THERE’S nothing radical about supporting the Greens these days, the party’s New England candidate says.
Glen Innes teacher Mercurius Goldstein has been with the Greens since 2001 and in that time he’s noticed the party grow, with “more across the spectrum” for all Australians.
“The Greens have really come into the mainstream, because now we’ve woken up and realised that we all eat food and we all drink water,” Mr Goldstein said.
“There’s nothing radical about protecting land and water anymore. There’s nothing radical about saying young people need a fair start in education. I think that’s why the Greens are appealing to more and more people.”
Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy and more funding for all forms of education form the backbone of Mr Goldstein’s platform.
He also has other ambitions, such as kick starting a domestic meat processing in- dustry in New England, ensuring the region has access to free legal council and stopping cuts to pathology services.
Mr Goldstein said Green voters were “the most important voters in New England for this election”.
“It will be their preferences that will decide who is going to Canberra,” he said.
“It’s important that whoever is in Canberra sees the Greens vote going up, because that tells them New Englanders want to protect the land and water, keep TAFE and public schools strong, and healthcare and legal services in all our towns.”
Coal and renewable energy
The Greens plan to stop all new coal mines, not just in New England, but nationwide.
“Every New Englander, whether they’re a farmer or they live in town, needs sustainable agriculture for the food we eat. Every New Englander drinks water, so we need to keep the mines and CSG wells away from this area,” Mercurius Goldstein said.
Australia already has enough thermal coal mines operating to keep the Port Kembla and Whyalla steelworks running, Mr Goldstein said.
“Our policy there is that the government should be buying 50 per cent of all steel from Australian steel makers – but all that said, we don’t need any new coal mines to do all that.”
Mr Goldstein wants the New England to shift away from mining.
He said the region had the potential to become “not just 100 per cent renewable, but 200 per cent renewable”.
“The reason I say that is, at full capacity, the solar farm at Moree and the wind farms at Glen Innes and Inverell can power 175,000 homes – that is more than double the number of homes in New England,” he said.
“That means New England will be an exporter of renewable, clean power to Australia.
“What a wonderful situation we are in, that we can offer that to Australia – not only the food and fibre they rely on, but also the energy they rely on. That’s why I think New England is so important in this election.”
AS a school teacher in Glen Innes, Mercurius Goldstein said he knows the importance of education to young people – particularly rural students.
“Local schools need to be strong, especially in New England where the next school might be 100km away,” he said.
The Greens support seeing out the Gonski reforms, a federal government funded needs-based program, which was recommended to go for six years, until the end of 2019.
However the government has only guaranteed to provide extra funding until 2017.
“I find it surprising to hear [New England MP] Barnaby Joyce talking about standing up for disadvantaged people in
New England. He can do that by funding Gonksi. That will stand up for people all around New England that depend on public schools,” Mr Goldstein said.
Mr Goldstein also wants the government to put funding back into TAFE, rather than forcing it to compete with private colleges for government funding.
“So many New Englanders got their start into the workforce from TAFE,” he said.
“For some reason this government thought the private sector could do it better than TAFE – that wasn’t based on any evidence, that was based on their belief, it was their opinion.”
Mr Goldstein said the private sector experiment had failed, pointing to the Australian Federal Police fraud investigation into private college Australian Career Network.
“So much for this idea the private sector could do it better – that $100 million could have kept TAFEs open five days a week in Quirindi and Boggabilla; that $100 million that could have funded more people to go through fee-free courses at TAFE . That’s just gone into the pockets of private providers,” he said.
“We’ll never see that money again, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Across NSW,
$460 million went into private vocational training and that was more than double what went into TAFE.
“They’re putting $2 into private hands for every $1 they’re spending on TAFE and what’s the result? A fraud squad investigation.”
Jobs and infrastructure
Mercurius Goldstein wants a local meat processing industry in the electorate, which he said would be a win-win situation for everyone.
“For every 400,000 head of cattle we can bring down from the north and process in New England, it is worth $200 million to this regional economy,” Mr Goldstein said.
“It’s worth 1300 new, ongoing jobs and those farmers in the north get a higher price at the farm gate by selling into the domestic market.
“The livestock that are processed here locally, they’re worth 20 per cent more to the economy than shipping them overseas.
“It makes no sense for us to be shipping overseas.’
“Farmers don’t get a good return at the farm gate and the cattle lose condition in transit.
“Instead, we can have a domestic meat processing industry like we used to and the jobs that come with that.”