Greens’ Senate Candidate Simon Sheikh has sent us these answers to your questions.
Candidates, the readers of RiotACT are your voters and they have questions for you! If you’d like to answer those questions and prove you care what your voters think then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find the questions here.
1. What are your views on euthanasia?
This is a question of compassion and of dignity. With the appropriate safeguards in place, voluntary euthanasia would allow those with debilitating terminal illness and chronic, intolerable pain to determine when they die. More than 75 per cent of Australians support voluntary euthanasia and the fact that the old parties won’t touch it shows just how out of touch they are. If elected, I’ll vote in favor of a Senate inquiry into voluntary euthanasia in the next parliament, with a view to introducing federal legislation to assist terminally ill patients to die with dignity.
2. Do you support a High Speed Rail Link between Sydney/Canberra/Melbourne?
Yes. High Speed Rail makes economic and environmental sense. It will boost Canberra’s local economy, decrease traffic congestion and accidents on our roads, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The Greens have championed high speed rail in the Parliament and worked incredibly hard to secure a $20 million feasibility study as part of their agreement with the Government. Now, we’re the only party going to this election with a fully costed plan from the Parliamentary Budget Office that will turn this from a dream into reality. We need 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Tony Abbott is stuck in the dark ages with his attachment to roads blinding him from supporting sustainable, long-term public transport solutions for Australians.
3. Are you comfortable with the distribution of wealth in modern day Australia?
We’re seeing the gap between the rich and the poor widen. Government has a fundamental role in assisting the most vulnerable and the most disenfranchised people in our society. When we see social polarisation increasing, what we’re witnessing is a failure of government to adequately provide for everyone.
Newstart is a good example of a policy that fails in its objective to support people getting back on their feet and finding work. The single rate of Newstart is just 45% of the minimum wage and leaves people living well under the poverty line. We’re not going to fix the problem of inequality by giving those who are struggling so little that they can barely afford the basics like food and decent accommodation, let alone leave them with enough money to be able to search for work.
The Greens propose increasing Newstart by $50 per week and providing additional support to single parents. A just and fair society doesn’t allow for people to become trapped in cycles of poverty, unemployment and often social exclusion. And on this, we’re on a unity ticket with the Business Council of Australia.
4. Recent polling (Auspoll) shows housing affordability to be a critical issue for a majority of Australians, with 84% of respondents saying it was important to them or their families, putting housing affordability ahead of issues such as education, border security, the NBN and NDIS.
The same poll also revealed that 84% of respondents also believe that Australia is not performing well on housing affordability.
Australian Governments are failing badly on this issue of critical importance to Australians.
What would you do to improve housing affordability?
Having grown up in public housing, I know how important housing accessibility and affordability is. Homelessness has soared in Canberra over the last five years, despite Canberra being one of the most affluent cities in Australia. This level of housing inequality should not sit easily with any of us.
The Greens have a plan to end homelessness by 2020. One in every 200 Australians are homeless. A quarter of them are children under the age of 18. We have committed to doubling funding for homelessness services and providing an additional 7000 new homes by 2020. Currently we rely heavily on emergency services to respond to our homelessness crisis – but this is not only more expensive, it’s not a long-term solution. We have a long-term solution that provides more affordable housing and additional funding for the support services those experiencing homelessness need to get back on their feet.
We’ve also got the most comprehensive affordable housing plan released by any party at this election. You can check it out here: http://www.greens.org.au/housing
5. To me the NBN seems like a great idea, can you tell me why you think it’s ace/a dumb idea.
It’s hard to see a downside to fast and affordable internet for all Australians! Connecting all Australians to high speed internet will create enormous opportunities – especially for those in regional and remote areas. It will fast-track innovation in health care, business and education and will make telecommuting more accessible. It’s worth the investment, so The Greens support the NBN. What’s more, if elected, I’ll campaign to get it rolled out faster across Canberra. It’s pretty unfair that the southside is currently missing out.
6. Do you think cyclists should be registered?!
No. I support making our roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers but I don’t think bike rego is the way to go. Bike riders already contribute to the construction and maintenance of our roads irrespective of whether we drive or ride on them. Cars pay registration that is in part based on their weight and potential damage they could cause – this measure applied to bikes would result in an almost negligent cost. Making cyclists register would reduce the number of people who could be bothered going through the process, thus leading to more cars on the road and more traffic congestion for little tangible benefit.
7. What is your position on gay marriage?
I have always supported ending marriage discrimination. Equal love deserves equal rights. It’s becoming increasingly clear that politicians who think otherwise are out of step with the Australian people. When I was National Director of GetUp I campaigned actively for marriage equality (check out this video).
The Greens have been backing equality from day one. Christine Milne was at the forefront of gay law reform in Tasmania in the 80s. Sarah Hanson-Young’s first bill in Parliament was for marriage equality. Adam Bandt’s bill to end marriage discrimination was debated in the House earlier this year – though a vote on it was blocked at the last minute.
And its important. This isn’t just about righting a wrong. Suicide rates amongst same sex attracted young people are woeful. When our laws send a message to same sex attracted people that somehow they are different, it legitimises discrimination.
8. Would you be willing to cross the floor on matters of strong personal conscience or of significant concern for your electorate?
Yes. I’ve always stood up to government, big corporations and vested interests. Unlike the old parties, The Greens allow their elected representatives to cross the floor on any issue. The reason I’m running for the Senate is because I believe we need strong voices in Parliament who are willing to stand up for what’s right, not just what’s easy – and, if that requires crossing the floor, then that’s what I’ll do. I was pretty disappointed to hear Zed Seselja attacking Gary Humphries during their preselection fight about the time he crossed the floor.
9. What are your views on the NSA collecting private information of Australian citizens and corporations, of the Australian government’s participation in similar programmes, and of the apparent silence of Australian politicians on the matter?
If we’re doing the right thing, we should have a right to privacy and the freedom to communicate without surveillance. And the reality is, almost all of us aren’t using the internet to do anything sinister! At the moment, Governments are abusing their power without appropriate oversight. That’s why Greens Senator Scott Ludlam introduced the “Get A Warrant” bill which requires that law enforcement agencies and intelligence services need to be granted a warrant before collecting personal information from our online or telecommunication data.
When whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed new and concerning information about how widespread NSA’s PRISM project was in America, our government went quiet on the issue. We should have a right to know whether the Australian government is participating in PRISM or similar programs.
Law enforcement agents should be able to access information when trying to prevent serious crimes. But there is no reason why they shouldn’t get a warrant to do so, just as police have to if they wanted to search your home.
10. We hear so much negativity about the opposition when election time rolls around– what three things do you consider to be positive about any of your opponents and why?
1. The Liberals – He’s not my opponent since the Liberal preselection, but Gary Humphries was a moderate Liberal who many respected. And his replacement, Zed Seselja, has a phenomenal capacity to summarise complex arguments in short sentences, making him a powerful communicator and a tough opponent.
2. Labor – Kate Lundy has shown deep and ongoing commitment to Canberra, having been in the Senate representing our community for 17 years.
3. The Katter candidate, Steven Bailey, also deserves a mention. His campaign manager, a dog called Bruce, livens up all our Senate debates.