The 2017 state election marked a modest but important advance for Socialist Alliance in Western Australia.
We achieved state party registration, giving us a huge boost. For the first time in a WA election “Socialist Alliance” featured on the ballot paper — previously our candidates were officially listed as independents. Having our name on the ballot paper allows us to reach out beyond recognition of the individual candidate, and makes it clear that we are a collective project that people can support and join.
State registration required more than 500 people to sign the Socialist Alliance WA membership form, demonstrating that support for our ideas is much larger than our current active membership. The support for our registration flowed into a greater contribution to letter-boxing, financial donations and staffing polling booths on election day.
Many of those who helped us out are yet to join the party, but respect our ideas and the work we do in the social movements, whether it is putting our bodies on the line to stop Perth Freight Link or a passionate defence of the Safe Schools program.
While there is always a cost of running in elections, particularly as a grassroots party that receives no funding, the campaign itself has helped galvanise our membership and has brought us into contact with a wider audience of people looking for genuine solutions to the social and ecological crisis bearing down on us.
Socialist Alliance has run in state and federal elections in the Fremantle area since it was formed in 2001. In that time we have seen our vote, while still very small, grow each time.
We started at 0.5%, we now poll around 2%. We think this shows that we have built a base for ideas and that there is much greater potential to grow and build upon.
This election we ran two lower house candidates and two more for the Legislative Council, all within the South Metro region. This reflects the growth of the Walyalup (Fremantle) branch of the party and the role our members have played in local campaigns.
We were proud to nominate two strong activist candidates who had never run before. Corina Abraham is a custodian of the Beeliar Wetlands and was our candidate for Willagee. Corina has been a prominent spokesperson on the issue of protecting Nyoongar sacred sites and culture from the ravages of the Roe 8 highway project. She was joined by South Metropolitan candidate Petrina Harley, a school teacher, who was able to use the election platform to hammer away on the importance of the Safe Schools anti-bullying program that is threatened by the Liberal Party and other conservatives.
Our long-standing member Sam Wainwright ran on our Legislative Council ticket with Petrina, building on his ongoing work as a Fremantle City councillor and sustainable transport advocate to articulate not just the reasons to oppose the Perth Freight Link, but to emphasise the sustainable transport alternatives in public transport and freight on rail.
I am a local nurse and was our candidate for Fremantle. I focused on the proposed privatisation of the Fremantle Port and Western Power and called for the reopening of the Emergency Department at the local hospital.
One Nation might have stumbled badly this election, but this only demonstrated that Pauline Hanson may be too erratic to pull together a stable political organisation. It does not mean that the threat of a racist, right-wing and potentially violent force in Australian politics has receded. Fifteen years of bipartisan refugee bashing and media scaremongering about Muslims means that the potential for this remains, and many working people could still be sucked into this trap, especially if we enter a recession.
The need to create an anti-capitalist force in Australian politics remains. We need a political force that is 100% pro-worker and pro-community, committed to a lasting distribution of wealth and dedicated to achieving it by breaking the political and economic power of the fossil fuel industry and the banks. This is the politics we need to stop One Nation or any other wannabe fascist outfits in their tracks. It is what we need to stop catastrophic global warming too.
By the time of the next state election, Socialist Alliance aims to have grown its membership so that it can run campaigns not only in the Walyalup/Fremantle region, but also stand candidates in North and East Metropolitan. Fremantle will remain an important base for our activities, but the challenge we face is to reach out to parts of greater Perth where we remain relatively unknown; including areas where governmental neglect and the end of the mining boom have hit the hardest.
Building on our small successes and with strong branch support, Socialist Alliance aims to demonstrate to working people in WA that a credible, consistently left-wing party exists and is capable of achieving real change.
[Chris Jenkins stood as the Socialist Aliance candidate for Fremantle.]