This afternoon (Saturday, 8 September 2007), I attended the Sustainable Population Candidate Forum held at Havelock House.
I wasn’t sure what to really expect given that Sustainable Population Australia (website) would at first glance appear to the uninitiated appear as a cross between the population reducing philosophies of the Khmer Rouge, that had the motto of “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.” (used when referring to the urban population in Kampuchea) and the hardline environmental philosophies of green movements. Delving deeper into their website reveals a fascinating mix where Left seems to meet Right in terms of political philosophical positioning.
The format of the meeting was such that each presenter was given 12 minutes to speak, followed by 5 minutes for questions from the floor with approximately 20 minutes at the end for questions to all candidates from the floor.
The first speaker was Kate Lundy (ALP):
Kate is a current Senator for the ACT and the Federal Opposition spokesperson for Local Government. Kate drew on this expertise to talk about growth and sustainability in Mandurah. In this shire growth is occurring at a rate of 14% per annum. She made an interesting point that with the three tiers of Government, at the local level each jurisdiction is beholden to population to provide infrastructure and services… too few people and they can not maintain the services, too many people (or growth too fast) and they can not provide enough. Kate outlined the ALP case for Cooperative Federalism to address this.
Kate took some matters on notice and promised to get back to SPA with answers on those matters. A performance from Kate that reflects the social leanings of her party.
The second speaker was Troy Williams (Liberals):
Troy is the Liberal Candidate for the seat of Fraser and is the General Manager of the Australian Institute of Building. Troy was able to draw on this first hand expertise to explain sustainability concepts. Key in Troy’s presentation was that for sustainability, Australia has to be somewhat cautious that pulling immigrants from other countries to fill local skill deficiency needs, such that this doesn’t itself create problems elsewhere in the world from where these immigrants came (he used the example of Doctors from India). Troy made a strong case for sustainability and improving standards/quality of living through increased efficiencies.
When quizzed what was the optimum population / population growth rate for Australia, instead of plucking figures out of thin air Troy made the valid statement that whatever this figure should be it should be based an informed information rather than simply an arbitrary figure.
Probably the most poignant statement made by Troy this afternoon was that his Campaign for Fraser was going to be carbon neutral. An interesting move that puts him far ahead of the Greens here, who are somewhat hypocritical by not campaigning themselves in a carbon neutral way. (Remember: that simply using recycled paper materials does not make carbon neutrality!)
Third Speaker was Norvan Vogt (Democrats):
Norvan is the Democrats candidate for the Senate in the ACT. Norvan spent about two thirds of his alloted speaking time introducing himself, telling us how much good work he had done overseas, how until recently he used to live with his mother in Queanbeyan, what he did in South America, about his mate he met overseas who is now studying at the ANU and why there was a lack of animals in the rain-forest because the locals blow-darted and ate all the sloths (no I’m not kidding – I wish I were).
Norvan believes that ultimately sustainability is based on better educating people and that for a sustainable future, if need be, we need to drop the quality/standards of living to achieve this aim. Norvan trotted out the standard Democratic mantra of “A sustainable future must be about ‘triple bottom line‘ – a balanced, sensible approach that protects and advances our society, our environment and our economy.
It was blatantly obvious that Norvan was way out of his depth, it showed that he neither knew his subject matter nor had he properly prepared. Norvan was pulled up a couple of times by the other speakers when it was clear he had no idea of what he was talking about.
The final speaker was Kerrie Tucker (Greens)
Kerrie Tucker is a former ACT Greens MLA and the lead candidate for the Senate in the ACT. I may be biased here (and I’ll happily declare that historically I have more centrist leanings) but I’m sure that the Greens have a policy of one speech fits all situations when it comes to campaigning. Kerrie trotted out what sounded like a standard speech that manages to touch on anything and everything “green” from the environment, water, refugee / imigration policy, human reproductive rights, indigenous rights to just plain old human rights.
I did a head count and the meeting had about 30-40 attendees, for the most part they appeared late-middle aged to the definitely “retired” generation. There did not appear to be any major contingent of party political groupies normally seen hanging out at such events.
I am not sure what I actually took away from this meeting, but it was a good chance to see Federal candidates in action and I look forward to attending more candidate meetings in the next few months as the Federal Election draws closer.