Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner announced his intention to quit politics at the next election on June 24, in a move that has been seen as giving the Greens an even better chance at winning his seat, the electorate of Melbourne.
Greens candidate for Melbourne Adam Bandt is running a serious campaign in the seat and is tipped as even more likely to win now with Tanner stepping down. The Greens say that only one in 10 people who voted Labor last time need to change to Green in order for Bandt to win the seat.
I interviewed Adam for Green Left Weekly. This is the full transcript of the interview (the published version was cut for space reasons).
What’s your impression of the change in Prime Minister?
It’s a significant event that we’ve got the first woman prime minister and I congratulate the Prime Minister for that. The jury is still out, though, especially in Melbourne where people pay attention to what people stand for, as to what her Labor Party will say and do on key issues like asylum seekers and climate change and same-sex marriage.
With Tanner resigning you’ve probably got a better shot at winning the seat now?
One of the things that might do is focus people’s minds on the issues rather than personalities. So as well as all those key matters of principle for the Greens around asylum seekers and climate change and same-sex equality, it’s also giving us the opportunity to campaign on some other issues. People know that we’re good on the environment, but we’re also going to this election calling for dental care to be part of medicare, for massive investment in mental health which has been neglected in all the health reforms, really the kind of things that are going to involve using public money for the benefit of the public.
Have you read the report by Beyond Zero Emissions, Zero Carbon Australia 2020? Are you enthusiastic about it?
I think that it is a great report because it shows that technically and technologically it is possible for us to move to a renewable energy economy rapidly., What it’s going to take is political will to do that. I want Melbourne to lead the way by becoming the first city that moves to running on renewable energy, as close to 100% as possible, and I’ll be going to the election advocating a similar transition away from coal to renewables. People used to talk about nation building projects, perhaps now we need to talk about planet building projects.
Your electorate is very diverse, from housing commission flats to the very wealthy. Have you been getting support from any particular groups?
The Greens have been the people in parliament standing up for people on low incomes, and the classic example of that is the current Labor Party legislation around income management which we opposed in the Northern Territory, because we opposed the NT intervention, and we now oppose Labor’s plan to roll out the quarantining of people’s unemployment and pension benefits across the country, which is what they are planning to do.
Our policy is aimed at making life easier and giving better services to people who live on lower incomes, many of whom live in the electorate, so I’ve been spending a lot of time doorknocking, talking to people one on one.
We can’t afford the big media buy the major parties can so we’ve made a conscious decision not to try and match them dollar for dollar, but to use a grassroots activist based campaign. While we’re on Twitter and Facebook and using those to their full extent, we’re trying to do things the old fashioned way with contact with as many people as possible.
Given that Labor went to the previous election promising to tear up WorkChoices, what do you think of that, and how do the laws affect the poor people you’re trying to represent?
I want to make sure WorkChoices is dead and buried and never comes back to life, but Labor only put it half way in the grave and they kept all of the harsh restrictions on industrial action, on unions excercising their rights at work, those all stay under Labor’s Fair Work Act. My campaign will be to take Labor at it’s word and really rip up WorkChoices.
Many workers say to me when they try to strike an EA with their employer and find that all the cards are stacked in the employer’s favour, many people say they can’t believe this still happening, they thought that WorkChoices was repealed. So many people who have to work with it day to day know that many of the worst elements of WorkChoices are still there and I would campaign in parliament to repeal those parts of the legislation.
So how is your confidence at this point in the campaign?
I don’t accept the premise that Tanner resigning makes things easier. It makes the contest certainly more interesting. But while he had a personal folllowing, that’s not to be denied, but on the other hand we’ve got a new prime minister and we don’t know who the Labor candidate is going to be for the seat. The contest is still going to be really tough and we are up against it when it comes to resources, so in some ways it’s a bit of a David and Goliath battle. I’m expecting that they’re going to put more money into their campaign. I have no doubt there will be a very well resourced opponent.
More information on Adam Bandt’s campaign can be found at his campaign website