WA election: GLW's wall of silence
- Green Left Weekly's wall of silence about the WA election
By Bob Gould
It's now a couple of weeks since the WA election. In that couple of
weeks GLW has kept up its implacable ultraleftism in everything
relating to the Labor Party and official union structures, and has
ignored any useful things coming from those structures.
A kind of high point of this political stupidity was a rather
excitable and eccentric DSP member accusing me on the GLW list of
having blood on my hands, presumably because I am an ALP member. Does
this principle apply to all people nationwide who have ALP tickets,
including Martin Kingham, Michelle O'Neil, etc?
The WA election result has important lessons for the labour movement,
and all progressive movements. Firstly it's a very heartening and
healthy result, given the looming attack of the Liberals on the state
industrial relations systems.
The Labor vote went up to about 42 per cent, the Green vote held up at
about 8 per cent, Labor in the lower house retained the same majority
as in the previous parliament, and in the upper house the One Nation
members were all defeated, Labor went up from 13 to 16 and the Greens
dropped from five to two, which produced exactly the same result, in
broad political terms, as the previous upper house.
The Green-Labor combination has 18 out of 34 upper house seats and the
Liberal-Nationals 16. The only change is that Labor has more seats and
the Greens fewer.
This result in the upper house underlines the electoral problem facing
the Greens. The upward surge in the Labor vote pushed the last Labor
candidate ahead of the first Green for a quota, so the Green was
eliminated first and Green preferences elected the Labor candidate.
As far as I can tell, there was no double-crossing on preferences by
Labor or the Greens in WA, and both parties stuck fairly
systematically to giving the ultimate preference to each other,
sometimes after minor parties.
The overall result was aided by the fact that one of the Greens got
enough preferences from some small parties to the right of the Greens,
that were antagonistic to the Liberals, and that pushed the Greens
over a quota in a province where the combined Labor-Green vote was a
bit less than the conservative vote.
That was a lucky outcome because it gave the Labor-Green side control
of the upper house, and the Greens the balance of power despite their
The obvious immediate problem is electoral reform. In the last
parliament Labor and the Greens couldn't agree on a formula to get rid
of the outrageous electoral weighting in WA in favour of rural areas
where the conservatives are strong. This gerrymander is ridiculous. In
the Agricultural province, the Liberals got four seats to Labor's one,
yet a vote in that province has about three times the value of a vote
in urban areas. This is a long-standing scandal and the Greens and
Labor must find a common approach to get rid of it.
The nurses' union electoral team, which used a lot of unwise rhetoric
about giving preferences to the Liberals, got a very modest result,
and the nurses' union leadership will now, obviously, have to work
very hard to mend fences with the Labor government to achieve the best
industrial outcome for their members in a set of circumstances that
they obviously didn't anticipate -- the re-election of the government.
During the election campaign the industrially militant CFMEU, which
runs its own right-wing faction of "outs" in the ALP in combination
with former premier Brian Burke, rapidly moderated its anti-government
rhetoric, obviously estimating that Labor would be re-elected.
Unfortunately the same commonsense approach didn't extend to the DSP,
which persisted with ferociously anti-Labor rhetoric until the last
moment before the election, presenting the Greens and the Socialist
Alliance as the real alternative to what they termed "the two
The outcome of the election suggests several things. Firstly, the
Greens electoral surge seems to have stalled in most states, except
possibly Tasmania, at about 8-9 per cent.
That is still a substantial vote, and it gives the Greens an ongoing
and serious presence in state upper houses, the Senate and municipal
The Labor vote clearly fluctuates between 35 and 44 per cent. As the
conservative commentator Baume pointed out in the Financial Review a
week ago, the overwhelming majority of seats with the largest Muslim
component are Labor seats and the overwhelming majority of seats with
the largest Catholic component are also Labor seats. These seats are
also where most industrial workers and recent immigrants live.
The voting pattern in WA underlines this class division between the
Labor-Green side and the conservative side of electoral politics.
The slightly lunatic projections by Mike Berrell and others about the
eventual disappearance of the Labor vote are completely refuted by the
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: in statistical terms the Socialist
Alliance vote in WA was completely negligible.
In working class politics it's important to make a balance sheet of
one's activity and political perspectives. The WA results confirm the
need for Marxists to have an active united front strategy towards
Labor and the trade unions, and the Greens.
I look forward with interest to the DSP leadership's analysis of the
WA election results if they ever make one. I'm not holding my breath.
- Does anybody who follows Australian politics have ANY problem
distinguishing between the professional gasbag and chronic ALP
apologist Bob Gould on one hand and militant trade union leaders
Martin Kingham, Michelle O'Neil, etc on the other?
Well the Socialist Alliance and the DSP have no such problem. We're
working very well with the latter. See
<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2005/617/617p9.htm> for example.
Those union militants (who are still ALP members) have been giving
greetings to Socialist Alliance conferences year after year. We are in
no way isolated from them but we would SO appreciate being completely
isolated from Bob Gould. The consequences of such "isolation" could
only be beneficial to the socialist movement.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "Peter Boyle" <ppz@g...>
>Fascinating as the rituals of Socialist Alliance gatherings may be,
> Does anybody who follows Australian politics have ANY problem
> distinguishing between the professional gasbag and chronic ALP
> apologist Bob Gould on one hand and militant trade union leaders
> Martin Kingham, Michelle O'Neil, etc on the other?
> Well the Socialist Alliance and the DSP have no such problem. We're
> working very well with the latter. See
> <http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2005/617/617p9.htm> for example.
> Those union militants (who are still ALP members) have been giving
> greetings to Socialist Alliance conferences year after year. We are in
> no way isolated from them but we would SO appreciate being completely
> isolated from Bob Gould. The consequences of such "isolation" could
> only be beneficial to the socialist movement.
> Peter Boyle
not to mention your personal irritation with Bob Gould and the
undoubtedly difficult questions he keeps presenting you with, that's
not much of an analysis of the WA elections Peter.
- I think Peter Boyle got it right in his response to Gould.
The SA has already, several times, answered the critics who say our low
electoral results show that the SA project is a waste of time, or at
least seriously misconceived. The WA elections result doesn't add any
new dynamic that hasn't already been established, nor any new lessons
that the SA hasn't assimilated. Between the Greens, the ebb of the
anti-war movement, and the ongoing mass media blackout on left
alternatives, of course the SA isn't getting many votes. Are we meeting
new people, joining members, making progress through our campaigns? Yes.
One could argue, as does Humphrey McQueen in the latest Seeing Red, that
elections are not the best prioritisation of resources. But Gould has
made his polemics on this point at every opportunity. I would be happy
to agree to disagree and keep on our separate paths, but he seems drawn
to debating the SA (on the internet at least) like a moth to a candle.
Leftists in the Greens raise some interesting alternatives to the SA for
left organisation, although obviously those of us in SA are unconvinced.
I haven't heard of any example in the ALP which raises a better
alternative. Even the left union leaders who are ALP members often
portray (to the left) their membership as a necessary evil of the
position, more than a matter of any personal commitment to the ALP. And
as it's been pointed out, the SA is working with these people as much as
Gould's questions to SA may be "difficult" in a number of senses.
Difficult to those who haven't decided what answer they will make and
test out in practice. (which the SA has done). Difficult to those who
haven't followed the debate before (it's fairly easy to find SA's
analyses of our role in elections and other arenas on the SA web site).
Mostly difficult for those who have heard the whole storm-in-a-teacup
controversy already and don't see why we should have to answer the
perennial critic on and on ad nauseam.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "watermelonjack21"
> not much of an analysis of the WA elections Peter.It didn't claim to be. But it wasn't an expression of irritation at
Bob Gould but a political point about the Socialist Alliance's
approach to the ALP.
I don't know if there was much of deep political significance to
analyse about the WA election result. I reckon it was good that the
Liberals lost and that it probably shows that there is a wave of
reaction to the federal election result that has even reached WA.
(Another sign of this reaction is the rapid spread in the last week of
union delegates voting for mass action against Howard's impending IR
attacks -- following the good example of Victorian unions.)
I hear from one of my brothers who is a senior policy advisor to the
Gallop Labor government (he chooses to work for limited change within
the system) says that Labor was certain it was going to be re-elected
and the former Liberal leader whats-his-name-forgot-already put the
last two nails in his own coffin with his Kimberley to Perth canal
scheme and just two days before election with a major mistake in the
costings of his election promises.
Labor and Liberals tried to outbid each other in a reactionary law and
order campaign. Liberals even tried to outbid Labor in settling an
industrial dispute with the nurses union! Pretty standard for state
elections these days.
The Greens held their share and SA, which is not even registered in
the state electoral role collected just over 1000 votes.