Liam Flenady is a Resistance member and Socialist Alliance candidate for the March 24 state election. He spoke with Green Left Weekly’s Patrick Harrison about his campaign priorities and issues facing young people today.
Why are you running in the election? What does it mean to be a youth candidate?
I want people to see that there is an alternative to [Premier Anna] Bligh and [opposition leader Campbell] Newman.
The ALP and Liberal National Party are almost indistinguishable. Both support privatising everything, coal seam gas mining ruining our farmland and environment, all forms of unsustainable and badly planned development, ripping off ordinary people, the list goes on.
This kind of governing is showing itself all around the world to be totally devastating and unsustainable. We need to move fast towards a human-centred and ecologically sound form of society.
As for being a youth candidate, I would say that I don’t believe in “youth” as a category. That might sound odd, but my point is simple: young people should be seen and respected as equals in all areas of life.
Only then will they feel able to take some ownership over the way society develops, and only then will we have the possibility of a real democracy. “Youth” is an economic, political and ideological category that makes young people appear lesser in the eyes of others, and in their own eyes. So, I proudly run as a young candidate, but in no way as some novelty factor.
You are campaigning against coal seam gas mining - is this an issue that has young people concerned, or that you see affecting their future?
Coal seam gas mining is truly insane. The picture is clear: coal seam gas extraction will pollute ground water, surface water systems and habitats, poison our farmland, ruin the health and economic wellbeing of rural communities, and — contrary to the myths from the mining corporations and mass media — it will in no way reduce our emissions.
The only reason it is going ahead is because a handful of people stand to make billions of dollars from it, and the two big parties have been completely bought off.
Never mind that a speedy transition to renewable energy is totally feasible in Queensland. All my friends and other young people I know are interested in this issue because of the rampant injustice that it represents, but also because we are looking at the warning signs and thinking: “How bad will things get in my lifetime?”
What are the other main issues you will be campaigning on?
Looking over our policies, I feel very proud to be running as part of Socialist Alliance. In addition to CSG, we are seriously raising the issue of public ownership, which no one else is doing.
After 30 years of global neoliberal economics, where public services have been sold off until there’s practically nothing left, we’ve got a situation where the people have no control over their own society, and have to pay an arm and a leg for essential services.
Everything completely serves the law of profit — even our detention centres. But profit for who? Not us.
I agree with the Greens focus on public transport in this election, but I feel it needs to go way further in terms of radically shifting priorities to supporting public schools, public hospitals and health, mental health, and public housing.
This is not even to mention our idea for state-owned and publicly run bank and insurance companies — particularly important in Queensland after the devastating floods last year.
Another issue is Aboriginal deaths in custody. More than 400 Aboriginal people have died in police custody since 1980, despite a Royal Commission and a formal apology. We are fighting for a new Royal Commission and the implementation of the 1991 Royal Commission findings.
This goes hand in hand with a call for full land rights for Aboriginal people and a complete paying of stolen wages. This is particularly relevant to South Brisbane, where one of our members, Sam Watson, has been fighting for justice for Australian Aboriginal people since before I was born.
There are many other huge issues we're raising as part of this campaign like repealing archaic anti-abortion laws, supporting renewable energy and fighting corruption in government for a real democracy.
How do you hope to raise awareness for these issues with your campaign?
I've been in South Brisbane for a number of years now, and am well known with quite a lot of people here. My idea for the campaign is less about just handing people a flyer and throwing some rhetoric at them, but instead about engaging as many people as possible to join in spreading a really alternative message.
It is an “activist” campaign, not a capitalist campaign. We’ll be having a number of community events in West End, door knocking, and leafleting. I’ll be coming to as many rallies as possible, as I do anyway. I’ve even reopened my Facebook account to start campaigning there.
As a composer, what do you see as the relationship between music and politics?
This is a really tricky question, and I have to admit I’m not running on any arts policies, though I obviously support further funding for the arts.
Different types of music relate to politics in different ways. Certain genres like hip-hop and punk can be very effective tools for getting political messages out there in an informative but engaging way.
Art music, like the stuff I compose, is pretty far removed from politics, in effect. And while it could be seen as “ivory tower” what it does do however is give an image of truly rewarding work. It is work that is pleasurable for its own sake, not backbreaking stuff that most people have to do to live.
In the very distant future, when we’ve got rid of this awful capitalist system and people have the freedom to pursue whatever they like, I think more and more of life will take on this “artistic” quality. Sounds utopian, but if we fight for it now, it might be achievable down the track!
In your experience, have young people been as well off under the economic boom as the mainstream media and politicians would have us believe?
No way. Young people today are led to believe that they have it good. That’s what we’ve been told.
Gen-Y is supposed to be so spoilt that nobody knows what to do with us. But when you look closer, the situation isn’t great: our schooling system is failing us, not providing us with the mental tools we need to think critically about the direction our society is taking and thus contribute to the betterment of humanity.
It is getting harder and harder to get government assistance when you’re at uni, and when you graduate you’ve racked up a massive debt.
Rent is incredibly high and getting anything more than casual work these days is a tall order.
Not to mention the cost of public transport and health. All this while the 1% ruins our future environment for a quick buck? We’ve all been led to believe that this is the best that we can get, and that if we complain it’s only because we’re “spoilt”.
But that’s not the way I see it, and I think many young people in Australia are starting to think the same.
What do you hope to achieve with your campaign?
Well, naturally, I’d like to win. But, considering that we’ve still got some way to go before people generally start taking these ideas seriously enough to fight for them en masse, what I really want to see coming out of this campaign is to get as many people as possible to join in the struggle, and to get people not just questioning the validity of the two major parties, but seriously considering alternatives.