Australia: Socialist Alliance celebrates its first electoral victory
October 18, 2009 -- Newly elected local municipal councillor Sam Wainwright summarised what he saw as the significance of his election to the Fremantle Council, in the state of Western Australia (WA): “It’s a victory for all those like me who believe that the council can and should play an active role in involving people in decision making, protecting the environment, campaigning for workers' rights and making a place in the community for people who are too often left out, such as Indigenous Australians and people with disabilities.”
Wainwright is a co-convenor of Socialist Alliance in Western Australia and an activist in the Maritime Union of Australia. He said, “I’m the first socialist elected to public office in WA for a long time, if not ever. Most candidates for council try to appeal to the middle ground and keep their political affiliations quiet. I don’t believe in that approach. I think it’s better to be upfront about your beliefs. Throughout the campaign I emphasised that I was a staunch socialist, unionist and environmentalist.”
He added, “I didn’t expect everyone to sign up to everything I stand for. But I did ask people to believe that I would be a hard working campaigner for their rights. I’m really grateful and humbled that so many people have shown their confidence in me and saw my background as a positive.”
Wainwright thanked the diverse range of people who supported his campaign. “Active support came from all sorts of places: members of the Socialist Alliance, the Greens and the ALP all pitched in; many unionists and community activists helped out; and last but not least, everyday residents who don’t wear a political label but want to see the sort of change that we talked about in the campaign. The election result belongs to these people and I know that the hard work now begins.”
Commenting on the Fremantle mayoral election Wainwright said, “With three Greens members running for mayor I was worried that they would takes votes from each other and allow a more conservative candidate to win. However Brad Pettit’s win was emphatic and I extend my congratulations to him for his strong and vibrant campaign. There has been a real changing of the guard on the council and I expect there will be some passionate and intense debate about the future of Fremantle. I think this is a good thing and will be arguing my case like everyone else. At the same time I pledge to work constructively with the rest of council where we can find common ground on the way forward.”
Victory by 100 votes
At the October 17 poll in the seaside city, not far from the Perth, Western Australia's capital, Wainwright topped the poll with 438 votes (33.44%) -- more than 100 more votes than his nearest competitor and enough to put him over the line for the Hilton Ward of Fremantle Council. (The official election results can be read here.) Under new, undemocratic first-past-the-post local government electoral laws in WA, Wainwright was elected as the candidate with the most votes. The Greens decided not to stand against Wainwright.
Of the six new Fremantle councillors elected there is one member of the Australian Labor Party, two Greens, two independents and one Socialist Alliance. However under WA electoral law local government candidates can not formally run for political parties and Wainwright was the only candidate to declare his political affiliations in his campaign material.
In the mayoral poll of six candidates, Greens member Brad Pettit triumphed with more than 45% of the vote, well in front of two fellow Greens Michael Martin and Jon Strachan. Both Pettit and Strachan were endorsed by the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.
Issues that Wainwright campaigned on included: making Fremantle a “fight climate change” council; better public transport, including linking Fremantle to Beaconsfield, Hilton and Samson with buses; for council and community workers’ rights; maintaining the area's beaches, parks and green spaces for everyone; for rates based on ability to pay, not just house value; and council democracy.
At a victory celebration on October 17, Wainright told supporters that this victory was for the whole Socialist Alliance and the diverse supporters of his campaign. He was proud that this campaign had been successful while being fully open about his socialist, environmentalist and unionist convictions.
Wainwright is the first Socialist Alliance member to be elected to a local government position in Australia. For more on how the campaign was conducted, please visit http://www.samforhilton.blogspot.com/ and http://www.socialist-alliance.org/perth.
Messages of solidarity and congratulations can be left at http://samforhilton.blogspot.com/2009/10/victory-for-sam-by-100-votes.html.