While much of the focus this election has been on the battle for western Sydney, noticeably absent from media reporting has been the campaign waged by Greens candidates in the area.
Yet the Greens are not only fielding candidates in every western Sydney electorate, “We are taking active roles in our local communities across western Sydney”, explained David Lenton, the Greens candidate for the seat of Lindsay.
More than that, they have the old mainstream parties running scared.
“We certainly don’t get the same amount of attention, particularly since the media has become so obsessed with perpetuating a caricature of what western Sydney is all about, but we’re here. And we’ll continue to be here long after [Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd and [Opposition leader] Tony Abbott have lost interest in milking the region for votes.”
According to Phil Bradley, the Greens candidate for the seat of Parramatta, the party is promoting a positive message that cuts across the pro-big business policies of the Liberals and Labor.
Bradley told Green Left Weekly “We are campaigning to create many thousands of jobs in western Sydney with an economy powered by clean renewable energy, supported by a world-class public transport system including light rail.
“We intend to raise billions of dollars by taxing the rich mining corporations and invest this in high quality public education, social housing, health and clean energy.
Lenton said that, like other Greens candidate, his campaign is also focusing on issues that are important to the local electorate.
“Given my own background, I’m particularly passionate about education — and I think that it’s extremely important for my electorate that we have a strong, well-resourced education sector, from the bottom up.
While supporting the Gonski reforms, Lenton said the Greens are opposed to the cuts to university funding. Instead, the Greens have put forward a fully-costed alternative that would see funding to universities increase by 10%, schools receive a further $2 billion and a $1.2 billion rescue package to revitalise TAFE.
Lenton also pointed to the Greens’ support for marriage equality and policies aimed at helping small business, such as a 2% cut to the company tax rate for businesses earning less than $2 million a year.
On the issue of climate change, Lenton said: “In combination with a continuation of the carbon pricing scheme, the Greens have also released a plan to move us toward at least 90% renewable energy by 2030.”
Rudd is committed to scrapping the carbon price and moving to an emissions trading scheme, and the Coalition proposes to pay big business incentives to shift to cleaner sources of production while, in Lenton’s words, “heaping the job of cleaning up our environment to their so-called ‘green army’.
“It’s a joke to think that either of these parties will do anything for our environment without the Greens being there to fight them all the way,” Lenton said.
Perhaps no other policy area has reflected the current race to the bottom by both major parties more than refugees. Much of the commentary has placed the blame on voters in western Sydney, with parties simply attempting to come up with policies “in tune” with the electorate.
However, Bradley believes that “racism and loss of sympathy for refugees is being encouraged by conservative media reports and by the shameful leap to the right of the major old parties on asylum seeker policy.
“Those with conservative and racist values are having their convictions reinforced, but the Greens and I will continue fighting against this by promoting our principled values, which oppose racism, and support compassion not cruelty.
“I have personally supported several refugees and will continue to work with the majority in western Sydney who are not racist, as well as those who have been misled by media support of conservative politicians.”
Lenton said: “I’m standing as a Greens candidate exactly because of how strongly I believe in fighting back on issues like this. How else will the political narrative change?”
As to what they hoped to achieve out of the elections, both pointed to the importance of ensuring that Cate Faehrmann is elected as senator, in the process defeating conservative challengers for the last NSW Senate seat.
Together with winning as many seats as possible nationally, “this can stop Tony Abbott gaining total control and then be able to deliver as many progressive Greens policies as possible” explained Bradley.
“I’d also like to see our primary vote rise, not just in areas like Grayndler and Batman, where we have a chance at winning seats, but particularly in areas like western Sydney” said Lenton.
“A vote for the Greens isn’t just a vote for the best chance we have at enacting progressive policies — it’s a vote for scaring the two big parties. Sure, they like to talk about how irrelevant the Greens are, or jump on any downward swing in the polls as if this is the sign that the Greens are finally going to die, or ‘go the way of the Democrats,’ but we’ve seen both Labor and the Liberals change their messaging — and their policies, to an unfortunately smaller degree — in order to try and squeeze us out.
“The Greens scare the major parties — and the more scared they are, the better it will be for all of us.”