Federal Election Candidate Round-Up

Image taken at the forum

By Hayley Hands

With Election Day tomorrow, here’s where some of the local candidates stand on climate change, higher education, and the cost of living.

Candidates for the House of Representatives seat of Canberra spoke at an event on Tuesday, hosted by ANU’s Learning Communities. Present were candidates from Labor, the Greens, and the Australian Progressives. Candidate from the United Australia Party, the Liberal party, and independent Tim Bohm withdrew from the event.

ANUSA hosted an event on Wednesday night, hosting candidates for the ACT Senate. This included a Labor and a Greens candidate, in addition to independent Anthony Pesec.

Liberal Party

The Liberal Party did not send candidates to either event.

The Liberal candidate for Canberra, Mina Zaki, was set to attend the Learning Communities Forum, but withdrew last-minute.

ACT Senator Zed Seselja’s absence from Wednesday’s event was noted by the ANUSA Education Officer Tanika Sibal, who brought a cardboard cut-out with his face to the debate. “Missing” posters featuring Seselja were also placed throughout the venue.

Australian Labor Party

Higher Education

Labor’s platform, as emphasised by Lower House candidate Alicia Payne, makes commitments to invest $10 billion over a decade to allow another 200,000 people to access tertiary education. The ALP also advocates a raise in the living wage, and higher accessibility of Centrelink.

Senate candidate Katy Gallagher emphasised the importance of a university education, stating that the ALP was “making investments ensuring disadvantaged groups can get access to a higher education”. Gallagher also promised an inquiry into higher education to be commissioned “within the first 100 days.” The inquiry would “ensure student and teacher needs are met”.

Climate Change/Environment

Payne emphasised Labor’s support for solar panel subsidies for individuals and schools as well as the exploration of hydrogen as a new renewable energy source.

Gallagher highlighted that Labor “takes climate change seriously”, noting, however, that the absence of Liberal candidates at the debate made Labor look like “the baddie” on environmental policy.

Cost of Living

Payne stated that addressing poverty and inequality were the main issues she would “want to fight for” if elected to parliament. She also noted that the rental market was “a massive issue around Australia”, and highlighted Labor’s policy to build 250,000 new homes.

Gallagher claimed that the introduction of a “tax reform agenda” as well as the reintroduction of penalty rates would level the “playing field” and support people, especially students, with meeting their living expenses.

Other Key Takeaways

Payne is supportive of gender quotas in politics as it “changes the way politics operate”. In response to a question relating to the lack of bipartisanship in parliament, Payne stated that the anger “comes from a very important place”, labelling some current government policy as “outrageous”. She did, however, concede that “some issues should be above politics” and the focus should be on “what’s best for the nation”.

The Greens

Higher Education

Greens House of Representatives candidate Tim Hollo emphasised the Greens’ platform of free tertiary education for all Australians.

Penny Kyburz, the Greens Senate Candidate, also expressed a desire for affordable university, and would like to see undergraduate university and TAFE courses be free. As a university lecturer herself, Kyburz said she understood the need for “stable employment” at universities. She also noted that students are “getting less than what they pay for” as a result of tertiary funding cuts.

Climate Change/ Environment

Hollo cited climate change as his reason for running for parliament, saying it’s “what keeps him up at night”. Hollo is supportive of a 2030 goal for completely sustainable energy, stressing that Australia needs to take action “as fast as we can and as urgently as we can.” He claimed the current government’s refusal to re-introduce a carbon emissions tax was “the dinosaur refusing to see the asteroid coming”, but also emphasised the importance of corporations taking responsibility for their environmental impact.

Kyburz referred to current circumstances as a “climate emergency”. She strongly opposes new coal mines, including Adani, as well as Northern Territory gas fracking plans. Like Holo, Kyburz also supported the feasibility of 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Cost of Living

Hollo highlighted a $75 dollar per week increase in Centrelink payments. He stated that “housing prices and rental prices are out of control,” and noted the Greens policy of a federal housing trust that would create 500 thousand new homes.

Kyburz stated that workers have the Greens’ “full support” and that an increase in Newstart and Youth Allowance payments would assist financially vulnerable people with the rising cost of living.

Other Key Takeaways

In response to a question regarding the Greens’ role in parliament, Hollo expressed that he “can be a voice outside the team to get more things done”. He also expressed a desire to “boot out the bastards who are in government at the moment.”


Australian Progressives (House of Representatives)

Higher Education

House of Representatives candidate Robert Knight of the Australian Progressives stated that his party would advocate for capping tertiary fees.

Climate Change/Environment

Like the Greens, Knight advocated for all energy to be from renewable sources by 2030. He also “set a vision” for the elimination of all single-use plastic packaging.

Cost of Living

According to Knight, the Progressives would address cost of living concerns by introducing more targeted capital gains tax exemption and negative gearing policies. In response to a question on housing, Knight responded that the “key issue” was to transform housing from a “commodity” into “something actually to do with people”.

Other Key Takeaways

The Australian Progressives’ platform is based on economic equity, environmental conservation and independence from the major parties. The Party also does not accept donations from corporations. Knight stated that if “Labor and the Greens are the Coles and Woolworths of the politics world, the Australian Progressives are the IGA”.


Independent Anthony Pesec (Senate)

Higher Education

Senate Independent candidate Anthony Pesec stated that he would like to see more funding for universities as “an investment [in] Australia’s future”. He disagreed with “funding cuts and commercialization of uni” and was fearful we are heading down the same path as the American tertiary system.  He believes the threshold for HECS repayments should rise, in line with the rising cost of living.

Climate Change/ Environment

Pesec works in clean energy and is endorsed by the Smart Energy Council. He also referred to Adani as financially and environmentally “unstable” and would like to see coal phased out immediately.

Cost of Living

Pesec advocated for more affordable housing options and states he is “shocked” by current conditions.

Other Key Takeaways

As an independent, Pesec stated that he seeks to represent Canberra’s interests through “decentralisation” from the major parties.


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