By Michelle Primmer,
7 August, 2013
Politics is a pretty brutal place, at least from where I view it. There seems to be so much anger and vitriol it’s hard to imagine wanting to get involved. Everyone has an opinion and they’re not afraid to call you a d***head as you walk by or to ask questions of a personal nature. These are events you wouldn’t find in most places of employment.
When I met Corangamite Greens candidate Lloyd Davies at the local Belmont library for my first interview as a citizen journalist, my first question was based on that.
Why do you want to be a politician?
An absolutely brilliant question and I think the main reason is that because I care so much about the issues that politicians end up deciding on I feel we have to have a change and we have to get politicians making decent decisions for the people of Australia and the environment. It’s not a desire to be a politician. It’s a desire to see a better country.
A lot of voters know how they are going to vote and there’s a group of swinging voters you are going to have to attract. To win the seat you not only need to get these voters to come to you, you need some of the ‘rusted ons’ to come to you. What can you do to convert those people to you?
The main thing is to get our message out there. I firmly believe that if people know about our policies they will vote for the Greens. The main problem is that it is very difficult to compete against both extremely well resourced old parties. For example the Greens are very passionate about introducing Denticare. It is making dentistry just like going to the GP. When you go to the dentist you would show your Medicare care and your dentist bill will be covered by Medicare. When I door knock and talk to people in the street it almost has complete universal support. Everyone recognises the amazing opportunity it has to enhance people’s health and well being. People understand it’s not just good for the individual’s teeth; it’s good for society as a whole because good oral hygiene it is a vital part to staying healthy. If every single person in the electorate knew about our Greens policies they would support them.
You’re saying the biggest barrier is the resources?
The biggest barrier is allowing people to hear our policies in a frank and factual manner, not filtered through the personalities in the current media.
Increasingly we are seeing a Presidential-type election with a focus on leaders. How does Christine Milne cut through to become an alternate leader’s voice with a fair share of airtime and how do you deal with this locally in Corangamite?
I just talk to as many people as I can. I think that’s by far the best way and I think we need more of that in politics; people just communicating directly, one on one, with community members. So often I notice with politicians that they are stuck in front of camera and journalists. They spend very little time talking to normal people and they live a life very separated from normal citizens and they lose touch. So not only is talking to individual citizens fantastic in regards to getting your message out there, it also keeps you grounded and in touch with the true problems people are facing.
Are you standing in Corangamite with the view to winning the seat or with the view to having an impact?
(laughs) Everyone should always stand with a view to winning. I’m definitely standing to win and I would love to win. I am also a civil engineer and I’m very skilled at mathematics and I realise it is unrealistic to expect to win so I do not expect to win. What I do expect to do is to raise the profile of Greens policies and to show the old parties that a huge percentage of the population agrees with Greens policies. If the old parties continually ignore what the people want they’re going to continually lose votes and therefore they should actually take on board some of our policies. Denticare is such a good example. If more people vote for the Greens it sends such a strong message to the old parties that people care about Denticare that they’ll be forced to introduce it [to adults as well as children].
You hear people say the last 3 years have been a disaster –
It’s been portrayed as a disaster from the media because the media likes conflict, so they like to portray conflict. In the last 3 years the Greens have been able to introduce Denticare for children. So next year 3.4 million Australian children will be able to go to the dentist and have their dentist bills covered under Medicare. It’s going to massively reduce a huge cost pressure on a large proportion of families in Australia – that’s a wonderful initiative. The NDIS is also a fantastic initiative for not only people who are disabled but carers of disabled.
Putting a price on pollution has been an amazing thing that would never have happened without the Greens and that’s allowed us to take a first real step toward helping protect our environment. If you ask anyone in the street they want us to help the environment, and the Greens are the only ones who can ever be trusted.
Of course there have been negatives over the last 3 years and that’s why I stand for the Greens. I don’t agree with a lot of policies of Labor and Abbott. For example I firmly believe that everyone should be allowed to marry irrespective of sexual orientation and I think it’s appalling that we haven’t been able to have a conscience vote on that.
Your thoughts on the asylum speaker debate?
The asylum seeker debate is clearly not a debate. If you just choose to listen to the old parties it’s just a continual battle of who can come up with a crueller and crueller idea on how to punish innocent people are fleeing unimaginable warfare and persecution, and that’s something we should be really disappointed in our political leaders. Throughout history Australia has been an amazingly welcoming country. After World War 2 and after the Vietnam War we welcomed people in need. We have massively benefited from that. We have a high quality multicultural Australia and our country has become wonderful, but the current policies of both old parties do not reflect that at all. All they want it to be cruel to people to show that they are tough when it is clearly not tough to beat up on people who are so vulnerable. It is weak and it is typical bullying.
So there seems to be this mantra to ‘Stop the Boats’ and it is a problem that people get on boats and risk drowning trying to make it here. Is there a solution that would stop them from taking those huge risks, in a more humane way?
Absolutely, The only way to stop people going by boat is to make every single journey to Australia by plane, obviously. So how do you actually make that occur? Well a very good example is in Indonesia where we have critically overworked UNHCR staff who have got nowhere near enough resources to assess all the refugees claims. This results in refugees not even on waiting lists, they’re languishing there for decades. This is decades of life in Indonesia without any legal rights, any legal right to work, without any health care and without any prospect of a decent education for their children. You cannot expect parents to watch their children grow up in abject poverty and not want to do something about it, and if you push them that far, they’ll get on a boat. The Greens policy is to adequately fund the UNHCR in Indonesia so that every single refugee who goes to Indonesia is assessed in a timely manner.
You were a Queenscliff councillor – what is your proudest achievement as a councillor?
Some of the happiest moments of my life as a councillor were when I just helped people with one-on-one issues that some people consider small. It really puts a smile on your face [when you can help them]
You’ve said you want a more caring society – how would you achieve this and what do we need to do to make that happen?
The main thing is to create a conversation about a caring society and the key thing the government can do is make decisions that works toward caring for people as opposed to punishing people, which is the current mentality. So the key thing with health care for example, is to have a health care system that doesn’t stop people from receiving health care regardless of their bank balance. If you get people better quicker they get back into the workforce quicker and they can get back into life and contribute more to society. With regard to education, if everybody has access to a high quality education and everybody feels they can reach their own potential, through going to Uni or TaAFE or opening their own business, there’s clearly high quality education and pathways for them and that would create a more caring society. Also, we should look after refugees and take care of refugees and not be in competition as to who can be the cruellest. We would take care of them.
These things cost money – how do you fund all of these caring projects?
The unique place in the Greens is that because we want to stop fossil fuel subsidies and off shore processing of refugees we’ve got more money to spend than either of the old parties. Stopping fossil fuel subsidies will save more than $10 billion, so that is $10billion that shouldn’t subsidise fossil fuel companies. If we stop off shore processing of refugees we save billions of dollars and that’s more than enough to fund adequate Denticare, adequate health care and adequate education.
But what does it do to cost of living pressures?
Our policies massively reduce cost of living pressures. A very good example is Denticare. If we fund Denticare that will directly reduce the cost of living for 3.4 million children and their families. A good thing to keep in mind is that Abbott’s main agenda is to reduce the taxes paid by corporations. He’s going to fund that by increasing the taxes paid by citizens and increasing the cost of living. So,while he always claims to look after Australians, his main agenda is to look after corporations and the ones who foot the bill are normal Australians.
I asked some people I know, as well as people online in Corangamite to identify issues that concern them. Some have mentioned the Great Ocean Road, and country roads in particular – and the state of them and access to tourist sites which are part of our electorate.
I’m a surfer, so the Great Ocean Road and country roads and beach roads are a big part of my life. I like to get out and get down there and I totally support maintaining the Great Ocean Road in a high quality condition and it’s worth keeping in mind that for a lot of towns on the Great Ocean Road that is the only access they have to their town. So when the Great Ocean Road gets shut down that cuts down the entire economy for that town so we should do everything we can to have a high quality maintenance regime.
Is there a politician, past or present, who you admire and who you think of as a role model?[laughs] Not too hard to guess who. I believe Bob Brown acted with integrity his entire political career. He was so respected from everyone in politics and a huge proportion of the media because he always stated his beliefs and he always stood by his beliefs and he got a lot of things done and enhanced the quality of life of a lot of Australians and the environment.
So how long have you been in the Greens?
L: I was a councillor for 4 years as a Greens Councillor, so it would be 6 years now.
Greens helped decide Corangamite in 2010. Darren Cheeseman would have lost if it was decided on 1st preferences so I’m interested to know how you’ll direct your preferences this time.
We’ll only decide once we hear all the policies from all the parties, but in the House of Representative everyone has a right to choose how they will preference and we will encourage them to make their own choice.
So you won’t be instructing on your how to vote cards?
At the moment we have not made that decision.