“The big reason I’m running is as a more progressive candidate on the ballot,” Greens candidate for Tamworth Ryan Brooke says.
The first-time candidate and Tamworth local says that he’s concerned about the lack of action around environmental issues, as well wanting to campaign on the two big issues of the election in regional NSW: health and water.
“It’s probably a bit concerning that out of the eight candidates listed, only two of us have solid platforms against coal seam gas – which absolutely should be a huge issue.”
Only himself and independent Mark Rodda, Brooke says, have come out as being against coal seam gas – pointing out that the incumbent, Kevin Anderson has also said he’s been opposed to it as well, but was part of the government that renewed the petroleum exploration licences for the Liverpool Plains.
Brooke doesn’t feel threatened by the Climate 200 candidates’ interest in the region, with their recent fact-finding mission to the Liverpool Plains to investigate the CSG proposals, saying it puts a bigger spotlight on the issue.
“It’s awesome. The way I see it, it’s more crossbenchers serious about climate change, about seeing policy work progressing in that area.”
Brooke has also vowed to look at the new Dungowan Dam, which is “obviously a pretty contentious issue”.
“We know another drought is coming,” Brooke says.
“We’re getting to the point that we’re due for it again. We know we don’t have that time to wait getting this dam online, which is going to take a lot more money and time than was originally pitched.”
Brook says that the money could be better spent on “low-hanging fruit” like rebates to LGA residents, installing groundwater irrigation and water efficient appliances, as well repairing existing infrastructure. Brooke praised Tamworth Regional Council’s rollout of smart water meters, pointing out that it was the Greens who first called for them.
A cancer survivor, Brooke says that he was personally affected by the under-equipped Tamworth hospital, citing demands for a PET scanner to be installed, and his own experience of having to travel down to Newcastle to get PET scans.
“It’s something that there’s been a long-standing call for,” Brooke says.
“Two years ago, going through treatment, I remember talking to the doctors at the hospital saying that they’d been calling for this for years.”
“We’ve got the space for it, we can have it online in Tamworth.”
“But at the same time, it makes me a bit angry that it’s something the incumbent has only started talking about in recent months as it gets closer to the election.”
The other hot topic of the election is education, and Brooke says “It’s a major issue everywhere.”
“It’s not just about getting them into the profession, but retaining them. And that jumps over into nurses, paramedics, midwives.”
The Greens, Brooke says, want an immediate 15% pay rise to teachers to try to bring that up to more equitable levels, and the abolition of the public sector pay cap. The Greens are willing to work with the unions to develop a plan.
Brooke doesn’t expect the Greens to form government.
“I don’t gamble, but if I did, I’d say we’re looking at a Labor minority government, which will be very interesting,” Brooke says.
“That sort of sets the Greens and independents up in a very interesting spot, especially since at the moment the forecast looks like an extended crossbench.”
In the end, Brooke reminds voters of the Green’s slogan: “Your vote is powerful.”
“Growing up in Tamworth, there’s strong feeling of ‘Oh, it’s a Nats area’, and people like to have the facade of don’t even bother trying. I hate that attitude.”
But Brooke remains positive. “I’m optimistic we’re going to see some swings.”
“There’s a lot of different options out there, and democracy works best when we have a wide cross section of political beliefs.”