Across the world, from Manchester to Minneapolis, from Mexico City to Melbourne, people are embracing socialism. They’re workers from the old industries, young people in precarious jobs, students on the poverty line, single parents and seniors living on benefits, Indigenous people pushing back against colonialism, migrants and recent arrivals facing racism and exclusion, women and LGBTIQ people changing the world. After decades being told by the right that capitalism and the market was the only alternative, and years being told by the centre-left to be polite and make small demands, a global movement has said Enough! The popularity of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the United States shows that people want an alternative to the mainstream, establishment politics.
Since the turn of the millennium, global capitalism has delivered us wars leaving millions dead and displaced, a financial crash throwing many tens of millions into poverty, and a relentless rise in profits and power for the wealthy. To fight this, we’ve been asked to accept the leadership of people who are part of the system and dedicated to its preservation, and of parties with no fight in them, no willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with those on the street.
Now we’re fighting back.
The right’s propaganda doesn’t work anymore: millions want a society that works for people. We want large-scale public ownership of key industries, equal and free access to world class healthcare and education, cities where everyone can afford secure and good housing; we want the right to strike, and the guarantee of workers’ rights; we want people in power who will fight racism, reject law and order myths, and extend women’s and LGBTIQ rights. We want a fight against climate change that puts a critique of capitalism, a system literally capable of destroying life on earth, at its centre.
We want socialism, and we’re fighting for it.
We’re the Victorian Socialists, united and campaigning in a range of seats in the upcoming election in Victoria, on November 24. With your support, we can win, and then we’ll fight on the streets and in Spring Street for a state run for people, not the powerful.
Our number one candidate for the Upper House seat of Northern Metro (which runs from the CBD through the north to South Morang and Craigieburn) is Stephen Jolly. Currently a Yarra City councillor (for the past fourteen years), Stephen has been a campaigner in innumerable struggles in Melbourne for decades. From the fight to stop Jeff Kennett’s cuts in the 1990s, through urban struggles on housing, services and city living, to support for the CUB maintenance workers’ struggle to keep their jobs and conditions, Stephen has stood shoulder to shoulder with those who want a better city and a better life.
Our number two candidate, Sue Bolton, is currently a socialist councillor for Moreland, a veteran of left political struggles in Queensland, and has been a tireless activist and worker for the people of Melbourne’s north-west for decades on housing, healthcare, Indigenous and other issues.
Our number three candidate, Colleen Bolger, is a Melbourne lawyer who represents people with asbestos-related diseases. She is also a workplace delegate with the Australian Services Union (ASU).
Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. We can afford a decent society. We can afford fast, frequent and expanded public transport. We can afford to build needed schools and hire more teachers. We can afford more mental health- and childcare services. We can afford more public housing. And we can afford to transition to renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions.
But to do so, we must change course.
Corporations should pay more taxes, rents and levies. Property developers should be forced to build amenities and infrastructure with the houses and units they construct. Our key industries should be put back into public hands and put to work to benefit all of us – not the bank accounts of their owners. We must rip up all the deals that give our money to big companies.
Millions of people have been left behind. Living costs are up while wages are down. House prices have skyrocketed while public housing is sold off. The roads are jammed and public transport is a mess.
The politicians, Labor and Liberal alike, sold our assets – our electricity, our roads, our ports and more. They gave corporations more power and made everything “user pays”. They told us that the free market would make us all better off. It was a pack of lies.
The top 1 percent of Australians now own more wealth than the bottom 70 percent. Millions of low-waged workers and those on benefits struggle to pay rent, buy food, medication and other necessities week on week. One third of parents skip meals so their kids get three meals a day.
In parts of Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs, unemployment is 25 percent – a social crisis that the politicians won’t address.
Part-time and casual jobs have replaced full-time work, and there are endless attacks on unions. Those who get decent employment struggle with rising rents or massive mortgages. And students have to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in education debts.
Many young people will never own a home, or have secure housing. They will struggle from week to week for years to come, or for the rest of their lives. For those on Centrelink or in public housing, the situation is worse. Payments have gone backwards for decades. It is impossible to live on the dole.
The Australian economy is a heist. All the wealth and all the things we need are created by us – retail and hospitality workers, labourers, drivers, cleaners, warehouse pickers, educators and health professionals.
Companies rake in ever greater profits. But their privatised services deliver less and less. The government throws money at the energy companies, train companies and banks. But we pay through the nose for power, we’re squeezed onto overcrowded trains and we’re ripped off by big finance. Then they turn around and tell us to blame each other for the problems they have caused. Blame migrants. Blame “dole bludgers”. Blame Aboriginal people. Blame anyone but the real culprits.
If they can’t get us to blame each other, they try to distract us. They want us to worry about our Muslim neighbours. They want us to worry about refugees coming by boat. They want us to think that gays, lesbians and trans people are undermining our way of life.
Migrant workers, refugees and Muslims are slandered in the media, are smeared by the Liberals as undeserving, as criminal gangs or as terrorists, and are unfairly targeted by police. Millions are spent arming the police with more dangerous weapons and billions are wasted on prisons – money that could otherwise be spent addressing real social problems.
A socialist in parliament will stand with the people, not the powerful. The Victorian Socialists want a city and a state which works for everyone. We want a state where working class people have job security, affordable housing, good services and a good education. We want a state where everyone, regardless of age or identity, can flourish and pursue the best life possible.
Victorian Socialists will campaign for:
A whole-of-state jobs and industry plan.
Decent affordable housing for all.
An expanded public transport system that works.
Communities that can resist racism and over-policing.
Better schools, with no hidden costs to parents, in every neighbourhood.
More parks and green space.
Union rights to organise.
Public ownership of the power and public transport companies.
The creation of a Great Forest National Park and a transition from old-growth logging to plantation timbers and replaceable products.
A massive public investment program to make the Latrobe Valley a global hub for renewable energy.
An end to the scapegoating of migrants and the children of migrants. Our candidates will always call out racism and stand proudly with these communities.
An end to discrimination and racism against Indigenous people.
Programs for women that address gendered poverty and women’s health, as well as family, domestic and partner violence.
Action on LGBTIQ discrimination.
Why we’re different
The Victorian Socialists won’t only fight for you – we’ll fight side by side with you. Our vision for a better society is based on our commitment to community organising.
The mainstream parties care only about getting elected. Most of them just want the perks of office – a high salary, a political career and a luxury retirement. They will say and do anything to keep their plush parliamentary jobs.
The Victorian Socialists are different.
A Victorian Socialist in parliament will raise the voices of campaigners in the suburbs, explaining their demands to the wider community and countering the lies of the mainstream media.
A Victorian Socialist in parliament will accept only an average worker’s wage and use the rest to help fund community campaigns to change our city and our state for the better.
Victorian Socialists will tirelessly work to show that it’s possible to fund social services by making corporations pay their fair share.
We will call out racist scapegoating for what it is – a giant distraction for working people.
Stephen and his team know that, to win a better society, we have to build a movement with the people, rather than the parliament, at its heart.
Stephen’s office won’t be a space for careerists and people wanting to climb the greasy political pole. It will be a centre of activity for every campaign in our workplaces and our communities. It will be your office – a place to discuss problems and organise solutions.
This November, vote for the Victorian Socialists. But do more than just vote. Join with us to fight for a world run for the people, not the powerful. Become part of a global movement working at the local level, a local movement that’s making global history. There’s a city, a state and a world to win, and there’s a place for everyone who believes in liberation, equality, love and a better society in the battle!
Nothing shows the gap between spin and reality in Melbourne and Victoria more than the housing crisis. It affects almost everyone, from those dependent on public housing to working renters, people trying to buy a home of their own on average wages – everyone except those with an inheritance, capital or huge salaries. We’re building apartments for investors that will stay empty for years, throwing people out of public housing on the pretext of improving their lives, selling off public land to private speculators, letting major developers “land bank” that prevents new building. Everything in Victorian housing is being driven by private developers; yet the entire system should be guided by public interest, as the city of Melbourne heads towards a population of five million people.
Victorian Socialists believe that a home should be a basic right. Getting our housing and development system right is crucial to all Victorians having a good and secure life. Our key priorities are:
A New Deal on private rental
People renting in the private market constitute 30 percent of people in Melbourne. In the decade up to 2017 rents have risen at almost double the growth of household income, eating into more and more of people’s wages. As the population has increased, and inner city living has become more attractive, the supply of genuinely affordable housing for those on average wages – real average wages, 35, 40, 45k a year – has fallen year on year. For those on income support pensions, private renting has become all but impossible, except in overcrowded share houses or boarding houses.
We need a whole new way of regulating and managing private rental. Currently the relations between landlord and tenant leave renters at the mercy of private owners, with a few fig-leaf limits.
We will campaign for Andrews to implement the promised reforms for tenants:
Limit rent rises to one per year.
Limit bond to 4 weeks’ rent.
Abolition of no reason vacancy notices.
Rights to make modifications to home and own a pet.
He’s had four years and time is running out to enact these modest reforms. However, they do nothing to address the key concern of renters: rising cost.
We need a cap on rents. This exists in cities like New York, Singapore and Berlin – why not here in Melbourne? We will campaign for:
A five-year freeze on rent increases to bring them down over time.
Capping subsequent increases to CPI.
Eventually, bond needs to be replaced with a mutual public insurance in which landlord and tenant pay modest amounts for a premium scheme – around $30-$50 for a 12-month tenancy -- to cover damages arising from the tenancy. The bond option remains for those who want it, and small occurrences of vandalism and negligence are dealt with through recovery of costs, as already occurs.
Inclusionary zoning: make developers build communities, not just profit
There have been 234,113 new dwellings completed, under construction or anticipated in the last two years. If Councils had applied “inclusionary zoning” – mandating that 20 percent of all new developments above four storeys included low cost housing – there would have been an additional 46,822 low cost dwellings available. This is a vital step to reducing rent and the price of new homes, the cost of both of which are eating into more and more of people’s budgets.
Futhermore, developers should be required to provide amenities in their plans: sporting and community facilities, playgrounds and gardens at a minimum.
Stephen Jolly was instrumental on Yarra Council in ensuring that two big redevelopments in the local area – the Amcor and Gas & Fuel sites – were required to offer a proportion of low-cost housing and other amenities like sporting facilities the whole community can enjoy.
In the property bubble that has beset Melbourne, there is little in the way of regulation to rein in developers building tiny, impractical apartments with poor quality materials.
The interim report on the audit of cladding revealed that 1,400 buildings did not even comply with basic safety requirements such as not using flammable cladding. Why would they? With the Victorian Building Authority only inspecting 2 percent of new buildings, there’s a good chance dodgy developers will get away with non-compliance. Funding for more VBA inspectors to allow for 25 percent of buildings to be inspected for compliance is a must. This work cannot be left to the shady private building inspectors widely viewed as not independent enough from developers. The VBA should be funded to employ its own inspectors instead of VBA-“approved” private operators.
Beyond getting basic safety features right, the Victorian Socialists would call for the establishment of a panel to review building regulations with a view to mandating new minimum features for new dwellings. Things like:
Minimum outdoor space.
Sound proofing materials.
Minimum floor space per bedroom.
Minimum energy requirements, including sustainable options for heating and cooling.
A revolution in public housing
State and federal governments have all shrugged their shoulders and given up on providing affordable high-quality housing as a right to the whole population. They’ve decided that the private sector should simply run the sector, according to its priorities; profit from land value appreciation, land banking, investment-based apartments, frequently empty, funded through negative gearing, with a glut of overpriced units, and an absolute shortage of affordable properties.
A lot could be done about the private rental market, but there is only one thing that will create affordable housing: a massive revival of public housing, and a revolution in how it is used.
We need a massive expansion of public housing in all its forms, a renewed commitment to it, and an expansion of how it is used. Nothing but a massive infusion of high-quality, publicly owned housing of diverse types will challenge the choking dominance of the private market.
The revolution in public housing would create a public housing sector that it is open to and used by people on low, lower-middle, and middle incomes, either as a prelude to entering the private market, or as secure housing for life.
Victorian Socialists want a public housing program paid for by superprofits taxes, land appreciation taxes, bond issues, and superannuation fund investment. We’re thinking big: thirty thousand new housing units in three years, fifty thousand in five years, and a hundred thousand places within eight years. We want to clear the backlog of the 82,499 waiting for public housing places – including almost 25,000 children – and then we want to extend it to middle income people who want secure, reasonably priced housing.
Currently, the Andrews Labor government is going in the exact opposite direction: selling off public land to private developers for easy cash in the redevelopment of nine inner city estates. The “walk ups” need renovation or rebuilding, but under this plan, there’s no guarantee people will be able to return or that more rooms for public housing tenants will be built. The parliamentary inquiry into public housing revealed that the estate in Kensington was sold to developers in 2012 at 5 percent of market value – it’s no wonder Daniel Andrews will not reveal how much the developers are paying for prime inner city real estate in the new development.
Furthermore, the new homes will be “social housing” rather than public housing – that is, it will be run by the community sector and tenants will not have as many protections as public housing tenants. This is neoliberal, market-driven politics, which will make things worse for renters – and disastrous for public tenants.
Development Victoria’s mission could include a massive expansion of public housing. Instead we are selling off a valuable public asset and paying developers to build homes at a profit.
The Victorian Socialists’ hundred thousand plan is practical, achievable and right. It would involve the provision of next-generation housing in a variety of modes – mixed-level and high quality high-rise in inner city areas, with the addition of low-level and houses with gardens further out – which cater for those on long-term benefits, those likely to be on low and precarious incomes, and steady and middle-income owners.
The advocates of free-market housing solutions say we can’t afford it – in fact not only can we do it, but a public housing program would be part of an economic revival providing jobs and training in Melbourne’s north. With a superprofits land tax on private development and infrastructure development – the Transurban tax – combined with a series of public bond offerings, ten billion dollars could be raised per year. As the public housing build lowered unemployment, there’d be a take-up of the middle-level public housing, which would fund the next stage of housing.
Land banking and vacant properties
An end to land banking. We know that one major cause of crippling housing costs is land banking by major corporations, who are hoarding vast reserves of land on Melbourne’s expanding zones in order to drive up prices and choke supply. We want a “build or yield” solution for major developers: build within 18 months of purchase, or have the land compulsorily acquired by a new state government affordable housing development corporation, to either on-sell, or develop itself.
An end to vacant possession. Our inner city is filled with investment apartments, some of which rich owners can keep vacant as a store in value. Victorian Socialists won’t stand for 20,000 vacant properties in our state when there are roughly equal numbers of homeless. They’re also holding on to huge tracts in the outer north, pushing up the prices of land and housing. Both practices have to end, with penalties and compulsory purchase for apartments and land left vacant for more than one year, or unbuilt on for three years.
Land tax is a progressive tax on property owners. It shouldn’t be used to penalise people who own one or two properties for their family. But billions of dollars could be raised to invest in social services, schools, public housing and healthcare if it was increased for those with more than two properties and properties left vacant for more than two years.
Making housing affordable
Create a state mortgage bank. In conjunction with state-led affordable housing, we propose the creation of a state-owned mortgage bank. This is hardly revolutionary. For decades, Victorians gained affordable housing through the State Savings Bank, government-owned and serving the public, with base-rate mortgages – destroyed by a Labor government dabbling in casino capitalism. A new bank, in conjunction with released land, would make home and apartment ownership simple and vastly more affordable.
Low-income affordable home ownership with a government direct affordable housing corporation. There is no reason why people whose incomes will be low for years or decades – or those who choose a low income to pursue other activities – should be denied the opportunity to own a home. A state government direct affordable housing corporation would build apartment blocks on brownfields sites and sell “buy-back” apartments at truly affordable prices – $125,000 for a one-bedroom apartment – with a “first refusal” buy-back option. Owners could stay in their apartments for ever if they want; but if they wanted to sell, the corporation would have the first option to buy back, at an indexed value of the apartment (inflation, plus premium), to resell to other low income buyers. The affordable home ownership corporation gives long-term low-income people a home ownership option, and a step into the market for those who want the flexibility.
Greenlight housing co-operatives. Apartments built by self-created housing co-operatives such as the “Nightingale” in Brunswick are a great way to build in the inner city, giving people a chance to determine their own future. But dozens of petty regulations stand in their way. We’ll clear those away, and make it easier to build co-op housing than speculative housing.
Melbourne’s public transport system has been underfunded for years, with private operators raking off profits as the citizens of a fast-growing city struggle with crowded trams, infrequent trains and a totally inadequate bus service.
It’s worst of all in the north and west of Melbourne, where safe Labor seats get a few scraps thrown at them every four years. Improvements to the system are welcome; but loyal Labor voters are missing out.
Public transport shouldn’t be a jaunt for Labor. Melbourne needs a revolution in public transport funding to end its failed 50-year journey to becoming a second-rate, freeway-ridden Los Angeles.
Let’s get some real action happening on public ownership of public transport. Metro Trains, a global consortium, receives $900 million a year from the state government. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) estimates that it has made over $230 million in profit in the last five years. (The figure is not disclosed due to an undemocratic “commercial-in-confidence” clause in the contract with the state government – something the Victorian Socialists would fight to scrap in all state government contracts with private corporations.) Under the contract the Andrews government renewed last year, Metro will receive a $1.25 million bonus every month that it meets performance targets – that is, for doing the job it’s paid to do. Trains, trams and buses should be returned to the public sector and public-private partnerships abolished.
Free public transport
Free public transport. The cost of running the Myki system isn’t worth it. The state pays $100 million per year for the clunky, privately subcontracted Myki system, as well as funding the army of inspectors to enforce it. The levels of surveillance, intimidation and victimisation of that system are a disaster for public life.
Free public transport in the greater Melbourne metro area is simply a long overdue extension of the public principle, which applies to schools, to most roads, and other public utilities. Because the transport system was assembled from separate private companies a century ago, we have inherited their ticketing. It’s time to integrate public transport into a full public system.
Free public transport – with an initial period of flat-fee $1 for all trips ticketing – would prompt a steady transfer of car-users to the public system, and remove the need for vastly expensive blow-out projects such as the North-East Link. The roads budget would be a reduced one for maintenance and upgrade of existing routes, and the billions allocated for “new” roads – which are really the last roads, suggested in the now discredited 1969 Bolte freeways plan – would be transferred to the rapid expansion of public transport to take up the new demand.
Ten-minute all-day and five-minute peak hour trains on all northern lines. Service on the northern lines – especially Mernda and Hurstbridge – is appalling and has been for decades. The additional services announced are welcome, but are insufficient. Five-minute peak and 10-minute off-peak services is achievable. Andrews says nothing can be done until after 2026 when Metro II opens, but there are simple fixes that can be done now.
The Upfield line has one of the least frequent peak services, at 18 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. We call for the line to be duplicated to allow more frequent services.
New train-to-train signalling systems can overcome historic problems with fixed signalling systems.
A “temporary” bridge built at Clifton Hill. This would increase flow through from 18 to 32 trains per hour, easing overcrowding significantly.
Extend the Craigieburn line to Wallan as fully electrified.
Extend the South Morang/Mernda line to Whittlesea.
Trams on the northern lines should be taken up to two- and three-minute frequency in peak hour, and five-six minutes all day.
Line extensions should be built to connect Reservoir and South Morang railway stations.
Extend the 72 line from Camberwell into Ivanhoe and beyond, to create a north-south service.
Extend Route 19 up Sydney Road to Fawkner.
It is relatively cheap to extend tram systems, and to increase rolling stock; Melbourne has the largest tram system in the world. Let’s invest in it for all.
The private bus companies rort the public purse, yet Andrews chose to renew their contracts for another 10 years for an undisclosed figure. We need rapid bus systems along direct routes connecting to rail stations, to remove the need for a car for outer suburban commuters, and make local journeys fast and easy without a car. It’s not enough to introduce rapid systems, and then have 10-minute and 20-minute frequencies. We need 10-minute and five-minute peak hour buses, with dedicated lanes, and an average five-minute and two-minute (peak hour) wait at interchanges.
In addition, providing frequent public transport services throughout the night would help ensure people – particularly women – have a safe passage home.
We need to get ahead of the population growth, for once, rather than playing catch-up. Frequent services that connect the city encourage people to use public transport instead of cars, which is part of addressing high carbon emissions.
Staffing of stations
When Kennett privatised most of the public transport system in the 1990s, he fired 16,000 workers. Staffing levels have not been increased to keep apace with commuters’ needs. More than half the stations in our region are either unstaffed or dangerously understaffed; of particular concern is the great number of stations used by school students that are left unstaffed. Unionised rail workers and community members successfully fought off attempts by Metro and the state government to reduce station staff numbers on the Hurstbridge and South Morang lines earlier this year. But we need to go further than just defending the measly number of station staff positions that exist.
Skilled customer service staff, with adequate resources and training, create both a more enjoyable and safer passenger experience. The Victorian Socialists support the campaign by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union to increase customer service roles at railway stations, and ensure that no-one is forced to work alone. Not only will this benefit commuters, but also provide much needed secure jobs in our region. Instead of PSOs and Authorised Officers whose job it is to intimidate and fine people, these staff could be redeployed as station staff.
Victorians are told they’re living in a boom, and a lot of people are doing well out of it. But as the apartments rise and the coffee shops roast, many working people across the state aren’t getting any of the new opportunities. They’re living in areas from which industry has vanished – everything from car factories and steel works to clothing and footwear – and where nothing has replaced them. Across northern Melbourne and regional Victoria, unemployment is a hidden crisis, devastating people, families and communities. In areas of the northern metro region such as Broadmeadows, unemployment is 25 percent, after the final closure of the Ford factory.
This devastation has been accepted as inevitable, as if the destruction of working life and prosperous communities in a whole area of Melbourne was just like bad weather.
It’s not. It’s the failure of the market to provide work for a whole region of the city – and then a failure of governments, both Labor and Liberal, to use public investment to create useful and necessary plants and industries.
Ford closed its two Broadmeadows factories in 2016, destroying 600 jobs directly and leaving thousands more unemployed. The next year car manufacturing disappeared altogether from Victoria.
In the wake of this and other closures, the northern part of Melbourne has been left to die.
The Andrews government’s approach to industrial collapse in the north and west is a mopping up operation: $46.5 million in “transition assistance” for laid-off auto manufacturing workers. That’s a fraction of the money this lost work put into the community – and for transition to what? Without a publicly funded industry plan in place, this is a broken promise to the people of Melbourne’s north and west.
The Andrews government’s mega-department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources has numerous job programs, but nothing for them to develop projects that will employ them. Instead we get small railway station redevelopments, the “small business bus”, “mentoring”, and the Apple Centre in Fed Square.
What’s missing is a clear vision of where societies like Australia are heading: to a situation where capitalism and the market have no interest in large-scale social investment, and in which large-scale public investment must be deployed to create a productive, well-waged, high-tech society, offering secure employment combined with flexibility for workers, expanded personal and study leave, and opportunities for meaningful, interesting and challenging work.
We’re not proposing more public giveaways and tax breaks to private businesses that give nothing back. We’re proposing massive, publicly owned investment in Melbourne’s north, with a combination of direct state ownership, public investment bond issues, co-operative development and real industry assistance. A 21st century democratic socialist economic development plan could create a “virtuous circle”, in which large-scale public industrial production powers a revolution in Victorian infrastructure, generating tens of thousands of jobs and reviving communities served by the infrastructure it creates.
Leading this would be a major public corporation dedicated to the production, implementation of renewable power – wind, solar, biomass, hydro and battery – to fast-track Victoria’s transition to a zero-emissions society. Two of Victoria’s key industrial and energy zones – Melbourne’s north and the Latrobe valley – now left to decline, could instead become world centres of cutting-edge technology, with highly-skilled and trained workers producing energy infrastructure for the state and the world.
As ageing power plants are replaced – not in 30 years, but in 15 or 10 – with modular, scalable plants, wind farms, solar cell ranges and megabatteries, these areas will acquire new prosperity, focus and identity. Power costs will fall steadily, in turn making Victorian industry more efficient.
Why don’t we do this already? Why not fill the gap left by the end of old industries with new industries? Because both major parties are in service to major corporations, which want the right to determine what gets invested and where, and to be free of competition from public enterprise; and they’re supported by ideologues who believe that only “free enterprise” creates jobs, value and output.
In fact, the reliance on the market starves whole areas of our society of the investment they need, in order to create scarcity and keep prices high. That’s why we need unashamed democratic socialist economics: a transfer of money from the private sector to the public, and its employment for public good.
Not only would public investment in the north and west flow into a new energy industry, but the construction of new key infrastructure for the region would itself be an industry. The Victorian Socialists’ plan for 100,000 new homes in Melbourne over 10 years would create vast employment opportunities in the region, and a renaissance in training and education.
The same goes for public transport: electrification of the rail line to Wallan, completing the double-tracking to the end of the Upfield and Hurstbridge lines and new tram line extensions to South Morang and Reservoir would create opportunities for hundreds of workers with a wide variety of skills to work locally, beating the long commute into the centre. Thousands of affordable homes will put construction workers back to work in the region. The free marketeers will tell you that this produces no value. We say that the role of the economy is to produce the means of life.
New recycling plants, not waste dumps. Recycling, zero-waste production, and “closed loop manufacturing” are the wave of the future, ways to create a vigorous scalable new manufacturing sector. That’s an opportunity for Melbourne’s north.
But a smart recycling sector would be the exact opposite of what’s being done to the north now, which is dumping. The Coolaroo fire was simply the worst example of treating the region like trash.
What we’re proposing is the opposite: world-class recycling centres in the Craigieburn and Epping area. Using high-tech processes, these would employ a highly skilled workforce, trained in sustainability engineering courses at local TAFEs and colleges, providing thousands of jobs in direct employment and tens of thousands of indirect jobs. With China now refusing to take Australian material for recycling, this is a great opportunity for public investment.
New campuses. There’s no large university campus in the north-west of the northern metro region, despite huge population growth in the area. We need the campus of a major university, to provide jobs in its construction, and a centre for training and tertiary education for the region.
A smart, publicly-run start-up business and training park is needed in the Epping area: to create good local jobs for the growing population of South Morang, Mernda, Whittlesea and other regions, and linked to the renewal of TAFE and higher education services there.
Victorian Socialists will stand up for a prosperous north, with thousands of local jobs, new skills and training. We will stand up against both a Labor party that takes the north for granted and the Liberals who don’t care if it lives or dies. Only public investment will get the north moving again!
Privatisation & cost of living
Privatisation is now seen across the world as a disaster, with resources owned by the public sold off below value, and the proceeds squandered. Rising costs and failing services have been the result.
Essential human services like utility distribution and public transport were sold to the highest bidder under the Kennett government and are now run for profit. Today many sectors such as aged care and childcare, hospitals, child protection, disability services, prisons and vocational training are fully or partially privatised. The NDIS is the latest of these: presented as a social reform, it will draw social care into the private market, leaving people vulnerable and without services.
In the Andrews Labor government’s 2017 budget, a large increase in privatisations was planned, with between 40 and 50 percent of funding for infrastructure projects over the next few years coming from Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). The deals are deliberately opaque. Metro trains for example receive $900 million from the state government but are not required to report their profits due to corporate confidentiality. The RTBU estimates their profits as at least $230 million over the past five years. Under the new contract – renewed by Andrews – Metro will receive a $1.25 million monthly bonus if they meet performance targets.
Last year, the government announced that 500 state-run homes for people with cognitive disabilities would be put to tender to be run by non-government organisations. In 2016, the government sold a 50-year lease for the Port of Melbourne for $9.7 billion. The container port is the largest in Australia; tens of millions of tonnes of cargo pass through it every year. Undoubtedly, the profits accruing to the new consortium owner will be well worth the price.
Then there is the disaster of the largest single sell-off of public housing in Victoria’s history. For now, nine inner city estates covering approximately 1,000 public housing dwellings will be demolished and the land sold to private developers. Some social housing will be built, but will not equal the number of bedrooms currently available. There are no guarantees there will be as many units built, let alone an increase. On the Walker Street estate in Northcote for example, the number of three-bedroom homes will be cut from 52 to five – a 90 percent decrease in capacity.
One of the biggest cost of living pressures for people is the price of utilities charged by the private providers. People dread opening their electricity bill. No wonder. The Australia Institute showed that the cost of electricity increased by triple the overall increase in prices in Australia since the supply was privatised in 1995. It estimates that privatisation has cost each household between $404-$502 per year.
Essential Services Commission’s 2016-17 report found that 80,000 customers were on financial hardship programs and 50,000 people per year had services disconnected for non-payment. Meanwhile electricity companies make hundreds of millions in profits each year, enjoying a rate of return double that of energy companies operating in the United Kingdom.
The Andrews’ government’s $50 incentive to visit a website is a joke. We should accept nothing short of taking the utility companies back into public hands. Bringing privatised assets into public ownership would cut out all the profit-taking corporations and reduce prices. We will also campaign for greater concessions for students, pensioners and people on income support.
Lifting the rate of pensions and the minimum wage to the level of a living wage would go a long way to eradicating poverty in Australia. The 2018 increase in the minimum wage – after the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign in part about that issue – shows campaigns work, but the increase is not enough to lift the minimum wage above the poverty line. We call for the introduction of a living wage of at least 60 percent of average weekly earnings, the measure in most OECD countries of whether a person is living below the poverty line, and more when someone is supporting children.
The rights of workers are at the centre of any socialist program. We will fight for the right of all working people to organise for collective representation, to strike, for safety and the best possible conditions in the workplace.
The ACTU’s research shows that wage stagnation is the worst it’s been in 70 years. The bosses have been confident to hold wages and conditions down and rely on both the Liberals and Labor to pass laws restricting workers’ right to strike. It is now illegal to take any form of industrial action – from the most minor action like wearing a badge to stop-works – outside the period of negotiation over a new enterprise bargaining agreement. For most workers this only comes around every three years. If workers want to take action, they must apply to Fair Work Australia and hold a ballot which delays action for months. They must then warn their employer three days in advance. When they finally take action, it is illegal to picket, stop scabs from entering or for workers at other sites (even with the same employer) from taking supportive action (“secondary boycotts”). If the action succeeds in disrupting production or distribution such that it impacts the economy, the bosses can apply to terminate the action – this is how unions are fined millions of dollars for standing up for their members. In effect this is a ban on effective industrial action. It is no coincidence that wages stagnate when strike days are at their lowest.
The right to strike is a basic democratic demand. Workers cannot have a say over the conditions at work without it. It gives the boss the right to ride roughshod over them in between bargaining periods. Beyond that, workers’ experience of their collective power can give them confidence to stand up to injustice wherever they see it. The solidarity that is the life blood of the workers’ movement can undermine the scare campaigns that demonise Muslims, Indigenous people and people from non-white backgrounds and are used to distract people from the real pressures in their lives. It reinforces that the real enemy is our bosses and the people who help them maintain their system of exploitation.
In this way, organising and instigating action in workplaces wherever our members can is central to everything the Victorian Socialists are fighting for. It is why wherever workers strike, Stephen Jolly will champion their cause.
Most governments use the law to make life harder for workers and unions, while ignoring the corporate criminals. We will fight to reverse this trend. The Liberals, the mouthpiece of corporations, denigrate unions whenever they get the chance, and Labor are little better. Workers need their own advocate. Stephen Jolly, a member of the CFMEU, will champion the demands of striking workers and stand up to public slandering of their actions. His office will be a base for organising community solidarity, as he did from his position in the Yarra Council during the iconic CUB dispute.
Recent media coverage highlights what socialists and unionists have being saying for a long time – bosses are cheating workers out of their entitlements. The unsafe practices of companies like Grocon risk the lives of their employees and the public. Others, like UGL and CUB, have tried to use legal tricks to deprive workers of wages, conditions, and jobs. Underpayment of workers in hospitality is rife. Those are the headline scandals. Behind the scenes, every day workers are having their wages unfairly held back or stolen, their rights to speak out and organise ignored, and their safety put at risk.
We will hold Daniel Andrews to account, to honour his promise to make wage theft a crime and introduce industrial manslaughter laws. Unions should be empowered to inspect the books, prosecute cheating bosses and enforce safety on sites, as they are the only organisations workers can trust to enforce their rights.
If Daniel Andrews is the supporter of unions he claims to be, we want him to promise that his government will not use the industrial laws against public sector workers taking industrial action.
Companies that are known to exploit these laws – like cancelling EBAs during bargaining, engaging in lock-outs, sham contracting and union busting – should not be awarded state government service or building contracts.
The state government could introduce more public holidays and more generous long service provisions as some compensation for workers increasing productivity without proportionate increases in their wages.
The erosion of the eight-hour day and other conditions has a deleterious impact on workers’ physical and mental health. Working long shifts of up to 12 hours, with little notice, no guarantees of work and during unsociable hours, are common on building sites and on the waterfront. The WA parliamentary inquiry into Fly in Fly Out work in 2015 heard how such conditions undermined the mental health of workers in these industries and their families. Suicide among construction workers and other workers doing long shifts with little notice is an untold story. Stephen Jolly has direct experience of this sort of work. We will launch a campaign to return to the eight-hour day, starting in the unionised construction industry:
No construction work on Sundays, public holidays or RDOs unless there are urgent safety concerns.
Strict 10-hour limit on shifts to create new jobs, cut back on accidents and increase quality of life.
Police & prisons
Victoria has one of the lowest crime rates in the western world, and in Australia, yet there’s a relentless push to keep the public in a state of permanent fear – and then to offer “law and order” solutions.
Successive governments have taken a punitive approach to crime. This has seen billions of dollars spent on prisons and police. Victoria’s prison population exploded by 70 percent in the last decade, while the crime rate has remained stable at around 6 percent.
Both major parties have pushed for a “tough on crime” approach. What is becoming clearer is that this approach is specifically targeting the poor, homeless and people of colour. The same approach is not being used against companies that commit wage theft, lower safety standards, resulting in workplace deaths, and engage in tax evasion.
The Victorian Socialists stand for an approach that centres on rehabilitation and transformative justice. We see the continual erosion of much needed public services such as housing, education, healthcare, and other attacks on our living standards such wage stagnation, as major contributors to crime and anti-social behaviour. Under the current approach people who are criminalised by the justice system have no real options to integrate back into our communities. After release from incarceration they find it nearly impossible to find affordable housing, jobs and mental healthcare. This contributes to re-offending that sees nearly half of people previously incarcerated return to prison.
We view the law and order approach as part of an agenda to strengthen state powers and erode civil liberties, as well as a way for governments to appear to be doing something in the absence of policies that can alleviate the real pressures in people’s lives.
These policies are not about “keeping people safe”. The diversion of public money to running prisons takes away from funding for homes, schools and healthcare. The long term degradation of these things exacerbates people’s suffering and can lead to people committing crime.
Victorian Socialists will never capitulate to scare campaigns in the tabloids about crime, or any other question. This is central to both the struggle for better social services in communities and standing with those who disproportionately bear the brunt of these policies.
Victoria has the highest rate of incarceration since 1897, with the highest jump ever in 2016. It costs over a billion dollars annually to administer Victoria’s prisons, in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars committed to building new prisons and expanding the capacity of old ones. The new prison at Lara will cost $689.5 million. By contrast, less than $6 million was committed in the last budget to “Smart Justice” programs aimed at reducing offending by tackling the social causes of it.
The cost of the Lara prison is almost double the $343 million spent on building new schools.
Prisons are warehouses for people who need help. Thirty-five percent of people in custody were homeless, 46 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, 48 percent were unemployed and 44 percent inject themselves with drugs. Most will exit prison with the same problems, or worse. Over a third of former prisoners will be homeless on their first night out of custody. Unsurprisingly, 43.6 percent will reoffend within two years, compared to a recidivism rate of 26 percent for people who receive non-custodial sentences. Failure to address these problems leads to more, not less, crime. Spending on public housing, treatment for mental health conditions and addictions, schools and TAFE would not only make communities safer but improve social services for everyone. Studies show that spending on social services saves over $100,000 per person over a lifetime.
Treatment, education and counselling services should be available to prisoners while in custody and extended on their release. Current funding for temporary housing for prisoners on release does not stretch to cover all who need it, and more public housing needs to be built to ensure people gain secure housing faster.
Victoria now has the highest proportion of prisoners and absolute numbers of prisoners incarcerated in private prisons anywhere in the world. The Victorian government should not reward with contracts companies that profit from misery.
Remand, mandatory sentencing & parole
The Labor government has taken a series of measures that have increased the prison population. They reversed the onus on the presumption that an offender will get bail, made it more difficult to get parole and increased minimum sentences for 12 offences. They have not reinstated suspended sentences, abolished by the former Liberal Government. Now, the Liberals want to introduce mandatory custodial sentences for a second serious offence. The Liberals and Labor try to outdo each other in proving they are “tough on crime” to appease the tabloids. Victorian Socialists oppose all these measures, as they lead to increasing the prison population and do nothing to address the systemic causes of crime. We call for the reinstatement of suspended sentences and other alternatives to custody as sentencing options open to judges.
Labor also plans to amend the Sentencing Act to remove discretion for judges and magistrates with regard to convicted persons who have been affected by drugs or alcohol, or other factors. This has been framed as being about the rights of emergency service workers. It is not. It applies to all crimes that attract a custodial sentence. It is another punitive measure that will be used against the most vulnerable, and can be abused. Safety at work should be a priority, and can be achieved with better resourcing of these jobs.
Racial discrimination and police brutality
Opposing the law and order agenda is part of standing up for the marginalised. Scare campaigns about “monsters” often have racist overtones, as the beat-up about “African gangs” has demonstrated. Indigenous people are over-represented in prison – they make up 9 percent of the prison population compared to less than 1 percent of the Victorian population.
The Age has run a series of articles this year about police brutality toward Aboriginal people, people of African backgrounds, young people and people with mental illness. The Good Weekend revealed in its story about the killing of 17-year old Courtney Topic that police undergo only one day of training to deal with people with mental illness. The horrific abuse of the disability pensioner on his front lawn covered by The Age in April is another example. The Labor government’s response to these stories has been to defend the police. This reinforces the problems.
Indeed, Labor has rewarded the police with a new cache of weapons – costing $25 million – which puts them on track to be a US-style paramilitary police force.
In response to a spate of killings of people with mental illness in the 1990s, Victoria Police instituted a longer training program and the number of deaths fell for a period – until the old culture of control reasserted itself. Better training is the minimum.
We also support the widespread calls to establish an independent body to investigate complaints against police. The police investigating other police have exonerated themselves in 93 percent of cases.
Racism runs deep in Australia, from the history of the dispossession of Aboriginal people to turning away refugees fleeing the wars our governments have participated in. The calls to stop celebrating the invasion of Australia and genocide of Indigenous people are welcome, and both Stephen Jolly and Sue Bolton moved in their councils to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on this day.
Racist scapegoating hits hard in the northern suburbs, among the most culturally diverse areas of Australia. The recent hysteria about so-called “African gangs”, started by Peter Dutton, highlights how racism is deployed to distract people when politicians won’t address the real problems people face – overcrowded roads and public transport, exorbitant power bills or a lack of affordable housing.
Studies show that instances of racist harassment and abuse correlate with intensifications of negative media commentary. Australian Muslims are a particular target of media-directed abuse. One study found that in Murdoch’s News Ltd’s five main newspapers, almost 3,000 articles – or eight articles per day – referred to Islam or Muslims alongside words like “violence”, “extremism”, “terrorism” or “radical”. Politicians pander to racism, using it to justify greater police powers and surveillance in the name of the so-called “war on terror.” Labor has been as vociferous in this as the Liberals. Victorian Socialists will never duck the fight against racism and Islamophobia, calling it out whenever it appears, and standing together with threatened and oppressed communities in the struggle for an equal society. We reject the hysteria about “out of control crime” and terrorism that are smokescreens for it. It’s not just the media; police are known to target people of colour, stopping them more frequently and even engaging in racist abuse.
Some of the biggest growth areas on the outskirts of Melbourne have higher proportions of migrant workers. Addressing the lack of access to affordable childcare, healthcare, aged care and other social services is part of tackling the social disadvantage these groups face.
Victoria should also welcome refugees and the Victorian government should do everything in its power to prevent deportations back to danger in their countries of origin or hellhole detention centres.
Fitzroy, Collingwood, Northcote and areas further north have been key communities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders throughout Melbourne’s history, going back to before the time when the city was founded by theft of the land of the Wurundjeri of the Kulin Nation in 1835. In the 1960s and beyond, the northern metro areas became a focus for Aboriginal people from all over the country to come and organise autonomous Aboriginal communities, political activism, community groups, newspapers and magazines and more.
Treaty! We support Aboriginal people’s call for a treaty, as an assertion of sovereignty. It is a recognition that their land was stolen and sovereignty never ceded. Victorian Socialists will support whatever demands Aboriginal people raise to make the treaty more meaningful, including sovereignty over land and self-determination of communities, reparations and compensation for the Stolen Generations, stolen wages and land theft.
Fighting side by side with community, for community
Now these communities are coming under pressure from the extreme gentrification of the inner city, and the public housing sell-off. As part of a wider genuinely affordable housing program, there needs to be a specific allocation for affordable housing in the inner and middle north for Aboriginal people.
Stephen Jolly and Sue Bolton, as councillors and activists, have been fighting racism and colonialism for decades. Stephen campaigned against the notorious “local law eight”, which targeted Indigenous people gathering in Smith Street. Sue has been campaigning for a First Nations community hub at the Ballerrt Mooroop school site in Glenroy, for communities in the north-west lacking services.
Funding for independent Aboriginal legal and medical services in Preston
Preston is now much closer to the centre of Aboriginal life in the north, and fully funded legal and medical services, with total autonomy of management, are now a priority, which is the basis for the campaign for the Ballerrt Mooroop hub.
Pathways out of youth incarceration. Eighteen percent of youth in youth detention centres in Victoria are Aboriginal, a product of a racist justice and policing system. We need to get kids out of these institutions and into pathways to education and full community participation. While doing that, we need to ensure that all youth in such centres have full access to education, and schooling to year 12.
Victorian Socialists support the protests organised on 26 January that commemorate this day as an invasion and the beginning of the dispossession and genocide of Aboriginal people.
The planet is in crisis from climate change and habitat destruction, a direct product of a world economy based on capitalism, nationalism, and profit-directed growth. Nothing makes the case for socialism clearer than the fate of our natural world: wasteful production, output and carbon emissions must be dramatically reduced and the best way of doing this is by bringing energy into democratically controlled public hands.
Australians have an absolute ethical-political duty to make a real fight against climate change. At 0.025 percent of the global population, we produce 1.49 percent of global emissions. Australia is one of the world’s worst carbon emitters, with the highest per capita rate of greenhouse gas emissions among advanced economies; it has a disproportionate responsibility for the historic emissions that have caused the current dangerous warming. This is a result of fossil fuel-driven development, which has enriched the wealthiest Australians at the expense of the environment. The policies adopted by both Labor and the Coalition are too weak: both have set targets too low to reduce emissions at the rate needed.
This is a crime against humanity by capitalism, and Victorian Socialists will be fighting it from day one. At federal and state level, we need a radical lift in targets for emissions reduction and renewable energy.
Australia has the economic power to change quickly; it could abandon fossil fuels. We have enough sun and wind to provide all our energy needs many times over. We also have the wealth to develop a renewable energy manufacturing industry and other appropriate technology.
Such a program would revitalise Australia’s dying manufacturing industry. It would provide quality, skilled jobs for tens of thousands of people. It would also put Australia in a position to go from one of the worst climate offenders in the world to being an important part of the solution.
Real renewable energy targets and emissions targets
With a green industry supercharged by public investment, Victoria can aim for some real green transitional targets. We want to achieve a 30 percent (not 25 percent) renewable energy target by 2020, and 60 percent (not 40 percent) by 2025. With the fast decommissioning of remaining coal-fired power stations, without job losses, these targets can be readily achieved.
Without real action on emissions, we are poisoning ourselves, our children and a world less affluent and polluting than we are. Emissions reduction is a political-moral duty of the first order.
Real transition fuels, not gas
Victorian Socialists support the 2017 ban on unconventional gas exploration and mining which was led by Victorian farmers, environmentalists and Indigenous activists. The fossil fuel industry is well past its use by date: more than 70 communities have declared themselves “coal and/or gas field free”.
Gas is not a transition fuel: it pollutes water tables and prime agricultural land. The Liberals and Labor want to lift the ban, under pressure from the gas lobby. We need to maintain the ban and promote renewable sustainable energy.
Public investment program for a renewable revolution
We need to replace our ageing coal-fired stations in the Latrobe valley. That’s not a cost, it’s an opportunity, to create a publicly owned renewable energy corporation, directly investing billions, using super profits taxes and bond issues. It is estimated this would convert Victoria towards 40 percent renewable power by 2030, and re-energise the Latrobe valley as a hub for renewable energy production, in line with our jobs and industry policy.
Establish the Great Forest National Park, end old-growth logging and revive a sustainable timber industry
The Great Forest National Park would stretch across a vast area of central Victoria, providing all Victorians with fantastic opportunities for leisure and tourism, and protecting natural diversity. We want the park created immediately. We also want a very rapid end to the old-growth logging in central Victoria.
However, this should not involve the closure of the two timber mills in the region. These can be maintained and developed, initially with balsa and other products for milling, and within two years, with timber from western Victorian plantations. It’s time to end the phoney war between the timber industry and conservation in this state. What we need is planning, public investment and a leadership that is lacking in both major parties. Victorian Socialists absolutely reject the idea that timber workers or the timber industry are necessary collateral damage in the creation of a green and red Victoria.
Fix the recycling crisis
Australia’s recycling system is in crisis. With China no longer accepting our waste, much of our recycling is being dumped into landfill. This is a clear case of government neglect, combined with recycling companies putting short-term profits ahead of sustainability. To fix this, the Victorian Socialists call for a new, publicly-owned recycling hub in Melbourne’s north. This wouldn’t only be an environmental win, but would create thousands of new jobs.
Fixing our recycling system is only half the story. The real problem is the explosion in the volume of waste being produced. We need to tackle this problem at its source – not simply discouraging use of plastic bags in supermarkets, but reducing the unnecessary packaging that companies use for their products. We need new regulations to force companies to reduce the amount of disposal packaging, and to curb the “throwaway” culture of capitalism.
What we believe
All Victorian students have the right to attend a state school that is fully funded to provide every student with access to a high quality, inclusive education and to a society where everyone has the opportunity to live their best life. This requires schools to be funded so that they can provide high quality teaching and access to services so that all students receive the support they require to enable them to fully access the education they need. It also requires that this is achieved without financial contribution by parents. We can’t change the national education policy, but we can fight for a state education that provides quality education for all students and is in reality the free secular education system that is in Victorian legislation.
What we have now
Our current education system perpetuates inequality. The Victorian education system encourages “choice” as opposed to “equity and fairness” and entrenches already existing inequalities. This “choice” is manifested in two ways. Parents who can afford it have a choice between the private school system and the government school system. This of course totally relies upon the parents’ ability to pay compulsory fees. The other choice is between competing state schools.
State schools in Victoria are funded autonomously and are allowed to charge “voluntary” levies/fees, which means that schools whose parents are able to pay more have more resources at their disposal. This disparity, together with the lowest per capita funding of education of any state, leads to Victoria having many “disadvantaged” schools, not merely “disadvantaged” students attending various schools.
To further encourage this false choice, parents are encouraged to use the My School website to help them choose the best school for their child, based on narrow and incomplete published data. The data covers schools’ finances and results and is unreliable and misleading. The student results data is largely based on the flawed methodology of standardised testing (NAPLAN) and is not an accurate measure of a school’s performance.
Further, to prop up the idea of choice, the Victorian government also provides hundreds of millions of dollars to private schools that should go to the state system. This is in addition to the majority of their funding that they receive from the Federal government.
Increase funding for a first class public education system.
Rather than consolidating several local schools into larger and larger schools, and planning based on larger schools, we need smaller schools that can respond to the needs of their local community.
All government schools to be provided with a full range of student support services, catering to the needs of all students. These services should include counsellors, educational psychologists, nurses, doctors, lawyers, disability workers, youth workers and social workers. In particular, schools need to be provided with the necessary staff and facilities to properly cater for special needs of students with disabilities.
Schools need to be fully funded so there is no need for “voluntary” contributions to run a school from year to year. Additionally, all new buildings and ongoing maintenance need to be fully funded by the government and not rely on donations from parents who can ill afford them.
Funding should ensure universal access to education, teachers, resources and career guidance with curriculum choices for all children and young people.
That funding would allow for more teachers to be employed in schools. This would reduce teacher workload and enable smaller class sizes and more classroom support for teachers and students. Teachers also need to be given more time to be able to work collaboratively to improve outcomes for students.
We need an end to endless right wing attacks on teachers and to resist the creation of right wing propaganda curricula.
We need to abolish standardised testing such as NAPLAN which is primarily used to pit schools against each other and to attack teachers.
No state funding of private schools.
In the 1990s, Stephen Jolly led the fight to keep open Richmond Secondary College, one of the 350 schools closed by the Kennett government. A quarter of a century later, after an urban boom, we are yet to recover from that disaster
As a community activist with a history of standing up for public schools, Stephen Jolly will be an advocate for parents, teachers and students in the public system.
Restore the TAFE system, and ban private providers. The private training education system was established as the TAFE system was gutted. In 2008, TAFEs taught 80 percent of vocational education and now teaches 24 percent. The Victorian branch of the NTEU estimates that between 2010 and 2014 under the Victorian Liberal government:
TAFE funding was cut by $1.2 billion.
Over 2000 TAFE teachers lost their jobs.
Private training has proved a disaster, a minefield of rorts and rip-offs for local and overseas students. It is all very well for the Andrews government to offer free TAFE courses, but the TAFE system needs to be restored, VET programs should be publicly run and we need to do what Labor won’t do: phase out private providers, and make the system wholly public, for the public good, with an Education Ombudsman ensuring everyone gets a fair go across the educational life course. All public provision of education needs to be planned as a matter of course and proactively delivered, keeping up with population and density pressures. Safe, integrated and active transport to schools in clean air should be a priority so healthy communities thrive.
Good health and excellent care given freely and equally is the precondition of a free life, and is an absolute right. In Victoria, our public health system has been severely undermined by the intrusion of the market and chronic underfunding, as many health workers will attest. Victorian Socialists wish to establish an activist group of health workers to work with unions to campaign about the problems in healthcare and demand solutions. Some of the issues are outlined below.
Unions report workload increases; 93 percent of VAHPA members say their workloads increased over the previous two years, with 76 percent saying that increased workload is compromising patient care; 40 percent of MSAV members do unpaid work on a daily basis.
Victorian nurses were the first health workers in the world to win carer to patient ratios, following their 1986 strike. Now aged care workers are fighting for ratios. Ratios should be introduced across the health industry. Vacant positions should be filled within 28 days.
Funding for hospital beds has kept pace with population growth, but not numbers of hospital admissions, which have increased at double the rate of population – to be expected with an ageing population. This puts pressures on hospitals to discharge people sooner, placing greater caring responsibilities on individuals and families.
Victorian hospitals fail to meet key standards of care. Seventy percent of patients who present at emergency departments fail to be seen within the recommended 30 minutes, and 80 percent of patients undergo elective surgery within 90 days, but this does not include the wait-time to see a specialist, which can be longer. Northern Health notes that the population in working class suburbs have higher levels of chronic health problems relative to wealthier parts of Melbourne. Funding hospitals in the north must continue to increase to address these issues.
The AMA rightly objects to the punitive funding model that fines hospitals that cannot accept emergency admissions or for readmissions – a neoliberal model that is anathema to health workers’ commitment to their patients. Mistakes happen through under-resourcing, exacerbated by these fines.
Privatisation & outsourcing
The for-profit health care industry undermines the standards in the public system. Catholic Health Australia found that public patients wait twice as long as private patients for elective surgery performed in public hospitals. Another example of differential care was revealed by a 2014 study that showed private patients with stage four bowel cancer in Australia lived for an average of eight months longer than public patients, and are more likely to receive chemotherapy and surgery. Care and prognosis should not be determined by your ability to pay.
Victorian Socialists will always argue for publicly-run health services, to end the annual $6 billion subsidy to the private health insurers and to stop outsourcing in public hospitals for services such as pathology, radiology, food, cleaning, security, even patient television access. Alarmingly, some ambulance services have been contracted to taxi operators.
Community health centres & medical clinics
Victoria’s Community Health Centres are a unique resource in Australia – local, neighbourhood-based, community-run places where patients are treated as people. The CHCs, being unglamorous, and dedicated to everyday health and prevention, are perpetually neglected and under threat. Victorian Socialists will fight to defend and extend the CHC’s access to block funding and their vital role in our community.
The pressure of increased admissions to public hospitals is partly because primary health care has become so expensive. Many doctors refuse to bulk bill because the Medicare rebate hasn’t kept up with GP expenses. When people can’t afford to go to the doctor, they are forced to wait for hours in emergency departments, often with non-life threatening issues which could be resolved by a doctor. In the Geelong region, there are only two after-hours medical practices, and only one of these bulk bills.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was introduced with much fanfare by the Gillard government, as a masterstroke. Socialists were among the few who at the time who argued it was a Trojan horse for privatised healthcare providers to invade public care and close down state providers. Sadly our fears were borne out.
People’s plans under the NDIS are determined by “planners” who hold no special qualifications, are not required to meet with people or talk to their clinicians, and who determine people’s care based on a pro-forma questionnaire. Specific conditions are assessed rather than the whole patient; the whole process is designed for the comfort of providers.
Staff get a raw deal too. The funding provided for staff barely covers award conditions. The low wages in no way reflect the risks and hardships associated with the work, let alone its social value. Turnover in the industry is rife, making it difficult for people needing care to forge lasting relationships with their carers.
For people with mental health problems whose care requirements fluctuate, the NDIS criterion that your condition be chronic to receive funding for treatment is anathema to the recovery model clinicians prefer. This cuts out many who need publicly funded treatment.
NDIS is a federal scheme. That gives our state government an easy solution: create public care providers who will take up the NDIS contracts. Stephen Jolly and Sue Bolton were among the first to raise the alarm about the neoliberal, privatising character of the NDIS, when it was being called a Labor triumph. We’ll keep fighting for a public care system for those most in need.
Disgracefully, Andrews reversed his promise that supported living facilities for people with disabilities would remain in public hands. There is a fear in the sector that people with more complex needs will be abandoned to the streets, as it is not profitable to meet their needs.
We will highlight the problems of the implementation of the NDIS and call on the federal government to scrap it in favour of extending Medicare benefits to cover more allied health services.
Daniel Andrews made a great fanfare about the additional $705 million funding commitment for mental health services in the last budget. Yet Victoria still has the lowest per capita expenditure on mental health in the country, with access to services at 39 percent below the national average, according to Mental Health Victoria.
Much of the new funding has been allocated to mental health units in emergency departments when people are in a life-threatening condition, but this does not address the lack of affordable, community mental health centres that could reduce the number of people needing emergency care.
At the acute level, there is a chronic shortage of beds, leading to people being discharged from emergency wards after only three days and shunted into Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) units before they’re ready. This puts pressure on staff who are not equipped to deal with their needs. In turn, the PARCs are overstretched, leading to “overflow” patients being roomed in local hotels such as the Coburg Motor Inn.
The Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) estimates that there are 350 unfilled mental health positions in the public mental health system, adding to the workload of those who remain in the sector.
Victorian Socialists support the calls from Mental Health Victoria for an additional $543 million in additional funding for mental health support, including $200 million for community mental health services.
There should be greater funding for community dental clinics, where the average waiting time for general dental care in the northern metro area is 17.5 months. People with dental pain wait months for care, reliant on pain killers from GPs in the meantime.
Punitive and scaremongering drug policies mean that addicts are criminalised for their illness. Recreational drug users have to use risky, poor quality substances, and face stiff penalties that can ruin lives. Alcohol and tobacco are bigger killers yet are not banned. This double standard benefits nobody but the fearmongers in the media. It increases the risk of poisonings and overdoses, and turns harmless behaviour into criminal activity.
There is a trend to criminalising users, at great cost to society. There has been an 87 percent increase in arrests for drug-related offences in the decade up to 2016 – but a decrease in the last two years of arrests for trafficking and dealing and a 13 percent decrease in arrests for drug providers.
Australia-wide, 51.6 percent of all arrests are cannabis-related.
There has been an increase in the numbers of people convicted of drug-related offences receiving a custodial sentence, in both the lower and higher courts.
It’s a double standard that disproportionately affects the young, the poor and people of colour, while wealthy corporate criminals rarely end up facing court for their lifestyles. The additional financial burden of court and prison administration is enormous – a study of Aboriginal people who have committed crime found that that investment into mental health and drug and alcohol services could save an estimated $111,458 per person over a lifetime. Diversion programs are between six and 15 times cheaper than incarceration.
For many years, Stephen Jolly fought for the establishment of safe injecting rooms in the face of stiff opposition from Labor, the Liberals and the Murdoch press. It’s a track record of community campaigning for a sensible, harm-minimisation approach to drugs policy, and it won: in 2017, we finally forced Labor to backflip and establish the safe injecting facility that they’d opposed for so long.
Victorian Socialists will fight to take that common-sense approach further. Recreational drug use should be decriminalised, and addiction treated as a public health problem, with an expansion of treatment facilities. Recent spending commitments have not been enough to redress the chronic underfunding of the sector. It is estimated that for every $1 spent on treatment annually, $8 is saved in ambulance and hospital costs and administration of the criminal system.
Victoria is one of the worst states for provision of live-in rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction, with only 0.69 beds per 10,000 people. This need is met by predatory private providers which are unregulated. The Victorian Alcohol and Drugs Association calls for an additional 200 beds to bring Victoria in line with other states, at a cost of approximately $14 million annually.
Stephen Jolly has been part of the fight for funding for pill-testing facilities. We call for them to be made a standard public safety measure at major events and nightclubs.
It says a lot about a society how it treats its senior citizens, who have worked all their lives, contributing to society.
Housing is a key issue. More older Australians are now renting in retirement. But renting is expensive, insecure, and poorly designed for those who are ageing. The crisis in public housing will only worsen as our population ages.
Homelessness too is a growing problem; shamefully, older women are the fastest-growing group of homeless Australians.
Making the transition into retirement housing can be difficult. It is made more difficult when retirement housing operators gouge retirees’ nest eggs. Retirees often have to navigate 100-page legal documents, and are often left with unfair contracts and excessive bonds, service charges and exit fees due to a lack of regulation.
Aged care is also in dire straits. Federally until the 2018-19 budget, $1.672 billion has been cut from funding in recent years after changes to the residential care funding formula.
Running aged care for profit needs to be stopped. The largest aged care providers hide their profits in off-shore havens, and receive billions in government subsidies, which account for 70 percent of their profits. Profits come from cutting corners. For example, one in two residents in Australia are affected by malnutrition. It is no longer a requirement to provide nursing care on site for 24 hours, with much care carried out by unskilled and cheaper workers. One large aged care provider, Japara Healthcare, issued instructions that “checking the resident is still breathing or has not fallen out of bed is not a valid reason to check the resident”, in an effort to reduce staffing. While the few dozen Victorian publicly run aged care facilities have mandated nurse to resident ratios, the vast majority of aged care facilities – more than 700 – are for profit and have no mandated ratios, a key demand of the nurses’ union.
Access to affordable and accessible healthcare is a particular concern for older people. With an ageing population, it is even more critical that the health budget receive a massive boost. The federal government’s boost to home care in last federal budget provides packages to 14,000 people, but this is a small proportion of the over 100,000 people on the wait list. Those assessed as high need can wait up to a year for services. Councils are also moving to cut or privatise home care services that are vital to older people being able to maintain their independence.
Workers deserve to retire in dignity at an age when they are healthy enough to enjoy it. The Liberals’ plan to increase the age of eligibility for the age pension to 70 would make it the highest pension age in the developed world. Labor paved the way for this by raising it to 67. Yet politicians can cash in on their most generous retirement perks at a sprightly 60 years of age until 2025!
Victorian Socialists will advocate to increase the pension, currently a measly 28 percent of average weekly wages and well below the poverty line, to a liveable income.
At the state level, there are many changes that could have an immediate impact on the cost of living and quality of life for seniors. Discounts on utility bills and council fees should be increased and public transport for pensioners should be free.
Despite the formal rights won through their struggles, women are still underpaid, overworked and at most risk of violence and still carry out the majority of labour in the home. For example “equal pay for work of equal value” was established as a principle in our courts 46 years ago. But Australian women working full-time still receive only 82.7 percent of the pay of their male counterparts. The Victorian government should legislate for mandatory pay transparency to hold employers to account, and Victorian Socialists support reforms to superannuation to redress the 52 percent gap in retirement funds between men and women.
The Victorian Socialists support measures that lighten the “double burden” on working mothers of work and family responsibilities. Overpriced, for-profit childcare is a financial drain on working class families. The long wait lists are indicative of a shortage of services. Childcare should be free and close to home or work. Large employers should provide childcare in the workplace, which should include after hours, vacation and occasional care. Early childcare educators should be paid a decent wage. Victoria could do more to make childcare accessible to working parents whose jobs are increasingly casual and temporary. We call for the state government to step in and boost funding for not-for-profit childcare.
Many of the demands of the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign particularly impact women in insecure, part time work – the demand to restore penalty rates, fighting for permanency and shutting down sham contracting are key. Stamping out sexual harassment and sexist bullying of women by their managers is also important for working women. Victorian Socialists support changing the laws that restrict the time women can bring an action against their employer for sexual harassment in the workplace and measures to make doing so less costly.
The state government boasts that tackling family violence is a priority. Yet VicHealth research shows that domestic and family violence remains the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 years. The shortage of public housing must be addressed. Long wait times – up to nine months on the “priority” list – lead to long stays in communal refuges and disruption to children and employment. That’s one reason that family violence is a leading cause of homelessness. We need a public housing system that’s up to the challenge.
Abortion was finally removed from the Crimes Act in 2007 in Victoria, and began to be treated as a health issue. However, women have to be able to access the service in a timely manner, free of harassment and without incurring a huge cost. The Victorian Socialists support free, accessible abortion services. We are therefore concerned by the Royal Women’s Hospital’s decision to halve funding its Pregnancy Advisory Service which provided telephone and face to face counselling, referral and case management services.
Youth wages – paid as a percentage of the minimum wage to workers under 21 – should be abolished. The current discrimination makes it harder for young people to leave difficult family situations and means working class parents need to financially support their children for longer.
While Victorian Socialists call on the federal government to raise the Youth Allowance so that students are not living below the poverty line, there are lots of ways the state government could support young people studying at TAFE or University. They should provide free public transport, increase subsidies on utility bills and provide subsidised housing to students.
Victorian Socialists endorse the Homestretch campaign to maintain housing support for young people living in foster or residential care out of home until age 21. Currently these young people are abandoned by the system at age 18. At this age, their lack of experience make it hard for them to find a job and they are at high risk of homelessness and incarceration.
Establish comprehensive education programs for high-school students about safe sex and the meaning of real consent. This includes education about healthy sexual relationships, as well as sex and gender diversity.
The Victorian Socialists will campaign and fight to end of all forms of discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. We would call for the removal of discrimination exemptions for religious bodies in the Equal Opportunity Act.
The LGBTQ Homelessness Research Project (2016) found that LGBTIQ people are at least twice as likely as heterosexuals to experience homelessness, are more likely to experience homelessness at a younger age because of family rejection, and experience misgendering, harassment, violence and discrimination in shared accommodation facilities, rooming houses and private rental. The Victorian Socialists’ policy of prioritising significant increases in public housing availability would provide greater access to housing for LGBTIQ people at risk of homelessness.
LGBTIQ people have a higher prevalence of mental health issues. Poorer mental health outcomes are directly linked to experiences of discrimination. Boosting funding for mental health services is a must.
Research has consistently found that young people experience high levels of homophobic and transphobic abuse, and that this is most likely to occur when they are at school. The Victorian Socialists support the rights of transgender and gender-diverse young people to affirm their gender identity at school and supports the rollout of the Respectful Relationships program and curriculum. The undermining of Safe Schools, a program designed to address homophobic and transphobic bullying, leaves LGBTIQ young people worse off and the campaign waged against it by Liberals and the Australian newspaper was homophobic and transphobic.
Victorian Socialists support the full decriminalisation of sex work. It is still the case that street sex work is illegal, exposing people to criminalisation. We also oppose penalising sex workers who do not comply with licensing requirements, as many sex workers are concerned about a breach of their privacy.
We support sex workers’ efforts to organise collectively to improve their pay and conditions.
Planning & public space
In Melbourne and in the northern metro area we want a commitment to green space, linear parks and community consultation in the future of public space. As Melbourne changes, vast areas of the north and west, from Maribyrnong across through Broadmeadows to the north-east, are former industrial areas now decommissioned. These are now being lined up for public use. We need to ensure that such areas are properly decontaminated – a vast job if done properly, but one which will provide skilled employment across the north, and make these areas safe for use.
When they are safe for use, decisions about what they are to be used for should be in the hands of the communities of the north, absolutely. Currently, both major parties have one intention only: to sell off former government land to developers, and cram as many apartments onto them as possible. There is no doubt that we need more housing – and genuinely affordable and public housing – in Melbourne. But there’s also no reason why people already living here should be victims of decades of poor planning and panicked catch-up.
Pushing back against big developers
Big developers are not being controlled enough by the State government and Councils. Planning in Victoria is almost an uncontrolled market. State and Local Planning Schemes are full of preferred rather than mandatory controls. There are few rules in many areas, such as the need for mandatory low cost housing (inclusionary zoning) in new big developments.
The Victorian Socialists stand for:
A total rewrite of the State planning scheme with input from resident associations and Councils.
Planning appeals to VCAT limited to errors in law.
Protection of our heritage shopping strips, with all development on such streets to be set back 10 metres from the streetscape.
A 9 metre limit in mixed-use zones; keep high rise to commercial zones and agreed growth areas.
Inclusionary zoning set at least 20 percent for all developments of four storeys or more.
A mandated increase in social infrastructure for rises in population growth.
Melbourne is one of the world’s great Victorian cities, with a built heritage valued by millions of its inhabitants. Wealthy people may have owned these grand buildings; but they were built by skilled workers, in command of expressive crafts. That heritage is our common property and irreplaceable. For decades, from the fight to save Carlton from freeways to the Green Bans in Sydney, it’s been the militant organised left that has saved our shared built culture from business. Now, as Melbourne booms, we have to step up again, and resist the demands of business to turn our city into a sea of cheap concrete and glass, housing empty apartments; to destroy working class and middle class neighbourhoods; and for open-slather cowboy development. We want heritage overlays and plans with real power vested in local councils, a restriction of the developers’ tribunal VCAT to adjudicating questions of law, not overturning council decisions, and stronger protection for buildings of community significance.
Roads: tollways no solution to congestion
After the successful community campaign to ditch the East-West Link, led by Victorian Socialists candidate Stephen Jolly, the Liberals are going to the election with a plan to revive it. We beat them once, we’ll beat them again if we have to.
Both Labor and the Liberals propose to build the $10 billion North-East link. Just what we need – another toll road. This will not fix congestion. The government’s own modelling says it will actually increase the number of commuters using cars instead of trains as a result. This is at the cost of building the Doncaster train line, putting in more buses, and generally boosting public transport. Instead Labor will waste billions on a toll road that will actually increase congestion, and within five years any benefits to driving travel time will be lost. We can reduce road congestion by getting more people off the roads, and into trains.
In 2017, 967,000 Victorians rode bikes each week. More people would ride if they felt safe. Currently, there are too many gaps in the bicycle network and some bike paths are overcrowded. Paths like the Upfield shared path are overcrowded, putting many cyclists onto busy streets like Sydney Road. There’s a need to extend the Upfield bike path to Upfield.
The Victorian Socialists call for:
Building missing links in the bicycle network.
Expanding the bicycle corridors with off-road, protected bike paths.
Creating new bicycle corridors where existing corridors are overcrowded.
Developing safe bicycle connections to employment hubs, transport hubs, schools and universities.
Investing $20 per person per year, or $126 million, into cycling infrastructure.
Expanding secure bike parking at public transport hubs such as train stations.
Rural & Regional Issues
Victorian Socialists acknowledge that many of the social services that ought to be properly funded, publicly owned and improved are worse outside of Melbourne. People’s access to social services should not be reduced because they live in the country.
The fastest growing regional areas in Victoria are Geelong, Ballarat and Warrnambool, yet they have the slowest growing public transport systems. Victorian Socialists call for:
An electrified rail loop in Geelong from Waurn Ponds to service the growing car dependent populations of the Bellarine Peninsular and Torquay.
Dual electrified rail lines between Melbourne and Ballarat and reopening the train line between Ballarat and Geelong.
An upgrade of the Warrnambool line to support a high-speed train service.
Regional health services are still underserviced, with no easy access to specialist services. Victorian Socialists call for:
New, properly funded specialist health centres such as oncology and women’s health services.
Surgical and medical abortion clinics so that women are not forced to travel to Melbourne.
Payment of specialists to attend country centres.
With the closure of many industries in Geelong and throughout all regional areas, there is a desperate need to create public sector employment programs aimed at young people and the unemployed. Victorian Socialists call for:
The creation of ongoing real jobs in municipal, farming and tourism sectors.
The construction of publicly owned alternative energy generators for local communities.
Incentives for electric cars to manufactured at the old Ford factory in Geelong.
Agriculture and regional development face difficult problems in Victoria which impact on the northern metro area through agricultural decline and urbanisation.
Financial capital and agribusiness have invested in land, deepening the financialisation of food markets. The increased yields and growth of agri-industrial methods have worsened land degradation, water pollution and loss of biodiversity, often due to an acceleration in land clearing and excessive use of chemical inputs. Australia can afford to experiment much more with new forms of agriculture that place greater emphasis on sustainability. Rehabilitating Victoria’s waterways should be a priority, along with sustainable soil composition. Programs that draw upon Indigenous people’s knowledge of land management should be expanded.
Victoria accounts for the second highest proportion of total agricultural output of all states – over half of which is dairy, cattle and sheep production. Horticulture is also a significant contributor with Victoria and Queensland the being the largest provider of the nation’s foodbowl.
The workers in the packing sheds and fields are often subjected to long hours for low pay. This sector is heavily reliant on cash contracting and many workers face visa insecurity and are preyed upon by unlicensed migration agents. There has been many instances of employers abusing workers’ lack of knowledge about their rights. The state government should make new labour hire license laws enforceable by granting unions more power to prosecute rogue labour hire companies and complicit host companies. The state government should also support a Federal amnesty for undocumented workers so they can enforce their rights.
Climate change will lead to an increasing frequency of droughts and other extreme weather events. Current levels of water use are completely unsustainable in Australia. Excessive water use, especially by heavy industry and water-intensive agribusiness, is causing irreparable damage to our fragile ecosystems and creating chronic water shortages.
Conventional free market economics aims to solve this problem by putting a price on water and allowing it to be traded by those who can afford to purchase it.
This approach allows governments to ignore the real challenge of conserving water properly and rationing its use according to need. Trading in water encourages speculation and the most profitable rather than the most sustainable and socially just uses. It leads to poor farming practices.
Instead of market-based approaches, we advocate an all-round plan for water sustainability based on a thorough scientific assessment of rivers, wetlands and water tables.
There is enough water for everyone if comprehensive conservation measures were adopted and its use fairly allocated. Such an approach would remove the need to build further large, environmentally damaging, dams.
To achieve water sustainability, public ownership and democratic, accountable management of water resources is essential. Unless the water supply is publicly owned, the profit motive will always disrupt scientifically-based water conservation measures.
Furthermore, more water runs off the hard surfaces of Melbourne’s urban area than is taken from our dams. Currently, most of this water flows into storm drains and out to sea. The Victorian Socialists will seek to ensure that all new development is water sensitive, allowing storm water to be collected and reused in Melbourne’s parks and gardens.
We also support:
An end to the free access of the mining industry to water in artesian basins, catchments and rivers.
The prosecution and banning from operation of mining and agribusiness corporations that pollute water, with full remediation costs for damage; and the exposure of and politicians who support these companies.
Stopping land clearing and logging in important water catchments to preserve water quality and slow erosion. Increasing funding to land clearing prevention services.
Phasing out water-intensive monoculture crops in climatic regions which are unsustainable.
Limiting maximum private dam sizes rather than charging for rainwater stored in farm dams for irrigation, and subsidising irrigation efficiency technology such as drip irrigation to limit water wastage.
Introducing a grant for low-income households to install water tanks.
Animals are sentient beings that deserve our care and respect.
We have a duty of care to minimise the physical and psychological suffering of animals that results from human activity. The Victorian Socialists support strong animal welfare laws, and the protection of native animals and their habitats.
A ban on live exports.
An end to inhumane farming practices that are inconsistent with animals’ natural behavioural needs.
The development of a comprehensive and enforceable Australian standard for free-range farming practices for all agricultural animals.
Ensuring education programs are in place for responsible pet ownership.
An end to the importation, sale or marketing of animal-tested cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients.
The elimination of all cruel practices in relation to the breeding, sale, transport, confinement and slaughter of animals.