Mandy Nolan needs little introduction to most readers of The Echo, where she has a weekly column. She is a comedian and journalist running as a candidate for The Greens in the federal seat of Richmond.
Bay FM Community Newsroom host Mia Armitage interviewed Mandy Nolan live on-air on Friday 13 May in the third and final part of a series of interviews with Richmond candidates. To follow is a transcript of that interview, which you can hear here.
Labor’s message on votes for The Greens misleading, says Nolan
MA: Mandy Nolan, I’m sure as the representative of The Greens in the state of Richmond you’ll take issue with Labor’s Justine Elliot saying that a vote for you is a vote for Scott Morrison, not least of all since you and Adam Bandt, the leader of your party, have consistently said you want to kick Scott Morrison out on the 21st of May.
So obviously a vote for The Greens isn’t inherently or literally a vote for the coalition. But Justine Elliott was speaking in a broader context, which is the election overall across the country. For Scott Morrison to lose, another party has to win more seats and the only party with a real chance of getting more seats than the coalition is Labor. It’s also true that Labor could win a minority government and have to win support of a crossbench and that’s where The Greens are hoping to win a majority, or balance of power, as you say.
But with so many different minor parties and Independents, in particular the Teal candidates elsewhere, it’s true, their ultimate political support as a whole is unpredictable. Take Richmond, for example. A lot of the Independents are telling voters to simply put the major parties last without any apparent care as to the differences between them and some are directing preferences to the coalition. So, it’s entirely possible that these votes will end up going to Kimberley Hone from The Nationals once preferences are sorted.
It’s also entirely possible that people who vote for The Greens, especially on the Northern Rivers, will decide they prefer the idea of an Independent over either of the two major parties and will preference accordingly, creating a chance that they’ll then follow suggestions from one of those Independents to put Labor below The Nationals and who knows, maybe they’re only voting Greens so that they can have legalised weed to sell and make a capitalist fortune, maybe they believe in small government. If that can happen in Richmond and in other seats, Justine Elliot’s right to tell voters to make sure they minimise the risks by simply voting one for Labor, isn’t she, if the aim really is to kick out Scott Morrison as The Greens say?
MN: I think it’s very misleading messaging to say that to a voting public and I just think it shows you that, particularly here in Richmond, that, you know, Labor are worried, they’re worried about their vote, and they’re coming out with that sort of misleading messaging. I was listening to that going, ‘that’s like saying a vote for Justine’s a vote for Rolf Harris’. It’s completely not true and we know that and we know that it keeps the conversation away from the work.
Australia’s three election outcome options
You know, after seventeen years, you’d think you’d be leaning into the work that you’ve done, to be able to speak to that. But the reality is, if you’re not part of a party that has a strong commitment to ending coal and gas, based on the best science in the world, you don’t have a climate policy and right now, what Labor knows, and what Justine knows, is this area cares about climate because we’ve just about drowned.
We’re sitting here in the middle of the climate catastrophe, a housing emergency that didn’t just turn up and it’s all well and good for Justine to care about housing. But what ,now you’re going to talk about housing? Seventeen years you’ve been the member here. Why are we in a housing crisis? It’s just gone to a housing disaster.
These are just words for elections, it’s not words for change and to actually even sort of talk about this whole idea that Albanese says he won’t go into minority government! It’s called a democracy, you know, you won’t have a choice and that’s what people want around here.
There are three options: we get the coalition back, clearly, The Greens don’t want that. You get Labor-majority government, which is basically about ten per cent different from the coalition and we all know that, [or] we get Labor in minority with The Greens and Independents and that is the only pathway to change in this country.
We don’t have time. We don’t have another three years to wait. We need that to happen and I believe that people here on the ground need to make that choice and they need to understand, when they go to vote, what it means when you vote for me here. It means we’re gonna get a seat at the table. This is one of the most likely seats to go Green in the country.
So, you might vote Independent, but it’s not going to take you anywhere. This is where the change is going to be. So, I’m passionate about that. That’s why I’m doing this, you know. So yeah, I just think the messaging is misleading and I don’t think it’s okay to do that to voters. Voters are sick of being misled by politicians, they want they want truth.
Justine Elliot challenged to read Greens’ costings
MA: Justine Elliot has also attacked The Greens again over funding promises. She says the party will never be in power and can therefore never guarantee any of their funding schemes will actually happen and that means the party is making false promises. The Greens consistently point to calculations done by the Parliamentary Budget Office, it seems none of the major parties will take them seriously. Is the party forever doomed to the same stigma that Labor has when it comes to economics?
MN: I have to say, everything we do is costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. You know it is costed because we have a plan about how to pay for it and that’s the one thing that’s not mentioned when Justine is speaking, is, it’s about taxing the billionaires, it’s about the one third of corporations that don’t pay tax, it’s about the gas companies, you know, like Chevron, that’s taken $13 billion a year without a license because they’re in Commonwealth waters, that pay less tax than a nurse in Karratha does in one month and somehow we’re expected to accept that.
All our plans have been costed and the one of the things that The Greens have, which I love being part of, is we have a vision. We have a vision for how things could be better. You know, the population’s accepted that this is how it is. You’re not going to address cost of living unless you address housing affordability, unless you address the deficit that we have in this region around social and public housing bills, unless you actually tax those super wealthy and start putting it into our community so you can have dental under Medicare, so you can raise the rate of income support, so that you can actually do free TAFE or university.
We can have a much better, fairer country for everybody, not just a very small handful of people of privileged people and that’s what The Greens are about. I think it’s common sense. I don’t think we can afford not to, we have the best plan for climate of anyone and I would actually challenge Justine to actually read our climate plan and see how well that has been costed. It is comprehensive and it is a ten-year step forward.
And The Nationals are talking about it too and Kimberly [Hone] was talking about net zero by 2050. It’s too late and all worldleading science around climate says 2050 is too late. We need to be net negative by 2050. We need to be drawing carbon down by 2050. We need to be at negative carbon emissions by 2035 and that’s what The Greens plan has us on track to and there is a pathway all the way through.
The Mandy Nolan swing
MA: From the very start of your campaign you’ve been telling voters The Greens only need to win an extra 5% of votes to win the seat of Richmond but the figures, they’re a little off here because it comes after preferences are taken into account, I think, and in this election there are so many Independents and minor party representatives who don’t like The Greens and they’re telling voters to put them last.
But either way, when you look at first preference votes over the past few elections, The Greens vote has increased. It’s still never come close enough to Labor’s to be a real threat, though. In fact, The Greens votes in the past have been credited with Labor’s success. So, can you see how some might see your stated goal of winning this seat as unrealistic?
MN: No, not at all, because I think we’re talking about The Greens swing, you haven’t actually talked about the Mandy Nolan swing, which you can’t not take into play. I do have a swing. I have a strong relationship with people in this community, built on 32 years.
I’m the ambassador for numerous programs, I have been fundraising in this region, not just because I want to get elected. Like, I haven’t been going out here 32 years, engaging in my community, getting on the ground with the people in my region because I had a plan of getting into politics. I do it because I care and I stood up now because I care.
I have commitment beyond The Greens to people. I’ve got friends and people I’ve knows over years and years who are long-term Nationals voters who have told me they’re voting for me. I have people that have told me they’ve never voted Greens before, but they’re gonna vote for me. People aren’t just voting on the Greens triangle, I know that they do because that’s why I joined The Greens, because the values are aligned with mine.
But they’re also voting for me and they know what I stand for and I’ll tell you what I stand for right now. I said this about my community, but we have to be able to work across tiers of government, we have to be able to work across party lines, because we are missing out here, because that’s not happening and that’s the kind of change that I intend to be. I’ve been on the ground with my community. People know how approachable I am. They also know that you just have to find me, I’ll find you back and we’ll have a conversation. That’s how I operate. It’s not electioneering, it’s how it’s who I am.
On party divisions
MA: You say you’re a tough woman and that you reckon you’ll be able to handle whatever parliament throws at you if you get in. But what will you do if you find your own party divided over an issue that requires your vote? So, let’s say something similar to when Lee Rhiannon was a Greens senator in New South Wales and disagreed with party colleagues over, I think it was an education policy. Lee Rhiannon said she was representing her grassroots constituents but her colleagues said they represented The Greens everywhere else. So, what will you do if you find The Greens adopting policy that your supporters on the Northern Rivers disagree with? The rainbow region is known for being contrary at the very least.
MN: Yeah, you know, it’s difficult to project what I’m going to do in a hypothetical situation. Right now, there is nothing within The Greens policy and platforms that I’m not aligned with. So, it’s hard to sort of answer that question. At this point, if it if it did come up, you know, I’m also capable of compromise. I’m capable of having conversations and I’m also capable of being able to lobby within my own party to have something further investigated, just to see where that can be finessed. So, in a sense, you know, I have great working relationships within The Greens already and yes, at times, you know, we can agree on values but sometimes how that is going to be played out may not always align.
I guess, in the future, it’s about creating, you know, being politically robust enough to ascertain what is going to be best for my community and how I can push that forward but then how I can also be aligned with the bigger value of what we’re doing as well. So, that’s around, I’d say, learning to stand up, but learning what the value of compromise can be in situations and what the value to speak up and stand up is. I’m good at doing both actually.
MA: Maybe that comes from being a parent of five.
MN: It doesn’t just come from being a parent of five, now it comes from being a parent of five with three different dads and it’s kind of interesting. If you want to know what it’s like to learn how to compromise, I’ll let you know, talk about crossing party lines. I have really great relationships with all of my ex-partners, in the sense that there are times for different gatherings for the kids, and I did it for the sake of the kids. That’s who I was, there’s a good example of the people I represent. So, in a sense, I’m able to cross party lines, I’m able to actually work in the interest of the people and the children.
Nolan’s top priorities: Northern Rivers housing, banning coal and gas
MA: Even if you do win the seat of Richmond, we know that The Greens aren’t going to win government. So you will have to leverage that power of the balance of power if you get it. That means that you’re going to have to be selective about some of your priorities, aren’t you?
Let’s take, for example, the promise of 15,000 affordable homes with a priority for the Northern Rivers disaster survivors. I mean, 15,000, that’s a lot of homes in a region where some of our towns have only got 3,000 people. It’s a massive project in a region that hasn’t had anything like that happen in decades unless you count some of the sprawling housing estates in the likes of Ballina Heights. I have asked Justine Elliot, would she back that Greens proposal for 15,000 affordable homes, she hasn’t backed it. She just says that the region will be prioritised if Labor gets in. Could you just tell us one or two realistic goals for The Greens if they win balance of power?
MN: Can I just clarify that number of 15,000 is over ten years and it is for Lismore, the whole of the Northern Rivers, it’s not just Richmond, it’s Page and it’s for the Northern Rivers region. Of course, part of it is taxing the billionaires and corporations, getting money into the public purse so that we can then afford to actually put in for housing bills. It’s absolutely possible to happen here, if you speak to North Coast Community Housing, they will tell you, they have a massive waitlist, some people have been waiting up to twenty years for housing. What Labor currently offers is, you know, a lending support from the government for 10,000. Ten thousand people in Australia, that doesn’t even go near the sides of addressing [the problem].
MA: That’s one of your realistic goals?
MN: I stand by it. It’s not just a realistic goal. It’s addressing a deficit of what is a government failure, what they’ve done. So, absolutely.
MA: A realistic goal and a priority?
MN: It’s an absolute priority when I get in and win balance of power. We’ll be pushing for a moratorium on new coal and gas and we’ll be pushing more of that kind of commitment to housing.
MA: That’s realistic as well, you think, a moratorium on coal and gas?
MN: If they want to form power, yes. On new coal and gas. Well, obviously it’s a plan to phase out what’s existing but no new [projects]. That is in line with the science from around the world.