The Guardian 24 January, 2007


For principled unity

The decision of the Greens to give the Labor Party, and in some electorates other progressive candidates, its second preference vote in the NSW state election on March 24, is a principled and significant step. The aim of the Greens is not only to win seats for themselves but to ensure that the Coalition parties led by arch-right-winger Peter Debman does not succeed in their ambition to form a government.

In making the announcement, Lee Rhiannon, MLC and leader of the Greens in NSW, has expressed justified reservations in the Labor Party Government of Morris Iemma. There are many shortcomings in the policies and work of the government going back to the days when Bob Carr was Premier. The right faction in the ALP has retained control of the party machine and the majority of State Labor Party parliamentary representatives, and there is no expectation that this is going to change in the near future.

The main, but not the only consideration, is to ensure that the Liberal/National Party coalition does not break through. The appointment of Peter Debman as leader of the Coalition put the extreme right-wing faction, which can be described as being neo-fascist on a number of questions, in control. This would be an even greater disaster for the state than another ALP government.

As far as is known the ALP does not intend to also make a principled decision and give Labor Party preferences to Green candidates. They fear that the media would launch a vicious campaign against the Labor Party asserting that it has "gone to the left" and is appeasing the "rabble-rousers" in the community, such as those who are campaigning against the big developers and the coal mining companies which are ripping the heart out of the state in disregard of the urgent environmental and other problems facing the community. It is obvious to all that a right-wing Labor government in practice gives first preference to the needs of the corporations and the developers.

This is one of the reasons why "independents" are standing in a number of electorates and have already made a dent in the number of seats held by both the ALP and the Coalition. This trend could go even further in the coming State election. Of course it will be necessary to watch out for bogus independents and small parties that serve to divert votes through the preferential system back to the major parties.

To this extent the Greens and the independents are bringing about the unravelling of the two-party system of Liberal and Labor that has dominated Australian politics for the last 100 years. This stranglehold must be broken if Australia is to start taking steps in a new political direction which are genuinely people friendly.

Sooner or later the membership of the Labor Party has to reconsider the course that has for so long been taken by their leaders — always compromising and making deals with the big money end of town while throwing their working class electorate peanuts when it comes to education, health, housing, workers’ compensation, IR laws and other community needs.

It is because of these inadequacies that many voters see very little difference between the policies of the two major parties and why the ALP is seen as the "alternative party of capitalism". Many are now actively looking for alternatives.

We see what happens when principle is abandoned. It was the decision of the Victorian Labor Party to give the Family First Party their preference that gave Howard a conservative majority in the Senate in the last federal election. It was a scandalous decision which gave Howard the opportunity to push his agenda (including WorkChoices) through the Senate and impose it on the working people of Australia with all its dire consequences for workers and their families.

It will be a big step when the left and progressive elements in the Labor Party insist that their Party, in a principled way, decides to exchange preferences with all of the left and progressive parties.

The Communist Party has always been in favour of such unity. In the NSW state elections we advocate a first vote for the Greens, secondly, other progressive candidates who are also for progressive unity, then the Labor Party and always put the Liberal/National Party Coalition last.

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