Decisions of Seventh National Conference

January 2-5, 2010 Women’s College University of Sydney


Decisions of Seventh National Conference January 2-5, 2010 Women’s College University of Sydney

Introduction This booklet contains the decisions of the Australian Socialist Alliance’s Seventh National Conference, held at the Women’s College of the University of Sydney, from January 2-5, 2010. The full minutes of the conference are available on the Socialist Alliance’s wiki site, at

A. The Socialist Alliance’s perspectives for struggle in 2010 B. New and updated policy Superannuation Housing (interim) Bill of Rights Built-in obsolescence Climate campaigning and policy Coal and Steel Paid parental leave Youth Refugees Latin American revolution Public transport (interim) Population and climate change Agriculture (interim) Afghanistan Palestine Child care

6 16 18 25 25 26 27 32 34 40 43 46 56 56 62 64 65

Equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people 66 Sex workers Marriage and civil unions Intersex Transgendered people 69 69 70 71

C. Resolutions on political campaigning Environment Socialist Alliance tasks in the climate action movement A ‘Green Ban’ for Caroona Resolution on Lake Cowal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights On the Socialist Alliance’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights work 77 Trade union movement Socialists in the union movement Pay equity Occuptional Health and Safety law ‘harmonisation’ Anti-war and international solidarity

74 74 75

82 89 89 91 94 95 95 96 97

On the Socialist Alliance’s Latin America solidarity work Afghanistan anti-war work Palestine solidarity work Tamil solidarity work Coordinating anti-war work Women’s rights On women’s rights D. Resolutions related to the merger of the Democratic Socialist Perspective and its assets into the Socialist Alliance On Green Left Weekly copy and campaigning On financial arrangements On socialist ideas and education E. Extraordinary resolution Solidarity greetings to Ark Tribe

102 103 103 105

A. The Socialist Alliance’s perspectives for struggle in 2010
Preamble A. Two years of Rudd Labor 1. After two years Rudd Labor government support for Labor in opinion polls remains very high. In its first year of office, the Rudd government took certain steps to ameliorate the worst policies introduced by the Coalition government led by John Howard including the ratification of the Koyoto climate change agreement, the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs – individual employment contracts) and delivering an official apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations. 2. Nevertheless, the Rudd government has left many of the underpinning policies of the Howard era intact. Most of the anti-worker/anti-union provisions of Howard’s Work Choices were incorporated into Labor’s Fair Work Act. The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues to persecute building workers like Arc Tribe. It has continued and deepened the racist Northern Territory intervention into Aboriginal communities as well as Australia’s participation in the Afghanistan war. The ALP government continues to lock-up refugees and deny same-sex couples and gender varied couples the right to marry. 3. While rhetorically attacking neoliberalism, and blaming it for causing the Global Financial Crisis, Rudd has continued to implement a socially conservative, anti-worker agenda that has primarily benefited the wealthy at the expense of the most disadvantaged. 4. This Rudd agenda has prompted opposition, including from sections of the trade union movement, the environment and climate movements and other social movements. This opposition has been reflected in a growth of support for the Greens at an electoral level. While this organised discontent remains relatively small, the Socialist Alliance is committed to working with others to build this incipient challenge, both electorally and at a grass-roots level. 5. Labor is in crisis in many states. In NSW and Queensland, Labor is deeply unpopular owing to its failure to provide a reasonable standard of services for working people and its program of mass privatisation of state assets. Labor


faces electoral tests in South Australia, Tasmania and federally in 2010, which may open opportunities for the left. B. Global warming, the Rudd government strategy and politics 1. The threat of runaway climate change caused by rising carbon emissions emanating from human industrial and agricultural activity is the greatest threat to the continued existence of human civilisation of our era. Increasingly alarming scientific predictions only further dramatise the urgent need for governments internationally to take immediate action to move to a zeroemissions economy and reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. 2. The response of the Rudd government to the threat of climate change has been to attempt to introduce a carbon trading scheme (the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, or Emissions Trading Scheme), which would incorporate billions of dollars in subsidies for big polluters (such as the coal, electricity and aluminium industries), while imposing a massive tax on working Australians. It is also unlikely that such a scheme would make any significant cuts to Australia’s carbon emissions or make a positive contribution to the global carbon economy (e.g. stopping Australia’s coal exports). 3. In presenting the CPRS as its only response to the climate change threat, the Rudd government has given an opportunity to right-wing forces to paint action on climate change as being an attack on the living standards of working people. 4. The Socialist Alliance applauds the Greens for their opposition to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme. It condemns the Liberal/National Coalition, for its opposition to taking any concerted action on reducing Australia’s carbon emissions. The Socialist Alliance rejects the unsafe, insecure nuclear power option being advanced by the Coalition. The Socialist Alliance also calls for an immediate end to uranium mining. 5. The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign launched at the 2009 Climate Summit for the transformation of the economy to 100% renewable energy by 2020, as as one essential component of the effort needed to prevent run-away climate change. The Socialist Alliance also demands that the governments of Australia and other rich nations prepare to receive the millions of climate refugees from the Third World who will be displaced by climate change.


6. The Socialist Alliance calls for a just transition to a zero emissions economy, including the phasing out of Australia’s coal industry. Workers employed in carbon intensive industries should be retrained on full pay and redeployed to socially and environmentally useful work, without loss of pay or conditions. 7. The Socialist Alliance recognises the growing discontent of a number of farmers with the slavish pro-coal mining policies of both Labor and the Coalition and welcomes greater dialogue with these communities, as witnessed in the Just Transitions tour conducted through effected communities in NSW in November 2009. 8. The Socialist Alliance joins with eminent NASA climate scientist James Hansen in condemning the framework of international discussions held at UN Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December, and condemns the role played by the Australian government in failing to contribute to a genuine solution to climate change. C. The Rudd government’s response to the global economic crisis 8 1. The impact on the Australian economy of the Global Financial Crisis that began in the United States and spread across all parts of the world economy has not been as catastrophic as feared or predicted. The $52 billion ploughed into the economy by the two “stimulus packages” sufficiently increased economic activity to prevent the Australian economy contracting in the year since the crisis began. 2. While the economy has largely been sheltered from the crisis, many working people have paid a price. Unemployment has increased from a low of 4% in February 2008 to 5.8% in October 2009. In that time, an extra 229,000 people joined the unemployment lines, which grew to 670,100 in October. 3. Australian workers are increasingly either underemployed or overworked. Official labour underutilisation in October (the sum of unemployment and underemployment – those who have a job, but want more hours) was 13.6%, while Australians work 2.14 billion hours of unpaid overtime each year, according to the Australia Institute.

4. Real wages are stagnating and declining. Wages increased by only 0.7% in the September quarter of 2009, less than prices, which rose by 1%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 5. Continuing strong mining exports to China, along with the Rudd government’s stimulus packages and the quick lowering of interest rates by the Reserve Bank of Australia, have sheltered the Australian economy from a major downturn to date. Nevertheless, the US economy remains in severe recession and growth in China is reliant on massive government spending. The threat of a new global downturn is very real. 6. The international financial system is returning to its pre-crisis reliance on speculative financial investment, which risks the conditions for a further crisis reemerging at a global level. Any “recovery” promises to be shallow and accompanied by government austerity, including in Australia where the Rudd government has promised to cap any new spending at 2% until its budget deficit is paid off. 9 7. Rising unemployment, rising interest rates, rising inflation and stagnating wages threaten working people in Australia with paying for the “recovery”. The Socialist Alliance is committed to building resistance to attempts by government and employers to make working people pay for a crisis they did not create. C. The unions and Labor governments 1. Tensions between the union movement and Labor governments have grown since the election of the Rudd government on the back of the anti-Work Choices “Your Rights at Work” campaign in November 2007. Federal Labor’s refusal to “rip-up” Work Choices, replacing it with the Fair Work Act (“Work Choices lite”), which preserves many of the anti-union aspects of the Howard legislation, its insistence on preserving the ABCC in some form and its plan to water down occupational health and safety laws (so-called “national harmonisation”) are straining the relationship between Labor and some union leaderships. 2. At a state level, the NSW and Queensland governments’ attempts to privatise public assets has also met with some resistance from the union movement. The campaign in Queensland, which has been led by the Electrical

Trades Union, has been more broad-based than that in NSW, where it led to a compromise supported by much of the union movement. The decline in the organising strength of unions is being exploited by Labor machines. 3. While hours lost to industrial action continue to decline, important struggles have been had. Over 2009 the National tertiary Education Union has waged an important fight against federal government attempts to further casualise and privatise the higher education sector. The Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has successfully fought employer attempts to use Labor’s mandatory “flexibility” arrangements o introduce individual contracts through the back door. 4. Socialist Alliance members continue to play an important role in helping to build resistance in a range of unions. A significant challenge to the classcollaborationist union leaderships will not be built without a new rise of rankand-file action for workers’ rights in unions, and of a new generation of union activists. The Socialist Alliance is committed to contributing to that process. 10 5. The Socialist Alliance condemns the uncritical support given to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Socialist Alliance recognises the crucial importance of building the climate change movement within unions, both at a policy level, but also at a grass-roots activist level. Such a movement must emphasise the need for a just transition to a zero emissions economy, with workers in carbon intensive industries (such as the coal industry) retrained on full pay and redeployed to socially useful work, without loss of wages or conditions. D. Other social resistance and politics 1. Social resistance against the neoliberal, warmongering, racist and socially conservative agenda of the Rudd Labor government continues in a range of areas. The Socialist Alliance commits its support to these campaigns and pledges to continue to build these campaigns by all possible means. 2. Despite delivering an apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations, the Rudd government has continued, and intensified, the racist Northern Territory Emergency Intervention into Aboriginal communities begun by the Howard government. The Socialist Alliance condemns the intervention, and calls for the end to welfare quarantining, and for full funding of social services to all

Indigenous communities, without strings attached. The Socialist Alliance supports the walk-off by the Ampilatwatja community. 3. While having dismantled the Howard government’s temporary protection visa system for refugees arriving in Australia by boat, and dismantling detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island, the Rudd government has maintained the mandatory detention of refugees, and the excision of coastal islands from Australia’s immigration zone. It has also advanced an “Indonesian solution” of detaining refugees in Indonesian detention centres. The Socialist Alliance calls for the end of mandatory detention, the end of the excision of parts of Australian territory for the purposes of the Migration Act and the closure of the Christmas Island prison and all detention centres. Let the refugees land! Let the refugees stay! No “Indonesia solution”! 4. Labor has continued Howard’s war in Afghanistan, sending an additional 450 troops in April 2009. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the US-led occupation is opposed by a majority of Afghans, and majorities around the world. We also note that the occupation is not improving the lives of Afghans. The Socialist Alliance calls for the immediate and complete withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan and that war reparations be paid. 5. The Rudd government has continued to support the right-wing Likud government in Israel despite its flouting of UN resolutions to leave occupied Palestinian land, stop building settlements and lift the siege of Gaza. The Socialist Alliance will continue to work with the Palestinian community and their supporters in Australia to pressure the Rudd government to stop giving legitimacy to the Israeli apartheid regime. 6. Rudd Labor has continued to support Howard-era “anti-terror” laws, which have restricted civil liberties and have been used to intimidate Islamic communities, among others, in Australia. The Socialist Alliance calls for the repeal of all “anti-terror laws”. Hands off our civil liberties! 7. The Rudd government has maintained the ban on same-sex marriage, introduced by the Howard government in 2004. It has previously suppressed legislation in the ACT which allowed for the legal recognition of same-sex civil unions. The Socialist Alliance calls for the repeal of the ban on same sex marriage. Marriage should be legal between any consenting adults.


F. The Greens 1. The Greens’ opposition to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme, their opposition to privatisation and consistent support of the rights of refugees (among other issues) have won them increased support. Greens Senators and state parliamentarians are seen as the political voice of the social movements. 2. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the role played by Greens parliamentarians in opposing the Rudd government’s conservative agenda. The Socialist Alliance commits itself to the closest possible collaboration with Greens’ members in the social movements and electorally, where possible. 3. There are many different political positions within the Greens, including those that look to market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges. The Socialist Alliance recognises that there are strategic political tensions within the Greens and seeks to support and strengthen the left within the Greens. 12 Resolution 1. Building the Socialist Alliance a. The Socialist Alliance continues to urge its members to become active in a wide range of social movements. The Socialist Alliance members play an important role in building the movements, ensuring their democratic functioning and arguing for strategies that mobilise the largest numbers of people in campaigns for progressive reforms. b. The Socialist Alliance, as a campaigning organisation, continues to play an important role in giving voice to dissent against government attacks. By organising stalls, writing for and distributing Green Left Weekly and through informational forums organised by branches, The Socialist Alliance can help galvanise opposition. An important case in point is the Rudd government’s recent attack on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. c. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the collaboration that it has built with other left–wing and socialist organisations and communities. It seeks to build on its

collaboration with a range of migrant communities, including the Latin American, Tamil and Sudanese and other Arabic-speaking communities. d. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the election of Comrade Sam Wainwright as councillor for the Hilton Ward of Fremantle City Council, as its first elected councillor, and the first socialist elected to Fremantle Council. The Socialist Alliance recognises that this success rested on collaboration with a range of activists from the local community, including the Greens and the left of the ALP. The Socialist Alliance seeks to build similar left unity in other election campaigns, wherever possible. e. The Socialist Alliance seeks to build a strong national network of branches currently in all states and the ACT. We recognise the uneven state of branch functioning around the country and seek to strengthen our organisation and political effectiveness. 2. Political opportunities for and responsibilities of the Socialist Alliance a. The Socialist Alliance recognises that right-wing Labor governments in power do not serve the interests of working people, but reinforce the class domination of capital. The increasing gap between the expectations of working people and the real action delivered by Labor governments continues to open political space to Labor’s left. b. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the largest part of the electoral space to the left of Labor is being filled by the Greens. The Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible political collaboration with the Greens, but also understands that it has an important responsibility to present a socialist alternative at elections. The fact that there are two socialists who have been elected to local councils over recent years, shows that there is some electoral space which socialists can fill. c. The Socialist Alliance will also continue to relate to rising disaffection within the ALP, among its ranks and even some sections of the unions affiliated to Labour (such as the Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union). The Socialist Alliance looks to collaborate with all ALP members who resist the neo-liberal trajectory of Labor in government (for example, over the privatisation of public assets and services).


d. The Socialist Alliance will continue to build and strengthen grass roots movements for change. The Socialist Alliance will also continue to support class-struggle unionism and to seek the greatest possible collaboration with unionists committed to consistent class struggle, regardless of their political affiliation. e. The Socialist Alliance continues to offer support for the independent newspaper Green Left Weekly. The Socialist Alliance will continue to encourage its members to write for the paper, help distribute it, and help fundraise for it. f. The Socialist Alliance encourages states and branches to organise and hold socialist ideas forums when practicable, to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion of socialist ideas. The Socialist Alliance commits its resources to building the Climate Change/Social Change conference to be organised in Melbourne on November 2010. g. The Socialist Alliance recognises and supports the role of Resistance in recruiting, educating and mobilising young people around socialist politics. 14 h. The Socialist Alliance seeks to make maximum political use of local, state and federal elections. 3. Building a more united left red-green movement a. The Socialist Alliance continues its commitment to greater unity of socialists and other left-wing activists, at a national and international level. The Socialist Alliance supports the Caracas Commitment, adopted by delegates to the International Encounter of Left Parties, held in Caracas, Venezuela over November 19-21, 2009. The Socialist Alliance agrees to participate in the preparatory meetings for the founding of the Fifth Socialist International in 2010. b. The Socialist Alliance is committed to building the maximum unity possible among socialist and other left-wing groups and individuals in Australia. Left unity is a necessary step to building the largest socialist alternative possible and crucial to convincing the mass of working people to break with Labor. c. The Socialist Alliance looks to build the strongest “red/green” unity between socialist and climate/environmental organisations and activists as

possible. The Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible collaboration with environmental and climate activists at a grass-roots level, but also at a political level, including the greatest possible collaboration with the Greens. The Socialist Alliance looks toward building a “red/green” alliance at all levels. d. The Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible unity with all forces to the left of Labor. We are open to discuss how unity can be advanced, without precondition. The Socialist Alliance would welcome the decision of other left groups to affiliate to the Socialist Alliance, based on agreement with its democratically-decided platform. 4. Strengthening the Socialist Alliance a. The 7th National Conference of the Socialist Alliance looks forward to the political challenges of the coming year as an opportunity to build support for socialism in Australia. The Socialist Alliance recommits itself to a greater projection of socialist politics, to a better organisation of our resources, and a larger role in Australia politics. 15 b. While some branches have declined since our last national conference, others have grown. Recognising the political space to the left of Labor, the 7th national conference of The Socialist Alliance commits itself to “Campaign 1000”, whereby we aim to build the national Socialist Alliance membership to 1000 or more by the end of 2010.

B. New and updated policy
Preamble For 20 years we have had employer-contributed compulsory superannuation (ECS), currently at the rate of 9% of gross income. This was “sold” as part of the social wage and as an expansion of the provision of enhanced retirement benefits for Australian workers beyond those then limited to public sector and management in the private sector. It is another example of the ALP-ACTU Accord betrayal of Australian workers. Workers, in negotiating their terms of employment, sacrificed wage increases in exchange for employer-contributed superannuation incrementally increasing to the 9% that exists today. It should be noted that the Australian Office of Taxation, as the administrator of the ECS, has failed miserably to enforce this provision on employers and many workers, particularly casual workers, as are an ever-increasing percentage of the workforce, are being robbed of their super entitlement. Given the name “Superannuation Guarantee” it is anything but a “guarantee” other than a guarantee that as a worker you will “lose your money”. The promise of the ACTU in negotiating this employment “benefit” has failed to meet expectations. Initially, when introduced, with Union-Employer Industry Superannuation Funds being established all looked rosy. Especially for the ACTU executive members and senior union officials who found seats for themselves as wellremunerated trustees of these funds. A former right wing assistant secretary of the ACTU Gary Weaven is still the CEO of the “Industry Super Funds Association”. You’ve seen their ads on TV accurately extolling the superiority of their funds over those provided by the non-union finance industry version. As is well appreciated, the regulatory system imposed on the finance sector in Australia would be laughable if it wasn’t such a cruel fraud.


The super funds of Australian workers have been purloined by the finance industry as a lucrative source of commissions and charges, suffering poor investment strategies and likely negligent or criminal behaviour on the part of those charged with administering their funds. Paul Keating as Treasurer had teased us all with the prospect of the national cumulative pool of super funds being licensed by legislative exemption to be used at a lower than market interest rate to be used for national infrastructure investment. This has never happened. The election of the laissez-faire Howard government didn’t help but witness the behaviour of Rudd’s finance minister Lindsay Tanner recently offering our national “Future Fund” to the “market” on its terms free from government “interference” or oversight. Score: People nil – Oligarchs 1. It has become evident that the value of our super fluctuates wildly from year to year, depending on the state of the capitalist economy. In times of crisis, super funds suffer huge losses, and hence are not a reliable source of income for retired workers. The capitalists gamble with our money, and we suffer both from the poor decisions of particular capitalists and from the irrationality of the system as a whole. Workers sacrificed cash-in-hand for what for many has become the chimera of an income in retirement. The superannuation guarantee is no guarantee at all. The greedy, profligate “Super Industry” is even lobbying hard to get the percentage increased to 12%! Since government mandates the payment and collection of 9% of workers wages in super funds, government should guarantee that the indexed value of those contributions are maintained. If private banks can be given government protection, then Australian workers should expect nothing less. This requirement may even motivate government to regulate this industry stringently. At the moment it’s a thieves picnic. As the mid-wife of this fraud the ACTU has a responsibility to act to protect Australian workers from being exploited by finance capital. Trillions of dollars are at stake here. Workers’ funds are being squandered by a privileged minority.


Proposal 1. An adequate national retirement “pension” should replace workplace and voluntary superannuation. All would enjoy this entitlement, commensurate with their individual needs and social responsibilities. 2. As an interim measure the current super scheme needs to be tightly regulated to minimise the incompetence and profiteering we are witnessing. 3. Within 12 months only union-industry super schemes will be licensed to operate with workers constituting 75% of the trustees of each Fund. 4. National legislation will provide a government guarantee of the value of all worker contributions and protecting the real value of their wages that have been committed by law to superannuation. 5. National legislation will provide preferential access to a pool of the combined super funds as social capital for workers’ housing (the Socialist Alliance will legislate in government for the elimination of Australia’s housing debt, investing superannuation socially to achieve this), public education, public health, and other social, environmental and economic investing of benefit to the working class. Further, we will establish, and ask all governments within the Federation to support, a Public Social Partnership (PSP) to build the new, needed, green housing stock. 6. The trade union movement and fraternal political groups be encouraged to take up this issue as a matter of urgency. 7. All superannuation funds adhere to the UN Ethical Sustainable Guarantee and be proactive in Principals of Responsible Investment in filtering companies not meeting the UN PRI. This includes all investment funds offering the individual shareholders company AGM voting or proxy rights in the shares owned.


Context 1. Not all Australians have access to decent, affordable and secure housing. Aside from homelessness, people battle to keep a roof over their head and are

forced to live in locations inconvenient to work, education and social participation. 2. This social crisis is a result of inadequate incomes combined with increased housing costs, and a lack of affordable housing. Over the past 40 years, house prices have risen at a far greater rate than household incomes, creating barriers to home ownership and putting greater pressure on rental accommodation. 3. “The average house price in the capital cities is now equivalent to over seven years of average earnings; up from three in the 1950s to the early 1980s. Only a third of transacted dwellings would have been accessible to the median young household in 2006–07, compared to a long-run average of almost a half. Around two-thirds of households in the lowest 40 per cent of the income distribution with a mortgage or renting were spending over 30 per cent of their income on housing, the established benchmark for ‘housing stress’. As house prices have increased, so too have rents and there are many more renting households in stress than home buying households. As many as 100 000 Australians are currently homeless.” (Commonwealth of Australia: 2008/1) 4. The availability of public and private rental properties has declined. The public housing sector has shrunk under the neo-liberal agenda of ALP and Liberal governments. Capital funding for public housing under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement has been in absolute decline for decades and has barely been enough to replace old stock, let alone meet growing need. The government’s policy shifted from providing low-income earners with a genuine alternative to private rental and home ownership, towards welfare housing instead. 5. In response, state housing authorities have tightened eligibility criteria for public housing to people with high needs like mental health problems or homelessness, and eliminated security of tenure. But, even with the far-tighter eligibility criteria, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimated in January that more than 200,000 people remained on public housing waiting lists. 6. Private owners buy and sell houses for speculative purposes, encouraged by generous tax benefits. (The capital gain on the sale of a principal residence is


exempt from capital gains tax, unlike all other capital gains.) This speculation inflates house prices and makes housing unaffordable for lower income people, trapping us in a lifetime of renting. 7. Eligibility criteria for public and community housing has a dramatic effect on the degree of social disadvantage and stigmatisation associated with social (public and community) housing. Narrowing eligibility criteria to only people with the highest socio-economic need has the effect of entrenching socioeconomic disadvantage. Such policies exacerbate social disharmony and community dysfunction in public housing areas and undermining community development. 8. The combined total of capital gains tax arrangements, land tax exemption and negative gearing arrangements is estimated to be in the order of $50 billion per year. That reflects against the $1.5 billion in the Commonwealth– State Housing Agreement and the $1 billion spread over four to five years proposed for the new National Rental Affordability Scheme and the Housing Affordability Fund. These tax concessions also mean that the overall support to wealthy homeowners is greater than that to low income renters. The Industry Commission (1993, p. 21) cite estimates that in 1990-91 subsidies to homeowners in the top quintile of income earners averaged $3180 while those to private renters in the bottom quintile were less than half as much, at $1440.” (Commonwealth of Australia: 2008/1) 9. These tax concessions are popular with homeowners and home buyers, who make up 70% of Australian households. “By pushing up the price of homes it makes it that much harder to attain the state of being a home owner, but makes the benefits of home ownership even greater if you manage to make it. The jackpot’s bigger, but harder to win. And a system that is biased in favour of owner-occupiers is a system that is biased against renters. That’s unfair to people who spend all their lives as renters, as well as making it harder for would-be home owners to make the leap.” (Gittens: 2007) 10. Close to 600,000 private renters are in housing stress, but ineligible for public housing. It is estimated that there are 400,000 units of affordable housing Australia-wide. The National Housing Supply Council said in 2006 there was a shortfall of 250,000 affordable rental properties for low to moderate income earners on $643 to $771 a week. For those on less than $256


a week, there was a shortfall of 110,000 rental properties. The council recognised a shortfall of 202,000 for those earning between $257 and $385 a week. 11. Low cost housing is not produced due to market failure. Not enough lowcost housing is built as it is not profitable enough, compared to investment housing. Private landlords succeed in renting expensive housing to tenants as the cheaper, affordable houses do not exist. The federal government housing inquiry found that, “There is often inadequate housing for those looking to downsize and for those with limited means seeking less expensive private rental housing or social housing”. (Commonwealth of Australia: 2008/1) 12. The Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements that have provided funding for public and community housing in the past has been largely replaced by market subsidy models like the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). While this is a big increase in funding, it is one-off and encourages the role of for-profit players in the provision of low cost housing, who have an interest in profit about their interest in the social goals of affordable housing. 21 13. The National Rental Affordability Scheme provides 10-year subsidies for new properties rented at 20% below market rent. The aim is to increase the number of affordable dwellings by up to 50,000 by mid 2012. The flaw in this scheme is that it is a market-based solution to a crisis that has been brought on by a failure of the market. The solution needs to be longer term than 10 years, and in public control not vulnerable to market forces of for-profit providers. 14. Housing supply must be well located and well serviced with supporting jobs, public transport and social and community infrastructure. “The way to improve housing affordability is not to build cheap houses on the outskirts of cities away from employment, services and public transport links. This simply shifts costs from housing to the cost—in dollars and time—of transport. Rather, the aim must be to build affordable housing in areas where infrastructure can provide for and attract new residents. In considering longer-term changes in the housing stock, thought must also be given to it being environmentally sustainable for it to be truly ‘affordable’ in a broader sense.” (Commonwealth of Australia: 2008/1)

15. Affordable housing needs to take advantage of energy efficiency to reduce living costs for residents. 16. The construction industry argue that they a shortage of skilled labour and that this contributes to the shortage of affordable housing. Rather than investing in skills development in Australia, one of the solutions they propose is a “more flexible and streamlined utilisation of temporary overseas workers on section 457 skilled worker visas.” (Commonwealth of Australia: 2008/1) References Commonwealth of Australia (2008/1) A good house is hard to find: Housing affordability in Australia Commonwealth of Australia (2008/2) The Road Home Gittens, R (2007) "Renters can’t Home in on Jackpot", Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September, 2007 Policy 22 Housing is a basic human right that should not be reduced to a commodity only available at the whim of the market. We aim for housing that is affordable, secure, good quality, appropriately located, for all. In the long-term: 1. Establish a publicly-owned and controlled not-for-profit housing finance corporation to: • • • Finance maintenance of current public housing stock, including retrofitting for energy efficiency with insulation and solar hot water; Provide low-interest home loans for those in need; Establish a large-scale building program to make good quality, creatively designed, energy efficient, appropriately located, affordable, long term social housing with a low carbon footprint, to suit a wide variety of domestic arrangements, including the needs of people living communally, in extended families and in Aboriginal communities, available for all who choose it; and

Invest in social infrastructure to support housing - local health services, education, employment and other services and access to quality public transport.

2. Fund the corporation from developer contributions via local and state government planning laws, taxation, superannuation funds. 3. Work with construction unions to implement the construction and maintenance program and include an investment in apprenticeships and training to meet the labour needs. 4. All overseas workers to work under the same award conditions as Australian workers. 5. Prioritise Aboriginal housing needs. 6. Eliminate capital gains tax exemptions and negative gearing, which inflate the market and keep lower income people out of home ownership. 7. Community control of public housing through democratically-elected housing boards comprised of tenants and housing workers. In the interim: 1. Address spiralling rental price increases by implementing rent control laws similar to those in place in Los Angeles and New York, which limit the amount that rent can be increased and all rents to be capped at a maximum of 20% of income. 2. Mandate high standards for private accommodation and require landlords to fix problems and maintain private housing stock in good condition. Nationalise and renovate all substandard landlord holdings. 3. Expand funding to, and support the development of, resident controlled housing co-operatives. 4. Extend rent assistance to low income home buyers for mortgage assistance. 5. Extend rent assistance to those receiving Austudy payments. 6. Increase funding to the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) to a level sufficient to provide crisis accommodation for all who need it, as well as to maintain support services to assist homeless persons into


independent accommodation and preventive programs for those at risk of homelessness. Ensure a continuum of support from crisis accommodation through to long-term stable accommodation. 7. Provide high quality, community-based, supported accommodation for people with disabilities or other special needs. Fully fund refuges and other secure emergency accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence. 8. Provide outreach workers to seek out service providers who may qualify for SAAP to guide them through the funding process, in order to ease the onerous bureaucratic requirements that these service providers have to endure in order to get and retain funding. 9. Provide additional funding to community organisations to enable them to provide education, training and housing assistance packages to young homeless people. 10. Provide additional funding for programs which provide support services for the aged homeless including additional funding to ensure greater access to aged care accommodation. 11. State and local governments planning frameworks to legislate for developer allocations of 30% of housing for low rent tenants in major new developments 12. State and local governments planning frameworks must force private developers to allocate 30% of housing for low-rent tenants in every development. 13. Strengthen legislation covering the rights of both public and private tenants, including the right to long-term leases. Process: Conference resolves to adopt the above policy provisionally and as a draft for further elaboration. Conference resolves to publish the draft in Alliance Voices, to invite Socialist Alliance members to comment and to participate in a housing working group to rework the draft in the light of feedback.


Bill of Rights
That the Socialist Alliance, through Alliance Voices, wiki discussion and discussion in branches, develops a bill of rights to elaborate on the democratic rights that should be enshrined in the constitution. This will include the right to food, health, housing, education, employment, welfare and other rights. The Bill or Act will outlaw discrimination against oppressed groups whether they be migrant groups, Aboriginals, LGBTI, disabled or other groups. We would distribute this widely and call for public debate and input.

On built-in obsolescence
In a world where resources are being rapidly devoured, inbuilt obsolescence is a crime and a useless waste not only of resources, but of time, energy and human life. Why should people waste their lives slaving away at dreary jobs to produce these goods for wages, which go on replacing obsolescent goods? If goods are made to last as long as possible, there can be massive gains in saving resources and reducing pollution. Redirected human employment, effort and saved time could be used in the massive battles to save the environment, produce more renewable fuel and food and improve health treatment and prevention. Companies should be compelled to design products so that they can be repaired, recycled, re-used and disassembled for recycling. Manufacturers should be compelled to take back their used products (cars, TVs, computers, etc) and re-use the components. Products should be designed in such a way as to minimize inefficiencies and waste both in their production and manufacture, and during and after their service life. Process: Referred to the National Environment Committee for incorporation in climate charter.


Climate campaigning and policy
1. The Socialist Alliance promotes a comprehensive environmental strategy, as outlined in our climate charter and other policy, to create a climate emergency government.

2. The Socialist Alliance generally supports campaigns that will reduce greenhouse emissions or build the capacity of the renewable energy industry, even if they are less than ideal or only partial in their ability to prevent climate change. We will critically consider support for such campaigns and policies as carbon taxes and feed-in tariffs on this basis. 3. In the debate between carbon trading and a carbon tax, we support the latter in preference to carbon trading, provided that it is regulated, and does not include elements of carbon trading such as offsets. A sufficient portion of the revenue raised by a carbon tax would need to be allocated to protect domestic consumers from the higher energy prices that would result. This protection should be available to low to medium income earners on a means-tested basis. Further revenue from the carbon tax should be provided to low/ medium income earners to “green” their houses and transport. These provisions do not commit the Socialist Alliance to support any carbon tax regardless of its detail, nor do they indicate that the Socialist Alliance supports a carbon tax as the definitive or main measure to address climate change, but indicate that the Socialist Alliance can support a carbon tax over carbon trading if we judge it politically useful. The Socialist Alliance will initiate a debate in Green Left Weekly and Alliance Voices on the possible merits and uses of carbon taxes and encourages all branches and members to participate. 4. We support the campaign for an industrial scale renewable energy feed-in tariff (FIT) to encourage medium and large-scale renewable energy projects. We are against increasing energy bills for low-income households to pay for the FIT. 5. The Socialist Alliance acknowledges that a massive rollout of renewable energy, as proposed in our campaign work, will all occur on Aboriginal land. The Socialist Alliance will seek to build consciousness of Indigenous struggle within the climate movement, and highlight the fact that any major rollout of wind farms, solar thermal plants, etc, must occur under the direction of the traditional owners of the land upon which such plants are proposed to be built.


6. The Socialist Alliance supports community efforts such as the Hepburn Wind Co-operative in Victoria which aim to acquire/ build renewable energy generation capacity for the community. 7. The Socialist Alliance notes the “Eureka’s Future” project of the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association, currently an initiative of the Victorian District of the Mining Division of the CFMEU. This will see a social enterprise manufacturing solar hot water units for exchange, providing a range of options for workers to purchase, including through their EBA. The Socialist Alliance supports the establishment of such enterprises as a social sector of the Australian economy, owned and controlled by working people. The Socialist Alliance will pro-actively support the existing project and future such projects by direct participation of Socialist Alliance members, and by promoting and defending this initiative in other areas of our work. We will particularly seek to integrate this example as an important part of our “green jobs” campaigning and literature in the union and environment movements. 27

Coal and Steel
Scientists are telling us we must phase out coal quickly or risk an uninhabitable planet. Coal burning now accounts for around 36% of Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; mining and handling coal adds even more—all subsidies to the coal industry must end. Phasing out thermal coal – used for power generation – should begin immediately. With direct government investment in a publicly owned renewable energy sector, jobs and retraining on full pay would be guaranteed for coal-mining and power-station communities. But what about coking (or metallurgical) coal – used in the production of steel? Is it part of the problem or part of the solution? Steel still necessary The transition to a low-carbon economy will require the use of steel, in the production of train rolling stock or wind turbines for example. Coking coal is used to extract iron from iron ore, in a blast furnace, to make steel and can therefore be socially useful. The process does pollute however. Oxygen from

the iron-ore bonds with carbon from the coal to make carbon dioxide. A tremendous amount of energy is required to separate the oxygen from the iron. Electric Arc furnaces are used to recycle steel from old scrap steel, avoiding the need for coking coal. Recycling steel in an electric arc furnace is much less GHG intensive than manufacturing new steel from iron ore in a blast furnace. Imagine melting down military hardware to manufacture train lines and wind turbines, for example. However, recycled steel alone is not sufficient to meet current demand for steel worldwide. If we plan to continue producing steel at the same rate, we can’t simply end the mining of coking coal overnight. However, the extent of the climate crisis demands we reduce our GHG emissions across the board. This means rapidly decreasing our reliance on polluting industries and materials that are energy intensive to produce, including steel. We need to radically rethink the way we produce and use such materials. Transparency and democracy 28 But for starters we need to know exactly what’s going on. Our major steelworks are subject to government audits to assess carbon emissions but these are difficult to access. Audits need to involve and be made available to the public and independent environment groups. They need to be transparent and open to scrutiny. If companies refuse to cooperate they should be brought under public ownership and democratic control. Steelworks are big polluters. For example BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla plant on the NSW south coast emits about 11 million tonnes of GHGs into the atmosphere each year - about 7% of NSW’s total greenhouse output. An independent assessment needs to be made of the clean up cost. We support the ‘polluter-pays’ principle. If companies cry poor they should have to open their books and let the community decide if they can afford to clean-up. For example, every steelworks should be using co-generation to recycle heat and flare gases for electricity generation. Climate change won’t negotiate with the peaks and troughs of the market, such measures should be mandatory.

For the six months to the end of December 2008, BlueScope posted profits of $406.9 million. Imagine if those millions were going back into the public coffers to clean-up the industry. Making steel greener Destructive coal-mining practices should end. Longwall mining for example is used because it massively increases production and profitability but at great cost to the environment. We support the demands of groups such as Rivers SOS who call for a one kilometre buffer zone between coal mines and key water sources such as rivers and reservoirs. More funding and research is needed into finding a replacement for coal in steel production. The CSIRO is investigating the use of oil mallee trees and other native hardwoods for example. They argue steel production could be a net zero-emissions process as each new generation of trees absorbs the carbon emitted from the production process. This research should be continued but significant questions remain. It may be more useful to turn the wood into biochar or leave the trees as a carbon sink. Researching this though would be much more valuable than continuing research into discredited “clean coal” technologies. Another possible alternative is the use of hydrogen gas as a reductant in the blast furnace instead of coking coal. This technology is still under development but has the potential to result in a significant decrease in emissions. The steel-making process has the potential to be made more efficient by paying close attention to the manufacturing process. This can involve things such as: implementing more modern technology into an older steelworks or minimising internally generated waste by implementing by-product recycling schemes into the steelworks. Every steelworks in operation should be committed to operating at maximum efficiency and where necessary existing facilities should be modernised to ensure this. Steel is expensive and energy intensive to transport. We call for massive investment in heavy rail and bulk freight to facilitate a shift “from roads to rail”. Diversifying the production of steel – reversing years of specialisation – should also be encouraged to reduce the need to transport large amounts of finished steel around Australia and the globe.


Planning the big picture More importantly we need strategic planning to reduce our reliance on steel. Steel producers should be compelled to increase the recycling of steel which is much cleaner than blast-furnace steel (only 65% of available scrap metal is recycled in Australia each year). Steel producers should have to maximise the end of life recyclability of products, and governments should encourage scrap availability programs, especially in the electrical and domestic industries where recycling is minimal. Steel producers should have to source more of their energy needs from renewables, aiming for 100% by 2020. Mandatory targets must be set in these areas. Manufactured products should be redesigned to reduce the amount of steel necessary in their production, e.g. light weighting. Furthermore, the products that we design and use should be made to last. The government should outlaw planned obsolescence. This is particularly important in the industries that place the most demand on steel production, like the automotive industry for example. Manufacturers should be required by law to commit to such plans or else be placed in public hands. We can’t allow our planet to be held hostage to the private profits of the big polluters and the industries that demand energy intensive inputs. The potential of less energy intensive alternatives to steel, such as carbon-fibre composites, need to be explored. Other energy intensive alternatives, such as aluminium, could be utilised if power was sourced from renewable energy. We need to rethink the things that we are making with steel. Wind turbines, electric trains and solar panels are socially useful, but what about bombs, warships and Joint Strike Fighters? If society took these approaches to lower the amount of steel we use and increase the quantity of recycled steel used in production, we could significantly reduce the rate of extraction of coal from the earth.


Steel for development Underdeveloped countries have the right to better living standards and the First World should support and resource their development. At this stage, development necessarily requires the use of steel. While living standards in those countries must be improved, this should not occur at the cost of ruining the environment. Australia should support and resource Third World development along sustainable lines. Firstly, because of the debt of colonialism and imperialism and the fact that First World industrialisation created the climate crisis. Secondly, because it is both necessary for the survival of the planet and because we are the ones with the resources to do so. What does this mean for the export of coking coal? The vast majority of coking coal exported from Australia goes to industrialised countries. For example, 52% of NSW coking coal goes to Japan. Further, it is not all used for steel making, with much used for energy production. 31 A great deal of this export, and indeed steel production, is also driven by commercial opportunity and marketing from the steel industry, not human need. The “development” currently needing steel may be new coal-fired power stations, mega-dams that cause internal displacement, or cheap export industries that service Western consumers. Thus sourcing steel (or the means to produce it) does not necessarily even mean better living standards. So the export of coking coal cannot be used to support current modes of unsustainable development, and must be carried out along selective lines. To facilitate this, the coal export industry must be brought under public control. The revenues should be used to establish sustainable alternative industries in communities currently reliant on the coal industries. Jobs and a ‘just transition’ The “Greenhouse Mafia”, powerful lobby groups represented in the coal, steel and other industries, will fight moves to put the planet and people before profit. Many workers and their communities are being told that they must choose between a safe climate future and their jobs, their livelihood.

But the transition to a low-carbon economy isn’t the main threat to jobs. The unquenchable thirst for profits is, and it threatens to destroy life on Earth as we know it. The climate movement needs to unite with working people and demand the government assist communities to move away from coal. In fact, it’s likely the scale of changes needed for the transition will require more workers than are currently employed in Australia. Australia’s response to climate change must include the phasing out of coal, including the planned phase out of coking coal. But the only possible alternative has to include massive job creation in the renewable energy sector and in the manufacturing of sustainable alternatives to energy intensive materials such as steel. Importantly, communities currently relying on coalmining and steel production need to be prioritised for infrastructure investment and job creation in the new, sustainable sectors.

Paid parental leave
32 This conference: 1. Reaffirms that Paid Parental Leave (PPL) is an industrial entitlement for women, which should be funded by employers and not a welfare measure funded by tax payers. 2. Replaces each reference to “paid maternity leave” with “paid parental leave”, in recognition that such leave should be extended to the primary carer, whether female or not, and whether that person has given birth to or adopted a child. 3. Reaffirms our call for a fund to be legislated and managed publicly, which employers pay into according to a sliding scale and according to the number of employees regardless of sex. 4. Resolves that: a. the current The Socialist Alliance policy of 12 months PPL be extended to a legislated period of two years to enable sharing of leave between parents if they wish, establishment of breastfeeding patterns, recovery from birth and adequate care of the child/ren.

b. Any PPL scheme contain an additional period of leave up to three months for the non-birth parent on a use it or lose it basis, which can be taken in conjunction with leave by the primary carer or separately, either in a block or in shorter periods over two years. c. a PPL scheme be fully portable for workers across the workforce. d. eligibility for PPL not be dependent on length of time in the workforce or with any individual employer. e. Such a scheme protects the right for parents to: i. full income maintenance; ii. return to their jobs with no loss in job security, permanency or classification for a period of five years from the date at which PPL is taken; iii. return to work part time or to access other flexible work arrangements if they wish for a defined period of up to five years; 33 iv. continuity of service and the continuing accrual of all entitlements such as long service leave, severance, recreation and sick leave while on PPL; v. superannuation entitlements that are maintained at the rate payable to the employee at the time of taking PPL or better; vi. be consulted about any changes in the workplace while on PPL. 5. While recognising that both parents should have access to PPL, any scheme should protect a woman’s choice in deciding when to commence PPL leave and how long to take it for, with respect to it being shared with a partner, and to their physical recovery from birth, which may differ from woman to woman. Women must not be forced to stay at work longer than necessary prior to the birth of a child or return to work any earlier than necessary after the birth of a child. 6. In addition to PPL, all workers should have legislated access to Carers Leave as a separate entitlement to sick leave, adequate to the needs of

parents and children, and parents should not have to dip into sick, recreation or long service leave to care for children and other family members (within a broad definition of “family”). 7. The PPL scheme currently proposed by the Rudd government is a taxpayer-funded welfare scheme, guaranteeing only the minimum wage, with no employer top ups to income or superannuation legislated. As such this scheme does not maintain the level of income of employees prior to them accessing PPL. The scheme is also not transportable, and has eligibility requirements, which make it out of reach of a significant number of women in particular and parents in general. 8. However, while this current scheme falls way short of the kind of scheme required to ensure women’s full participation in the workforce and their access to PPL, we call for the immediate implementation of the proposed PPL scheme which has been delayed since the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, but we commit to continuing to campaign for the kind of scheme outlined above. 34

Youth policy
Young people occupy a unique position in society. They face both formal and informal discrimination, as well as disproportionate social and political exclusion. They are often the first to be hit by, and are more affected by, homelessness and the housing crisis, violence, poverty, social exclusion, attacks on workers and students and other social problems. But young people have the power to play a radicalising and explosive role in the struggle for a better world and it is from them that the socialist movement and the Socialist Alliance will be strengthened and renewed. As such, the Socialist Alliance seeks to involve young people in the struggle for socialism. To this end, the Socialist Alliance recognises the importance of the socialist youth organisation and affiliate Resistance. As an independent youth organisation, Resistance plays a specific and complimentary role in the struggle for socialism. It enables young people to work together and lead

struggles around their own demands wherever these struggles take place, to acquire political and organisational responsibility and experience and learn their own lessons. As such the Socialist Alliance is committed to working with and building Resistance among young people by: • • • • Discussing youth work on the Socialist Alliance leadership bodies; Collaborating with Resistance to work out initiatives, priorities and how we use our combined resources; Supporting and working closely with Resistance members to assist in their political development; and Encouraging Resistance members to join and get active in the Socialist Alliance


Young people should have access to the decisions that affect their lives. They should have opportunities to reach their full potential, free from exploitation, oppression and discrimination. To this end, the Socialist Alliance also stands for: 1) A political voice for young people No political process can be truly democratic without the direct input of young people. The Socialist Alliance calls for the lowering of the voting age to 16, to give greater formal equality to young people. At 16, young people are considered old enough to pay taxes. However, they are currently excluded from having any say in how that money is spent. To fully combat the formal and informal discrimination faced by young people however, the self-organisation and mobilisation of young people themselves is needed. To this end, the Socialist Alliance stands for the provision of resources to democratically-controlled organisations of young people for young people. These resources should be provided directly to young people and organisations they control, and used to whatever ends these organisations see fit. 2) Affordable and accessible housing

Housing is a basic human right. Yet, the housing crisis affects thousands of people across Australia, and young people are among the worst affected. Indeed, youth homelessness is a major problem in Australia, with 44,500 young people going homeless every night, according to a 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics report. But all people should have access to affordable and accessible housing. And addressing the problem of youth homelessness and the housing crisis among the young will have to be part of a broader solution to housing. The Socialist Alliance housing policy can be found at 3) Mental wellbeing for young people About 75% of diagnosed mental health problems occur before the age of 25. These mental health problems, including depression, are a major factor in a decision to commit suicide. The Socialist Alliance calls for adequate funding for mental health services. This should include establishing specific multi-disciplinary youth mental health teams that cover the 16-24 year age range, to work across community youth and adult mental health services and across inpatient and community services. This already exists in some areas, for example EPPIC and Orygen youth health services in Melbourne. They are very effective at providing early intervention, assisting young people with mental health issues and preventing the development of chronic mental illness. Without dedicated teams like this, early intervention does not happen in a generalised way. Mental health services are busy dealing with people who are very unwell, and turn young people away if they don’t present as too serious. Young people who do end up being admitted into hospital are often discharged with no follow-up care. A dedicated team could intervene before or during their hospital admission, and provided education and support during and after their discharge. Young people would be able to manage better and have a better chance of avoiding further admissions and episodes and of avoiding suicide and self-harm. Peer support workers and group programs also need to be funded and supported to this end.


The Socialist Alliance also stands for well-funded social awareness campaigns to raise understanding of the common mental illnesses, to break down stigma, improve understanding of what to watch out for and where to seek help, and assist with integrating people with mental illnesses into workplaces and communities. 4) A universal, free, quality secular education system The vast majority of people engaged in formal education are young people. Thus, it is young people who will largely be affected by the dismantling of the public education system. And it is young people who will be the main actor in struggle for change in education, for a universal, free, quality secular education system, open to all those who need and want it. The Socialist Alliance education policy can be found at 5) Public space for young people 37 Inadequate public space infrastructure and activities exists to support the needs of young people. They are largely limited to activities and use of spaces that they must pay for or where they are the targets of aggressive corporate marketing. Even cultural events are used by corporations to positively project their brands at young people. The limited communal spaces that can be used by young people are, in large part, commercial spaces that encourage consumerism and commodity art or co-opt youth culture for commercial gain. In order to create and participate in their own independent youth culture, public spaces, infrastructure and activities must be created, funded and made available to young people. This must happen independently to corporate sponsorship, be initiated and controlled democratically by young people and their organisations. 6) A safe climate future Climate change will have a huge impact on the lives of all young people. They will face the consequences from decisions not of their making. However, young people are playing a leading role in the struggle for a safe climate future, helping to build a mass environment movement strong enough to win.

The full list of the Socialist Alliance’s environment and climate change policies can be found at 7) An end to violence and discrimination Young people experience greater alienation as a result of discrimination and social and political exclusion. This discrimination does not only affect young people as young people, but among them. Discrimination that already exists in society is more intense among the young who are under increased pressure to “fit in”. Overt racism, sexism and homophobia, for example, are heightened among young people. Violence – that takes many different forms - is a direct product of this and it is the vulnerable who suffer most, such as young women, LGBTI people, and non-Anglo people. The social pressures experienced by LGBTI youth hold particular significance reflected in the terrible statistic that LGTBI youth are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBTI youth. One third of homeless youth are queer, and face life on the streets due to family prejudices and structures promoted by capitalism. 38 The Socialist Alliance recognises the heightened suffering and distress experienced by youth coming to terms with not being heterosexual in a capitalist system, that holds heterosexuality as the only natural and normal sexual preference. We reject “law and order” solutions to youth violence. Jailing or punishing young people won’t stop or reduce violence because it doesn’t deal with the reasons it exists. We support educational campaigns but recognise that they aren’t, by themselves, enough. So too, must governments stop applying discriminatory policies that lay the social basis for violence and discrimination to occur. So all discriminatory laws must be repealed whether they apply to women, migrants, Aborigines, queers, international students etc. Ultimately, however, the broader problem of alienation under capitalism, caused by the separation of people from the decisions that affect their lives and the socially owned products of their work, must be addressed, to put an end to violence and discrimination.

8) Newstart and Youth Allowance Newstart and Youth Allowance benefits should be raised to a living wage, well above the poverty line. Age should not affect payments and the age of independence test should be lowered to 16 years, the age at which a young person can move away from home. No young person in Australia should have to live in poverty while they are looking for work or while they are studying. This policy must be combined with government creation of satisfying jobs at a living wage, available for all. 9) Satisfying jobs at a living wage Youth unemployment and underemployment is a structural problem of the capitalist economy. The percentage of unemployed young people sits at about double the rate of the rest of the population at any given time. Those young people who can find work are largely employed in casual, insecure and lowpaid jobs. These factors ensure that young people are less likely to look for work and have a major impact on young people’s standard of living and ability to afford basic necessities. That young workers are currently disadvantaged comes, in part, from the lack of organisation in their workplaces. The Socialist Alliance believes that unions should pay special attention to involving young people in their unions and also play a role in ensuring that wage justice is achieved for young people. If the market is unable to provide young people with work and a living wage, the government should step in and provide socially useful jobs for young people on full pay. For example, the biggest problem we face is the climate crisis. The government should implement a sustainability plan that creates jobs to meet the needs of communities and makes an inhabitable planet possible. The Socialist Alliance also stands for an end to youth pay rates. Youth wages mean that young people get paid less for doing the same of work. The employment situation of youth is amongst the worst of any social group in capitalist society. Coupled with discriminatory and unliveable youth wages is the systematic violation of the employment rights of young people. Tis includes abuse and intimidation, provision of false information about work rights, unpaid training and overtime, illegal pay rates and docking of pay, and


unsafe working environments. Working life of young people should be a national scandal. Young people need stronger union representation, particularly in the retail and services sectors. The Socialist Alliance fights for the rights of youth at work, active and strong support for young workers by unions, the independent organisation of youth to defend and extend their rights, and strong sanctions on employers who violate young people’s rights at work. 10) Scrap ‘Earn or Learn’ In May 2009, PM Kevin Rudd announced “earn or learn”, a policy that all Australian youth under the age of 21 would be denied Youth Allowance and unemployment benefits unless they are in school or in full-time vocational training. The Socialist Alliance rejects this as discriminatory and recognises that this threat of poverty will not benefit young people. Rather, it is a strategy that blames young people for the failings of the capitalist economy, and trains them for a role in the system that is not of their choosing. “Earn or learn” restricts the freedom of young people to make decisions for themselves. It places thousands of disadvantaged youth in an untenable position. It also fails to tackle the fundamental causes of youth unemployment: homelessness and domestic problems, alienation, discrimination, mental illness, lack of rights at work and lack of jobs.


On refugees
1. End the Liberal and Labor bipartisan policy of keeping refugees out of Australia under the guise of attacking “people smuggling” and “border security”. Ending this policy would include the following measures: a. Abolish the concept of a “safe third country” which is used to screen out those who would otherwise be assessed as refugees; b. Return Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier islands and Cocos (Keeling) islands to Australia’s migration zone;

c. Immediately resettle all UNHCR-assessed refugees stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia, neither of which is a signatory to the UN refugee convention; d. End the deals with the Indonesian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan governments to stop refugees coming to Australia under the guise of “stopping people smuggling”. 2. End the policy of mandatory detention, close all detention centres and free all asylum seekers imprisoned within them. Allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed. 3. Establish a category of complementary protection for those not found to be refugees under the UNHCR definition, but who face persecution if they were to be returned to the country they fled from. 4. End all deportations of asylum seekers 5. Immediately restore the annual refugee resettlement quota to at least its pre-1990s level of 20,000. 41 6. Recognise as grounds for refugee status gay and lesbian discrimination, discrimination against trans people and intersex people and violence against women, where the government in question condones or permits it. 7. Institute a program for accepting climate refugees, especially from countries in the Asia Pacific region, and that this program not result in any reduction in the number of humanitarian refugees. 8. Expand the definition of refugee to include people fleeing economic hardship e.g., where Australian multinationals have destroyed the environment that people depend on for their economic livelihood. 9. No biometric testing of asylum seekers 10. Establish contact with asylum seekers who have been deported by previous governments to assess whether they are still at risk and in need of asylum 11. Abolish the Refugee Review Tribunal; replace with a fully independent merits review tribunal for refugees to appeal against adverse decisions.

12. Restore access to all levels of judicial appeal; allow adverse decisions to be appealed on matters of substance as well as matters of law. 13. Extend and ensure adequate funding for specialist services for settlement, including assistance with recognition of skills 14. Equal access for asylum seekers to the full range of social security, health, housing, transport, education and employment services as other Australians. Access to post-trauma counselling for asylum seekers 15. Free and widely-available English classes for all migrants and refugees 16. Abolish the pro-business points system which favours skilled and wealthy migrants. 17. Abolish the requirement for sponsors to pay an up-front bond. 18. Abolish the two-year waiting period for new migrants to access social security payments. 19. End unequal treatment for gay men, lesbians, trans people and intersex people in immigration; recognition of same-sex relationships. 20. Withdraw the requirement to pass a health check-up in order to get a visa. 21. Give preference to places for migrants from poor countries, especially countries in the Asia Pacific region. 22. Abolish all family reunion waiting lists and remove the quota restriction so that partners, siblings, parents and extended families can be reunited in Australia if they choose. End deportations that are likely to result in families being split up. 23. Ensure that no family unit is forcibly separated by Australian immigration assessment processes. 24. End policy of deporting permanent residents who have committed a crime after serving their sentence. 25. Abolish the citizenship test. 26. Abolish the 457 visas and allow workers who come to Australia temporarily or permanently to have the full rights of citizenship.


27. End the practice where the immigration department automatically rejects the majority of visitor visa applications from people in Third World countries.

Support for the Latin American revolution
Preamble In recent years, mass movements of the oppressed across Latin America have arisen to challenge neoliberalism and US corporate domination. These movements have exploded in response to the brutal neoliberal polices enforced in the 1980s and 1990s by the US government, international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These polices, known as the Washington Consensus, led in the 1990s to an increase in the number of poor in the region by 14 million, while US banks and corporations secured US$1 trillion in profits between 1990 and 2002. In the 1990s, more than US$178 billion-worth of state-owned industries were privatised. Since the 1990s, popular resistance has grown across the region. Mass movements of the oppressed have successfully stopped the implementation of neoliberal polices that would have greatly worsened the conditions of the oppressed. In a number of countries, pro-US neoliberal governments have been overthrown by popular uprisings. In some cases, the popular movements have put in power radical governments that seek to implement, to varying degrees, popular demands. This governments, which include Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, have linked up with the Cuban government to spearhead a Latin America-wide push for propeople regional integration and unity. This has led to the internationalisation of the pro-poor social missions in Venezuela, established with Cuban assistance, to other nations such as Bolivia and Ecuador. It has led to the creation of a range of new regional institutions to challenge US and corporate domination, such as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA); PetroCaribe; Bank of the South (Bancosur); and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).


In other countries, pro-US right-wing governments face resistance from powerful movements of the oppressed. This includes the Alan Garcia government in Peru, facing sustained resistance from a range of social movements, spearheaded by the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, and the Felipe Calderon government in Mexico, facing mass resistance spearheaded by electricity workers. US imperialism and the local oligarchies are carrying out a counter-offensive aimed at rolling back the social gains for the oppressed and the moves towards regional integration and unity. This includes through the military coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected, left-wing government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras; the seven new US military bases in Colombia; the continued US government funding of pro-US political parties and groups to help destabilise and overthrow popular governments; the use of sanctions against popular governments (most notably Cuba, but also less extreme sanctions against Bolivia and Venezuela); a sustained black propaganda campaign against popular governments and movements in the corporate media; among many other tactics. 44 All of these tactics, which aim to promote war in the region, are aimed at destroying the revolutionary movement that has risen to challenge corporate domination. Mass struggles, such as the heroic resistance of the Honduran people, are resisting this offensive. The future of the continent is being fought over in a series of running battles between the powerful and the oppressed. Policy 1. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the Latin American revolutionary movements challenging corporate exploitation, foreign domination and neoliberal policies. The successful example of popular power winning important gains for the oppressed provides inspiration to those struggling everywhere. We welcome the success of mass movements in countries, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia that seek to implement policies that strengthen popular democracy and social justice for the oppressed, and weaken foreign domination by increasing national independence and regional unity. 2. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the call, first promoted in 2005 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on the need to construct a “socialism of the 21st century”. This call, emerging from Latin America’s mass

revolutionary movements, is of great importance for the socialist movement internationally and all movements struggling against the destructive polices of the capitalist system. 3. The Socialist Alliance supports every step forward that strengthens the independence and unity of Latin American nations against imperialist domination. We support all struggles and measures that seeks to meet the needs, and increases the rights, of the oppressed peoples in Latin America. We support initiatives, such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), that strengthen regional unity and integration to challenge corporate domination and advance the interests of the oppressed. Other such policies include nationalisations debt cancellation, land reform, government-funded social programs and measures to increase popular participation in decision making. 4. The Socialist Alliance opposes all attempts by the United States, other foreign powers or the Latin American elite to reverse the gains won by the mass movements of the Latin American oppressed. We condemn all attempts by foreign powers or the local elite to overthrow sovereign governments by whatever means. We condemn the funding by the US government and associated organisations of political parties and other organisations inside sovereign Latin American nations in order to advance US and corporate interests. We condemn the militarisation of the region and the push to war by the US and its allies in Latin America. 5. The Socialist Alliance supports the creation of broad-based movements in solidarity with Latin America, that seek to defend democracy and national sovereignty, and oppose attempts by the US or other powers to attack and destroy popular movements and governments. 6. The Socialist Alliance condemns the mainstream media’s distorted and false coverage of the popular struggles and governments in Latin America, which seeks to create support for attempts by US imperialism to reverse the popular gains, defend corporate interests and re-establish US domination over the region. The Socialist Alliance supports all attempts to counter this “media terrorism” by the alternative media and solidarity organisations. 7. The Socialist Alliances calls on the Australian government to reject the policies of the US government that seek to undermine the sovereignty of Latin


American nations and protect its domination of the region. We call on the Australian government to take an explicit stand in defence of democracy and the right to sovereignty of Latin American nations, and to pressure the United States to cease its policy of seeking to undermine and overthrow sovereign governments.

Public transport
Preamble The following draft of a public transport policy for The Socialist Alliance expands and extends existing national policy, by incorporating work done for the NSW state elections in 2007, articles for Green Left Weekly and other research. It attempts to both illustrate the problems with the existing situation, where inadequate provision of public transport disadvantages poor communities and the environment and point the way to an socially and ecologically sustainable alternative. 46 Provision of adequate public transport to service all communities is a social and environmental imperative. Private road transport (both cars and trucks carrying freight) are a major contributor to carbon pollution, while lack of access to public transport places a huge burden on poorer communities in particular. Reliance on private transport costs at least $39 billion a year, according to Rapid and Affordable Transport Alliance (RATA). Of this, $21 billion is lost due to road congestion and $18 billion for traffic accidents. The Socialist Alliance believes that immediate government action — at a federal, state and local level — must be taken to reverse the heavy reliance on private transport in Australia. 1. Car dependence — a recipe for poverty Griffith University researchers Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe published Oil Vulnerability in the Australian City in December 2005. The study attempted to determine the potential social impact of increasing petrol price rises on residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, based on their dependence on cars and their socio-economic status.

“Clearly, outer-suburban areas, locations that contain low socio-economic status populations, and suburbs which have high levels of car dependence will be most affected by [petrol price] increases”, Dodson and Sipe argue. Their study found that because of the relatively poor provision of public transport in outer-urban areas of Australia’s major cities, particularly “circumferential” public transport (i.e. public transport that links suburbs with each other, rather than the city centre), residents were forced to rely more heavily on private cars than more affluent, inner-city residents. Part of the problem is that provision of public transport does not meet greatest need, Dodson and Sipe found. “The major capital cities each have extensive metropolitan rail networks but the numbers of services running on them are far below system capacities. There is typically little integration between modes particularly between the rail and bus networks and the use of local buses as feeders to the higher capacity rail systems is underdeveloped”, they argue. What public transport is available in cities does not generally help the most economically disadvantaged. For instance: “In Sydney the high socioeconomic status households of north Sydney have been able to capture among the best quality public transport services in the city, while lower socioeconomic status groups in fringe areas receive much poorer services”, Dodson and Sipe argue. In August 2008, Dodson and Sipe updated their research in Unsettling Suburbia: The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities, with information drawn from the 2006 Census (conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), which showed that the situation had grown worse. In Melbourne, “42.3% saw their oil and mortgage vulnerability worsen during the 2001-06 period”, the report found. In Sydney, the figure was 41%, while in Perth the figure was 39.5% and Adelaide 38.5%. Only in Brisbane was the situation “largely static”. In Roads, Railways and Regimes: Why some societies are able to organise suburban public transport — and why others can’t, published in October 2007, Griffith University researcher Chris Harris said the neglect of public transport had been a “policy of contrived ‘state failure”‘.


The failure is most common in English-speaking countries going back to the 1950s and 1960s. “It is clear that the rise of ‘automobile dependency’ to the levels seen in the English-speaking world — where there is often not a public transport alternative, or only a ramshackle one — was a policy choice”, Harris said. “To paraphrase the tag line to Doctor Strangelove, it was as if policymakers in all the English-speaking countries simultaneously ‘learned to stop worrying and love the automobile’.” Lack of public transport has also been found to be a serious impediment to finding a job. The Urban Research Centre of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) was commissioned by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils to prepare a report on job prospects for western Sydney until 2031. It assessed the state government’s target of creating an extra 235,000 jobs. The UWS study, North west and west-central Sydney employment strategies, was published in November 2008. It found that one of the major barriers to job creation was the lack of public transport in western Sydney. 48 “It is clear that public transport in Western Sydney has suffered from chronic under-investment,” the report said. “The region’s rail network has remained largely unchanged in coverage since the 1930s, while over 120 kilometres of motorway have been developed at a time when Western Sydney’s population has increased dramatically. As a result the region is heavily car-dependent. “Journey times for commuters on key parts of the rail network have actually increased over the last twenty years.” 2. The real cost of private transport In his Thirty Year Public Transport Plan for Sydney, University of Technology Sydney researcher Garry Glazebrook estimates the environmental costs of private car transport, including greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise and water pollution to total over $2 billion a year. All this cost is born by the community. “Cars are thus our most expensive mode, costing 86c per passenger-km compared with 47c for rail and 57c for bus (all figures include externalities

and for 2006)”, Glazebrook argues. “Our current transport system is too heavily weighted to cars, the most expensive and least sustainable mode.” According to RATA, “Transport is Australia’s third largest source of carbon pollution providing 14 per cent of total emissions. It is the fastest growing sector and accounts for about 34 per cent of household greenhouse gas emissions. “Road transport (cars, trucks, light commercial, buses) accounts for about 90 per cent of total transport emissions. Emissions from road transport were 30 per cent higher in 2007 than in 1990 and even with the implementation of abatement measures these emissions are projected to be 67 per cent higher in 2020 than 1990 levels.” This effective privatisation of transport options also comes at a significant environmental cost. Under the federal government’s proposed carbon trading scheme, such costs would largely be passed onto individual commuters. The University of Western Sydney Urban Research Centre argues that: “As climate change mitigation efforts continue and an emissions trading scheme is introduced, the residents of Western Sydney will face increasing financial pain as the inequities in decades of transport investment in Sydney become even more apparent”. 3. Freight transport According to the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Twothirds of domestic freight uplifted in Australia is hauled by road and 26 per cent by rail. Road transport accounts for 80 per cent of freight movements when the distance travelled is less than 100 kilometres.” Greenhouse gas emissions from road freight haulage are projected to rise by at least 27% in the next 10 years. In its 2006 policy statement Moving On, he NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union argued that the NSW government had to reduce reliance on road freight by increasing the use of rail freight. The report says: “At a metropolitan scale, the NSW government needs to have a strong focus on increasing the proportion of freight transport by rail to reduce


environmental impacts and congestion. This means providing new rail freight infrastructure and multi-modal terminals in appropriate areas. “At subregional and local scales, the NSW government should explore innovative freight delivery options that provide an alternative to road transport as well as implementing measures to reduce the environmental impact of road freight transport (e.g. through improvements in vehicle technology and efficiency).” According to RATA: “Rail uses two-thirds less fuel than road per tonne of goods carried and has more than three times the environmental efficiency of road haulage. “Some 27 per cent of Australia’s containerised imports arrive at Port Botany each year and 90 per cent of these end up in western Sydney. Road transport accounts for 86 per cent of Sydney’s freight task and this is increasing. “Rail freight capacity must be increased faster than increases in the total freight capacity to alleviate road congestion, reduce land and resource use wasted by additional roads and reduce air and water pollution. Melbourne has similar issues but with the added burden that the container port has become a de facto truck park due to inefficiencies of service.” In order to facilitate a transition from road-haulage to rail transport of freight, the Socialist Alliance advocates: • • • • Extend the rail freight network with dedicated freight-only links in order to remove heavy vehicles from local roads. Introduce and enforce penalties to stop unauthorised heavy vehicle access to local roads. Nationalise all privatised tollways and abolish tolls for light vehicles and buses. Make business pay for its transport by introducing electronic tolling for heavy freight vehicles on all major roads and freeways, and discounted, volume-based charges for rail freight. Replacing semi-trailers and “B-doubles” as the major inter-city freight mode.


• •

Electric and hybrid vehicles to replace commercial trucks and vans for the urban transport of freight Fund the retraining of long-distance truck-drivers at full-pay, for ecologically sustainable work, as demand for road-haulage declines. The cost of this to be paid by a special levy on freight companies. Phase-out the use of coal trains as the coal-mining industry itself is phased out. Use these lines for freight and/or passenger services.

4. Strategic planning The poor provision of public transport in Australia is not simply the failure of any particular government, but a failure of strategic planning over many years. As cities have grown, public transport infrastructure has generally failed to keep pace. Ron Christie, a former head of NSW State Rail and the Roads and Traffic Authority presented a report to the NSW government in June 2001, Long-term Strategic Plan for Rail. The report outlined a 10-year strategy for increasing the geographic spread, capacity and reliability of the Sydney suburban rail network. “Unless the ‘reach’ of the rail system is extended in this way, Sydney will be doomed to a future under which more than half the urbanised metropolitan area, and especially those areas at more distant locations, will not be serviced by the rail system, creating and reinforcing significant inequalities in access to employment, education and other community facilities”, Christie said. The “Christie report” was shelved by the NSW Labor government. “Switching the balance of new infrastructure provision towards public transport, walking and cycling would not only assist to achieve currently relevant planning objectives but would hedge our urban systems against potential impacts of rising fuel costs”, Dodson and Sipe argue in The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities. “Continuing the present model of road-driven urban transport policy may only make any eventual adjustment to accommodate higher fuel prices more painful, complex and fractious. The pain of such adjustment would invariably fall most heavily on the more disadvantaged members of our communities.”


The Socialist Alliance advocates that public transport be subject to a long-term strategic plan, which is prepared through extensive community consultation. Such a plan must stipulate that all new development incorporate extension to the existing heavy rail corridors where possible, or the construction of new lines to service population growth areas where necessary. Such a plan would include: • • • Making all new urban development dependent on the provision of adequate public transport Provision of adequate cycleways and walking paths must also be incorporated into all plans. Provision of buses and light rail must be seen as an adjunct to the provision of heavy and light rail only, and not a less costly, less effective alternative. Expanding bus priority programs and strategic bus lanes Upgrading railway stations, light rail and bus stops, ferry wharfs and interchanges to provide adequate seating, shelter, bicycle storage and decent facilities for the disabled. Planned integration of taxis and taxi cooperatives into the system All plans must be presented to residents and workers of a given area for amendment and approval before implementation and must be subject to ongoing scrutiny and approval from the affected community. Provision of road transport must be a secondary consideration to the provision and continual upgrade and improvement of public transport options. No new motorways.

• • 52 • •

5. Solving the public transport crisis As a critical measure to reduce Australian carbon emissions and as a urgent priority to reverse social and economic equality, The Socialist Alliance advocates a massive short-term increase in government spending on the provision of public transport infrastructure.

Such spending must be socially accountable to residents and workers (see 4. Strategic planning, above). In order to make-up for 50 years of neglect, such public spending must guarantee the following: • A complete overhaul of suburban and intra-urban passenger rail systems. Capacity of tracks (line amplification), rolling stock and stations must be increased to meet current demand and expected demand over 10 years. The extension of the heavy-rail suburban network in all major cities, to accommodate the existing population and projected population growth over the next 30 years. Upgrading the interstate and country rail network to allow trains to travel more quickly The provision of light rail on high-density suburban bus routes (such as central Sydney), to replace buses and private vehicles where feasible. The construction of European ‘metro’ rail only as an adjunct to heavy rail services, and only on shorter routes. Fully staff the networks-staff on every station and a guard/conductor on every train and tram. End government attacks on public transport workers. End the unfair impost on island communities by fully funding passenger and light vehicle ferries, in particular to and from Tasmania; fully fund air transport to remote outback and island communities. Re-open closed rural rail lines where the infrastructure still exists and provide passenger rail services to communities which need them. Alternatively provide a replacement bus service to meet community needs. Use bus services only for short trips, from transport hubs to population centres and shopping centres. Bus and train timetables must be properly synchronised.

• • • 53 • •

6. Public transport – not for profit Public transport is a public service. Whether it is allowing workers to get to and from work, or individuals to travel to shops, hospitals, to see family/friends or for recreation, it is a social obligation of government to

provide it. Giving communities access to adequate public transport also tends to reduce private car use, which reduces carbon emissions. The Socialist Alliance believes that government must seek to provide the most modern, fuel efficient, low-carbon impacting and most far-reaching public transport possible. Public transport must not be run for profit, but in the interest of commuters and residents. In order to keep public transport public, the Socialist Alliance advocates the following: • • Re-nationalise all privatised public transport and rail freight; Stop the privatisation of suburban and outer suburban bus routes. Public ownership of bus companies should be the norm and private routes in major cities should be taken back into public ownership. An end to public-private partnerships Reverse the “corporatisation” of state-run public transport authorities. Public transport must be run to minimise ecological impact and maximise service delivery, not to make profit. Public transport must be run by boards elected at a regional level from among public transport workers, commuters and residents, with full power to approve/reject all management and planning decisions. Members of such boards to be accountable and recallable by their constituencies at any time.

• 54 •

7. Make it frequent, make it free In order to encourage as many people as possible to make the switch from private car transport to public transport, the Socialist Alliance believes that a three-month trial of free public transport should be conducted across all urban, regional and rural areas. If the trial confirms a significant increase in public transport patronage, it should be made permanent. In 1996, the Belgian city of Hasselt made public transport free. Between 1996 and 2006, usage of public transport increased by as much as 1300%. It is likely that such a step would have similar results in Australian cities.

Public transport in most Australian cities is already heavily subsidised. In 2008/09 alone, the NSW public transport system absorbed grants totalling $4.2 billion, according to the NSW Department of Transport. The June 10 2009 Sydney Morning Herald reported on findings in a report commissioned NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). It showed that for every train journey taken, the broader community saves $6 in lower air pollution and less road congestion. When the alternative of commuters taking their cars is factored into the equation, the real social saving goes up to $15.80 for each train trip. The average subsidy paid for such trips is $4.20. Each train trip represents a big social saving. In Sydney, making public transport free would cost the state government about $1 billion a year. When compared to the massive social and environmental savings from increasing public transport use and decreasing private car use, this spending is more than justified. The extra costs of proving free public transport should be paid by those who would benefit most — employers. The Socialist Alliance supports a payroll tax on all employers of over 10 employees and a special levy on developers ho benefit from development near transport hubs. The Socialist Alliance advocates: • • • • • Free public transport Free carriage of bicycles on public transport Ending all tax concessions for company and company-purchased cars The imposition of a public transport levy on all CBD employers with more than 10 staff, along the lines of the French versement de transport. Special levies on developers who gain access to commercially profitable sites close to railway stations and bus interchanges.


The reclassification and redeployment of all public transport staff whose job has been the sale of tickets to passenger assistance/security functions, with no loss in pay or conditions. Rebuilding public transport staff numbers to ensure safe, comfortable and efficient services.

The Socialist Alliance supports free public transport and will set up and run a national free public transport campaign which seeks to resource and support actions at the local level. Process: To adopt this draft (as amended by conference) as the Socialist Alliance’s interim public transport policy, but to solicit suggestions for improvement from Socialist Alliance members, with the incoming National Executive to adopt an updated text before the forthcoming federal election.

On population and climate change policy
56 The Socialist Alliance rejections simplistic populationist theories to explain climate change. The Socialist Alliance will facilitate a debate in Alliance Voices, Green Left Weekly and branches in order to develop a policy on population and climate policy.

On agriculture
The problem Since the introduction of modern agriculture, the quality of Australia’s soils has dropped dramatically. Inappropriate agricultural practices and methods have led to ongoing soil loss, salinity and soil structure collapse across the country, threatening the viability of many rural communities, and endanger Australia’s future food security. In many areas, irrigation water is dangerously over-allocated, frequently wasteful and used on inappropriate crops, and is becoming more and more scarce, threatening the viability of agriculture in many parts of Australia.

Access to water has been turned into a tradeable commodity, allowing speculative trading in “water rights” that has led to over-allocation, severe financial pressure on family farms, and serious damage to ecosystems as vital ground water and river systems are depleted. At the same time, agricultural profits have increasingly gone to non-productive commercial sectors. In 1900, 40% of the food dollar went to farmers; now it is less than 15%, as farmers are forced to receive lower and lower prices under threat of cheap imports. Farm workers, many of them casual labourers, are amongst the worst paid and suffer some of the worst working conditions of Australian workers, and unemployment and poverty in rural Australia continue to rise. As a result, the average farming age continues to rise because young people are put off by the economic and environmental challenges of farming. Australian agriculture is also threatened in the most fundamental way by climate change. The present global trend of greenhouse emissions will, if continued, make most agricultural production in this country impossible by the final decades of the century. Emissions from the rural sector, primarily of enteric methane from cattle and sheep but including nitrous oxide from synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, are meanwhile the second-largest element in Australia’s greenhouse accounting. The Socialist Alliance believes that the long-term sustainability of agriculture is an essential component of the well-being of Australia’s economy, society and environment, and must be reformed in order to save it, and the environment, from the catastrophic effects of current practices. Sustainable Agriculture The term “sustainable agriculture” is profoundly misused by governments and corporate agribusiness, while current agricultural research and education is overwhelmingly geared – not to developing truly sustainable agriculture – but to increasing farm outputs and corporate profits at the expense of the environment and farming communities. The sustainable agriculture that The Socialist Alliance stands for means farming based on natural processes, requiring the development of well functioning agro-ecosystems both above and below ground, and providing nutritious for people’s needs while causing no degradation to the natural


environment, and adequate income and working conditions for farmers and farm workers. The Socialist Alliance will: • Phase out corporate agribusiness farming in the Murray-Darling basin and regulate for sustainable water use in irrigation, including changing landuse practices and water efficiency practices in line with long-term water sustainability. Review the allocation of free irrigation water licences to wool, lamb and beef farming enterprises, and review irrigated rice and cotton growing licences. Reverse the process of water privatisation and put all water allocations under public control. Private ownership of water resources is inimical to sustainable agriculture and the public good and cannot be allowed to continue. Reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides and fertilisers by harnessing biological capture of carbon and nitrogen, and reprocessing urban waste, including sewage, into organic fertilisers. Encourage mulching, composting, and no-till and reduced-tillage farming through development grants and incentives. Ensure effective management and removal of invasive species. Encourage pest and disease minimisation by reliance on factors such as enhanced natural immune systems of plants, integrated management and related ecological principles. Prevent use of genetically modified organisms until exhaustive, independent, testing can definitively prove they do not have potential to cause harm to people, livestock or the environment, and introduce strict laws and fines against contamination. Increase and maintain crop diversity Extend public funding of agricultural research and education to ensure the further development of sustainable agriculture.

• 58 • • •

• •

Sustainable Farming Communities Unsustainable farming practices, environmental degradation, economic pressures and the effects of drought and climate change are seriously threatening the viability of our rural and agricultural communities. The Socialist Alliance believes that most existing farming communities can be made economically and socially viable again, but only through a drastic overhaul of the agricultural sector and its practices. We will consult and work alongside communities in finding solutions to the problems they face, encouraging public participation in both creating and implementing specific the measures needed. The Socialist Alliance will: • • 59 • Provide funding, resources and training to farming communities to make the transition to sustainable agriculture. Launch a massive, publicly-funded, sustainable agriculture conversion program in combination with sustainable agriculture organisations and farming communities. Rewrite farm employees’ industrial awards to ensure that farm employees, including casuals, receive comparable pay and conditions to other workers. Prevent the forced sale of indebted farms and provide alternative funding on the basis of ongoing agricultural viability. Encourage national agricultural self-sufficiency, minimising the need for food imports and strengthening the Australian farming sector. Encourage farming cooperatives, local farmers markets, and state or cooperative marketing authorities. Encourage producer cooperatives to ensure all farmers receive a fair price from processors and retailers. Increase Landcare funding assistance for farmers to increase the sustainability of local farms and farming communities.

• • • • •

• •

Food processing and trading practices that reduce transport, packaging and waste, including encouraging processing in productive regions. Support the research, development and production of farm machinery, chemicals and biological products that supports better, safer and more affordable farming practices. Increase research and development of more efficient agricultural water use practices.

Food Security—at home and abroad There are few things more important than maintaining a secure and reliable supply of healthy food. In a world where over a billion people are starving, the deliberate destruction of food crops is criminal. Food should be produced and distributed to satisfy need, not to make profits. Australia is more than capable of providing for most of the food needs of its population, and should assist our neighbours in the region – especially in the developing world – by sharing our sustainable agricultural practices and surplus food in order to improve the well-being of humanity as a whole. The Socialist Alliance will: • • • • Increase and redirect agricultural research into improving the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems and regions. Restrict the use of prime agricultural land for urban development or mining. Increase the scope of agricultural education, including at a primary and secondary school level. Encourage the creation of urban and peri-urban “city farms”, community and “permaculture” gardens to maximise the proportion of food produced in cities and large towns, improving both food quality and reducing emissions from unnecessary transport. Expand on projects like Food Bank, redistributing “excess” food to meet social needs, preventing food wastage and ensuring public access to nutritional food sources.


Increase foreign aid aimed at developing self-sufficient sustainable food production practices in developing countries and seek to prevent “food dumping”. Develop “fair trade” policies with like-minded countries and increase foreign food aid programs in order to help prevent starvation and malnutrition.

Agriculture and Climate Change Agriculture accounts for around 16% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and current agricultural practices – from fertilisers to food transport – consume huge quantities of fossil fuels. Land clearing and outdated forestry practices account for a further 6% of our greenhouse emissions. Preventing climate disaster will require that net emissions from the rural sector be ended. At the same time, carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere through reforestation, including farm forestry, and improved farming practices. 61 Soil carbon levels need to be enhanced through encouragement of no-till and organic farming methods. Land currently used as low-grade pasture, or which climate change renders too dry for cropping, must be returned to native vegetation or employed in an environmentally responsible way for tree farming. The Socialist Alliance will: • • Encourage a shift away from fossil-fuel based chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Encourage “Carbon farming”: increasing the amount of carbon locked in the soil and the ecosystem through methods such as permanent reafforestation and the use of sustainable farming practices such as composting. Expand research on the production and use of biochar in order to increase crop yields, water retention, and plant nutrient availability, to enrich soil biota and to reduce reliance on synthetic fertilisers.

Prevent industrial biofuel or biochar production or broadscale carbon “offsetting” through unsustainable plantations that lock up prime farming land. Permit land clearing only in exceptional circumstances and only when offset by the reforestation of equal areas of similar native vegetation. Promote the restoration and remediation of native vegetation and ecosystems, reducing the release of greenhouse gases and limiting serious soil degradation. Develop sustainable grazing practices, in order to improve soil stability and water availability. Sharply reduce cattle and sheep numbers and improve stock management to minimise methane emissions per head. Drastically cut the numbers of feral ruminants, especially camels. Risk management for climactic changes that minimise the effects of weather extremes – require agricultural practices to adapt to climactic limitations.

• •

• • • • 62

Process: Resolution adopted as interim policy. To be published in Alliance Voices with a view to soliciting comment and with the National Executive having the power to adopt a final version.

On Afghanistan
The Socialist Alliance recognises that there was never any legal or moral justification for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001: this is not a “good war”. The war is being prosecuted by the US-NATO forces as part of the US imperialism’s long-term strategic political and economic interests in the region under the guise of being a “war on terror”. Bipartisan Australian support for the invasion and occupation is both a product of the US-Australia war alliance and Australia’s own economic interests in that region.

Australia’s military presence does not act as a positive counterweight to the US military: not only does it provide political legitimacy to the US-NATO command. Australian troops have been involved in the shooting of civilians, including children. It’s clear from all the social and development statistics that after nearly nine years of war, life for ordinary Afghan civilians has dramatically deteriorated. Women have not been liberated. The increasing number of civilian causalities, including women and children, is another feature of this war. We also note the increasing number of US-NATO military casualities and applaud those soldiers who have taken a stand against the war. The Socialist Alliance believes that there can be no democracy, or significant economic and social development, for peoples subjected to an occupying power. 63 Further, laws instituted by puppet regimes, at the behest of those occupying powers, do little to further the political and economic rights of the vast majority in Afghanistan. We also oppose this war being spread into Pakistan, and support the brave efforts of democratic forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan to build a political current to counter the reactionary fundamentalists and the occupation forces. Therefore, the Socialist Alliance calls on the Australian government to: • • • Immediately withdraw the Australian troops. Pay war reparations and send aid for civilian-based reconstruction efforts. End support for the US war plans in the region. This includes any extension of the war into Pakistan and any US plans to attack Iran, and Yemen.

The Socialist Alliance condemns the use of private contractors, including mercenaries, in Afghanistan and other war zones. We call on the Australian government to cease using private contractors and to protest against countries such as US, British interests using these contractors.

On Palestine
The Socialist Alliance condemns the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the state of Israel. This oppression takes different forms including— the occupation of Palestinian land, hi-tech military assaults on the impoverished Palestinian population, the blockade and siege of Gaza, the breaking up of the West Bank into isolated ghettos and systematic violence and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and those exiled as refugees. The Socialist Alliance condemns Egypt’s policy of maintaining the siege on Gaza through the policing of Gaza’s border region and the operation of the Rafah border checkpoint. This policy amounts to complicity with Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, which denies Palestinians the right of free movement as well as free access to many basic goods. The Socialist Alliance also condemns Egyptian plans to build an “underground wall” on the border between Egypt and Gaza. This plan will only increase the problems faced by Gaza residents who use border tunnels to gain access to basic necessities. The Socialist Alliance supports: • • • • • • • Ending the occupation of Palestine by Israel. The Palestinian right to self-determination. Withdrawal of all Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and dismantlement of the apartheid wall Equal civil and democratic rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. Right of return for Palestinian refugees to all historic Palestine. An end to Israeli aggression against other countries in the region. Ending the siege and blockade of Gaza. Free movement of people and supplies (including medical supplies) around historic Palestine and between Palestine and Israel. The Israeli refuseniks and pro-Palestine Israeli human rights activists.


Prosecuting Israeli military and political leaders for war crimes – in particular, those committed in the December-January 2009 assault on the people of Gaza Ending the criminalisation, in Australia, of Palestinian and Lebanese organisations that resist Israeli occupation using the misnamed “antiterrorism” laws.

The Socialist Alliance recognises the essential role that international (including Australian) imperialism plays in supporting the Israeli system of apartheid and occupation through massive political, economic and military aid. Therefore, the Socialist Alliance condemns the Australian government’s links with and uncritical support for the criminal Israeli state and supports the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israeli apartheid.


On child care
Preamble Over the past two decades, the childcare sector has become increasingly corporate-dominated. This shift began when in 1991 the federal Labor government ended public subsidies to non-profit childcare centres and instead began providing payments to individual parents to use at a childcare centre of their choice. The escalating crisis in childcare availability and the inability of many families to afford exorbitant childcare fees led to successive governments furthering this system, with the Howard government’s introduction of the Childcare Benefit, and the Rudd Labor government’s increase in the Childcare Tax Rebate to 50%. As a result, private childcare providers are now reaping massive government subsidies. This means that childcare fees have sky-rocketed, provision of quality services is held hostage to the private companies’ efforts to increase their profits and childcare workers remain among the lowest-paid workers in the country.

Just how problematic this set-up is was exposed in late 2008 with the collapse of childcare giant ABC Learning. Yet instead of bringing the childcare centres under public control, the government gave the company a massive bailout package and the least profitable centres were closed down or taken over by other companies. Resolution The Socialist Alliance calls for: • • • • 66 An end to the massive public handouts to private childcare companies For the establishment of an adequately funded, not-for-profit, communityrun childcare sector that is free and accessible to all For employer-funded, worker-controlled childcare services in larger workplaces For the services to provide before and after hours and occasional care

In the lead up to the federal election and in the update to the Gender Agenda, The Socialist Alliance will produce a comprehensive childcare policy which expands on resolutions passed at this conference.

On equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people
We live in a society which attempts to dictate sexual preference and gender identity through promoting the gender stereotypes and homophobic attitudes which underpin the heterosexual nuclear family, and by promoting marriage and the nuclear family as the only legitimate model for relationships. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans people and intersex people suffer oppression because their lives are a challenge to the nuclear family which is an economic cornerstone of capitalism. The Socialist Alliance opposes all attempts to shoehorn people into sexual and gender conformity. We believe it is a basic democratic right that a persons’ self-definition of sexual preference and gender identity should be recognised. Heterosexism exists at almost every level in this society, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender

identity is entrenched in all of the key institutions of society - education, health, the law, the media, family, church and state. The Socialist Alliance supports politically independent and self-organizing social movements that fight the oppression of women, lesbians and gay men, trans and intersex people, people with HIV and sex workers through mass action, public demonstrations, lobbying, voting and by building alliances with the broader working class, feminist, and anti-capitalist movements. We oppose sexism, racism, ageism, and discrimination against people with disabilities within the lesbian and gay communities, as we do in the broader community. In government the Socialist Alliance will: • Enact enforceable anti-discrimination legislation to protect lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, people living with HIV and trans and intersex people. We will remove existing exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation in relation to employment for private schools, religious organisations, the insurance industry, the tax system, superannuation etc. The Socialist Alliance will legislate for the right of trans and intersex people to be issued with passports, drivers licenses and other documents specifying the gender (or non-gender) of their choice. Legislate full social, legal, trade union and industrial recognition of same sex and gender variant relationships. This would include extending to same sex relationships equal status with heterosexual de factos in superannuation, immigration, taxation, family law, industrial relations and any other laws and regulations; ensure the right of gays, lesbians and gender variants to choose to marry if they so wish; provide independent incomes [Newstart, Pensions, etc] for all regardless of relationship status this will end state-enforced economic dependency. Guarantee the right of gay men and lesbians to adopt or foster children and to access free, safe reproductive technology like IVF. End discrimination against gay men, lesbians, trans and intersex people in child custody cases. Legislate against use of non-violent homosexual “advance” as a defense of “provocation” in violent crime.


Provide full state funding for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans people and intersex youth programs including refuges and housing services, health services, coming out, self-esteem and suicide prevention programs; All public funding for education, youth, aged, health, employment and welfare to be directed though non-discriminatory government and/or secular non-profit community organisations. Education in schools to incorporate positive material on homosexuality, trans and intersex peoples. Support Pride Marches, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, film and video festivals and other queer community events; defend and extend gay, lesbian trans and intersex programming on the ABC, SBS and community broadcasters; work vigorously for an end to the vicious and destructive portrayal of gay men, lesbians and trans people people in some sections of the media. Mandatory sensitivity training and refresher courses for the police force in how to deal with LGBTI issues. This education and training must be developed with and by the LGBTI community. The selection of LGBTI liaison officers should be under the control of the LGBTI community and recallable Support gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans and intersex workers; promote strong policies within unions to defend gay, lesbian, trans and intersex workers; support the establishment of gay and lesbian caucuses within trade unions.

68 •

Resolutions • That the Socialist Alliance support the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans people, intersex (LGBTI) community in their fight for full marriage equality, and assist with organizing rallies, forums, events, around the 2010 Year of Actions for the Marriage Equality campaign. That the Socialist Alliance phases out the slogan “Same-sex marriage rights” and promotes “Equal Marriage Rights”, which can more readily include the demands of the trans people and intersex community. That the Socialist Alliance builds and supports International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers events, in whichever way is appropriate.

That the Socialist Alliance, where possible, and where events are organised, builds and supports Trans and Intersex Remembrance Day events.

On sex workers
Sex work is still on the criminal code in all states and territories except NSW. Having sex work on the criminal code means increased police harassment for marginalized groups such as Aboriginal street-based sex workers, Asian and migrant sex workers, HIV positive workers, and trans people sex workers. Criminalizing sex work means significantly lower health and safety standards. Decriminalisation in NSW combined with other health and sex worker “peer education” community support measures, has resulted in better sexual health outcomes for sex workers and improved access by community outreach and support agencies. The Socialist Alliance demands of the government: • 69 • Decriminalisation of sex work Demand an end to discrimination on the basis on the basis of occupation

The Socialist Alliance supports the work of sex worker organisations in their decriminalisation campaigns and for health, and safety on the job.

On marriage and civil unions
The Socialist Alliance supports the right to marry regardless of gender or sexual orientation. In other countries civil unions have been offered to the LGBTI community to placate the movement for equal marriage rights. This is not the situation in Australia, where even civil unions have been suppressed by the federal government because they “mimic marriage”. It is for this reason that the Socialist Alliance supports civil unions but will continue the campaign for marriage . Civil unions are not a substitute for marriage rights.

The Socialist Alliance demands of the government: 1) Equal marriage rights for LGBTI people. 2) Civil unions legislation in each State and Territory, as well as on the federal level. Civil unions legislation should allow official, legally recognised ceremonies, and it should be open to everyone regardless of gender or sexuality.

On intersex policy
Intersex people are people born with physiological differences that may be seen as being both male and female at once, not wholly male or female or as neither male nor female. Intersex people are subjected to discrimination in employment, in housing, in the provision of medical services, and the provision of government services. There are no laws preventing discrimination against intersex people. 70 Intersex children may be subjected to non-consensual surgery so that their bodies conform to dominant ideas of what constitutes a ‘male’ or ‘female’ body. Non-consensual genital surgery is particularly controversial and where there is little debate against prohibitions on female circumcision, similar procedures on intersex people happen with little community comment. The Socialist Alliance rejects pathologising definitions of intersex such as “disorders of sexual development”. The difficulty for Intersex is not differences in anatomy but rather how those differences are perceived by the community. Social prejudice against non conforming bodies such as intersex, are the issues that needs attention. Intersex people should not be compelled to change their bodies, their behavior, or themselves to meet mainstream social expectations. The Socialist Alliance demands of the government 1) That non-consensual surgery on children, where the child is denied the informed and cognizant right to consent or reject) cease immediately save for those cases where surgery is life preserving.

2) That children are able to declare their sex, even if that is none, when they are fully informed and able to understand those concepts. 3) That any individual may have their passport marked with X rather than sex or gender if they so desire. 4) That there is an affirmative action policy in public housing, work opportunities, education, the provision of medical and government services. 5) That education campaigns are conducted in schools and wider society that debunk the myth of sex and gender binaries, that inform individuals about sex and gender diversity, and oppose bigotry because of perceived sex and gender differences. 6) Intersex athletes like Caster Semenya should not be publically outed. That there are no compulsory sex testing procedures in sport. 7) Legislation that provides protection against discrimination and vilification and promotes equal opportunities for intersex people. 71 8) Access to appropriate medication and surgery when and if required based on the needs of the individual and not on the expectations of diagnostic protocols. This includes the abandonment of the diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” for those intersex who reject their birth assignment. 9) All people, particularly legislators and medical professionals, must acknowledge that sex and gender is more than men and women , male and female.

On transgendered people’s rights
Governments have to ensure that services and laws are in place that provide for those who do not fit prevailing ideas of sex and gender binaries and by unshackling the community from the need to conform to and enforce those ideas, allow each individual to participate in society as themselves. Trans people are a diverse group of identities, including transsexual, transgendered, crossdressers, gender queers, and gender variants of all kinds. Their common ground is that they do not conform to society’s expectations of how someone of their physiological sex assigned at birth is supposed to be in

the culture they live in. Most trans people do not seek sex reassignment surgery, although many seek hormone therapy. Trans people suffer hate crimes, murder, being sacked from jobs, discrimination in renting and buying houses, and high rates of suicide because of the bigotry they face. In Australia, trans people face barriers in changing their sex. To access any medical transition technologies, such as hormone therapy or surgeries, on Medicare they have to be diagnosed with “gender identity disorder”. This is a psychological disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). This pathologising terminology is rejected by the trans movement. Free, quality surgery is unavailable in Australia. Therefore trans people are forced to access expensive surgeries in the private sector. Hormone therapy is only free to people on the pension. Otherwise, it is very expensive. Trans people are not granted legal recognition of their gender without surgery. This is a major problem for many trans people who either cannot afford surgery or do not want it. Potential loss of sexual function is one reason why some people do not want surgery. A major problem with the requirement of surgery is that it coerces trans people into sterilisation. Even after hormones and operations trans people are not granted automatic government recognition of their sex. Expensive passport and birth change processes add to the trauma and humiliation trans people are forced to endure. The Socialist Alliance supports the work of transgender and transsexual rights organisations in their campaigns. The Socialist Alliance demands of the government: 1) Free access to hormones, if requested, without being diagnosed with ’gender identity disorder’ 2) Free, quality sex change operations and access to other medical needs such as electrolysis. 3) Full legal recognition of gender identity regardless of whether or not a person gets surgery. This includes but is not limited to passports and birth certificates. A person’s legal identity should be “male” or “female” as they choose, or they should also have the option of marking an “X” or “trans”, or something else, if they choose.


4) Anti-discrimination laws that support trans people in fighting off discrimination in jobs, housing, schooling. 5) Affirmative action in public housing and employment, including crisis accommodation to cater specifically for the needs of trans people. 6) Anti-bigotry campaigns in schools and wider society that teach people about trans rights. 7) The repeal of all legislation discriminating against trans people. 8) government funding for services run by and for the trans community, such as Gender Centres. There should be a Gender Centre in every capital city at least. 9) Specific units in hospitals to cater to the needs of trans people.


C. Resolutions on political campaigning
Environment Socialist Alliance tasks in the climate action movement
Resolution 1: That the Socialist Alliance prioritises building the climate emergency movement. We will continue to work with local, state and national climate groups and networks to build the grassroots climate movement. We seek to build a movement which can rapidly shift the mass of the population from ignorance, despair and passivity to enable the emergency action by the mass of ordinary people necessary to preserve a safe climate future. Resolution 2: That the Socialist Alliance recognises the disproportional negative impact of climate change on Third World countries, which has already led to mass displacement and the deaths of thousands of people. The Socialist Alliance will promote practical solidarity between the Australian climate change movement and climate activists from other countries, especially from the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, The Socialist Alliance will advocate that the climate movement publicly oppose the Australian government’s threat to withdraw aid from Pacific nations such as Tuvalu, which is campaigning internationally for stronger targets. Resolution 3: That the Socialist Alliance continues to oppose the CPRS, or any other emissions trading scheme for Australia, because such schemes delay the structural changes urgently needed to de-carbonise the economy. Resolution 4: That The Socialist Alliance supports the 2010 Climate Summit and will provide full support in order to make it a success. Resolution 5: That in its campaigning work, the Socialist Alliance continues to advocate fundamental social change as a necessary answer to the threat of climate change. This includes campaigning for our current policy positions, including the need for public ownership of key sectors of the economy.


A ‘Green Ban’ for Caroona
A group of farmers at Caroona, near Gunnedah in NSW, are currently fighting to protect their farmland from being mined. This is the “frontier” of the current massive expansion of coal exports. Caroona is home to a giant flat valley with

deep, rich soil and vast underground aquifers, meaning the land is extremely productive and ostensibly drought proof. The Socialist Alliance calls upon the unions whose members would be employed to work in Caroona, most predominately the CFMEU, to place a “green ban” on the project. The loud opposition to this project is broad and deeply felt within the community and this action would set an important precedent for community/ union campaigning. The Socialist Alliance recognises that this action would be a brave one on the part of the unions. We call upon the ACTU and Farmers Federation Fighting Fund to extend the legal assistance, currently being used for legal action against the project, to defend the unions involved against any legal actions taken by them during this campaign.

On Lake Cowal
The Socialist Alliance calls upon the NSW government to order the closure of the Lake Cowal open pit goldmine. The mine is operated by Canadian company Barrick gold. The mine uses in sodium cyanide and other process chemicals which end up in a tailings dam. The tailings dam subsequently has the potential to release poisonous dust containing cyanide, arsenic and cadmium into the air which could contaminate agricultural land in the region. Lake Cowal is itself an ephemeral lake, which is periodically subjected to major flooding. The lake is a wetland of international significance – home and breeding ground to thousands of water birds when full, including numerous endangered species. There exists a very real danger that during a flood season the tailings dam may burst its banks and contaminate the Kalara/Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers and ultimately a major section of the Murray Darling Basin. The mine itself draws vast amounts of water from underground aquifers, however the Murray Darling basin is strained and cannot support unnecessary thirsty projects such as the mine.


The Mooka and Kalara families of the Wiradjuri nation are custodians of the lake and are vehemently opposed to the mine. The Mooka and Kalara people have waged a sustained campaign to have the mine stopped and closed. Lake Cowal is described as the “sacred heartland” of the Wiradjuri nation and is home to culturally significant artifacts. The Socialist Alliance supports the Mooka and Kalara peoples quest to assert their sovereignty over Lake Cowal, and calls for the mine to be closed and a full rehabilitation of the site to be carried out at the expense of Barrick Gold, under the direction of the traditional owners.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights On the Socialist Alliance’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights work
The Socialist Alliance Seventh National Conference acknowledges the important historical role socialists have played in major struggles for Aboriginal rights throughout the last century. Through our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter, we commit ourselves to continuing in this tradition, supporting and championing Aboriginal self-determination and Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs, while linking Aboriginal struggles to other movements, especially the trade union movement. The Socialist Alliance also recognises the times where the left historically failed to adequately support Indigenous struggle. Aboriginal affairs constitute one of the moral weaknesses of the Rudd government. Actions speak louder than words and hopes raised by the apology on February 13, 2008, have been betrayed by the continuation and expansion of the Northern Territory intervention. The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, a national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is being established from above and does not have any credibility amongst Aboriginal activists who denounce it as a toothless waste of time without a legitimate mandate. This representative body and recent “consultations” with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, which did not allow those attending to properly voice their opinions, are just two examples of how government policy has turned back to assimilation. The federal government is coming under increasing fire, including growing international criticism, for its expansion and continuation of racist policies of the previous Coalition government. In August, UN Human Rights Rapporteur Professor James Anaya said measures like compulsory income management, imposition of compulsory leases and community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography “overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples’’. A statement released by another UN Human Rights Rapporteur in December finds that equal access to primary healthcare facilities is lacking, sometimes due to lack of transportation and communication infrastructure, but more


often due to direct discrimination and culturally inappropriate services being provided. Conference recognises the emergence of new national Aboriginal leadership, especially through the campaign against the Northern Territory intervention. Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and across the country have come together to condemn the intervention, and this new leadership is slowly consolidating. The Socialist Alliance pledges to provide support, space and resources for further development. The Socialist Alliance’s Work in 2010 Aboriginal Rights Coalitions Branches in cities with existing and healthy Aboriginal rights coalitions will assess whether they have the resources to participate in these and do so if possible. Trade union work 78 We recognise the importance of the union movement becoming more involved in the Aboriginal rights movement, and will use our presence in unions and on union bodies to strengthen this relationship. The Socialist Alliance will take the opportunity provided by the interest unions have displayed in the Ampilatwatja walk-off, for example, to get in touch with, or work closer with, unions and unionists we weren’t otherwise working with. Climate Emergency Movement The Socialist Alliance recognises that an important alliance exists between Aboriginal and environmental activists, especially in the context of the climate crisis. The Socialist Alliance commits to consciously strengthen this alliance. International solidarity Through Green Left Weekly, and our contacts among the international left, we will seek to establish links between Aboriginal people involved in the various campaigns and revolutionaries and Indigenous activists around the world, especially across Latin America.

Education Launching the new book by Terry Townsend and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Charter provides an excellent opportunity for educationals and discussion with guest speakers in branches. Where appropriate and possible, the Socialist Alliance will campaign, through state education unions, for the provision of plaques to the placed within public schools that highlight the Indigenous community and language groups for their school. Branches should engage with the local Aboriginal community to host “Aboriginal Local History” education forums about culture, language and struggle in the local area and state. Campaign Priorities End the intervention The Northern Territory intervention continues to be the pointy end of Rudd Labor’s Aboriginal affairs policy: in fact it is Labor’s policy - the measures introduced as part of the intervention are quietly being rolled out across the country. For this reason, The Socialist Alliance sees the campaign to end the intervention as crucial, and we will continue to prioritise it. Concretely, we will:
• •


Build and participate in the national day of action on February 13, 2010, and the one on June 21, 2010 and any other mobilisations; Continue to support and publicise the Ampilatwatja walk-off and protest house project, through taking motions of solidarity and pledges for donations to unions, talking it up in our publications, websites etc, building any future national speaking tours and other publicity events; and Help strengthen union opposition to the Northern Territory intervention through taking motions to meetings, actively seeking union endorsement for and participation in any mobilisations, getting articles into union journals etc.

Initiate and participate in a “Macklin Watch” campaign, whereby The Socialist Alliance and other groups, where possible, hold actions, speakouts, and protests, alongside awareness-raising campaigns, whenever Labor Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin makes an appearance, with the aim to explain about Labor’s rotten Indigenous rights policies.

The Socialist Alliance (in conjunction with Resistance and campus solidarity and Aboriginal Rights Coalition groups where appropriate) will approach the Alyawarra people about the possibility of organising a “Bus Freedom Ride” in solidarity with the Ampilatwatja walk off to build the broadest solidarity with the Indigenous resistance to the Northern Territory Intervention. Stop Black Deaths in Custody Campaign The Socialist Alliance pledges our continued support and involvement in campaigns demanding justice for Mr Ward, Mulrunji, T.J. Hickey and others. In particular, The Socialist Alliance calls for:


The full implementation of the 339 recommendations of the 1987-91 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; Termination of the prison service contract between GSL/ G4S and the state of Western Australia, and a complete end to privatisation of custodial services; Compensation for the families of Mr Ward, Mulrunji, T.J. Hickey and all victims of deaths in custody; A new Royal Commission into the death of Mulrunji and other recent deaths in custody, in order to expose the role of the police, and help build momentum for serious charges against those involved in, or who attempted to cover up, a death in custody. An end to government policies and judicial system practices that result in criminalisation and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in prisons. The Socialist Alliance supports the work and demands of the Western Australian Deaths in Custody Watch Committee. The Socialist Alliance also supports the call for a February 14 National Day of Action for justice for T.J. Hickey.

• •

Campaign to stop the Brighton Bypass in Tasmania The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign to stop the Brighton Bypass in Tasmania. The project, which goes through one of the richest areas of Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage should be stopped immediately and the demands of the Aboriginal community should be met to save the 15,000 year old heritage. Other campaigns Bilingual Education On October 14, 2008, then NT Minister Marion Scrymgour announced that the first four hours of education in all NT schools would be delivered in English, putting an end to 34 years of Bilingual Education (B.E.) in the Northern Territory. Ten B.E. programs have been discontinued. The Socialist Alliance supports the campaign to reintroduce B.E. programs in NT schools as this is a critical educational, human rights, and survival of culture issue. Muckaty waste dump 81 The Socialist Alliance also supports and will get involved in campaigns against the siting of a nuclear waste dump in Muckaty (120 km north of Tennant Creek). The traditional owners have expressed their opposition to such a waste dump yet the Labor government seems set to continue this proposal which the Howard government set in train. There may be other campaigns, such as around stolen wages in Queensland or new government attacks on ATSI rights, t hat emerge/gain momentum. The Socialist Alliance will be ready to assess these campaigns, support them and participate in them according to our assessment and resources at the time.

Trade union movement Socialists in the union movement
Preamble Role of trade unions The role of the trade unions is to defend the basic interest of the workers, such as working conditions and wages. Unions have come into being with capitalism itself as working class organisation of resistance to the exploitation workers faced by the bourgeoisie. The existence of unions also highlights a fundamental conflict of class interests inherit in the capitalist mode of production that strives forever for increasing profits at the expense of workers. Regarding industrial issues, the main tasks facing union militants in the movement are: 1. To achieve legislative change in favour of workers’ rights through mass campaigns 82 2. To fight attacks taking place at individual workplaces The Rudd government and Industrial Relations The election of the Rudd Labor government in 2007 on the back of the “Your Rights at Work” campaign and with the promise to rip up the Coalition government’s infamous Work Choices legislation (2005) has not brought any significant change in favour of workers and trade unions. The ALP’s new industrial relations regime “Fair Work Australia” (FWA) is a continuation of Work Choices with the aim to make unions redundant as representatives and bargaining agents for workers. FWA contains strict limitations on the right to organise, bargain and strike and has failed to restore unfair dismissal provisions to those prevailing before Work Choices. FWA still outlaws industry wide (pattern bargaining). Under FWA’s process of award modernisation, many awards are being stripped of hard-won conditions and entitlements, clearly putting many employees, especially women, at a disadvantage. All awards must include a ‘flexibility clause’ that allows for individual contracts.

FWA is designed to atomise the work force and isolate trade unions through secondary boycott legislation; is very costly to members and criminalises industrial action through the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). To date, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has supported FWA. The notorious Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues to exist and persecute building workers like Ark Tribe for refusing to answer questions about industrial action. In 2010 the ABCC will be replaced by a new building industry inspectorate, which will essentially retain many of the coercive powers of the ABCC. Labor’s plans to harmonise all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws into one set of new laws poses a serious threat to current OHS legalisation in Victoria and New South Wales in particular. The new set of laws is designed to take away some hard-fought-for rights and minimise the power of OHS representatives to make important and potentially life-saving decisions. At the same time negligent bosses get away with murder because of the absence of industrial manslaughter legislation Global Economic Crisis The Global Economic Crisis (GEC) has been very effectively used for a range of anti-worker measures by employers and the government. Pressure has been put on individual workers and unions to accept wage restraint, reduce their working days (“down days”) and annual leave—at their own expense. The ACTU has supported the “down-day” model “to save jobs” when in fact this short-sighted measure helps save businesses, not jobs. There has been minimal resistance to this pressure by most union leaderships due to a combination of their inability to counter the boss’s arguments; their class collaborationist position; their fear of job cuts and their inability to envisage how a militant campaign could win. Wages and Equal Pay, parental leave According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1999-2000, the richest 20% of income units received 48.5% per cent of total income. The poorest 20% of income units received less than 4% of total income.


The situation for women is even worse. In May 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics calculated that women earn 7.4% less then men for full time employment; in industry sectors this gap can be as large as 30%. Taking into account part-time and casual work, the total gap is actually 35%. Australia is one of only two OECD countries without some form of paid maternity leave. We have witnessed a back pedalling by the Rudd government on the question of parental leave (citing the Global Economic Crisis), leaving Australian women and parents with a highly inadequate scheme Minimum wage The current minimum wage is set at $543.78 a week before tax. On July 7, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (FPC) ruled out a pay increase citing the Global Economic Crisis as the key factor. Adjusting for inflation and a rise in living costs, the “wage freeze” imposed by Harper amounts to a pay cut in real terms for workers. In its submission to the FPC, the federal government did not advocate an increase in dollar terms but warned that a higher minimum wage increase is likely to encourage higher wage claims and outcomes in workplace bargaining negotiations, and hence flow-on to a greater number of employees. The Federal government was referring to a number of large certified agreements due to expire in 2009 in car manufacturing, construction and the retail sector. It is highly likely that a decent minimum wage increase would also increase the bargaining power of these workers and lead to a better wage outcome. Unions and the ALP The Your Rights at Work campaign was rapidly demobilised after Rudd’s election victory in 2007, which weakened the ability to fight Labor’s unfair FWA. Sections of the union movement thought that Labor would get rid of Work Choices. It is only now that Labor’s Fair Work Act is in place that the union movement is beginning to realise how inadequate it is. Trade unions’ traditional links and affiliations to the ALP have undermined and compromise union leaderships ability and willingness to fight for workers


interests. The election of a federal Labor government has put this into a new light. Most trade union officials are reluctant to criticise the federal ALP and therefore also to mobilise against its industrial relations regime. They do not want to embarrass the party (although this is not always the case at the state level). With some notable exceptions, unions have focused their energy on lobbying politicians with little positive outcome for their members. In the meantime attacks have continued and intensified, such as against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) in Victoria. These attacks not only come from the bosses but also government officials and agencies and also other unions. This union orientation to the ALP, combined with the leaderships’ lack of a strategic view on the way forward, has led to some demoralisation among the more militant officials and union members. 85 The ACTU has been increasingly exposed as a simple mouthpiece for the ALP. Union resistance/responses to Rudd However, tensions between the union movement and Labor governments have grown over the last two years with Rudd’s refusal to break with Howard’s anti worker regime. At a state level, the NSW and Queensland government’s attempts to privatise public assets has met with some resistance from the union movement. The campaign in Queensland, which has been led by the Electrical Trades Union, has been more broad-based than that in NSW, where it led to a compromise supported by much of the union movement. The decline in the organising strength of unions is being exploited by Labor machines. We have also seen important struggles take place, such as the National Tertiary Education Union’s fight against federal government attempts to further casualise and privatise the higher education sector. The Victorian CFMEU and AMWU took on construction giant Holland during the “Westgate Bridge’ dispute over critical employment standards and the right for those two unions to organise on Holland’s site. The Victorian branch of the AMWU has

also successfully fought employer attempts to use Labor’s mandatory “flexibility” arrangements to introduce individual contracts through the back door. The national campaign to abolish the ABCC and drop charges against Ark Tribe is also still continuing. Militant unionism and independence from ALP Most workers would today question the value and the point of being affiliated to the ALP if given the chance by their unions. Some unions have cried foul in NSW over government selections of cabinet members etc, and have announced they will not pay party fees. The ETU in Victoria has already started to fund election candidates other than ALP picks. But these moves still fall short of even the limited steps made by some British unions to break with Labor and re-establish a political voice for workers. Workers are still prepared to take action and follow their union leadership when it leads. Two recent examples in Geelong where workers took action were over the sacking of council workers and at the Geelong Hospital where 24 workers were to be sacked before Christmas. In both case workers walked off the job in wild cat strikes and won their demands within a day or two. It is not always as simple as this but it does demonstrate that where unions lead and train their members action is possible and victory for workers is more often than not the result. Unionists and climate change A CSIRO study indicated that 2.7 million jobs could be created in Australia over the next 15 years in any switch to a low-carbon economy and the deployment of renewable energy; and this is a conservative estimate. The majority of union leaderships have, in general, not taken up climate change in a serious way with its members. Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes and CFMEU mining and energy division president Tony Maher are outspoken in their support for the bosses’ and the government’s go-slow agenda on climate change. Howes’ push for a nuclear option as a solution to climate change might well get a hearing amongst many workers.


Yet, while the ACTU as given uncritical support to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme (CPRS), many individual union leaders unofficially support green jobs and a transition to renewable energy. Resolution 1. The Socialist Alliance recognises the important role socialists play in the trade union movement to defend and extend workers interests and is committed help build resistance in a range of unions. 2. The Socialist Alliance recognises the limitations of trade unions vis-a-vis building a working class alternative beyond capitalism. The Socialist Alliance is committed to fight alongside fellow workers for industrial and immediate economic rights plus engage in the political struggle to build consciousness beyond reformism. 3. As part of this political struggle the Socialist Alliance members commit to introduce and support non-industrial issues, such as Indigenous rights, climate change, women’s rights and anti-war – building solidarity with broader sections of the community and also internationally 4. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the balance of power within the trade union movement favours ALP politics, class-collaboration and narrow national interests. At the same time we recognise that a substantial section of trade union activists either feel betrayed by Labor or are opposed to Labor. The Socialist Alliance is committed to keep working with and strengthening the militant class struggle wing of the union movement. 5. The Socialist Alliance opposes Fair Work Australia and will actively promote and support actions that contest its legitimacy including participating in workplace struggles and union campaigns which work towards the abolition of all anti-worker laws and which strengthen the ability of workers to organise independently. 6. The Socialist Alliance continues its opposition to the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the task force, and calls for the abolition of all coercive and penal powers over workers. We also condemn the broadening of these powers to other industries and strongly reject the discrimination against honest working people.


7. Members of the Socialist Alliance commit to arguing for industrial action by unions and their members in the event of any convictions arising out of these unjust powers (including fines and/or imprisonment, e.g. Ark Tribe). 8. The Socialist Alliance recognises the crucial importance of building the climate change movement within unions, both at a policy level, but also at a grass-roots activist level. Our task is to win workers and union leaderships to understand the necessity of taking action on climate change to help this movement win its demands for public ownership, green jobs and sustainable renewable energy. To this end, The Socialist Alliance commits to developing a policy on green jobs before the end of February 2010. 9. The Socialist Alliance will work towards establishing a Trade Union Training College, initially providing a yearly union summer school. Building the Socialist Alliance 1. The Socialist Alliance will continue with its task to build rank-and-file bases in unions to draw rank-and-file activists towards class struggle activism and socialism. We also project to provide leadership and rank and file organising within unions as workplace delegates and where strategically useful, to stand as elected officials and to contest leadership positions 2. The Socialist Alliance is committed to encourage members to get jobs were we can do effective trade union work and help build a class struggle wing, (for example in the education sector) 3. The Socialist Alliance is committed to continue organising on a union sectoral basis and coordinate our activity on a national level 4. The Socialist Alliance pledges to use Green Left Weekly in the trade union movement as a tool to inform workers and union activists of government industrial relations policy, workplace and unions struggles and in order to promote the solutions put forward by the Socialist Alliance. 5. The Socialist Alliance will update the Charter of Workers Rights in light of the continuing attacks on working people since the election of the Rudd ALP federal government. We will also prioritise the development of a brief leaflet outlining our class struggle approach to unionism for use in campaigning for the coming federal election.


Pay equity campaign
1. The National Trade Union Committee of the Socialist Alliance will facilitate the co-ordination of the Socialist Alliance members working in the Social and Community Services (SACS) industry into an Australian Services Union (ASU) Caucus. 2. The Socialist Alliance branches and members in regional areas will support campaigning activity by local ASU campaigning committees, e.g. by distributing printed material, petitions on the Socialist Alliance campaigning stalls, providing forums for discussion etc 3. Collectives organising activities for International Women’s Day are urged to include pay equity as a demand for IWD 2010 and to have ASU speakers leading the campaign included on platforms for IWD Rallies and Marches around Australia.

Occupational Health and Safety law ‘harmonisation’
89 The Socialist Alliance believes that the process of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Legislation “harmonisation” initiated by the ALP government is likely to lead to a substantial reduction in health and safety protections for thousands of Australian workers. The review is intended to develop a single “optimal structure and content of a model OHS act” that is capable of being adopted in all jurisdictions, thereby replacing existing State and Territory OHS Acts. The draft model legislation released in November 2009, undermines key aspects of some existing State and Territory legislation. The Socialist Alliance believes that all Australian workers should have the same level of OHS protection regardless of the industry and State or Territory they work in. However the harmonised of OHS system should not leave any worker worse off and must deliver Australian workers the highest standards. The draft model legislation attacks health and safety rights in the following areas: a) It complicates and frustrates the rights of occupational health and safety representatives on the job. Their legal liabilities will be increased and there is

no guarantee of paid training. Despite the fact that they are volunteers and workplace representatives, bosses will have the right to apply for their removal, and in certain circumstances they may have to front court to pursue OHS claims. The capacity for on the job delegates to identify issues, seek remedy and order a stop work where safety is compromised, is fundamental to ensuring a safe workplace. b) The onus of proof—which at present falls on the employer—is to be reversed in the proposed legislation. It will be up to prosecutors from Safe Work Australia to prove that employers failed to take reasonable action to prevent a workplace injury or death, rather than the responsibility of bosses to show that they did. By reversing the onus of proof, the draft legislation encourages bosses to frustrate investigations, cover up accidents and stay silent. c) Unions are critical in enforcing health and safety standards. The proposed regime for Right of Entry under the Model OHS Laws will serve to frustrate site entry by union representatives by creating complicated processes, which will undermine the capacity for union officials to address OHS concerns quickly. In high-risk industries this will cost lives. The 24 hours’ notice will have to be given before inspecting sites or documents related to an OHS breach. This could allow time for a boss to cover up the evidence. d) Union and victims’ ability to initiate litigation. The draft legislation means that the power to prosecute breaches of the law rests solely with the regulator. The capacity for unions and victims to prosecute is essential because regulators have proven to rarely pursue prosecutions in “near misses” or breaches that result in non-catastrophic injuries. The NSW and ACT legislation currently allows for private prosecutions. Removal of this right is also inconsistent with the criminal law in most jurisdictions where citizens can prosecute criminal offences. It also serves to handcuff unions from bringing proceedings for breaches under workplace laws. The capacity for unions to prosecute where the regulator has failed to do so is essential in deterring employers ignoring OHS considerations.


Anti-war and international solidarity On the Socialist Alliance’s Latin America solidarity work
1. Preamble: The development of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela is a leading factor in the growing anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements across Latin America. As such, building solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez is a centrepiece of socialists’ Latin America solidarity activity. In Australia, the AustraliaVenezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), as a broad coalition of organisation affiliates and individual activists organised through local committees, is currently the most effective vehicle for extending and strengthening solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution. Resolution: That the Socialist Alliance help to build the AVSN by actively supporting its national projects, including speaking tours, conferences and solidarity brigades to Venezuela, and strive to help set up or build AVSN committees in each city where there is a Socialist Alliance branch and the resources available. Socialist Alliance branches should affiliate to AVSN where possible. 2. Preamble: The construction—led by the Cuban, Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions—of a strengthening anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist bloc in Latin America through regional integration projects such as ALBA, the Bank of the South, etc, is an important development in world politics that must be reflected in the left’s approach to building Latin America solidarity today. This developing cooperation between left and revolutionary governments and peoples in the region is a major challenge to imperialist domination in Latin America and globally, and is provoking an imperialist counter-offensive (e.g., Honduras coup, new military bases in Colombia, etc). Resolution: That the Socialist Alliance strive to strengthen united action in solidarity with all progressive forces and processes in Latin America by participating in or initiating campaigns in solidarity with specific peoples/governments under attack by imperialism, and participating in or initiating broader Latin America solidarity coalitions wherever possible, such as the Latin America Social Forum in Sydney, the Latin America Forum


Melbourne, Canberra Latin America Forum and the Latin America Solidarity Conferences, as well as LA organisations such as the FMLN and URNG. 3. Preamble: In addition to helping to build independent Latin America solidarity organisations and networks, The Socialist Alliance, as the largest socialist organisation in Australia, has an important role to play in linking the struggles and advances for socialism in Latin America and the anti-capitalist struggle in Australia. The processes taking place in Latin America are not separate from the struggles of the working class and oppressed in Australia, and through its activities in many progressive campaigns and movements in Australia, as well as in Latin America solidarity networks, the Socialist Alliance can build links between these struggles. This will strengthen both the Latin America solidarity campaigns and the left in Australia. We also need to look to take Latin America solidarity work into other areas, such as the mainstream media. Resolution: That this national conference endorse the formation of a Socialist Alliance Latin America solidarity work committee to meet as needed to nationally coordinate Alliance members’ solidarity work, and which will report and be accountable to the National Executive. Further, that all Socialist Alliance branches be encouraged to establish a local Latin America solidarity work committee to coordinate local members’ work and report to the branch in this area of activity as needed. 4. Preamble: Green Left Weekly’s excellent reporting and analysis of the political developments and processes in Latin America, in particular in Venezuela, and its unique status as the only Australian media with a permanent bureau in Latin America, makes it a highly valuable resource for strengthening Latin America solidarity in Australia. Resolution: That Socialist Alliance members’ active in Latin America solidarity work promote the purchase of Green Left Weekly subscriptions by all Latin America solidarity organisations and activists. To assist that, and help strengthen Latin America solidarity in Australia, The Socialist Alliance will continue to collaborate with other member organisations of the Latin America Social Forum to produce and distribute a regular Spanish-language supplement in Green Left Weekly. In the first place, we should seek to organise meetings to


launch the second Green Left Weekly Latin America supplement, due in the first part of this year. 5. Preamble: The call from the International Meeting of Left Parties held in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 19-21, for discussions to begin to found a “Fifth Socialist International” marks a significant step forward for strengthening anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist unity in action at a time when the massive crises of capitalism demand it. For organisations like the Socialist Alliance, which since its formation has striven for greater left unity in Australia, progress towards greater left and socialist cooperation and coordination internationally will assist our aims and struggles. Resolution: That this conference endorse the decision of The Socialist Alliance National Executive meeting on December 3, 2009, that “The Socialist Alliance support the “Caracas Commitment”, the declaration of the International Meeting of Left Parties held in Caracas on November 19-21, 2009”, and “support the special resolution adopted by the International Meeting of Left Parties to convene a working group and conference to prepare for the founding of the Fifth Socialist International, and participate in whatever ways possible in the preparatory discussions and meetings”. Additional resolutions 6. Strengthen ties between the Latin American revolutions and the Indigenous rights movement in Australia, including visits between Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador and Aboriginal Australia. 7. Strengthen links between Latin American revolutions and the environment movement in Australia, including continuing to publicise sustainable Cuba example. 8. The Socialist Alliance to publish a pamphlet containing Latin American revolutionaries’ speeches to Copenhagen Conference, plus Fidel’s columns. 9. To note proposal for New Zealand Bolivarian Solidarity Conference in Auckland, September 2010. 10. Support strengthening of solidarity work with Bolivia, including possible future visits, and investigate possibility of solidarity brigade(s).


11. Support the Free the Cuba Five Committee sponsored tour of Australia in March 2010. 12. To add a special resolution on Honduras: The Socialist Alliance condemns the military coup and fraudulent presidential election in Honduras in 2009. Arising from the Open Letter to Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, initiated by Green Left Weekly, we call on the Australian government to:
• •

Join governments across the world by clearly denouncing the coup and demanding Manuel Zelaya be immediately restored as president; Cut all diplomatic, political, cultural or economic ties that the Australian government may have with Honduras until Zelaya is reinstated; Join the Organisation of American States in refusing to recognise the outcome of the fraudulent November 29 presidential election; Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners; and Pressure the United States administration to act on its previous verbal criticisms of the coup and cut all ties with the coup regime, and end its ongoing training of the Honduran military.

• •


Afghanistan anti-war work
The Socialist Alliance will continue to promote our position of calling for the troops to leave Afghanistan, given that this is Australian imperialism’s main overseas troop deployment. Specifically, we need to: • • Help initiate and support national protests on and around the anniversary of the invasion, October 8, Seek to continue to broaden the discussion within the union movement and other social movements about joining the call for the Australian troops to leave.

Consider snap actions if the Rudd government announces a new troop deployment to Afghanistan.

Palestine solidarity work
The Socialist Alliance will continue to seek out opportunities to build the solidarity with Palestine movement, in particular in the union movement. This includes promoting the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign – in particular the institutional and academic boycott. We will also continue to work with Palestinian Solidarity groups on campus, including Students for Palestine committees.

Tamil solidarity work
The Socialist Alliance will continue to look out for opportunities to link up in solidarity with communities under siege from their national ruling classes, backed by imperialism. We support the self determination struggle of the Tamil people, up to and including their right to form their own state. All Tamil people held in internment camps must be immediately released and allowed to return to their homes free from the threat of violence or arrest. International media organisations, as well as international aid organisations must be allowed into Sri Lanka immediately. If the Sri Lankan government continues the war against Tamil people, then the Australian government must withdraw all financial and diplomatic support to the government. We will continue to support Tamil events as well as hosting Tamil activists at ours and other left events and functions in an effort to publicise their campaign for justice and break down prejudices among sections of the progressive movement. Support the international initiative for a people’s tribunal, organised by the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka and the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, to bring the Sri Lankan war criminals to justice. Specifically the People’s Tribunal will investigate the allegations that the government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil


Eelam. The Tribunal will also examine the local and international factors that led to the collapse of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement.

Coordinating anti-war work
The Socialist Alliance should continue to publicise the anti-war movement in Green Left Weekly and seek to use the paper to network with other activists in an effort to build the anti-war movement and to explain the causes of the wars in which Australia and other imperialist countries are involved. To better coordinate and evaluate our work, the Socialist Alliance will organise national anti-war activists hook-ups in 2010—either in concert with the Socialist Alliance National Executive, trade union comrades, or separately.


Women’s rights On women’s rights
Fighting for women’s liberation is an essential part of the socialist struggle and of liberation for all humanity. It is a critical aspect of our work in The Socialist Alliance – with our general positions on women’s oppression outlined in our women’s rights charter, the Gender Agenda. As the capitalist system experiences economic crisis, the effects are being borne disproportionately by women. Aside from being highly concentrated in low-wage, low-status, and less-unionised sectors of the workforce, women’s services have in recent years experienced serious funding cuts, including to abortion and crisis centres, women’s refuges, childcare, and also aged and disability care, education and health. Meanwhile, a 2009 United Nations report stated that the increased financial pressure is also having a flow-on effect in terms of domestic violence, as well as increasing the number of women remaining in abusive relationships due to the lack of affordable alternative accommodation, an inability to sell properties, and decreased support services. The question before us now is “How will women radicalise against these conditions, and will the crisis give rise to conditions that we can utilise to further the struggle for women’s rights as part of the broader fight-back?” Abortion rights Preamble The campaign to de-criminalise abortion is the primary women’s rights campaign mobilising people in Australia right now. The 2003 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes conducted by the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research, found that more than 80% of respondents supported a woman’s right to choose. This widespread public support for the right to access abortion services means that the campaign has a strong base to build on. However, the campaign to de-criminalise abortion nationally is very uneven because the grounds on which abortion is considered legal in Australia varies from state to state.


The ACT became the first state in Australia to legalise abortion when the procedure was removed from the criminal statute books altogether in 2002 after years of pro-choice campaigning. And last year Victoria passed legislation to decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks, moving abortion from the Crimes Act into the Health Act, after ongoing pro-choice mobilisations. In WA, after two doctors were charged with performing an “unlawful abortion” in 1998 under the WA Criminal Code, an intense pro-choice campaign was sparked that led to substantial changes to the WA legislation. However, abortion was not removed from the WA Criminal Code; rather it was amended. Abortion in the Northern Territory , The Socialist Alliance, and Tasmania is available, in restricted circumstances, while it remains apart of Crimes legislation. In NSW, there is an ongoing campaign to remove abortion from the Criminal Code. While that campaign has been somewhat exclusive in its composition, and the mobilisations have been small, the escalation of the Queensland campaign (in the face of a 19-year-old woman’s prosecution under Queensland’s abortion laws) has had a boosting effect on the NSW campaign. Queensland is widely considered to have the strictest law on abortion in the country. As many will be aware, in early September, a young Cairns woman was committed to trial on charges brought under the anti-abortion laws. The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ prison. Her partner will also face trial on charges that carry a maximum penalty of three years prison. Premier Bligh and the Queensland government have repeatedly claimed that the case is related to the importation of the drug allegedly used for the abortion. They are lying. The charges have been brought under the antiabortion laws, not drug-related law. This legal situation is not unique to Queensland. In all states and territories (with the exception of the ACT and Victoria), the danger of prosecution remains until abortion is a legal right instead of a criminal offence. Only then, when abortion is solely a health issue between a woman and her doctor, will the way be open to ensure free, accessible abortion services for all women. If the charges against the Cairns woman are upheld, the access to abortion that does exist in Queensland will be seriously threatened. It’s up to all supporters of women’s right to choose to raise their voices in protest. We must


make it politically untenable for the Queensland government to maintain their position of inaction – the charges against the Cairns couple must be dropped immediately, and we must raise our voices for the repeal of all anti-abortion laws in Queensland and around the country. Resolutions The Socialist Alliance calls for: • • • The full repeal of all anti-abortion laws in all states and all instances. The Queensland government to intervene to drop the charges against the Cairns couple. An end to compulsory counselling to those seeking abortion, from biased counselling services, and the provision of counselling services provided by the public health system where desired, provided by qualified clinical psychologists who are unbiased. Free, safe and accessible abortion on demand.

• 99

In addition, the Socialist Alliance commits to: • Helping build the pro-choice campaign to involve the broadest possible forces in order to activate the majority opinion in favour of a woman’s right to choose. Establishing a Socialist Alliance women’s rights committee in Queensland to co-ordinate our involvement in the burgeoning Queensland pro-choice campaign; and Utilise the Socialist Alliance women’s rights e-group to facilitate discussion within the Alliance on the pro-choice campaign.

Violence against women Preamble Police figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics show that domestic violence in Australia is on the rise. In 2007, 600 domestic Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) were issued in Newcastle, up from 490 in 2006. Port Stephens recorded a similar increase with 311 issued, up from 231 over the same period in 2006. In Queensland, in the first quarter of 2005, 6874 new cases of

domestic violence were reported. In the first quarter of 2009, it rose to 9739 new cases — a 42% rise in 4 years. Sexual violence against women is also receiving increased media attention at the moment. Of particular note are the gang rapes perpetrated by footballers, and the 14-year-old who revealed on radio, while hooked up to a lie detector, that her first sexual experience had been rape at age 12. The sad reality is that violence against women is prevalent in Australia. Australian women have a one in three chance of being raped during their lifetime; while one in four girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 and 80% of them will know their attacker. Domestic violence is now the most likely cause of preventable death for women under 45. It is also the leading cause of preventable disabilities and illnesses for women under 45. The rising rates of violence against women are made considerably worse by inadequate support services. government funding for women’s services is considerably less than it was a decade ago, despite the marked rise in demand. 100 This situation is the result of neoliberal funding cuts and a conservative antifeminist ideological campaign. Consecutive Australian governments have blamed domestic violence on individual family breakdowns and unhealthy relationships, rather than recognising the social basis of violence against women. A huge injection of public funding is needed to support essential crisis services for victims of domestic violence to prevent the needless death of so many women and children. Beyond that, the underlying causes of domestic violence — unemployment, insecurity, poverty, disadvantage and women’s financial dependence on male partners — have to be addressed. Collective opposition to attacks on women’s rights is the only force powerful enough to empower women, to change sexist social attitudes and stop all forms of violence against women. Resolutions The Socialist Alliance calls for: • Adequate funding for women’s services, and a growth in services available.

In addition, the Socialist Alliance commits to:

• •

Being involved in Reclaim the Night to focus on both violence against women and abortion rights Being involved in International Women’s Day, to focus on violence against women, abortion rights, pay equity, parental leave and childcare and, where possible, taking a leading role. Re-working our women’s rights charter (“Gender Agenda”) given the changing political situation, and to include the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on women in our workers’ rights material.


D. Resolutions related to the merger of the Democratic Socialist Perspective and its assets into the Socialist Alliance
On Green Left Weekly copy and campaigning
Green Left Weekly, now in its 19th year, has always been an attempt to unite and strengthen the dispersed, uneven radical politics in Australia. Green Left Weekly began its life as a regroupment project of the ecological and socialist currents in Australia when an organisational regroupment was not possible. In that sense, Green Left Weekly was conceived as a paper for the broader progressive movements: it was and is not a typical “party newspaper”. Green Left Weekly remains an independent progressive newspaper committed to reporting on the unfolding political, social and ecological developments across the globe. As such, socialists can accumulate support and respect from having regular input into its pages. 102 Resolution That the Socialist Alliance continues to support the Green Left Weekly project by: • Co-ordinating local copy committees as well as writing regular articles covering The Socialist Alliance’s policy positions and campaigns, and its weekly Our Common Cause column, as well as engaging in debates with others involved in the green and left movements; Supporting the regular weekly distribution of the paper, including helping organise a national and local distribution committees which are open to all supporters of Green Left Weekly; Promoting Green Left Weekly hard copy and e-subscriptions and solidarity subscriptions to The Socialist Alliance members and others in the progressive movements; and Encouraging other progressive organisations to make use of Green Left Weekly through supplements such as the Arabic-language supplement The Flame and the Latin America Social Forum Spanish supplement.

On financial arrangements
• That the Socialist Alliance will assume the national management and coordination of the financial arrangements that have operated in the past to facilitate the operations and activities of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP); That we encourage conference attendees and others to make a generous donation to the Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund to assist with the running costs of producing and distributing Green Left Weekly; That the 2010 Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund target be $300,000; That, in line with an ongoing serious and professional approach to finances, the Socialist Alliance launch a drive in early 2010 for regular financial contributions from members and supporters to the upkeep and running costs of local Resistance/Activist Centres; That, after the 7th National Conference, the Socialist Alliance National Executive appoint a National Finances Committee for the ongoing coordination of all aspects of Socialist Alliance finances; That this committee be under the direction of and accountable to the Socialist Alliance National Executive; That the Socialist Alliance transition finances committee cease to exist with the formation of the National Finances Committee. That we encourage members and supporters to take out a solidarity subscription to Green Left Weekly.

• •

• 103 • • •

On socialist ideas and education
1. The Socialist Alliance recognises that access to the educational assets and publishing resources of the DSP would be of benefit to all Socialist Alliance members as part of a wider exposure to all socialist perspectives. The Socialist Alliance may make use of the accumulated educational experience and assets of the DSP. 2. The Socialist Alliance establishes a educational committee with the task of facilitating access by all Socialist Alliance members to education and

published resources that inform them of a range of socialist ideas The range of socialist ideas discussed may be broader than Socialist Alliance policy which is set out in its adopted resolutions. 3. The Socialist Alliance political education committee should investigate the merits of proposing to the National Executive that it recommends that all branches form socialist ideas committees 4. The Socialist Alliance aims to encourage various forms of political, social and environmental education, so that members are able to take advantage of training and learning programs that may increase their understanding and raise consciousness. 5. The Socialist Alliance recognises that political, social and environmental educational resources will include discussions, forums, publications and multimedia techniques. 6. The Socialist Alliance recognises that large national conferences such as “Climate Change: Social Change” and “World at a Crossroads” are valuable events for education and promotion of socialist ideas. The Socialist Alliance will seek to organise or be involved in such events when practicable. In addition, the Socialist Alliance encourages states and branches to organise and hold socialist ideas forums when practicable, to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion of socialist ideas. 7. The Socialist Alliance seeks to make available the Links website ( as an information resource for all branches. 8. The Socialist Alliance may make recommendations to Resistance Books in line with its educational and political needs, and may make use of Resistance Books titles in its education programs. 9. The Socialist Alliance recognises the Marxist schools being organised in January 2010 as part of the broad range of educational activities that it offers its members. 10. To use the drafting of the proposed book on socialism to frame a discussion on socialist ideas in Socialist Alliance branches


E. Extraordinary resolution
Solidarity Greetings to Ark Tribe
To Ark, The 7th National Conference of the Socialist Alliance held in Sydney on Jan 25, 2010 sends solidarity greetings in appreciation of your courageous struggle against the unjust ABCC laws. Your fight against the attempts by governments and bosses to weaken the union movement provides inspiration to all workers. We stand with you in this struggle and our members commit to follow your lead and continue the fight until the charges against you have been dropped and the laws abolished. We will be helping to build rallies to support your case and calling on all of our comrades and work mates to join the struggle. We support your motto borrowed from Che Guevara: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” 105 All the best, comrade.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.