I’m a Melbourne lawyer and an Australian Services Union delegate, and I’ve been a socialist activist for over 20 years. I’ve always stood up for my beliefs, speaking out against government and corporations, and organising people to take them on.
One of the actions that had the most impact upon me was the convergence on the Woomera detention centre in 2002, where refugees and protesters tore down the fences and broke out. Seeing people just like us separated by steel bars and razor wire seared into my consciousness the contempt governments have for human lives. I knew then that lobbying politicians was pointless, and instead the whole system that could perpetrate this crime needed to be overturned.
In Victorian Socialists, we think more and more people want representatives who will call for system change and speak for a socialist alternative. The sanctity of corporate profits is the number one barrier to stopping carbon emissions fast enough to save us from the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Instead of debating what level of partial reductions – years into the future – that businesses might accept, we need advocates for a reorganisation of society to upend corporate power.
For most of my career, I’ve represented people with asbestos-related diseases. I went to a protest outside Trades Hall when James Hardie moved its business overseas and didn’t leave enough money to compensate the victims who used its product. I had no inkling then that this would shape my working life. If the unions had not won that battle, few of my clients would receive any financial recognition for what they’ve lost. In recent years, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of workers diagnosed with silica-related diseases. It took decades for government and companies to cease using asbestos – long after they knew how dangerous it was. We are now seeing the same logic play out for people with silicosis and other silica-related diseases: companies are prepared to ruin lives in pursuit of profit.
The pandemic raises many questions about making workers’ health and safety paramount. It also has exposed the pre-pandemic degradation of our healthcare system. We should pandemic-proof our workplaces and hospitals, but we also need to recognise that underfunding of the healthcare system has left it so lean it cannot cope with the smallest change, let alone a pandemic.
Melbourne is an electorate divided by class. There are lots of students – both domestic and international – who live, work and study in the area. There are many migrants and some refugees. There are many affluent people with multimillion dollar properties, but the majority of us who live and work in Melbourne are directly impacted by the pandemic, by huge mortgages or the prospect of renting for life, and by slow to non-existent wage growth. You don’t have to wonder what side socialists are on, because core to our beliefs is that workers should run society and they’d do a better job than the people who run it now.
When you vote for a socialist, you are sending a message to the mainstream parties that people want a voice that is unapologetically radical. More than words and policies on paper, it is also a vote for an alternative approach to politics that centres on organising people in struggle to increase their confidence to change the world instead of waiting for change to come through parliament. I’ve lived that idea the whole of my adult life.