There are many things that make Victorian Socialists stand out: our unique anti-capitalist politics; our army of dedicated volunteers; our refusal to do dodgy preference deals; our rejection of the limits of parliamentary politics; and our focus on grassroots movements as a means of changing the world. But one policy in particular makes other candidates recoil in horror—the pledge our candidates take to accept only an average wage if elected.
Currently, members of federal parliament receive a base salary of $211,250 a year. On top of this, they typically receive more than $50,000 in allowances and other entitlements. The base rate alone is more than quadruple the median salary of an Australian worker. But unlike wages, politicians’ salaries do not go backwards due to inflation. Instead, they get a pay rise every year through the Remuneration Tribunal. Workers, on the other hand, have to fight for their pay rises and usually get one only every three or four years—if they’re lucky.
Occasionally, the politicians’ huge drain on the public purse comes to light in some sort of scandal. Who could forget former Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop’s $5,000 taxpayer-funded helicopter ride to a Liberal Party fundraiser in 2015? And yet, shortly after “Choppergate”, Bishop retired from politics on a $255,000 annual pension with a Life Gold Pass for free travel. Meanwhile, the pension for the rest of us is a measly $25,000 a year. Workers who have spent their whole lives labouring, creating millions in profits for bosses, get to the end of their working lives and are forced to live on less than the minimum wage.
Politicians’ fat salaries, while of course making for a very cushy existence, also serve a broader purpose. They encourage politicians to feel they have a stake in the system—a system of extreme inequality, wage stagnation, privatisation of essential services, underfunding of schools and hospitals and everything else that leads to obscene privilege coexisting alongside grinding poverty.
Socialists are different. We consciously reject the bribes elected representatives are offered to accept the status quo. When we are elected to parliament, we are there to serve the working class and to advance working-class struggle. Being elected as a socialist is not a chance to advance a career or rub shoulders with elites. It is a chance to elevate and be a megaphone for working-class and social struggles.
All payments above an average wage will be put towards grassroots campaigns that fight for the things we stand for. Because change really happens only when ordinary people are mobilised to fight. The eight-hour day, marriage equality and countless other reforms were won, not by well-paid politicians, but by people striking, protesting and campaigning.
In a world of career politicians who serve only themselves and their corporate mates, candidates who believe our political representatives should experience life as those they represent do are a rare thing. Victorian Socialists hope to change that.
Belle Gibson is the Victorian Socialists federal election candidate for Gorton in Melbourne's western suburbs.
“You’re just a performing fucking monkey”. A racist barb, and one of many pointed moments in Jacky, a Melbourne Theatre Company production currently playing at the Arts Centre. Jacky is about the politics of performing monkeys. It is about racism and exploitation, hypocrisy and resistance.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
The South Australian government has followed New South Wales and Victoria to undermine democratic rights. A bi-partisan bill has been rushed through parliament’s lower house, which proposes fines up to $50,000 or three months in jail if protesters “intentionally or recklessly obstruct the public place”.
NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.
A recent NBC News poll found that 70 percent of US voters don’t want Joe Biden to recontest the presidency next year. Sixty percent feel likewise about Donald Trump. Yet the two men are currently odds-on to face each other in a 2024 re-run of the 2020 presidential election.
Allyship presents itself as a way that people can show support for the rights of an oppressed group that they themselves are not a part of without “taking the space” of those who are oppressed. Marxists, conversely, argue that solidarity is the key way we can win reforms for, and ultimately liberate, the oppressed. Allyship and solidarity might sound like much the same thing, but there are important differences in these strategies for social change.