Disclaimer: Now, I know what you might be thinking… “Politics sucks, it’s so boring! I couldn’t even care less…” Indeed, Australian politicians live so out of touch nature and the general public, it’s no wonder that the average person feels so disconnected from the political world.
But here’s the problem: Politicians want you to feel this way. In order to maintain power, it is convenient for people to feel disconnected and powerless in issues of political nature.
But these policies that rich, old, white men are currently deciding upon are the policies that directly affect you and me. Becoming involved is the only way that we can better our world and make a difference.
Recently I had the pleasure of catching up with local Greens candidate, Scott Humphreys for coffee. He had some important things to say which I’ll share here.
Growing up in Annandale, Scott was always interested in politics. He was initially conservative, growing up in a working-class background and attending Townsville Grammar School. But after spending time in rural communities in China and Vietnam, he witnessed a different way of life.
“Why should people vote for the Greens?” I asked him.
Well, to start with,” he said, “The Greens are the only party standing up for every person’s wellbeing and for climate change.”
Turns out there are a few important answers to my question, including forward-thinking policies, full transparency, and that your vote will never be wasted. I’ve outlined the 10 important reasons we discussed below:
1. The Greens are free from corruption
Both the Liberal and Labour parties take massive donations from large corporations, including those from the oil, gas and mining sectors.
In the past 3 years the Liberals have accepted over $2 million and Labour have accepted over $1 million in donations from fossil fuel companies.
Both parties are supporting 114 new coal and gas projects containing more than double the amount of Australia’s current emissions.
These are the policies which are fuelling the climate crisis. There is no way to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 while still advancing 114 new fossil fuel projects.
Sadly, these donations are not put towards bettering the lives of the people. Instead, donations are used to fund fear campaigns and pre-election advertising campaigns.
In 2019-2020, the Morrison government spent $128 million on advertising instead of directing funds towards environmental or public health issues for Australians.
Due to large donations, the policies and interests from both the Liberal and Labour parties have swung further and further right. Labour is no longer a “workers” party, but rather prioritises the needs of billionaires above the needs of the people. Both parties are influenced by the interests of large corporations, prioritising mining corporations above actual mining workers. This is a great quiz created by ABC to see how your views align with the major political parties.
In fact, in Australia, you can even pay $100,000 to have lunch with a minister, where you can ask them to sway legislation in your favour. (Check out this free documentary series, ‘Big Deal’ by Christiaan Van Vuuren who investigates this further).
Unfortunately, not everybody has $100,000 to drop on lunch. In our Australian democratic system, everybody has a vote, but all votes are not equal. The interests of the billionaires (who already have more than enough) are more relevant to politicians than the everyday human.
Is this legal? Yes. Is it fair? Absolutely not. It’s time that you and I start sticking up for what we believe in.
The Greens party does not accept donations from corporations. They are built from the ground-up, and every member is a volunteer. This means that their policies truly prioritise the people and are that they are free from corruption!
2. Full transparency
Because they are not working for corporate donors, the Greens have nothing to hide. As such, the Greens will fast track a federal ICAC (National Integrity Commission) and ensure it is funded by the Commonwealth (and not by the corporations).
A National Integrity Commission will investigate unethical and corrupt members of parliament at a federal level, This happened at a state-level when former premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian was found having a partner and business dealings engaging in corrupt conduct.
Why is this not already implemented? It seems so obviously needed, right? Well, The Liberal National Party made a promise of forming an ICAC four years ago, but since then have blocked every step: the only rational reason being that they have something to hide.
3. Inclusive, free schooling
Growing up in Aitkenvale, Scott witnessed some of his friends wearing worn-out or second-hand uniforms because their parents couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
That was how it was back then, but it shouldn’t be like that now. That was 20 years ago!”
Despite most parliament members (including Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo) and Malcom Turnbull) having benefited from free university education back in their time, the Liberal party has continued to increase university tuition fees.
Acknowledging that the cost of living is rising, the Greens strongly believe that childcare, education, university and TAFE should be completely free and state funded. This includes uniforms, books and stationery provided to students.
The Greens propose to forgive all student debt and to double Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments so that student income is above the poverty line.
When poverty drops, the arts can flourish. Community art programs and other community-based activities make for a more positive life experience and contribute to important measures such as the Happiness Index.
4. The Greens will actually address climate change
Currently, neither the Liberal or Labour parties have a plan to phase out coal, oil and gas because they accept millions of dollars in donations from the fossil fuel industry.
Because they care about the future of our children, our wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef, and because they don’t take donations from corporations, the Greens plan to immediately freeze all new coal, oil and gas projects.
A transition towards long-term resources will involve guaranteeing income for those currently working in the fossil fuel sector. They will be guaranteed similar income for 10 years, but will be offered other opportunities in renewable industries.
This will allow individuals to maintain their livelihoods and still support their families, while we transition to a system that is healthier for our planet.
Instead of focusing on imports and exports, the Greens propose we make more things here to lower our country’s carbon footprint. With our plentiful sun and wind, Australia has the capacity to become a renewable superpower.
In Townsville, Scott would like to see a transition towards green hydrogen. Further, he hopes to focus on the expansion of park protection and rangers that maintain safe and healthy ecosystems. This would encourage more people to get back into nature and enjoy the great outdoors we are so lucky to have in our region.
Locally, the Greens will also direct $10 million to eradicate Yellow Crazy Ants in Townsville. This invasive species throws acid that can burn the eyes and skin outbreaks tend to occur after flooding events. The Townsville City Council have been facing this issue alone with virtually no help from federal or state funding. This has left families in Townsville with infestations in their backyards, particularly in Douglas and Annandale.
5. Dental and mental health care to be included in Medicare
Not only do current parties accept donations from fossil fuel sectors, but also from many private health corporations.
Therefore, health care, which is a universal human right, is easily accessible for the rich while the poor have lower access and long waiting times. The Liberal government hopes to increase this gap and has cut billions from Medicare funding and even hopes to remove it altogether.
After COVID took a toll on all our sanities, the Greens have forged a very progressive plan to include Dental and Mental Health care into Medicare.
6. A policy for the housing crisis
Finding it hard to find a rental or to pay your rent?
While ScoMo suggests buying a home if you’re struggling to find a rental, the Greens have proposed building one million new homes that are sustainable and affordable for everybody in order to target the housing crisis.
These will be divided up to target three key groups in need:
750k houses to target the homeless (including youth homelessness)
125k houses to help first home buyers into the market
125k houses as rentals to help alleviate the rental crisis.
Not only will this create an estimated 135k new jobs, but it will also make sure that everybody has a roof over their heads.
7. Taxing the billionaires
You may wonder: “But how will they pay for all this?”
Due to our current system that allows for corporate donations, 1 in every 3 corporations pays no tax. This is legal in Australia, but it is not ethical.
Billionaires have increased their profits during the pandemic while millions of others lost their jobs.
Meanwhile, billionaires such as Gerry Harvey, have benefited enormously from JobKeeper subsidies while simultaneously cutting worker’s wages. Gerry Harvey still refuses to repay $16 million of JobSeeker subsidies.
While the Liberal government allows their rich mates get away with daylight robbery, the Greens have introduced a bill for the money to be repaid.
To tackle this injustice, the Greens have also proposed a 40% tax on big corporations and a 6% tax on unrealised gains on anyone earning over $1 billion. This will mean that huge mega-corporations will pay their fair share.
Australia’s 131 billionaires have hoarded so much money for themselves, that a 6% tax on their unrealised gains alone could fully fund re-expanded Medicare, including dental and mental health care (with leftovers) for all Australians: and that’s almost 26 million people.
Poverty is a political choice – and the Government has decided to line the pockets of billionaires with tax cuts, while forcing millions of Australians into poverty.”
8. Your vote will never be wasted
Unlike the UK and America, you can’t waste your vote in Australia. Luckily, we have a more progressive voting system here.
When all of the votes are calculated and no party receives >50%, the lowest ranked party is re-examined and the second votes for the party are then counted as first votes. This continues until there is a majority vote.
This is a big deal because it tells the party in power where their preference votes come from. Voting for the Greens will tell the Labour party that you care about the environment, education, healthcare and equality. By voting Green, we can keep the Labour party accountable for the policies (outlined above) that are important to the community.
The Labour party will then look at Green’s policies and can pick up some as their own. This happened in 2012, when the Gillard (Labour) government introduced the carbon tax, which the Abbott (Liberal) government then axed in 2014 because it was set “at far too high a level to be politically sustainable.”
Check out this cute koala comic for further explanation about Australia’s preferential voting system.
9. For the community: Leaving no one behind
“So what inspired you to join the Greens?” I asked Scott.
“After I returned from my travels, I began working for the local government in public health. I was helping out with mosquito control in the community, and at that time (in 2009), there were around 400 cases on Dengue in Townsville.”
Working in the community, seeing all of the yards and houses, how so many people lived, it was eye-opening,”
“So many people were struggling to get by.”
Today, Scott works in security, keeping community members safe when they are having fun on a night out.
But Scott can also relate to the feeling of living week-by-week. During his university years he struggled to afford rent and food.
“I was inspired by my friends to join the Greens. The Greens go way beyond any stereotypes of tree-hugging hippies. Yes, we prioritise the environment and want to save the planet, but we’re a multi-issue party that is built from the bottom up. We are here for the community, to raise the socio-economic status and to improve everybody’s overall quality of life.”
Indeed, unless you’re a billionaire, the Greens seems to be the party for everybody.
While other parties support discrimination, the Greens leave no one behind.
In February, the Liberal government passed a Religious Discrimination Bill, with laws that allow religious institutions to discriminate against women, people of colour, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.
Luckily, the Labour government passed a bill to remove Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination act, which gave religious schools power to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or pregnancy.
The Greens do not believe in discrimination that puts anybody, particular students, children and minors at risk. They are entirely supporting of inclusive schooling.
Frighteningly, ScoMo and the Liberal party plan to pass religious discrimination laws if re-elected, without making amendments for the LGBTQ+ community.
Governmental powers should not be used to discriminate against certain groups or limit people from expressing who they truly are.
The Greens are likely the most diverse and well-represented party there is. They believe that all Australians should feel free and safe in their communities.
10. For the future generations
The Greens have envisioned a future for us all, where no Australian is left behind.
A vote for the Greens is a vote for equal rights for every member of the community. This includes first generation Australians, young people, First Nations Australians, people of colour, females, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The Greens campaign is funded by the people, not by corporations. Therefore, their policies focus on the people NOT on the corporations.
They are interested in the common good of all Australians, not just the benefits for a select few.
Oftentimes, the forward-thinking policies of the Greens are implemented ~20 years later. Let’s speed up the process and get things happening now, before more floods, cyclones and coral bleaching events force us to face the facts.
When talking with Scott, I asked him for any advice he would have to give to the average Joe.
“Take a bit of time to read up the policies of the major parties,” he said.
Put the party that you genuinely think is going to be best for the region first.”
“Remember that you can’t waste your vote, and that preferences matter!”