This article is Part 2 of 2 from A Conversation with the Greens on Campus. You can read Part 1 here.
Jordon Steele-John, Senator for WA
It is incredibly refreshing to speak to a politician who is as vocally pissed-off about the state of politics as students are, and that man in Jordon Steele-John. Jordon works with the portfolios of Disability Rights & Services, Youth, Digital Rights and Sustainable Cities.
We discussed the main issues affecting students, the primary one being (you guessed it) climate change. Investing in renewable energy has been consistently prevented by corporate lobbies of the mining and oil and gas industries, says Jordon, and by closing this endless loop of donations and investment in coal, we would have the ability to invest in renewables—an industry which isn’t dying.
Jordon would also like to see the voting age lowered to 16, and an acknowledgement of the mental health crisis. He said does not make sense to distinguish between mental and physical health, and expressed a desire to address mental health as a flow-on effect of poor economic conditions. Unemployment could be addressed by creating jobs in the renewable sector, and by decreasing the pressures of accruing debt while studying for a career which is not guaranteed.
A lot of what he’s noticed about Australian politics, being a relative newcomer (at least to the Senate), is that the major parties care significantly more about rhetoric than policy. A “merry-go-round” of caring what the Murdoch media’s opinion more than their own constituents, coupled with taking corporate donations, is what powers the major parties and contributes to the broken institution of the Australian Parliament. The “clique of old white dudes” which is wholly divorced from communities was clearly a point of frustration for the Senator.
When I asked how he maintains the energy we’ve seen him embody in the Senate in his iconic speeches, he said that the key was to juxtapose the frustration with hope. Sharing energy with people who feel the same way and working through a common struggle are central to Jordon’s motivations as a young politician in this day and age.
As a final comment, he offered this: “As young people, we are powerful and, united in hope, there is nothing we can’t achieve.”
Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Greens party
Finally, I sat down with Richard Di Natale, who (unsurprisingly at this point) mentioned the Greens’ plan to move towards 100 per cent renewable energy for Australia by 2030. Richard’s portfolios include health, multiculturalism and sport.
Richard reiterated the importance of creating jobs through the renewables industry, as the coal industry was ending and the former allowed for 24,000 jobs to be created in Western Australia alone. Richard also raised access to support for university students in the form of assertive outreach, peer-to-peer workers and well-constructed online spaces, as priorities for the Greens. He pointed out that many economic issues cause flow-on effects that negatively impact mental health, and that issues such as reducing negative gearing and improving access to housing were part of addressing the “social determinants of health”.
Having worked as a medical practitioner before moving to politics, Richard knows the value of reframing things like drug and alcohol abuse through the lens of public health and systemic failure, as opposed to individual flaws.
By removing penalties for drug use, and by taxing and regulating the distribution of cannabis, current governmental systems will be recognising that these issues do not arise in a vacuum and that they are the result of systemic failures.
As a message to students and young people, he wanted to emphasise the importance of being engaged in politics: regarding the structure of parliament at the moment, he said: “the current mob aren’t going to do anything”.
This election, it is crucial to know your options and to ensure your enrolment. You have until 8:00 pm today to check enrolments, but you have until the ballot box to decide where your vote is going, and who is worth your support.
Disclaimer: Max Vos is a member of the Greens party.