Chris JENKINS says “go back to Russia!” is one of the more interesting epithets thrown his way when people hear he’s a member of Socialist Alliance.
The party’s chief candidate in the looming re-run of the Senate election in WA says such comments betray widespread “misinformation about socialism and socialist objectives”.
“There is a massive distortion, even some young students have been brought up with a culture that still associates socialism with the experience of the Soviet Union,” the Hamilton Hill 24-year-old says. “I’ve actually had people say to me ‘go back to Russia’, which is the strangest thing. It’s a phrase they have heard and they have reiterated it.”
The Senate poll in WA is expected to be re-run after the Australian Electoral Commission told the High Court it had no confidence in the validity of a result hampered by the disappearance of 1300 ballots.
The Greens’ Scott Ludlam and Australian Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich took the last two spots when a handful of votes swung preferences away from Labor’s Louise Pratt and Palmer United Party’s Zhenya Wang, meaning the lost 1300 ballots may have tipped the result.
A feature of the 2013 Senate poll nationwide was the success of right-wing micro-parties in grabbing a spot in most states: Either Mr Dropulich or Mr Wang in WA, David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats in NSW, Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party in Victoria, Glen Lazarus from PUP in Queensland and Jacqui Lambie (PUP) in Tasmania.
It later emerged that a number of micro-parties had engaged in a sophisticated preference swapping arrangement that saw them clamber over the major parties’ candidates. The result saw some candidates elected to the Senate on tiny primary votes: Mr Dropulich, for example, harvested just 0.2 per cent of the vote but it was enough to elect him to a six-year term.
Mr Jenkins is confident Socialist Alliance will not suffer from any expected backlash against micro-parties.
“This Senate re-run will be very interesting and I think the Abbott government has had the shortest honeymoon of any government elected,” the Notre Dame University student says.
“There will be a public shift away from those right-wing parties and we will provide more an opening for those people who are at the other side of things.”
He’d like to see Holden’s factories nationalised to create more green jobs, arguing the company has been given so many billions in public money the public has a right to move in on the infrastructure.
“It’s absolutely scandalous to find out how many public subsidies were going into Holden, and Ford before that,” he told the Herald.
“And when Ford was going to the wall shelving those jobs, what we were calling for was the public ownership of those factories and industries to be re-tooled for wind turbines or renewable energies. Or at least the infrastructure for renewable energies, because I wouldn’t say right now we need more cars, we need to work towards a transit system.”
Mr Jenkins wants the electorate to see politics is not just an old person’s game.
“Cuts to tertiary education, introduction of costs to Medicare—they’re going to affect people who are the lower echelon, like young people and students particularly.”
He concedes the Socialist Alliance faces a tough battle: “We acknowledge we are a very small party and our actual field of influence is very small. If we won, we would be pleasantly surprised and it would be a massive shift in Australian politics. But we have seen with the election of a socialist to the Seattle city council it is not unheard of that even in a very traditionalist pro-capitalist country that those inroads can’t be made.”