Western Australia Socialist Alliance election effort

Western Australia Socialist Alliance election effort

Our election effort on Saturday September 6 was a great success. It was all the greater because we started from such a low base!

When the snap election was announced it was legitimately debatable that we could not even stand a candidate. At the decisive moment Julie Gray stepped forward and we got up and running.

We targeted the upper house area of North Metropolitan, which gave us an opportunity to contact working class areas with high Aboriginal and African migrant populations.

As always with SA, the benefits of the campaign were in the doing of it, not the vote. The WAEC site shows that Julie got 576 votes – and that was achieved without having the words “Socialist Alliance” on the ballot paper (we lack the 500 WA members needed for state registration).

One other independent got a higher vote, but Julie’s tally was higher than all the other independents. Her vote was higher than the right-wing CEC, but One Nation polled higher.

The result shows that a large number of people actively looked for her name. That is, it was a conscious vote, not an accidental one.

Sam Wainwright dockside: 2007

There are 576 people in the Northern Metro area who looked to vote for socialism, therefore we should expect that a good proportion of them will be interested in joining SA. Even 10% of them would make a good sized branch!

We assembled 19 people to help on polling booths. Around 36 Green Left Weeklys were sold and at least 19 names of contacts were collected. Comrades who haven’t been active for a long time came back into action with gusto.

Outrageous horse-trading that went into the formation of the new right-wing, Liberal/National government since polling day. With the global banking crisis breathing down the necks of the capitalist class there is no guarantee of permanence in this arrangement.

There is every possibility that instability will lead to another election, as early as next year.

These would be perfect times to get the Socialist Alliance out there speaking our message. After all, if the Nationals have established the value of a right-wing independent group gaining a significant slice of WA finances for people in the bush why can’t SA represent a left-wing voice calling for the resources to be spread among all working people?

Polling day experiences

At the election night party comrade Justine Kamprad mentioned that she could “smell the money” at Highgate, where she worked. She detected evidence of a growing yuppie lifestyle in the area; she recounted seeing the ALP booth captain zooming off in an expensive sports car looking just like a Liberal.

We have done consistent campaigning in that area for years and have always secured a decent vote at the booth. It will be interesting to “read the entrails” of booth results after this count to see how best to approach such an area in future.

On polling day Resistance ran a campaigning stall at Perth Railway Station from 9:30 to 5:30, with comrades Alex, Max and Karl from Resistance and Kieran from Perth Hills staffing boldly. We knew in advance that Perth Station would not gain us many votes but we wanted to use it as a contacting and recruiting opportunity.

Before Annolies Truman went to her afternoon polling booth duties in Marangaroo she went to vote at Darlington Primary School (where we didn’t have a candidate) and sold 5 Green left Weeklies in 20 minutes. One ALP polling both person paid $5 for a copy, a voter paid $20!

(That’s a lesson for the future. On polling days we should establish roving bands of sellers to travel around and sell GLW’s wherever we can. No candidate in the area? Who cares, we can still take advantage of the raised political consciousness.)

Balga Primary School was very fruitful. Luckily, it was perfectly designed for Socialist Alliance campaigning. There was only one entrance and people had to walk down a long, straight path to the polling station. Then they had to walk back up the path to get out. So, it was possible to stand holding Green Left, hand out how-to-votes as people went in and sell the paper to them on the way out. Twelve Green Lefts were sold and 14 names contacts collected for SA.

There were a lot of African voters at Balga and the ALP had a very active African worker in the morning. He was clearly very well networked in the community. Having spotted the talent, we got his name for the Socialist Alliance contact list! And the Greens candidate as well!

Our member Natasha Moore handed out Aboriginal Rights Coalition leaflets to Noongar voters, which met with a great response.

Sudanese member Khalid was able to help staff the Balga booth in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the stream of voters died off very markedly. But, none-the-less he was invaluable in targeting political discussions. He is very well versed in African politics and was able to build bridges very effectively. With The Flame (Arabic supplement to Green Left) as our tool we can expect tangible benefits from this.

At the polling booth Khalid told us that the Sudanese community wanted a special showing of the Aboriginal rights film This is Our Country Too (around 20 people attended the subsequent showing on October 4).

Kerry Mulholland reported from Yanchep that she was re-energised by the campaign and by meetings a 16-year-old high school student, delighted to hear about a party that genuinely cares about people and the environment.

Negative and positive lessons learned

Here are some of the lessons:

  • We ran out of how-to-votes at a couple of polling booths; we need more in the future. But people who read our policies while waiting to vote often spoke positively about it.
  • We struggled to get the leaflets laid out. Nathan did sterling work to get it done. Then we were constrained because the version of Microsoft Publisher that he had used was more advanced than the rest of us had, so amending and updating the leaflet became impossible; useful suggestions contributed by others could not be included. We need to ensure that we have compatible software and get cracking earlier rather than later.
  • The falling off in the number of voters in the afternoon. Judging from the federal election and this one there seems to be a pattern of people mostly voting in the morning. We need to mobilise more people for the mornings and ease off in the afternoons.
  • We failed to notify the Greens of our candidature and so they placed SA lower than Family First on their preference flow. This was a basic communication breakdown and we’ll know better next time.