paper beside the candidates' names. Registration in Queensland remains a major task for the future here.

In the north Queensland seat of Dalrymple, Jason Briskey, running for the first time as a candidate for SA, had received 110 votes, or 0.6%, at close of counting on March 24. While this figure is modest, Jason also did not have the resources to distribute how-to-vote cards on the day. He relied on travelling around booths in the area near Charters Towers, and talking to voters.

SA mobilised around 40 members and supporters to staff polling booths in Brisbane on election day, with around 60 being actively involved in the whole campaign, via letterboxing etc. This year, with the printing of corflutes with the SA logo and candidates' names on, we were also able to put signs in supporters' windows and front gardens for the first time in an election campaign here.

In South Brisbane, we staffed most of the booths, except for some of the smaller ones, on election day. A number of our poll workers report people stating their intention to vote for Liam, and many useful discussions were held about our policies and platform.

On a number of the booths, we had card tables with other literature, including the Climate Charter and Women's Rights Charter, which were distributed to interested electors. We sold more than 30 GLWs on the day.

We also received support for being the only party to provide a full preference list on our how to vote card. All other parties indicated on their main cards, Just Vote 1, and choose your own preferences if you wish.

It is important to maintain our defence of the full preference system, which is more democratic than optional preferential. That system results in practice in a first-past-the-post process, similar to Britain, which means winner takes all.

In the case of Queensland 2012, it has meant a much bigger parliamentary majority for the LNP, than its first preference vote would indicate, and many fewer seats for the ALP. Moreover, it is less favorable to smaller parties like the Greens and Socialist Alliance, as it influences voters to stick to a choice of the two mainstream parties.

Over the whole election period, we letterboxed almost all of the 10,000 campaign leaflets printed for each of Liam and Mike's campaigns, covering a majority of the residences in both electorates, over the course of a month. This included Saturday and Sunday mobilisations, with teams fanning out into the suburbs after campaign functions. Jason also distributed thousands of campaign leaflets in Dalrymple over the course of the election.

Campaign events included the official launch of Liam's campaign in South Brisbane, with around 40 people attending a rally in the main street of West End; the launch of Mike's campaign in Sandgate, with about 20 people attending; a BBQ for Liam in Orleigh Park, West End; a meet-the-candidates forum at the Activist Centre, sponsored by Green Left Weekly; and a number of campaign street stalls.

Our candidates called two protest rallies: the one on February 7 was outside the ANZ Bank Queensland head office in the Brisbane city and was called to condemn “Big bank greed”.

The second, the day before the election, was outside the Arrow Energy office in the city, and was called to protest the company's CSG exploration permits over Brisbane's western suburbs. It attracted a number of independent activists as well as members.

Our candidates issued a stream of media releases over the campaign:

  • Initial campaign announcement “Qld needs radical change”;
  • Against Big Bank rip-offs;
  • Supporting the Qld mineworkers against BHP-Billiton;
  • Promoting Murri and SA leader Sam Watson's launch of the South Brisbane campaign;
  • Announcing Jason Briskey's candidature in Dalrymple;
  • “No new naval base for Brisbane”;
  • “Qld coal and CSG industries 'a cancer'”;
  • “Reverse the privatisation madness”;
  • “Coal industry wrecking Queensland's future”;
  • “Reject Katter party homophobia”;
  • “Socialist Alliance brings change to politics”;
  • Endorsing the Brisbane Aboriginal Tent Embassy;
  • “Qld flood inquiry ignores real issues”;
  • “Bligh and Newman not to be trusted on coal and CSG”; and
  • “Campbell Newman's tunnel vision”.

Mike Crook received strong audience applause at a community-sponsored meet-the-candidates' forum in Sandgate. Our stall promoting Liam's campaign at the big public meeting of 1000 against CSG in the Brisbane Convention Centre was popular as well.

All three candidates gained useful media coverage in local newspapers in their electorates. They were also able to do some radio interviews about the SA campaign.

At the election night party on March 24, members and supporters watched the ALP rout on a big screen TV, but expressed a determination to fight back against the coming reactionary onslaught from an incoming Newman LNP government.

“Socialism has been demonised in recent decades“, Mike Crook told the audience. “But socialism is the only viable message of hope and a progressive future.

“Socialist Alliance will continue the struggle from tomorrow. The unions and the environment movement will need to mobilise to face the coming attacks.

“Tomorrow is the first day of the people's fight back in Queensland”, he said.