On the Senate trail
Standing for pre-selection as Lead Senate Candidate for The Greens Victoria
Some questions and answers!
I've recently been asked some good questions by a reader of this website, interested in knowing more about me and my motiivations and politics. I thought it was worth sharing my answers!
How do you envisage the party growing and achieving long term legislative and societal outcomes?
The critical thing for me is that our processes have to be excellent - members have to be empowered; voters have to feel a real connection with us. The more people feel and are part of us, the more we can do. I am passionate about participatory democracy; I think our consensus decision making is fundamental to our party - because it means we benefit from the wisdom of all, not just the majority.
The big question is of course how do we get those next 10% of voters - to boost our vote to above 20%, to win more seats in the House of Representatives and be in a position to be a powerful partner in a coalition government (and have as a critical negotiating point a shift to proportional representation!)
Obviously our appeal to voters, how we choose to present issues and which issues we focus on is incredibly important in maximising our vote. It's not selling out to be smart in how we present ourselves, as long as we stay true to our values in what we are saying and doing. Similarly, some of the trickiest decisions we face are deciding how far we are willing to negotiate away from our party policies, and support what can be quite incremental and insufficient outcomes. On this I describe myself as a pragmatic idealist, or an idealistic pragmatist. My rule of thumb ( and in local government I was in this position a lot) is that as long as you aren't going backwards and aren't having to say something is acceptible when isn't, then it's worth negotiating to achieve just a small step forward. At the very least it gets the issue on the agenda.
For example on climate we can't afford to water down the message of working to create a zero carbon economy in the time-frame of the next 10-15 years because it’s what the science says has to happen. But we have to work with what's on offer at the moment. Simultaneously however we have to work out how to make zero carbon message less scary; more yes we can! We need to learn to talk about climate as an economic opportunity, creating a healthy sustainable economy with jobs for you and your kids, unlike our current unsustainable dinosaur economy.
If we need to help build the social movements to build the popularity of that position then that's what needs to happen. Again with regard to climate that's why I've spent a lot of time this year planning a program working with the Climate Emergency Network planning a community mobilisation program called groundswell .
Clearly we will gain votes by campaigning on popular issues, and issues that appeal beyond our current base that are also important to us, such as denticare, and we should keep doing this. I think having Richard di Natale in the Senate with a focus on health is very important in this regard. Similarly I think we should be equally strong on public education.
The personal politics and beliefs of people often drive their vision of a successful party. What is success for The Greens? How do we get there? What role for members in achieving this success? How should The Greens avoid Labour's malaise?
My politics is the politics of connection - I feel deeply connected to both the other species that we share this planet with and all the peoples of the planet, most of whom have far less opportunity to live healthy happy lives than most Australians do.
My vision of a successful Greens party is a genuinely participative, politically successful party, that has excellent links with civil society, that aspires to and achieves being in government, at local, state and federal levels. I think it’s critically important that our members of parliament are really well engaged with both the party and the community - that they are grounded in sharing power, rather than governing on behalf of people. It's manitaining true participatory democracy, maintaining excellent consensus processes that will allow us to grow and thrive and stay true to our ideals.
What policy issues are you passionate about?
I am passionate about so many issues! That's one of my motivations for spending so much of my personal time and energy with The Greens - I can be working on them all! My politics is the politics of connection with the planet and all the peoples of the planet. This means my number one issue over the last thirty years is climate change, because of its devastating impact on people and the life of the whole planet.
Some other issues:
- transport/ infrastructure/ urban and regional planning, including public transport, freight, ports, the shape of our cities, the connections between cities and regional centres... The thing I really like about sustainable transport -walking, cycling and public transport is that it connects together energy and sustainability issues and social justice – accessible, affordable, healthy transport for all, that builds community, and social capital. And it’s something that people across the political spectrum are very keen on.
- protecting natural environments and wildlife - for their own sake, and for our sake
- indigenous rights and self determination - we have to make amends for the effects of the white invasion, the dispossession, and the ongoing racism and discrimination.
- education - quality public education is so important to overcome disadvantage, and to build a capable, informed, thoughtful society of people living happy satisfying lives, who are capable of seeing through rubbish, overcoming prejudice and having the skills, creativity and innovation to be able to tackle the problems we face
- seeing Australia in a global context – it’s a mere accident of birth that we live here. There are around 30 million asylum seekers in the world - for the life of me I don't understand why the rich countries of the world just can't accept them all, and work through diplomacy and engagement and economic and other pressures to improve conditions where people are suffering, so as to reduce the pressures and imperative to flee. In terms of the impact that this would have on our natural environments, water resources etc here; we need to be acting locally and globally to reduce population, and equally and significantly in an Australian context, reducing per capita consumption. Any limitations on our migration intake should be done by reducing business migration, and training our own doctors and nurses and engineers, not limiting the flow of refugees. Someone told me recently that there are more Nigerian doctors working in London than there are in the whole of Nigeria - we live in such a distorted world where those of us that have, just take it for granted and expect that we should not just continue to have, but that we deserve to have, and have more.
- the broad suite of social justice issues -having been a Councillor in a municipality where so many people struggle to live quality lives - the need for much more investment and better services in areas as wide ranging as disability, affordable housing, support for newly arrived migrants, problem gambling, the list is long...
- finally, and a thread through all of the above, is democracy and people's engagement and empowerment over decisions which affect their lives. I work as a facilitator, and in the fields of community engagement which is usually done badly. I am inspired by things like the participatory budgeting I saw in action in Brazil a few years ago. It would be great to see such initiatives rolled out in Australia.