Bandt’s bid to keep Melbourne liveable
Speaking to North West City News ahead of the May 21 election, Adam Bandt said one of the best things about being Greens leader was taking “Melbourne’s values to the national stage.”
This is a city, and indeed a seat, he has a close affinity with, as he bids for a fifth term as local MP.
“One of the things that Melbourne holds very dearly is not only protecting what’s really good about our local area, but also ensuring that those values of sustainability, compassion and equality are spread out over the national stage as well,” he told North West City News.
But since his first election win in 2010, when he broke up Labor’s century-long hold on the electorate, locals have faced growing pressures.
He lists the housing crisis as the “single biggest change” he had seen in the city during the past 12 years.
And in an election where, as leader, he will push for national action on things like climate change and affordable dental and mental health services, he also knows that within his patch there are distinct issues that need to be addressed.
“The things that are good about Melbourne are still there, but they’re under threat,” Mr Bandt said.
“A big priority for me is keeping Melbourne liveable, and that means ensuring that everyone can afford to live [here] … although there might be a pause in rent [rises] in some areas at the moment, on the whole rent and housing prices have skyrocketed, and it’s putting a lot of pressure on people who live in Melbourne. It’s making it more difficult for people who want to live near where they work or study and we need some new thinking to tackle the housing affordability crisis, because at the moment it’s getting out of control.”
The four-term Melbourne MP said there needed to be a policy shift within areas like the CBD and Docklands which were particularly hard hit by COVID-19.
And while support had rightly focused on the small businesses, there needed to be an acknowledgement of the real impact on locals.
I don’t think that the state or federal government have really grappled with what the pandemic and the change in work practices will mean for our community. Speaking to inner-city residents, one clear message that comes through is that a lot of the small businesses and services that they’ve relied on have gone, and they may not come back.
Mr Bandt said the Greens had a plan to bring creative enterprises back to Melbourne and would push for rent reductions to innovative and creative businesses that came into the area and signed long-term leases.
“We’ve got to work out how to rebuild in a way that isn’t just about supporting one big event here and another big event there — we need a more sustainable way that works at a human-scale that supports residents and businesses in the area.”
Mr Bandt’s first election win in 2010 came as Australia witnessed its first hung parliament for 70 years.
Without an outright majority for the major parties, Mr Bandt (alongside other independent MPs) were given greater negotiating power for their electorates.
Early indications suggest there is a significant chance of another hung parliament this election, such is the close nature of polling.
The Greens leader said that would put locals in a good position, and outlined plans should he again be thrust into the balance of power.
“We’re heading towards a really tight election and the people of Melbourne again have the chance to have a really powerful seat at the table, in a very finely balanced parliament. My priorities in that position will be to kick the Liberals out, and then push the next government to act on the climate crisis, but also to get dental and mental health [services] into Medicare, build affordable housing and wipe the student debt. They’re things that will make a big difference to people’s lives.”
Both Labor and the Greens were united in the push for a national independent commission against corruption (ICAC).
Mr Bandt, who introduced the first-ever bill for a federal ICAC in the House of Representatives, said “it can’t come soon enough.”
However, the Greens leader said neither of the major parties could be trusted to properly address the climate crisis.
“People want action on the climate crisis and are dismayed that Liberal and Labor are both vowing to open up new coal and gas projects at this election. We’re in a climate crisis — you can’t put the fire out while you’re pouring more petrol on it.”
Since Mr Bandt’s breakthrough win in 2010, when he won the first lower house seat for the Greens at a general election, the party is yet to claim success in any other electorate.
Despite the Greens stranglehold in Melbourne, where their primary vote almost reached 50 per cent in 2019 (up from 22.8 per cent in 2007, for example), they are yet to improve on their solitary seat in the House of Representatives.
Speaking to North West City News in early May, he said the Green were “in with a really good shot” in five seats.
These included nearby Macnamara, where Steph Hodgins-May will challenge for a third time, plus three seats in Queensland (Ryan, Griffith and Brisbane) and one in NSW (Richmond) •