Greens pitch for South East

Green federal candidates Sujit Mathew (Holt), Louisa Willoughby (Hotham) and Matthew Kirwan (Bruce). 257996_07 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

The Greens have taken aim at ALP’s South East heartland ahead of the 2022 federal election.

Former Greater Dandenong councillor Matthew Kirwan, who is standing for the Greens in the Bruce electorate, said the ALP “took for granted” and “neglected” their safe South East seats.

And that Labor “gave up” on tackling inequality since the 1980’s.

On the other hand, Mr Kirwan said many in the South East did not understand the Greens.

Nor did they know of his party’s stance on improving health, education, inequality and green jobs.

He said the Greens had to be relevant by pitching “where people are at”.

“They already know that Labor has left them behind but not yet sold that we are the answer.”

He and candidates Louisa Willoughby and Sujit Mathew recently appeared in an online panel ‘Greening the Burbs’.

They discussed how to replicate the party’s inner-city traction in the South East growth corridor.

Mr Mathew, who is standing for the seat of Holt, migrated to Australia in 2013 and lives in the “vibrant, multicultural” estates of Clyde North.

He says many new migrants are young adults, young families who are disconnected from politics. They have no faith or trust in politicians.

Their feedback was “politicians talk too much and they don’t really listen to us.”

Their interests included better universities and employment opportunities, as well as immigration and parent visa issues.

Despite vast experience with the United Nations, Mr Mathew was surprised how hard it was to land a job in Australia.

The struggle for new, skilled arrivals to find a job had to be listened to, he said.

Ms Willoughby, who is running in Hotham, said she’d observed Greens volunteers starkly outnumbered at election booths.

Labor’s diverse team of volunteers at polling booths were able to speak and connect with voters from a range of cultural backgrounds.

“Having those conversations in their own languages is really key.”

Ms Willoughby, a researcher who has volunteered more than 15 years to help multilingual students, says the lack of federal funding for public education was doing “long term damage” to local communities.

She said the Greens had policies to tackle disadvantage and inequality in diverse communities.

Also on the panel, Greater Dandenong councillor Rhonda Garad said the Greens needed a “different approach” in the South East, tackling broader issues such as schools.

She said without a perceived “viable” alternative, locals tended to “accept” ALP branch-stacking and its “unethical use and abuse” of ethnic groups.

Senator Lidia Thorpe said the Greens had to talk about how they will make Dandenong people’s lives better.

Just speaking about net-zero emissions wouldn’t cut it, she said.

In the coming election, Senator Thorpe held hopes of the Greens holding balance of power in the Senate.

“We’re the only choice left in this country that will take us to a safe future.”