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Saturday, February 27, 2021

ACT Greens introduce new federal candidates

Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng, an Indigenous academic and former public servant, and Tim Hollo, an environmentalist and musician, are the ACT Greens candidates for the next federal election, running on a progressive platform of climate action and social, economic, and racial justice.

Dr Goreng Goreng will contest the ACT Senate seat, hoping to unseat Liberal incumbent Zed Seselja.

“Canberrans want and deserve Federal representatives with the independence and integrity to stand up for what they and their community believes in,” Dr Goreng Goreng said.

“I’m running for the Senate because I’ve seen up close the power that government has to transform the lives of people and communities, and the devastation and pain that can be caused when government fails to listen, to empathise, and to do the right thing.”

In the ACT local elections last year, Dr Goreng Goreng stood in the seat of Murrumbidgee as a support candidate, helping Emma Davidson to be elected. A Wakka Wakka woman from Queensland, Dr Goreng Goreng has lived in the ACT since 1978. An academic at the Australian Catholic University, and secretary of the Australian Greens First Nations Network, she has been a former senior public servant in the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, and has worked in homelessness support, women’s refuges, and remote Indigenous communities.

Mr Hollo will stand for the seat of Canberra in the House of Representatives – his second time running. In the 2019 election, a 4.6% swing in his favour gave him 23.3% of the vote.

“When you get a good, strong bunch of passionate, compassionate Greens into a parliament, you keep the hard right out of power, and you get a better government out of Labor,” Mr Hollo said.

“We won’t get what we need unless we’ve got a strong Greens and independent crossbench pulling [Labor] in the right direction. Canberrans know that, and we’re here to give the Canberra community that opportunity.”

Mr Hollo is executive director of the Green Institute, an NGO established to support green politics through education, action, research and debate, and a visiting fellow at the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet). He founded Green Music Australia and Canberra’s Buy Nothing Groups; was a political staffer for former Greens leader Christine Milne; and worked for Greenpeace, 350, and the Nature Conservation Council.

Dr Goreng Goreng said she has seen homelessness and unemployment increase in the ACT, and lower rates of medical care.

“Even though in Canberra we have a high quality of living, there are people here who are at the opposite, marginalised end,” she said. “Coming from a community that has always been considered disadvantaged, it’s important that when we think about the economy and employment, we build wealth and good living for each and every one of us.”

She would advocate for more free health care, for free education (as Australia enjoyed under Whitlam’s Labor government), and even for a universal basic income.

“As a senior First Nations woman, I have a responsibility to challenge the system which continues to deny First Nations people sovereignty, justice and the ability to implement our law – the oldest in existence,” she said. 

Dr Goreng Goreng would like to set up a Truth and Justice Commission for First Nations people and the whole of Australia – a restorative justice body of the sort established in South Africa after apartheid ended to reconcile the community. She believes the commission would help to heal the country. The Victorian state government is setting up such a body this year.

She wants to begin negotiations towards a treaty between the Commonwealth and Indigenous Australians – but believes that telling the truth comes first.

“If we tell the truth about the past, then we can draw up a treaty that is honest for everyone in the country, black and white.”

A Voice to Parliament would follow, developed by Aboriginal people in consultation with others. It would, she said, not be a third chamber of parliament, as Malcolm Turnbull feared, but would allow Indigenous Australians to shape policy and legislation that affected them. “I see it as a way in which we can bring our values, our knowledge of this country from thousands of years to this place to help us all look after Australia.”

She also wants to overhaul the child protection system, which some commentators argue still targets Indigenous youngsters, who are up to 10 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children.

Mr Hollo’s attention is on climate change. He wants to phase out fossil fuels “as fast as we possibly can – yesterday”. That, he said, includes ensuring a just transition for workers in that industry, retraining them to work in a clean energy economy.

He also wants to reform the tax system, which he believes serves the interests of corporations and the wealthy rather than citizens, and institute a wealth tax.

“This is an extraordinarily wealthy country, but the wealth is not shared,” he said. “We need to start fixing our democratic system, ensuring that those with wealth and power don’t continue to have an outsized voice to cement their own wealth and power at the expense of everybody else. We need to work damn hard to bring in the voices of the community [and] have that institutionalised so that their voices always are heard and listened to in our halls of parliament.”

He would also push for more funding for tertiary education – a concern for Canberra with its five university campuses. Federal governments, both Labor and Coalition, have undermined the university sector, Mr Hollo believes, turning academic institutions into profit-making corporations.

“If we want to be the kind of country that has a strong, robust democracy, that is fair, that faces the massive challenges the 21st century brings with courage, we need our universities to be institutions of learning and wisdom again.”

The Green candidates said they hoped to ride on the momentum of the swing to their party at the ACT elections, and the increase in membership over the last year. The ACT is the ‘Greenest’ jurisdiction in Australia; and the ACT Greens the fastest growing party in the Territory. Party leader Shane Rattenbury said the Greens had never been more ready to represent the ACT in the Federal parliament.

Mr Hollo argues that the Green moment in history has come. “As society changes, there are political visions which accord with that – and the political vision of the Greens for a fair, just, and sustainable world is critically important right now.”

Dr Goreng Goreng believes that voters see Greens as people living in the community: “They know that we have integrity and that we are authentic; we walk our talk, and we have a set of values that we try to live by, or that we do live by.”

The Greens candidates invited the community to meet them. “We will be out; there will be plenty of opportunity – we’ll be door knocking, talking, holding public meetings; we’ll be out in your suburbs,” Mr Hollo said. “Come and talk.”

“And we will come and talk to you,” Dr Goreng Goreng said.

Full biographies of Tim Hollo and Tjanara Goreng Goreng can be found on the ACT Greens website, along with all announcements the ACT Greens will make during the federal election.

Readers should be careful of one misleading website, written by a disaffected family member. Dr Goreng Goreng said the site was grossly defamatory, and most of it was not true. “It’s pretty awful, but most people know me and know my reputation, and know that’s not who I am.” The site is based in the US; Dr Goreng Goreng’s lawyers are trying to have it taken down.

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