It’s nearly two years since the last election, when the Democrats lost all their seats, and over sixteen months since I finally left the Senate, as did the Democrats as a party. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to get back into party politics and contest a seat at next year’s federal election.
It was formally announced today that I will be running in the seat of Brisbane, which is where I live. I’ve actually run in that seat once before, back in 1996. That was the election the Keating government got wiped out. Labor’s Arch Bevis, the incumbent in Brisbane at the time (as he still is), was 6.5% behind the Liberal candidate on primary votes, but at the end of the count he managed to get 559 votes in front, thanks to a very strong flow of preferences from Democrat and Green voters.
I had to weigh up a lot of things before deciding to dive back into party politics. There are aspects of politics that I could live without, and in the last year or so I’ve been enjoying engaging with a range of issues through a variety of different roles without having to worry about having a party label put on me.
But eventually I decided there are too many important and urgent issues that need to be addressed far more effectively than they currently are, and I felt I was in a position to help provide some of the extra political pressure to bring the necessary changes about.
Climate change is the most obvious and urgent matter. I can’t see any likelihood of either major party doing what is needed on climate change unless they feel it will cost them votes if they don’t.
There are plenty of other issues that need more attention between now and the next election. Housing affordability remains a big and growing problem despite the recent economic downturn and tax reform will be on the agenda again and will need to be done right.
It is also very important for Queensland to regain a voice in the federal Parliament from outside the major parties. This has been absent since the last election, when I lost my seat to Labor. With the Democrats basically out of the picture as a viable party, the Greens are the only real political option available to push these issues and provide a different perspective.
It is interesting being in a new environment and discovering what things work differently, although it feels a bit strange sometimes too, after having been in the Democrats for twenty years. However, I know plenty of the people – there are quite a few former Democrats in the Greens – and it will be interesting to have a go at campaigning focused at a more local level.
The first time I ever ran as a candidate was in the Brisbane City Council elections in 1991. I stood as a Democrat, but it was also as part of a wider team of candidates who ran under the overall banner of the Green Alliance, with Drew Hutton as the Lord Mayoral candidate. Around that time, talks were going on at a national level to explore the possibility of the Greens and the Democrats merging, rather than the Greens moving towards setting up their own national party.
I was in favour of a merger happening, rather than having the two parties competing for the same seats. However, for a whole bunch of reasons, it didn’t happen. All this time later, the Democrats have lost all their seats, but many of them didn’t go to the Greens, leaving Queensland without any minor party representation. I believe diversity of views and perspectives in highly desirable in politics. However, it is sadly lacking at the moment. So assisting the Greens to get a Senate seat is important.
Over the past couple of years, the Greens have been moving into the gap left by the Democrats in the Senate, and with Senate balance of power up for grabs at the next election, it is crucial than Queenslanders have a voice on balance of power issues. I think I can help make that happen, and provide an extra voice on some of the important issues, by running as a candidate.
The seat of Brisbane has changed a bit in the recent redistribution, losing some Labor areas and picking up some died in the wool Liberal suburbs. This has brought Labor’s margin down from 6.8% to 3.8%. This time around, the Liberal National Party candidate will be Teresa Gambaro, who was the Liberal member for the seat of Petrie from 1996 until the last election. There will be plenty of experience between the candidates for Labor, LNP and the Greens, which will hopefully make it a more interesting contest to follow.