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Issue #1492      9 March 2011

Preferences vital in NSW elections

The stench of corruption hangs over the NSW government. A government seen to be in the pockets of developers – that runs rough-shod over democratic processes; has sold off key assets at bargain basement prices; has neglected key responsibilities of public transport, health, education and housing; and mortgaged the state to the hilt. The big question in the state election on March 26 is where ALP voters who are disillusioned with Labor direct their votes – to the Liberals or to the Greens and other left and progressive candidates, including left ALP and Socialist Alliance candidates?

The most recent action to exempt Lend Lease from legal obligations and public scrutiny regarding remediation of a polluted site at Barangaroo and the shutting down of Parliament early to avoid debate over its fire sale of state electricity distributors are just two recent examples of why it is about to go out of business. (Although some of its ministers may well have set themselves up in the business world for years to come with lucrative directorships and six-figure consultancy fees.)

The even more right-wing Coalition parties led by Barry O’Farrell are set to gain an outright majority in the Lower House, but in the Upper House where only half the members come up for re-election, there is the possibility of preventing the Coalition together with the extreme Right gaining absolute control. Preference allocations are vital if the extreme Right Shooters and other parties are to be kept out.

The Greens have announced that they will not be directing preferences to any party. Left unions in NSW have written to the Greens imploring their leadership to reverse their decision not to swap preferences with the Labor.

“We note that the Liberal-National Coalition, the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters Party will all swap preferences at this election, to maximise the chances of a right-wing Upper House,” the unions say in their letter.

“An Upper House controlled by those parties would wreak havoc on public services, workers’ rights, environmental protection and social progress in this state. Also these preferences are vital to the election of former CFMEU secretary Andrew Ferguson, who has been an outstanding advocate for workers rights and social justice.”

“Andrew is also well known for his solidarity work with Cuba, Colombian political prisoners and other progressive causes.”

In the 2007 elections Labor won nine seats, in these elections it expects to win five seats with the possibility of a sixth depending on the flow of preferences. Andrew Ferguson, until recently the state secretary of the Building and Construction Division of the CFMEU, is number six on Labor’s list.

“As you know, preference swaps in no way preclude the parties involved from criticising the other’s policies or track record.

“The Greens can campaign robustly against Labor at this election, while at the same time recommending that your party’s supporters preference Labor above the conservatives and ultra conservatives,” the letter says.

The letter also points out that Greens Lee Rhiannon was elected as a Senator for NSW on Labor preferences in the last federal election. In that election the ALP preferenced the Greens and has indicated its preparedness to do it in the state elections.

The Communist Party of Australia (see Guardian 23-02-2011) has decided that its members should work for the Greens, to help maximise their votes and increase the possibility of them being elected to both Houses.

In the Legislative Council, the CPA supports putting the Greens first, followed by Andrew Ferguson (number 6 on the ALP ticket) and then Socialist Alliance candidates. This means voting below the line for the Upper House.

The preferences will ultimately decide whether the Coalition and extreme Right have absolute control over both Houses or whether Labor, Greens and any other less reactionary independents can block some of the most regressive, reactionary measures that such a government will attempt to foist on the people of NSW.

As the electorate looks set to punish Labor for its appalling record and dismal failure to address their needs and elect a Coalition government which will pursue more of the same and even worse, the need to build a political alternative and unity between left and progressive forces, including the trade unions and the Greens, becomes more urgent.  

Next article – WA public servants rally and march

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