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Howard loses the election!

..and his own seat!

by Dave Riley

Yep. It's over: the witch is dead.

The hopes of millions of Australian working people were realize last night when John Winston Howard's government lost electoral traction and floundered under the weight of its own political arrogance.

But to add more sweetness to the defeat -- this most tactical of maestros has lost his own seat of Bennelong to former ABC journalist
Maxine McKew,. As well, the man who engineered the invasion of the Norther Territory and placed indigenous Australians there under marshal law, Mal Brough, has himself been thrown out of office. (We can perhaps also thank for that the many single Mums in his seat who sought to punish Mal's role in setting up the Welfare to Work scheme.)

It's happy faces all around.

What with all the inquests we'll be now treated to let's make one thing clear: Australian working people , galvanized around the Our Rights at Work campaign, bought down John Howard. The election was about class and about support for trade unionism. The tide changed with that just as the shift in the ALP's fortunes was a direct product of it.

Those mobilisations in the street were nothing to snort at. Although generating them was hard enough given the entrenched opposition in the official trade union movement at the ACTU level to any break out, imagine what could have transpired if the agenda had been upped and the ACTU had not rolled over so much for Ruddism?

Compared to March 1983 when Labor last won office, this places the trade union movement (now a very much weaker and undermined trade union movement in the 24 years since) in a stronger and more confident position to deal with Rudd's Work Choices Lite spin on industrial relations.Last time the Accord 'consensus' was the Labor government and through bullying and spin, the trade union tops regimented the working people hog tied into a Laborist 'fit'. This time it's different. This time there's protest.

And centre piece is the right to strike.

Back in 1983 and for the period of the ALP administration those who advocated a class struggle perspective were isolated vilified and, in some cases, criminalised. But not much was happening in that regard as all trade unions were bought into line.

Now, while there is no breakout or generalised fight back, there's an alternative perspective that has not existed for many a year. Thats' what the Socialist Allaince tries to relate to, and to some degree, serves as its political voice.

For me, though,
McKew's drubbing of Howard was the highlight of last nights call. An extremely skilled television and radio journalist I found a lot more to celebrate in her sometimes rambling speech than when the swarmy Rudd took to the podium to claim a victory that was rightfully ours.

The alternative vote

This did indeed turn out to be a polarised election so the alt vote didn't rise much in the House of Reps seats. The Greens pulled in an 7.6% average and the Socialist Alliance will average somewhere under 1%. With all the jockeying and game play the Senate figures should be different. Even the ACTU did not call absolutely for a ALP vote -- opting instead for one against Work Choices -- and the Get Up phenomenon impacted on small "l" liberal Australia --although it won't save the Democrats from a likely annihilation.

I'll write some more commentary later on the SA campaign , but for the moment here are a few visual responses:

In Brisbane:To mark the end of the SA election campaign and the demise of the Howard government, the Brisbane district of the Socialist Alliance celebrated on November 24th with free champagne all round.

Good time was had by all after a day out on the polling booths.

And in Sydney: Sydney Socialist Alliance celebrated the announcement of the defeat of the right-wing Howard Coalition government on November 24 by bursting onto the streets with pots, pans and whistles in a march around the block surrounding the Resistance Activist Centre. Residents came out of their homes to join us in this spontaneous action. Some of the Socialist Alliance campaigners at the "Howard Overboard!" election night party are pictured below. This was taken before the result was announced but as you can see they are already smiling!!

Carnival around the Sydney neighbourhood

Pip Hinman [Grayndler] Alex Bainbridge [NSW Senate]

5 Com:

Peter Boyle | November 25, 2007

Howard’s overboard - but keep the pressure on Rudd Labor

By Peter Boyle

The Socialist Alliance "Howard Overboard" election night party in Green Left Weekly's offices in Sydney spontaneously spilled into the streets when John Howard conceded defeat. Jubilant activists celebrated with chants, whistles and pots and pans in a lap around the block which drew out people from their homes. A right-wing government that has plagued Australia since 1996 has been defeated and we have much to celebrate.

Most of all we have to celebrate the people's power that was mobilized to defeat the Howard government over the last three years.

There can be no doubt that it was the outrage at attacks on workers' rights and the resistance to "Work Choices" -- that crude euphemism that was the official name for the biggest attack on workplace rights won over a century of workers' struggle -- that helped finish off the Howard government.

The hundreds of thousands who took to the streets against Work Choices spoke for the majority of people. They were dismissed by Howard and they remembered his ruthless arrogance on election day. Many trade unionists spread out through the suburbs of the major cities to campaign against the Howard government during the election campaign in one of the biggest electoral campaign mobilisations organised by the trade union movement in many years, most building the vote for Kevin Rudd's Labor.

The tens of thousands who marched on in the Walk Against Warming demonstrations on and around November 11 also helped bury the Howard government. The great majority of Australians who want serious action to address global warming was another majority arrogantly dismissed.

The thousands who defied the police-state conditions to take to Sydney's streets when US President George Bush came to Sydney for the APEC summit in September also symbolised the majority who dissent over the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the associated war on civil liberties. This was another nail in Howard's coffin.

Such was the popular backlash that Howard looks set to lose even his own parliamentary seat in Bennelong to Labor's Maxine McKew, who won 45.9% of the first preferences counted on election night. The preferences from the Greens' 5.4% at should assure Howard is ousted from the seat. It would be the first time a sitting prime minister has lost his seat since 1929.

Mal Brough, Howard’s notorious minister for indigenous affairs who led the jackbooted military invasion of Northern Territory Indigenous communities (which shamefully was supported by Rudd Labor), also lost his seat, a popular rejection of the racist scapegoating of Aborigines and attack on land rights.

But our celebrations should not blind us to the fact that the trade unions and other progressive movements will have to continue mobilising to push the incoming Rudd Labor government to deliver on its promises to rip up Work Choices, bring the troops home from Iraq and take action on climate change.

Already there is a gap between the promises Rudd has made and the reasons why people voted for Labor. On Work Choices, the Rudd version of "ripping up" will leave in place many elements of the Howard government's attack on workers and their right to organise. Labor has no serious program to tackle climate change and implement the kind of "renewables revolution" that we need -- and Rudd's vision for sustainability includes a place for coal, one of the worst greenhouse-gas generating fuels. Rudd's policy is to maintain troops in the Middle East, withdrawing only combat troops from Iraq (and even
that will have to wait until mid-2008). Moreover the US-led war in Afghanistan continues to have the blessing of the Labor's leaders, despite most Australians wanting troops withdrawn.

Rudd has told us that he is an "economic conservative" and experience tells us that economic conservativism = social and environmental vandalism. That's a lesson we cannot ignore after three decades of bipartisan support for the corporate profits-first agenda, demonstrated in action by federal and state governments (all of which are conservative Labor governments).

On election night Rudd congratulated Howard for his "extensive contribution to public service in Australia" and declared it time to "put aside the old battles of the past" between business and unions, between "growth and environment", "public and private".

"I extend our greetings tonight to our great friend and ally the United States", Rudd said in his victory speech and right-wing US President George Bush reciprocated by issuing a statement overnight congratulating Rudd on his victory.

"The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the President looks forward to working with this
newgovernment to continue our historic relationship", the statement said.

Labor's 6.3% swing was a strong endorsement for change but voters attached a note indicating which way they want his government to move by delivering a strong vote to the Greens, the most progressive party currently represented in federal parliament. The Greens look set to win at least two extra Senate positions.

Socialist Alliance national coordinator Dick Nichols told Green Left Weekly that it was movement's against Howard's policies, in particular those against Work Choices and the pulp mill in Tasmania, that madesure the Howard government was smashed. "The Socialist Alliance played a big role in building these movements, and did well in those seats where that work was most visible", he said.

Nichols said there had been modest increases in the vote for alliance candidates in the Sydney seats of Grayndler, Parramatta and Blaxland, the Wollongong-based seat of Cunningham, and the western Melbourne seat of Gellibrand. This is a result of thealliance's role as a builder "on the ground" of the movements that helped defeat the hated Howard government.

The Socialist Alliance congratulated the Greens on their good result and pledged to continue to work as partners in building the progressive movements. Many progressive-minded people gave their first preference vote to the Greens because they see them as having the best chance to win parliamentary elections at this time, said Nichols, but a number have sought to triple the value of their vote by voting "1" Socialist Alliance and "2" Greens.

More detailed reports on how the Socialist Alliance candidates did in the elections will be published in the next issue of Green Left Weekly.

Nick Fredman | November 25, 2007

Nick Fredman (GLW list):The Socialist Alliance votes look about the last time, considering the not-previously registered SEP split the already modest socialist vote in a number of seats and the senate.

The standout result is Pip Hinman in Grayndler, at 1.8% increasing the SA vote by 50% and beat the CDP (with members in state government) and SEP combined, and beating the Democrats, who had 4 Senators. With the SEP vote the socialist vote in this seat was 2.2%, pretty good in the context of a Ruddslide and big Greens votes in the inner cities.

Pip Hinman SAL 1,218 1.8 0.6
Daniel Caffery LIB 13,764 20.5 -4.7
Ehab Hennien CDP 800 1.2 1.0
Anthony Albanese ALP 37,657 56.0 4.1
Patrick O'Connor SEP 259 0.4 0.4
Saeed Khan GRN 12,466 18.5 -1.1
Jeffrey Gabriel DEM 1,088 1.6 -0.3

Norm | November 26, 2007

NoNobody argues that SA set records this election, the vote *was* small, not fundamentally better or worse in raw figures than average, but all in all it was encouraging and worthwhile.

But that said, within an electorate, the total vote does not tell the whole story. In Parramatta, SA's Rachel Evans has won 1.15% of the vote overall, but this includes very low votes in areas of the electorate where SA is not active or visible, as well as in the more well-off managerial areas of the hills. In the areas where SA is most active and does most of its political work, and in some strongly working-class areas, SA did well. At the Parramatta Town Hall booth, SA won 2.3% of the vote (compared to the Greens' 8%), 2% in Parramatta North (Greens 4%), 2% in Seven Hills (Greens 3.7%) and 1.8% in Metalla Rd, Toongabbie (Greens 4.8%). And many of our strongest supporters, young people and recently arrived refugees and migrants, do not yet have the right to vote.

Norm.(on Marxmail)

Peter Boyle | November 26, 2007

More pictures of Sydney Socialist Alliance celebrations of Howard's end here.

luke weyland | November 26, 2007

Where ever socialist alliance both stands, and also campaign actively, we do quite well win 1-2% Grayndler, Cunningham and Parramatta are good examples.

We however get next to no votes in the senate in similar type seats when no local candidate stands.

Next time we need to run in more seats if we are going to make any dent at all in the senate. Next time lets just have 1 or 2candidates standing for the upper house. Instead we could focus on running more local candidates which forces us to work with them on a more focused level.

We we could consider also running a few candidates in the local elections perhaps teaming up with other like minded socialists or in a ticket with more progressive greenies.

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