Brunswick is in Greens’ sights

Tim Read. Photo:

In the 2010 Victorian elections the Greens scored about 30% of the vote in each of the Labor-held inner-city seats of Brunswick, Richmond and Melbourne.

They are campaigning hard to break into the Legislative Assembly in all three in the November 29 election. A poll reported in the November 7 Age predicted Greens wins in Richmond and Melbourne, but was not conducted in Brunswick.

Tim Read, a medical doctor and researcher, is the Greens candidate for Brunswick. He believes that parliament should stand up to big business.

Read is passionate about preventative health and will push for restrictions on alcohol and junk food advertising. He also wants health policy to focus not just on sensational issues such as ambulance waiting times, but also on more mundane issues such as improved electronic medical records.

In education, the Greens are focusing on TAFE, which has been “gutted over the last term of government”. Read wants restrictions on private training colleges and “a shift to the older system of more publicly funded courses”.

The Greens’ housing policy focuses on increasing public housing stock and opposing the transfer of public housing to private associations, so-called social housing. They also want to improve the quality of rental properties, through mechanisms such as “rent-worthy certificates”.

Addressing climate change is for Read “the reason why I am standing”. The Greens want to introduce a Victorian Renewable Energy Target and remove barriers to solar photovoltaic and wind farms. They also want improved energy performance standards for buildings, particularly rental properties.

A key election issue is the East West Link. Denis Napthine’s government recently signed contracts for this hugely expensive road. Labor earlier indicated it would honour these contracts. Now Labor says that the project is contingent upon the decision of a Supreme Court challenge brought by Moreland, Yarra and Moonee Ponds councils.

The Greens, along with other progressive groups and parties, strongly oppose the East West Link. If elected Read would insist on the project being axed, through legislation if required.

Read wants funding directed to public transport. He is particularly concerned about overcrowded trams in Brunswick and infrequent services on the local Upfield train line.

The Greens see their ability to push their policies as dependent on holding the balance of power. A possible election outcome is a hung parliament with Greens holding the balance of power in both houses. Labor has explicitly ruled out doing deals with the Greens, but it may well need Greens support to govern.

What type of agreement would the Greens propose to Labor, should there be a hung parliament? Read said there were two possible models: After the 2010 Tasmanian election, the Greens formed a coalition with Labor, with Greens MPs in cabinet. After the 2010 federal election, Adam Bandt guaranteed confidence and supply to Labor in exchange for conditions, including a carbon price.

The Greens have not yet decided on a preferred model, but Read’s preference is the Bandt model. The form of any agreement with Labor would be determined by the party room (the elected MPs). Terminating the contract for the East West Link would presumably be a key condition for supporting Labor.

Another scenario is that Labor wins overall. How then would the Greens proceed with stopping the East West Link and furthering its other objectives? Read said the Greens could still hold the balance of power in the upper house. In any case, Read would use his position as an MP to push Labor to keep its promises, particularly scrapping the East West Link. If Labor were to break that promise “every Victorian would be reminded of that promise regularly ’til the next election ... We would extract a high political price.”

If elected, Read sees his role as getting significant outcomes on the Greens’ main platform, particularly on climate change. He also intends to use a parliamentary position to raise issues that are not raised by the major political parties: reducing the high number of poker machines in poorer suburbs; improving the transparency of information from government departments; and pushing for policy to be based on actual evidence.

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