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|System Change Not Climate Change
|Tax the rich. 100% renewable energy.
|Upper House: New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia
Lower House: Corio, Fremantle, Leichhardt & Wills
|As might be expected, Socialist Alliances’ preference swing well to the left. The Greens are at number 2 in New South Wales and Queensland., followed by the Indigenous Aboriginal Party. No How-to-Vote cards have yet been submitted for Victoria and Western Australia.
|2010 — on Cate Speaks
Policies & Commentary
First of all, don’t let the name put you off. Conservative governments have done all too good a job of promoting Red Scare nonsense, but what you need to know about the Socialist Alliance (hereafter referred to as SA) is that it’s damn serious about its policies, and its vision for a better Australia. And it won’t require you to learn Chairman Mao’s little red book from cover to cover, either.
So let’s look at these policies.
We’ll start with the environment. Transition to 100% renewables within 10 years is a good start, presumably paid for by SA’s stated intention to end all subsidies for fossil fuels and mining.Thoughtfully, SA is also promising to guarantee jobs for workers who would be out of a job through these initiatives, although it doesn’t say how this guarantee will work. Given that SA wants to re-nationalise the power industries and mines, those workers could find themselves government employees. But then, again, the question arises as to how SA would pay for that. The new energy mix will not include nuclear power; SA is unequivocally opposed to uranium mining and use of nuclear material for power or weapons.
Besides its economic climate change policies, SA has a suite of environmental and social initiatives. Some of these are familiar to anyone who’s ever read a halfway decent environmental policy – no old-growth logging, reforestation, mine site rehabilitation, and employment of indigenous rangers. More interesting is the idea of a national ”heat health strategy”. With predicted global temperature rises of up to 2 degrees by 2050, plans to mitigate adverse heat effects will be crucial. The Victorian and South Australian governments both have comprehensive plans, and it would be potentially enlightening to compare SA’s proposal to those already in place. Unfortunately, there’s no detail.
The most exceptional part of SA’s climate policy calls for “asylum for climate refugees and those displaced by climate change.” Callously flippant hot-microphone comments from Peter Dutton aside, rises in sea levels and the resulting loss of land are already issues in some of the lowest-lying areas of the Pacific. Rising temperatures and extreme weather are also contributing to the problem, and displacement of huge numbers of people – even whole populations – are becoming increasingly likely. That SA even has an articulated climate refugee policy shows a recognition that climate change is not a future eventuality, but a reality the world is dealing with now. It’s entirely laudable – and, unfortunately, often missing from other candidates’ policy suites.
On the subject of refugees in general, SA is unequivocal. Increase our humanitarian intake, slashed in recent years to a mere 13,750 places. No boat turn-backs. No mandatory detention. Transit centres to be set up to process asylum seeker arrivals, including facilitating bridging visas and short-term accommodation. This policy is likely to be extremely popular with left-leaning voters, and extremely unpopular with right-leaning ones. Not content with completely changing the processing system, SA wants details about the abuse suffered by people in detention to be dragged out into the light, with protections for whistleblowers. It’s hard to find anything to criticise about this group of policies.
The generally humanitarian tone of SA’s poilicies continues in its human rights and anti-discrimination policies, although the inclusion of a policy to dismantle ASIO is rather the odd one out. The implication is that SA thinks the mere existence of the organisation is, in some way, a violation of rights. Not sure that argument really holds up, but it shouldn’t take away from a set of policies that attempt to balance individual freedom with protection from discrimination, and does a fairly good job of it, too.
On workers’ rights and social policies, the SA is squarely in its wheelhouse. Protection from wage theft, enshrining the right to industrial action and abolishing anti-union laws, restoration of penalty rates, and a minimum wage of $25 per hour (an increase of nearly $5 from the current rate) are the headliners for workers. There is some question as to whether some of these policies can be instituted federally, or whether they would be the province of the states. It’s a clear signal, though – along with its intention to impose huge taxes on the wealthy and big companies – that SA is absolutely on the workers’ side.
Hand in hand with these is a commitment to a Universal Basic Income, increases to welfare payments, and free childcare around the clock – which would be funded by yet another impost on business. SA also has plans to scrap income management altogether, and do away with so-called “mutual obligation,” restoring government-run employment services instead of the current privatised Job Network. Anyone who’s ever run afoul of work-for-the-dole would, no doubt, cheer loudly at the prospect of seeing it abolished, and quite rightly, too. At best, mutual obligation is make-work. At worst, it’s exploitation.
As SA’s policies go on, they only get better. There are absolute commitments to LGBTQIA+ rights including public funding for gender-affirming surgery and full adoption rights for queer parents. There’s a pledge to close the gender pay gap and protect and enshrine women’s reproductive choices. The NDIS gets nothing less than a top-to-bottom rebuild. Additionally – and here I need to stop and shout, “Finally!” – SA wants to see all infrastructure be made fully accessible.
It’s worth noting that SA is the only one I’ve seen in this election promising accessibility. They are to be congratulated for this – and every other party or Independent should, perhaps, ask themselves why they don’t think it’s important to make sure disabled people are not prevented from participating in life by something as simple and as insurmountable as a single step or an outward opening door.
There are many, many more social policies, and I encourage you to take a look. This is where SA’s strengths lie, in humanitarian, no one left behind guiding principles. It’s rare to see such an across-the-board commitment to making people’s lives safe, secure, and supported. A shame, then, that these are undermined by what can only be described as a punitive approach to taxation.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, SA wants a complete overhaul of the taxation system. The GST, Medicare levy, and negative gearing for investment properties, are all on the chopping block, as are the legislated “Stage 3 tax cuts.” Income tax under SA would be “steeply progressive,” which is great for those under the median wage, but the top tax rate SA wants for those earning over $200,000 a year is a whopping 70%. The super-rich would get a second whammy in the form of a wealth tax. Company tax would rise to 49%, and SA would institute an additional ”super-profits tax”.
It doesn’t take an economist to see that these policies are simply unworkable. No one outside SA is going to vote for a 70% tax, let alone legislate to snatch almost half of a company’s taxable income. Without these measures, many of SA’s other policies – for example, funding universal health care from general revenue – could not possibly be implemented. I’d like to think SA has built in the possibility of negotiation to these figures, but I’m very much afraid that voters will see these policies and that will be enough to turn them away altogether. And that is a real shame, because socially speaking, SA has some of the best policies I’ve seen so far this election.
Oh, and SA also has a Covid-19 policy. Brace yourselves, you might not be ready for this.
Free mass vaccination. Lifting of patents on vaccines. More capacity for PCR testing, and provision of free rapid tests. Paid leave for those affected by Covid or the need to isolate, and job protection if – heaven forfend – Australia ever needs to institute another lockdown. A good program of public health education. Prevention of Covid-positive people being pressured to work while infectious. And installation of Covid-preparation measures such as HEPA filtration, airflow, and masks, in schools and essential workplaces, similar to measures instituted by state governments.
After wading through page after page of anti-vax “plandemic”-hoax hysteria (and aware there’s more to come), I can’t tell you how relieved I am that SA has a clear, sensible, community-focused approach to dealing with Covid.
So there we have it. A whole suite of truly excellent social policies, a mix of aspirational and practical environmental policies, and some economic policies that are never going to see the inside of a legislative chamber. You could do far worse than to vote for a Socialist Alliance presence on the cross-benches, especially if we do end up with a hung Parliament.
Just a reminder that Loki and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂