Greens candidate for the inner Brisbane federal seat of Griffith Max Chandler-Mather is running an ambitious and energetic campaign. It is also arguably one of the most left-wing Greens campaigns in the country.
Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Chandler-Mather said Australian politics has been shaped by the neoliberalism of the Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Labor governments, which resulted in huge cuts to real wages, the privatisation of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank, and the subsequent sale of Telstra.
The Accord agreement signed between the Labor government and the trade union movement led to an historic defeat of workers and set the foundation for a new neoliberal consensus. “Breaking that consensus is the way to forge a new path in Australian politics,” Chandler-Mather said.
This means “articulating a new politics that speaks directly to people's material lives and structurally changes the way the economy functions and the balance of forces in Australian politics”.
Examples of this approach he argued include: campaigning for a four-day work week; rapidly expanding the construction of social housing so it is universally available; and “bringing whole sectors of the economy back into public ownership [including] electricity and telecommunications”.
Chandler-Mather adds that implementing some form of universal basic income is vital as this would mean shifting “towards an economy and a society which isn't predicated on your ability to find full-time work”.
The Greens candidate explicitly supports a transformative agenda and flirts with the label “democratic socialist”. However, he argues that we need to move beyond 20th century language and “speak directly to people’s lives”.
This means using concrete examples but also describing it in a way that appeals to people emotionally, Chandler-Mather said.
“For instance, when we talk about building a million social homes we should talk about it in terms of what it will mean for people directly.
“I would say that we need to build beautifully designed social homes that you would want to live in and that when your child grows up they get to move into a beautiful home regardless of their income or life circumstances and that that should be a right afforded to everyone in Australia.”
Chandler-Mather said that achieving goals like this means confronting corporate interests and “making enemies”.
“Sometimes the left — certainly Labor and even some in the Greens — are afraid of confronting enemies like big corporations, banks and sections of the political class.”
However, we can't be afraid of creating such enemies precisely because the power wielded by big corporate interests is the reason we don't have things like adequate public housing, he said.
Chandler-Mather also argues that we shouldn't be afraid of the corporate media: “Media as an institution is one of the few institutions that is less trusted than politicians. During the state election we had a Courier Mail test: are we in the Courier Mail? Yes? Good.
“Any attack in the media along the lines of ‘crazy Greens want to make public transport free’” is free advertising according to Chandler-Mather. “People by and large won't pay attention to the crazy Greens bit. They’ll say ‘Ooh, free public transport’.
“When the media attack us for engaging in policies that do break with an economic consensus, people think ‘Well, it’s not as if the current regime is particularly good for us anyway’.
“To be honest, if they do attack us for the policies we hold, that is often a plus.”
When asked how his strategy of social change differed from the traditional ideas of revolutionary socialism, he said: “I just think it is a realistic assessment of where we're at.
“People aren’t stupid. People — probably more so than the left — recognise the limitations of social change and know how far we can go in a certain step.
“Right now, the strategy we’re pursuing is about building up structures and powers in society that can take on big corporate power.”
The aim is to build capacity to “at least resist that [corporate power] and start to make little incursions, whether that be demands to build social housing or extend the welfare state a little bit.
“I think it is about building up structures and organisations that give ordinary people power now in a way that is realistic and strategic.”