Socialists set sights on city council

By Meg Hill

In the upcoming City of Melbourne election on October 24, a fresh ticket will attempt to place socialists in the council chamber for the first time.

The Victorian Socialists (VS) have launched a campaign with candidates for Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and councillor positions – promising to “challenge big business and fight to give workers a say in how their city is run.”

If elected they promise to campaign to remove the business and non-resident landlord vote and instead give city workers voting rights, support protest and social movements like Black Lives Matter, and campaign for an expansion of public housing.

Kath Larkin, the VS Lord Mayor candidate and a worker at Flinders Street Station, said the party’s candidates would stand out among this election’s spread – being neither professional politicians nor business-insiders. 

“Our candidates are rank-and-file trade union activists, anti-racist fighters, and leaders in LGBTI organising,” she said.

Ms Larkin is a rank-and-file trade union leader and was the first woman to be elected as workplace delegate at Flinders Street Station with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) in 2013.

“I’ve been elected twice as RTBU Women’s Officer, a position from which I’ve organised workplace campaigns for women workers in a male-dominated industry,” she said.

In 2015 she played a leading role in the first mass strike in rail in Victoria in almost two decades – when Metro workers stopped work across Melbourne and won better pay and conditions, including trauma and family violence leave.

But her political life started long before her work in the city’s public transport sector. 

“My earliest memories of activism are from 2001 when, as a primary school student, I was politicised by the atrocious ‘children overboard’ lies from John Howard that demonised refugees,” she said.

“I organised collections and refugee support through my Church for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.”

As a university student she was elected the National Union of Students (NUS) LBGBTI Officer and was on the organising committee for Equal Love – the group that set up the Marriage Equality campaign.

She will be joined on the ticket by Daniel Nair Dadich for Deputy Lord Mayor and Chris di Pasquale for a councillor position.

Mr Dadich is a first-generation Australian living in Kensington, the child of migrant and refugee parents, and works as a youth worker with refugees.

Mr Di Pasquale works in the CBD teaching English as a second language and shares a history in LGBTI activism with Ms Larkin – he was NUS LGBTI Officer in 2017, the year marriage equality was won. He has also been a leading member of Melbourne’s Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF).

Ms Larkin said the city’s politics needed to be re-set. 

“We have a strange situation in Melbourne. This is the most left-wing city in Australia, but council elections are rigged to amplify the voice of the wealthy and shut out the workers and residents who make our city run,” she said.

“Melbourne, is the only council in Victoria in which non-resident landlords and businesses get a vote. This accounts for 60 per cent of votes, meaning workers and residents struggle to have our voices heard.”

She said the current Lord Mayor Sally Capp was emblematic of that situation – being a former head of the Property Council.

“If elected, I would slash the current $200,000 Lord Mayoral salary and strip the title of ‘Lord’ from the office,” Ms Larkin said.

“I’d take an average worker’s wage and use the office to provide resources to community and activist campaigns.” •

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