Max Chandler-Mather – The Greens Candidate for Griffith

Greens Candidate for Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather, responds to Kurilpa Futures

1. What do you consider are the main concerns of the people of Griffith? How have these changed since the last election in 2016?

Having gone out knocking on doors almost everyday for the past 12 months, I’ve had the chance to talk, one-on-one, with thousands of people across Griffith. What’s become very clear is that by far the most unifying issue is a deep frustration and disillusionment with politics. In many important ways politics has become disconnected from society and ordinary people. Often
people, when asked, won’t nominate a particular issue and instead will identify their frustration more broadly with politics. The underlying factors for this disillusionment include:
1. A feeling that it is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between Labor and the LNP;
2. The constant leadership instability in both Labor and the LNP over the last 10 years – something which Griffith voters are particularly aware of;
3. A feeling that both major parties only represent big corporations.

This isn’t to say that people don’t have particular concerns, it’s just that people no longer see them as “political” issues. This is because they don’t trust political institutions to find sensible long-term solutions to their issues or those of society.

The second major concern, linked to this rising anti-political feeling, is a frustration that neither major party have a long-term positive vision for the future.

In terms of more specific concerns the biggest issues for the people of Griffith are unsustainable development and lack of public infrastructure, rising cost of living and stagnating wages and inaction on climate change. Our solutions to these issues are addressed in the questions below.

2. Climate change impacts are now widely felt and increasingly damaging. How would your party’s policies help the Kurilpa community to adapt to these impacts?

Areas like the Kurilpa Peninsula face potentially devastating consequences as climate change intensifies. The first step in preventing the worst impacts of climate change on communities is rapidly reducing Australia’s carbon emissions. This above all else will help protect the Kurilpa Peninsula against climate change. The Greens Renew Australia policy provides a detailed plan to create 179,770 jobs (100,000 more than currently employed in coal, oil and gas combined) by transitioning to 100% renewable energy and a net-zero carbon economy by 2040.

However, given both Labor and the LNP’s woefully inadequate policies on climate change and the lack of global leadership on this issue, it’s reasonable to assume that we need to prepared for some amount of unstoppable climate climate change – indeed we are already experiencing the effects of the one degree of warming we’ve locked in.

Increased flooding, severe storms, heatwaves, droughts and air pollution all pose massive risks to not just the Kurilpa Peninsula but all of Queensland and Australia.

From a federal perspective, rapid and urgent investment in public infrastructure including public parks, electrified free public transport, community renewable energy, libraries, museums and sports and playing fields will be crucial. This would be facilitated by a Federal Infrastructure Bank, coordinating with a state-level infrastructure bank that would facilitate investment on the
ground. More detail is outlined in later questions. ‘Greening’ our cities and expanding public spaces will ensure our city’s built environment doesn’t become completely hostile to people as temperatures increase but instead guarantees everyone an increasing standard of living.

More broadly, cracking down on profit-driven private development and the long-term pattern of privatisation of public space is crucial if we want to build a city that is capable of adapting to climate change in a way that ensures everyone is able to live a good life. Queensland Labor’s privatisation of over 10% of the CBD for the Queens Wharf Mega Casino, or the approval of West Village development are local examples of this style of short-sighted government planning.
At a state level, overhauling our planning act to ensure that we stop housing developments in flood plains. I provide more detail on this in later questions.
This would sit under the umbrella of an independent and empowered Environmental Protection Agency, which would implement significantly enhanced environmental laws that would extend to:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution;
  • Impacts from land clearing;
  • National parks and reserves, including critical habitats, climate refugees and national biodiversity hotspots;
  • Vulnerable ecological communities; and
  • Water resources (including rivers, wetlands and aquifers)

Providing consistent and powerful federal protection would ensure crucial biodiversity corridors, including in Brisbane, would protected against broken state and council environmental protection laws. The greening of our city is crucial to mitigating the effects of increasingly brutal summers and extreme heat more generally.

3. The State Government and Brisbane City Council recently signed up to the South East Queensland City Deal with the Federal Coalition Government. The themes include, jobs and skills, liveability, housing, building a new digital economy and building upon trigovernmental leadership. Would your party honour this deal, or seek to change it? And in what ways?

While an SEQ City Deal hasn’t yet been finalised and signed, the Greens have strong concerns about the memorandum of understanding and statement of intent which were signed recently.

The initial guiding documents for the proposed SEQ City Deal, such as ‘Transforming SEQ – The City Deal Proposition’ appear to heavily rely upon private corporations to deliver essential infrastructure, with little meaningful emphasis on equality or sustainability.

Much of Transforming SEQ is extremely vague, with no meaningful acknowledgement of the urgent need to plan for and adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. As well as obvious challenges such as preparing for more frequent severe weather events, and accommodating
displaced climate refugees, the City Deal should have a stronger focus on sustainable and secure food supply chains. Any plan for the future of SEQ needs to prioritise ensuring that more food can be grown within the region. This requires a stronger emphasis on protecting existing farmland by preventing further suburban sprawl.

Transforming SEQ ’s section on Liveability and Sustainability has a lot of positive features, but the proposed progress measures should also include many more measures such as:

  • Per capita carbon emissions
  • Air quality
  • More efficient and sustainable recycling systems
  • Access to renewable energy sources
  • Detailed plan to actively reverse the aggressive privatisation of public land
  • Commitment to an expansion of the proportion of social housing from the current 3% to 20%
  • Long term aim to provide universal free public transport
    The Greens would move to substantially overhaul the South East Queensland City Deal. The current statement of intent signed between the Brisbane City Council, state government and federal government represents a continuation of  the status quo of private led development, privatisation and a restriction of the public sphere.

4. The people of Kurilpa are struggling with the cumulative negative social, environmental and economic impacts of rapid and high population growth and poor planning and infrastructure provision. Can you explain how your party would provide effective leadership through its urban affairs policy to address these issues? (refer to paper for context)

Having grown up in West End, spending much of my childhood playing soccer and cricket in the middle of Whynot Street, I’m acutely aware of the negative effects that unsustainable development and poor planning have had over the last 20 years on the Kurilpa Peninsula.

As I’ve noted in other responses this is ultimately the result of a woefully inadequate planning system that prioritises the profit margins of property developers over the needs of the community. At a state level, the Greens have proposed a complete overhaul of the Planning Act and broader planning system, which would include:

  • Ensure property developers pay their fair share so we can afford crucial public
    infrastructure
  • Tax property developers 75% of the value gains made from land rezonings
  • Remove the $20,000 cap on developer infrastructure charges
  • Launch a groundbreaking trial of deliberative democracy for neighbourhood plan
  • Tighten neighbourhood plans to end special deals for developers
  • Strict and binding height limits
  • No exemptions to boundary setbacks
  • Binding minimum requirements for trees and green space
  • Make sure all major developments are “Impact Assessable”
  • Strengthen community objection rights
  • Close loopholes in the Planning Act
  • Restrict construction noise
  • No development in extremely flood-prone areas

At a federal level, there are four major ways the Greens would provide leadership. Coordinating large-scale and democratic investment in public infrastructure; transforming our public transport system to be truly world-class; rapid investment in high-quality, universal social and public housing; and empowering an independent federal environmental agency with real powers to
intervene when local biodiversity is threatened.

A democratic, well-coordinated investment in public infrastructure would be facilitated by a $75 billion federal public infrastructure bank. The Greens proposal for a federal infrastructure bank would allow for democratic, and coordinated investment in local communities. This could be integrated into the Queensland Greens proposed Queensland public infrastructure bank, which could help coordinate investment on the ground. This would be further integrated into the Greens proposal to democratise development in Queensland with binding community votes, community forums, and binding neighbourhood plans that put people ahead of profit.

Large-scale investment in well-designed public and social housing that embraces best practise, well integrated designs, would act as a new acceptable standard in urban development. In other words, the Government taking the lead in building social and public housing in urban areas will help set a much higher standard for housing developments.

The Greens housing policy is inspired by highly successful social housing models like Vienna or Brussels. The description of the two social housing complexes in Brussels, Savonnerie Heymans and Le Lorrain, provides a good descriptor of what large-scale investment in universal social housing would look like:

“But what’s remarkable about Savonnerie Heymans and Le Lorrain isn’t just their pleasing architecture; it’s that, unlike the Spanish projects, they’re located on high-value lots in lively neighborhoods, avoiding the problem of working-class siloing. Their designs also encourage communal life to a greater extent: plenty of shared outdoor space, pavilions and gardens and “mini-forests,” and Savonnerie Heymans even has a game library for kids.” (Megan Day, ‘We Can Have Beautiful Housing’ Jacobin online, 2018).

More detail on this policy is provided in the next question.

The Greens would provide large-scale and consistent investment in public transport infrastructure and active transport. In federal terms this would mean:

  • Fund the public transport we need, by putting an extra $25 billion into rail and bus services;
  • End the toll road rort, by redirecting the $5.95 billion of existing funding for toll road projects into public transport;
  • Set up the Australia High Speed Rail Authority to build the East coast high speed rail network;
  • Allocate $250 million per year for infrastructure to make cycling and walking safe and accessible.

Specifically in Brisbane this would go toward funding major infrastructure projects like cross-river rail. But this project alone will do little to facilitate good development in Brisbane.

So the Greens have proposed abolishing the unfair zone system and introducing flat $1 fares for all adults while making public transport free for U18s and pensioners. We would also introduce a high frequency bus on every major road corridor. Overall, this policy platform would allow cities and towns around Australia, including the Kurilpa Peninsula and Brisbane, to pursue a transit oriented development strategy embracing both nodes and corridors in an integrated strategy. Ultimately, this will require significant increase in taxes on big corporations. The Greens have already proposed a plan to raise $98.5 billion by cracking down on corporate tax avoidance, scrapping subsidies to big fossil fuel corporations and reversing the cuts to taxes made by Labor and the LNP.

5. The UNSW City Futures Research Centre recently reported that Queensland has a severe shortage of social and affordable housing. How would your party address the public and social housing shortfall in Brisbane?

Australia is currently facing a serious and unacknowledged housing crisis and Queensland and Brisbane are at the heart of this. Federal and state governments have completely failed, instead relying on the private market. Labor’s federal housing is particularly bad. The plan to give $8,500 per dwelling subsidy for investors who build homes and lease them for a 20% discount to market rents. In practice this would result in a $6.6 billion hand-out to developers – instead of just directly investing this money in building more social housing.

There are 32,474 people were on the Queensland social housing waiting list as at June 2018, a 9 per cent increase on the previous year. 12,525 of these people are Queensland children.

Meanwhile on average one in five Queenslanders are suffering housing stress (paying more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage repayments), while homelessness in Brisbane has increased by 32% since 2011 and by 14% nationwide.

The Queensland Government’s housing plan will see the percentage of social housing drop over the next 10 years. While they are building on average only 500 social homes a year, the waiting list for social housing increases by about 3,000 people every year. At the core of this is a deeply flawed commitment by Labor and the LNP to the private market when it comes to housing. We wouldn’t leave health or education up to the private market – so why housing? Part of the problem is that housing remains an extremely profitable sector for property developers and banks. While donations from property developers are now banned at a state level, over the last five years both Labor and the LNP have received millions of dollars in donations from developers and banks.

The Greens will follow the successful Scandinavian model and build 500,000 well designed social homes available not just to our most vulnerable but to teachers, nurses and anyone who needs an affordable home. 100,000 of these homes would be designated for Brisbane. These medium-density dwellings will be built to the highest standard of sustainability and liveability.

Rents will be set at between 20% – 25% of income, insuring housing remains affordable for everyone, and provide a safety net in the case someone loses their job. This will be integrated with Queensland Housing Trust that will be build 250,00 homes over 15 years, with a long term aim of reaching 20% of all housing as public or social housing.

The advantages of universal social housing scheme are enormous. Because the homes are not being built for profit they can be built using the best practise medium density design with integrated childcare centres, rooftop gardens and community spaces. The Federal and State Housing trust can coordinate with the public infrastructure banks to ensure the developments occur in conjunction with adequate public infrastructure including parks, public transport and other public amenities such as public libraries.

Moreover an expansive universal social housing will ultimately end up paying for itself via the rents collected from tenants. Similar models in Europe generate significant income, which can be reinvested in maintaining, upgrading and building more housing. This is because by having a broad cross-section of society living in these homes the rents collected result in significant income. This is despite the fact that rents are set at between 20% to 25% of income.

This will create tens of thousands of good jobs and transform millions of people’s lives for the better. It would also be provide a far more stable construction industry with companies able to plan over the long term as the state and federal government mandate the construction of a certain number of homes every year.
This housing would need to be accompanied with good quality, universal social services.The Greens would bring dental into Medicare and progressively phase in free dental for all, introduce free childcare, university and TAFE, raise Newstart by $75 a week and reverse the cuts to the single parents pension made by Labor in 2013. We will also guarantee $500 million each year to crisis services and transitional housing to ensure nobody is without a bed and a roof over their head – even for just one night. Meanwhile bring electricity back into public ownership and reversing the corporatisation of Queensland’s electricity network will end up Building social housing by itself won’t fix the housing crisis, but by ensuring everyone gets what they need to live a good life we’ll ensure a cohesive and good society.

6. What is your policy regarding donations from developers and other groups?

The Greens policy is to completely ban donations from for-profit corporations at a federal, state and council level. We will begin with banning political donations from mining, property development, tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries to all political parties and candidates.

Realistically, big corporations and property developers will continue to wield influence over politics regardless of whether or not they donate. However, it is clear that corporate political donations significantly undermine our democratic system. For instance, the fossil fuel industry is estimated to gain $2,000 in subsidies for every $1 they donate.

Moreover, over the last 5 years Labor and the LNP have received over $100 million in corporate political donations.

It is hard to see how these donations have not contributed to Labor and the LNP’s $9 billion in subsidies for fossil fuel companies a year, the commitment to a privatised electricity sector, and their failure to reign in the power of property developers. Most people rightly see these as clear
signs that the interests of corporations are being put ahead of ordinary people.

The Queensland Greens are the only party this election who refuse corporate donations. And we passionately believe that the first step to breaking the power of big corporations over politics is electing representatives who refuse their dirty money.

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