reasons for this christian voting green: i have a super local candidate! (#4)
Tonight I went to a 'Make Poverty History' forum of local candidates for the Bass electorate. I'll be really honest with you... it wasn't a game changer for me. My primary vote and preferences remain as they were prior to the forum. That's OK. It was well worth going in order to see and hear each of the candidates live and in person.
Here's my run down of the evening.
The forum was chaired by the Hon Don Wing AM.
Kathryn Martin (Make Poverty History) spoke on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the need for Australia to increase foreign aid from the current 0.35% GDP to its promised 0.7% GDP if the MDGs are to be met.
The Hon Geoff Lyons MP (Labor) presented an overview of the projects Australia's foreign aid budget has been directed towards. Our aid is doing great things - I really appreciated hearing about them. Mr Lyons also reaffirmed Labors commitment to increasing the foreign aid budget to 0.5% GDP by 2016/2017.
Mr Andrew Nikolic (Liberal candidate) began by detailing how personally knowledgeable he is on the topic of foreign aid, having distributed aid in multiple locations around the world while a member of the military. He went so far as to suggest military spending was akin to foreign aid in many situations. Mr Nikolic presented the idea that any Australian foreign aid should be spent in our own Asia-Pacific region, where it will have the most benefit for us in terms of increasing our security and border control. He argued that foreign aid cannot and should not be increased until the Australian economy is strong - we must be in a strong financial position before we can be generous to others. We may also need to increase our military budget and intervention in nearby countries for our own peace of mind, for while there is poverty in these countries they are unstable and present a threat to us. On numerous occasions Mr Nikolic emphasised the importance of evidence based policy, citing statistics and what he perceived as Labor government failings in their management of the economy. (Got to love a bit of political point scoring whenever one has a platform to do so. To be fair, Mr Lyons pointed out some perceived Liberal failings on one occasion I can recall, but he mostly managed to stick to presenting either a Labor policy or his personal perspective on world poverty and foreign aid.)
Ms Lucy Landon-Lane (Greens candidate) reiterated the importance of meeting the MDGs by increasing Australian foreign aid to 0.7% GDP, both because it will improve the lives of billions of people and because we said we would. She pointed out that well directed foreign aid might be a way to help people live happily in their own country rather than needing to risk a dangerous journey here as asylum seekers. Ms Landon-Lane pointed out that some of what the government claimed was foreign aid was instead wrongly classified military spending in Afghanistan. She spoke of the need to move beyond narrow, short term high economic growth strategies and instead reinforce the balance between economic, social and environmental dimensions.
Both Ms Landon-Lane and Mr Lyons talked about the importance of climate change mitigation in the fight against poverty, since it is the poorest countries in the world who will be most effected by climate change.
Lucy Landon-Lane was the stand out speaker in my opinion. She came across as relaxed, well informed and caring. Geoff Lyons isn't the world's best public speaker, but he was sincere and I really appreciated hearing of some of the specific differences Australian foreign aid has made. Andrew Nikolic was relaxed to the point of slick, overly concerned with the role of the military and defence in foreign aid (and every area of government policy by the sound of it), and more concerned about the plight of poor struggling Australia than the poor struggling to survive on $1.25 a day. He certainly ticked all the Liberal boxes, decrying regulation on multi-national countries (although this was probably realistic in the context of the question he was answering), and placing the comfort of Australians before the needs of those in other parts of the world who live in poverty. Based on their speeches and responses tonight, I'm comfortable with the election choices I have made.
On a more personal note, Frank and I have known Lucy Landon-Lane for a few years now, through our involvement with 'Pulp the Mill' peaceful protests. She is someone I admire - a warm, calm, spiritual, intelligent person who is self-aware and lives in a very thoughtful, deliberate way. Perhaps it is impossible to maintain that kind of character in politics, but I would love to have a person like Lucy representing me. Realistically, Lucy is unlikely to be elected to parliament, which is a shame.
Yes, I know... you have a different candidate from me so perhaps you don't think this one reason for voting Green applies to you. But let me encourage you to get out there and meet your candidates or listen to them in person at political events in your electorate. The media doesn't always present them fairly or accurately and seeing them live, unedited and in the flesh may help you decide who to vote for.
Anyway, I'm voting Green because I have a fantastic local candidate who would carry herself well in the maelstrom of federal politics.