Around 220 of the 1700 members of "Victorian Socialists" attended a conference to found an ongoing organisation on 16 February at the Maritime Union of Australia hall in Melbourne.
The "Victorian Socialists" coalition was formed to run candidates in the recent Victorian state election. It did quite well. The central campaign supporting Steve Jolly for the Victorian multi-member upper house Northern Metropolitan seat gained over 4% first preference votes.
Over 7% was achieved in the Labor Party multicultural heartland lower-house seat of Broadmeadow, and many votes over 3% elsewhere. Up to 1000 people were active in the campaign.
The main discussions were around: standing candidates in upcoming federal elections, adopting the constitution and electing governing bodies.
The meeting was quite low key, with no heated political discussion. The two main forces in the coalition – Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance - had agreed on the constitution, the key office bearers, and the proposed candidates for three federal lower-house seats that cover most the state Northern Metropolitan seat.
There was broad agreement on motions from non-aligned members, which after some amendment added clauses on the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and on the right to strike and democratic control in workplaces. The conference also decided to establish members' meetings to consult on issues prior to governing council meetings.
In two debates – adopting a central slogan of People before Profit, rather than People and Planet before Profit; and deciding not to run for the Senate (federal upper house) – Socialist Alternative clearly had the majority of votes in the room.
For the governing council of twenty members, Socialist Alternative ran eight candidates and Socialist Alliance four in a quota proportional representation optional preferential system, as used to elect some Australian state upper houses.
I decided late in the process to stand, arguing to continue close union connections using the federal election to build on the base in working class communities established in the state election, and for broadening the membership to include a wider range of socialist groups.
22 candidates ran: I missed out by a small percentage in the final distribution of preferences.