The Sustainable Australia party’s entry in the RiotACT candidate bake-off is iced with a landscape painting-like image featuring Ginninderra Falls and the West Belconnen section of the Murrumbidgee River corridor.
“It’s a small but really nicely decorated cake because we advocate better not bigger,” candidate for Ginninderra Martin Tye says.
He says he and son Oliver, who is also running, but in Kurrajong, chose to depict this area because of their concerns about a major property development underway in the area.
“It’s beautiful country. We’d like to think that future generations would be able to appreciate that country,” Martin Tye says.
“Most of the property development is a done deal out there, but what we’re pushing for is maximum setbacks.
“So, to protect the river corridor, some of the current setbacks are only 70m-100m. If elected, we would like to push for those setbacks to be at least 500m.”
Martin Tye says there is talk that there could one day be a national park in “this spectacular country”, and notes that it is also a place where there are many indigenous cultural sites.
Mr Tye appears in the video with his co-campaigner Oliver, 20, a college resident in his second year of a science degree at ANU, majoring in biology.
“It’s hard not to have some of the inspiration rub off on you when you’re spending so much time around your dad who is so enthusiastic about something,” Oliver Tye says of his decision to run.
“It didn’t take much for me to get involved, I felt that there’s no better time to start making the change that you want to see than right now.”
When he’s not campaigning, Martin Tye runs Impact Comics in Garema Place and Flipside Entertainment Exchange in the city bus interchange. He’s owned Flipside for nearly 30 years, and Impact for nearly a decade, and says technological change has had the bigger effect on the former than the latter, which has remained steady.
“Impact came out of the old Impact Records. When they closed down, we got the comic guys from there and went into business with them, so we took the name Impact Comics,” he said.
“The book format has held strong most of the time, together with the figurines,” he said.
“Flipside has changed a lot – it used to be aa CD library, we’ve done second-hand CDs, records, movies and games over the years and now we’re going more into figurines like the Japanese animated figures, and Pokemon at moment.”
Critics have accused the Sustainable Australia party of being racist and anti-refugees, but Martin Tye says that’s simply not the case, and that his party supports the current refugee intake (but “not the Greens’ 50,000 per annum”) irrespective of race or religion.
“The big picture is of course looking at the root causes, so what we advocate for is an increase of our foreign aid budget to target sustainability, and by that we mean things like access to education, health, family planning, empowering of women, getting them back into the workforce in those countries,” he says.
“When they’ve got jobs, and they’ve got a secure life, they don’t seem to need to have lots of kids to support them in the future, in fact they start to learn that it’s better to invest more money in the education of fewer kids, and that stops the over-population which drives resource scarcities, which drives conflicts, all those sorts of things.
“So this sustainability message, it’s not about Australia cutting itself off from the world, it’s actually about us setting an example and sharing that message with the world.”
He says people need to understand the geography of Australia.
“Because if we don’t, we’ll destroy what’s left of our environment, of the bush, the rivers, to try to cope with growth beyond our capacity.
“That’s our message, so it’s all about numbers, consumption, waste, nothing to do with where people come from.”
Martin Tye says he hopes one of his party’s candidates is successful in the ACT “so that Canberra can be a leader in sustainability, rather than a follower”.
“When I’m out on the streets talking to people, I find a lot of people are concerned about the things I’m talking about, and they don’t want to get involved with the [Pauline] Hanson stuff, but they are concerned at the rate of growth, and how sustainable it is, and there are a lot of issues around that, around job creation to support the hundreds of thousands of people that Canberra wants, that the big parties are driving: water, infrastructure, roads, hospitals, how do you fund them?”
He is concerned that Canberra will in time be unable to provide adequate health, education and infrastructure to service its growing population.
“Things have got to be in balance, population growth, job creation in balance with your environment, and at the moment we’re way out of balance,” he says.
Tye senior says population was an issue that he grew up with in the ’60s.
“Martin Luther King talked about it, Pete Seegar wrote songs about it, Rodriguez had a line in there, even Gough Whitlam spoke about it,” he says.
Having always been aware of the issue, Mr Tye was immediately interested in the cause when he learn of Sustainable Australia.
“When I saw the party and what it was about, and realised there was nothing sinister in it, I thought, ‘I’ve got to fight for this, for my children, and for the environment’,” he says.
High profile Australians who have given support to the party have included climate change scientist and former long-term president of the Australian Conservation Foundation Professor Ian Lowe, FlightCentre founder and managing director Graham Turner and entrepreneur and philanthropist Dick Smith.
Mr Smith is not currently involved in the party, but has endorsed it from the time to time, Martin Tye says.
“Dick Smith is a funny character,” he says.
“He jumps in, expects instant results, and if doesn’t get it he jumps out again, whereas we always knew this was going to be a grind, you don’t change perceptions overnight.
“He jumped in at the North Sydney by-election last year, endorsed the party and had his picture on our posters, wasn’t happy with the result, then walked away.
“I think he’s given up, I think he thinks people are just not going to get it and are going to have to learn lesson the hard way, whereas we’re not quite ready to give up yet.”