Meet the CPA candidates:
A genuine alternative
Michael Perth will be contesting the seat of Port Adelaide again on November 10. At the last federal elections, the Party and many supporters fell in behind a very visible campaign which shook voters out of the misconception that the Communist Party was no longer around. While the results were modest with just over 800 votes or 1.1 per cent of the total first preferences going to the Party, it was seen by many both inside and outside the CPA as a considerable achievement. The campaign was well organised and used some high quality promotional materials which created a positive impression. Most importantly, the campaign resulted in several recruits to the Port Branch. Even before the campaign, Michael was well known in the community. He lives in Albert Park and is a painter by trade is active in his trade union (the CFMEU) and has a keen interest in music and multicultural affairs. He is a member of the Port Branch of the CPA and is on the Party's Central Committee. Michael spoke with The Guardian about the message the Party will be taking to voters in Port Adelaide. Guardian: Michael, what are the main issues that your campaign will be addressing in the lead-up to the election? Michael Perth: The main issues in Port Adelaide are essentially the same as those facing every voter in the country. The whole election is taking place in an atmosphere of anxiety caused by the war currently being waged with only the escalation of conflict being promised by most of the world's leaders. Closer to home we have the shameful treatment of asylum seekers and the use of the issue for shabby political purposes. There is the economic crisis, the corporate collapses that have wiped out workers' jobs and entitlements. Services have been cut back and their quality is declining. All of this has occurred as a consequence of the way capitalism works. None of the major parties will have a coherent analysis or credible alternative to put to the people. It's up to us. G: Is the GST a major, issue for people in the Port Adelaide area? MP: Yes, it has caused precisely the problems that were predicted. Household bills, especially utility bills, have put pressure on already tight budgets. The miserly tax cuts did barely anything to compensate for the extra costs. Cash-flow problems and the additional bookkeeping required have been the last straw for many small businesses. Corner shops — or "delis" as they're called locally — are closing down. There are many pressures on local small business but for quite a few the GST was the final blow. The GST must be scrapped. It mustn't be left there as a time bomb set to go off as capitalism drifts into further difficulties. Labor's rollback proposal does not go to the heart of the problem of this regressive tax. G: What alternative will the CPA being putting forward? MP: While the GST debate was raging prior to the last election, we were among the few voices with an alternative. We were the only ones with a pro-worker alternative. We still insist that we need a more progressive tax system, with the wealthy paying higher rates of tax than they do at the moment. A wealth tax should be introduced and capital gains tax should be strengthened as should company tax. The financial system should be tightened to endure that the speculators pay tax. The tax avoidance industry must be shut down. At the moment it is ripping millions off the public, year in and year out. Privatisation must be stopped and those government enterprises already sold off should be put back in public hands. This would boost government revenue. That's the sort of genuine reform of the tax system that we need. We need to shift the tax burden off wage and salary earners and those on low incomes and onto corporations and the wealthy. G: You mentioned privatisation, have the people in Port Adelaide suffered any effects of this policy? MP: Yes, and we've been promised that there's worse to come unless the people unite to defeat the push. People in South Australia are paying 18 per cent more this year than last year for the services provided by the State's privatised utilities. In July of this year, Government Departments, larger community organisations and medium sized businesses were forced into contracts that increased their electricity charges by 30 per cent to 80 per cent. In January 2003 every household will be obliged to choose an electricity retailer offer- ing power at the market rate. Every household is likely to experience the same sorts of price rises as those other consumers. In fact, after January 2003, prices have the potential to go up at an even steeper rate. The cap that currently stops the various transnational owned and run generators charging more. than $5,000 MW/hr for electricity is set to be raised to $10,000 and then removed altogether. South Australians may be destined to suffer the same fate as the people of California because of the private ownership of what is public property. This is one example of the effects of privatisation on the people of Port Adelaide. I haven't met one worker who supports the policy but it is all that is on offer from the major parties. They do nothing but make excuses for the failure of economic rationalism. At best they propose some tinkering at the edges. G: What about health services in the area? MP: Like everyone in Australia, we have been suffering the consequences of neglect in this area, too. Attack after attack has been made on the ability of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to provide the services needed by the community. Much needed operations have had to be cancelled on the day that people are coming to the hospital for treatment. The hospital has been unable to provide the beds required. The QEH and its staff are held in high regard in the area and it is terrible to see what is happening to the hospital. Adequate funding must be restored as a matter of urgency. Other services are in a shocking state, also. Low income earners and pensioners have to wait between two to three. years for attention through the dental health services funded by the State Government. Clearly, adequate standards of dental health cannot be maintained for those people. The tedious blame shifting between the State and Federal Governments has to stop. Of course we stand for the maintenance of Medicare as a central aspect of a universal health care system, the extension of bulk billing and an increased role in the system for salaried doctors. We will have to be ready for future attacks on health services. This will also be a major message of the Party's campaign in Port Adelaide. G: What other issues will you be raising during the campaign? MP: I fear that a number of important issues will be almost completely overshadowed by events that I mentioned earlier. It's up to us to make sure that they aren't ignored and that people get to hear about our alternatives. There is a long list of these and we won't have time to deal with them in any detail in this interview. Among these is the racism being whipped up, particularly in connection with the refugee crisis. We need to do more to defend multiculturalism. The lack of progress towards reconciliation with Indigenous Australians is another major concern. Jobs, job security and the protection of entitlements is a problem which must be dealt with. Protection of the environment and the demand for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocols has to be raised. Capitalism has handed us a long list of disasters. In spite of the window dressing, the major parties can only deliver more of the same. The need has never been greater for us to get out and present our alternative to the people.