MaryBeth Gundrum is a candidate for the Senate in Queensland for the Renewable Energy Party. She spoke to Angela Walker in Cairns.
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We know you here as a Knitting Nanna active in the campaign against coal seam gas fracking. How did you become involved in the Renewable Energy Party (REP)?
I was approached by a friend to talk with Peter Breen of the REP about running as a Queensland candidate for the Federal Senate. After examining the REP policies, I decided that our values and goals aligned, and that this was a party that won't deviate from these important foundations.
I was most attracted to the evidence-based scientific, cooperative model proposed which would see all sectors of our society involved in transitioning — as a matter of great urgency — to a renewable energy future.
I believe that urgent action is needed to remediate the damage caused by the unsustainable, invasive fossil fuel industry.
I have studiously avoided politics all my adult life, except when working with politicians and governments as an advocate for the environment, water, health, First Nations peoples and human rights.
I agreed to run because I kept hearing from longstanding supporters of both major parties that they are resigning from and will not vote for their respective parties. I am hearing that people are sick and tired of watching the major parties engage in politicking in news cycles, instead of governing our country.
Having been very active in the movement against unconventional gas and non-sustainable fossil fuel mining for five years, I have become increasingly aware that corporations have an inordinate amount of say in the direction our country is taking. The invasive mining industry has devastated communities, destroyed ecosystems, threatened entire species and stolen our water, poisoned our air and degraded rich farmlands, all for the profit of a few.
After the recent changes to the Senate voting system, I believe that it is more important now than ever to have a robust senate to provide checks and balances to the decisions made by the government of the day. Although it is more difficult for minor parties and independents to be voted in, at this critical point in human history, I felt it was essential to put my hand up so alternative voices can be heard in our senate.
What are the REP's key policies?
REP policies focus on employment and economic opportunities, urgently moving to net zero emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C, engaging the whole community in making the transition and recognition that a sustainable future that provides safety, security and meaningful engagement for all citizens of the world is incompatible with the vast inequalities that exist today in access to political power, income and capital.
Our goals are that by 2030 all of Australia's electricity will come from renewable sources, by 2035 Australia should meet around 40% of our transport needs with renewable energy and that by 2050 at the latest, Australia achieves net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole economy, including electricity, transport, farming and land use.
REP supports putting a price on carbon. But others argue market-based solutions like that will not work: only a revived public sector could lead a conversion to 100% renewables. What do you think?
REP believes that it will take the whole community to meet our target commitments, including all levels of government, communities and industry, within a timeframe that will keep global warming to less than the agreed 2°C. We believe the target needs to be a more ambitious 1.5°C to minimise the impacts of a rapidly warming planet.
The best available research puts the case that a uniform global carbon price would encourage business to adjust their investments away from greenhouse gas intensive industries and stimulate innovation in renewable technologies. It would also encourage consumers to reduce spending on high-carbon products and this would cause manufacturers to respond as the market drives the renewable economy.
The question for the naysayers is why shouldn't polluters pay for the impacts and damage they cause? The alternative is for taxpayers to pay the price as we race to adapt to climate impacts under a global warming model.
How has REP been campaigning?
REP has 12 candidates in six states in the Senate and three candidates in the House of Representatives in Victoria and Tasmania. The campaign was launched nationally in Tasmania on June 3, with the individual candidates doing media releases in their local areas.
As REP does not have the budgets of the major parties, we have been relying on mainstream and digital media, our existing networks and face-to-face meetings. In far north Queensland, I am trying to get to as many meet the candidate opportunities as possible so I can speak directly to potential supporters and explain to them directly the vision REP has for a bright, clean and sustainable future.
I have been amazed by the support I have received from friends, family and complete strangers. Now, if I only had a budget.