Greens pitch for more councillors on Brisbane City Council

February 28, 2024
Greens Mayoral candidate Jonathan Sriranganathan. Photo: Seal Chong Wah - The Greens/Facebook

Former Greens Gabba Ward councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan is hoping to expand the party’s representation on the Brisbane City Council on March 16.

Sriranganathan told Green Left the Greens have a good chance of winning at least five wards, compared to one now, and “another four or five that could swing our way”. Sriranganathan is the mayoral candidate.

The campaign is focused on housing affordability, improving public transport and promoting “communal luxury”.

“We’ve been thinking deeply about how we can use council’s existing policy levers to achieve more transformational change,” Sriranganathan said.

One example is a policy that would impose a 650% rate rise on any landlord who raises rent in a two-year period. It would apply even after an existing lease expires. This would prevent landlords from getting around it by evicting tenants and starting a new lease.

Neighbours, tenants and past tenants would be able to report to council any landlords who break the rules.

Sriranganathan pointed out that land owners are already subject to significant fines if they do not pay the correct rates.

The Greens’ housing plan includes similar differential rating levels to discourage leaving properties vacant, without a good reason, for more than six months and letting properties on short-stay sites, like Airbnb, for more than 45 days in a year.

There are only three candidates running in most wards: Labor, Liberal National Party and the Greens. Six candidates are running for mayor, including the Legalise Cannabis Party and two independents.

Sriranganathan said Labor is struggling to win support locally because of the frustration with state and federal Labor.

He said Labor "don’t want to directly contradict their own Queensland state party” on development on flood-prone land, which Queensland Labor has supported. So they end up “sitting on the fence, trying to have a bet both ways and not declaring a position”.

Sriranganathan said the Liberal National Party, which holds a large majority on the council, had previously pretended the Greens didn’t exist. But this time they are “ratcheting up targeted attack ads against me and the Greens”.

He said this is “helpful” in some ways, because it amplifies the party’s relevance. But it also means “the Greens have a bigger wave of negative campaigning and attacks”.

“This council election, they definitely see us coming.”

The Greens are pledging to take a stand on bigger issues, such as supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against genocidal Israel.

“That is a significant lever to pull”, he said, in a council with a $4.3 billion annual budget and hundreds of millions in yearly private sector contracts.

“It would be pretty transformative if we suddenly had a mayor who was prepared to say ‘I stand with Palestine’” and if the pro-Palestine rallies were “actively supported by the Brisbane City Council”.

More Greens on council are likely, but not enough to win a majority. Asked about his thoughts on changing the balance of forces, Sriranganathan said that “some training and mentoring of newly-elected councillors to support them to be campaign organisers in their own right” would be needed.

“It is very easy for new elected reps to just slot into the dominant norms of how politicians are supposed to behave.” He believes elected representatives should “use their offices to support and co-organise community campaigns”.

Sriranganathan is proud of his own record since first being elected to the Gabba Ward in 2016. “We need to ensure that the growth of the Greens electorally doesn’t come at the expense of grassroots organising capacity.”

“Reflecting on the last few years, I’ve noticed that having Greens MPs has meant we’ve been able to do a lot more organising through elected reps offices that hasn’t necessarily been matched by an increase in volunteer branch capacity.”

Volunteers are being organised but, he said, “there’s not much organising within the Greens that’s happening independent of the elected reps”, a shift from a few years ago.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.