Sarah Hathway is a member of Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance and a social work student at Deakin University. She is running for the Socialist Alliance in the City of Greater Geelong council election with union activist Sue Bull. Sarah is a marriage equality activist and vice president of Geelong Rainbow.
Green Left Weekly’s Mia Sanders asked Sarah about the campaign.
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What is your main campaign platform?
Sue and I have been campaigning on a “putting community first” platform, including a commitment to putting the needs of the community ahead of developer greed. By putting big business ahead of the community, successive Geelong Councils have torn down or sold off valuable assets supposedly to create jobs. But what we’ve seen is private companies packing up and leaving, while government and community sector organisations are now some of the largest employers in the region.
We are campaigning for real job creation, improved training and the preservation of heritage. We’ve also pledged that East Gardens, which is a large area of open green space including the Geelong Botanic Gardens, will never be carved up for private development.
Rate capping, combined with state and federal cuts, have stripped money from council budgets. Geelong Council has considered outsourcing home services, selling council properties and sacking workers. Geelong residents face growing unemployment, wage stagnation and need quality services. We are campaigning against privatisation, outsourcing of services, rate capping, increases in the cost of council services and the overuse of private consultants.
We want an open, democratic, accountable council. The trend towards closed council meetings and fewer open, public meetings has to stop. It alienates residents, making council less approachable and accountable. If elected, we pledge to hold regular ward or neighbourhood meetings to give residents the chance to express local concerns and issues.
Sue [Bull] and I want to prioritise sustainability and climate change. Recently, 16,000 Geelong residents contributed to the creation of a 30-year plan for a “Clever and Creative Future”, which we want implemented by the incoming council. Critical to this plan is the retention of open, green spaces, emergency heat shelters, maintaining green corridors and subsidising renewable energy for low-income earners. Our campaign calls for all council properties to develop 6-star green ratings and we demand a full audit of waste practices given the recent scandal where waste was stockpiled rather than recycled.
We are also committed to increasing the concession rate for all low-income earners. Currently concessions for rates and services only apply to pensioners and veterans and are too low to really help those on low incomes.
We also want public housing to become council business. Geelong council must stop selling off properties to private interests or developers who only care about making a profit. Instead council must redevelop housing for those in most need. We also want to involve council in a plan to address homelessness, provide affordable rentals and fine landlords who sit on empty properties.
Is it important for young people to be candidates for local council?
Young people should stand for political office so they can have a bigger platform to address issues that affect young people. But the issues I have raised around housing, services, jobs and the environment are not just important to young people, but to pensioners, workers and all residents.
What issues are affecting young people in your community?
Geelong is a community of great need. Our unemployment and underemployment statistics are higher than the national average and higher still for young people. Homelessness is on the rise, and our mental health and other services are under extreme pressure.
Do you think young people are interested in what goes on in their community or have they checked out of local politics?
Young people do care about local issues. It would be difficult not to care.. But residents, and not just young residents, are cynical and disillusioned with local government, which has historically pandered to big business. The previous council was sacked because of accusations of bullying, corruption and poor governance. This is Geelong’s chance for a clean slate, to elect councillors who will really listen to and work with residents.
Are there any other young candidates? How do the other candidates fare on youth issues?
In Brownbill Ward, where Sue and I are running there are 18 candidates for three positions and I am the only candidate under 30. But there are young candidates running in the other three wards. The youngest candidate out of all 53 who have nominated across the four wards is Moshtagh Heidari who is running in Windermere Ward. It is the biggest ward and historically has been ignored by all levels of government. Moshtagh is 23 years old and a former refugee from Afghanistan who settled in Geelong with his family five years ago. He is campaigning around public transport, education programs and employment.