Having his second bite at the parliamentary apple, Adam Guise will stand for the Greens next month in the state election.
What is your big number one issue that you’re looking at going into this election?
‘Obviously since the catastrophic floods and the disaster across the region, getting people back into safe, sustainable housing is critical. It’s critical to the economics, but also to our mental health and the social fabric because we’re seeing people leave the area, being forced out of the area because of exorbitant rents and the lack of houses. People have had their lives turned upside down from the floods.
‘So, there’s been an exodus and if we want our region to survive, we need to keep people in our region. For me, that’s about acquiring land to build affordable and social and public housing, and also making sure that we have ecologically sustainable climate-ready energy efficient homes for the future, for an ageing population, and for increasingly single and coupled households, smaller households.’
What have you got for the people who don’t live in the Lismore area or who weren’t flooded?
‘I think the disaster has affected the entire region, even if people weren’t directly in the line of fire, and because many of us live on marginal lands anyway – out in the bush, on steep slopes, by the coast or near the river – we’re all susceptible to future disasters. So, action on climate change is key, considering we’re a region on the frontlines of climate change.
‘We need to be developing adaptation plans to get people out of harm’s way. So, to have transition plans for our essential services, our emergency services, and people who are in inclement housing or housing in dangerous areas, we need to have land to transition those people to safer homes. Beyond that though, it obviously affects our infrastructure and our economic capacity when there is no action on climate change and increasing extreme weather events.
‘It puts us back years, if not decades. It takes a huge toll on our infrastructure and stops people from going to work. It brings our region to our knees.
‘We’ve got a real interest in this region in no new coal and gas, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, rolling out renewables and decarbonising our economy. Lots of that will be about land regeneration, river regeneration and catchment regeneration projects that gets vegetation and trees back into our landscape. This will have multiple benefits for us, now and into the future.’
People who aren’t members of parliament would certainly get the impression from watching the television that it’s a bunfight. How are you prepared for that sort of life in NSW Parliament?
‘There’s no doubt people are absolutely sick of politics and sick of politicians. Unfortunately, though, that’s the system we have and at the moment I see two major parties beholden to vested interests, beholden to donations; dirty donations from fossil fuel companies from the gambling industry, from the alcohol industry…
‘These are the people that are deciding our public policies, and fundamentally, we need to break the connection between donations and getting favours. I think that would go some way to restoring people’s trust in our political system.
‘But at the end of the day, the people we elect to parliament here are the ones to represent this region’s views, and they need to be taking the important issues to state parliament and arguing on behalf of our community. And that means not being beholden to those vested interests that tread the halls of power and have undue influence on our system.
‘It also means being accountable to this community, and delivering for this community. For me, having been a long-serving councillor on Lismore City Council, I know what it’s like. I’ve got the experience and the skills necessary to represent this region. But not only that, I’ve got the integrity, and I’ve shown that I’m prepared to stand up for my community through the coal seam gas campaign, where we were part of one of the biggest campaigns in recent history to protect our region from invasive coal seam gas mining.
‘That was being perpetrated on us by the old parties – Labor and Liberals and Nationals – who thought that was good for our region and our economy. And we’ve clearly shown it’s not. We know that it’s a dirty fossil fuel. It’s representing the region like that, which demonstrates my integrity and commitment to making sure we look after our people in our region.’
How is are you going to juggle being on council and being in parliament?
‘That’s a good question. I’m an experienced councillor – I’ve been there for about six years, so I’ve been there long enough to know the ropes and what’s involved in terms of commitments and stuff so I’m able to get across the detail. I have a good contacts throughout the town and the LGA to know what the issues are, and and do it justice.
‘If elected as the local member for parliament and serving on council, I can continue that for a period, I think up until maybe 18 months out from a council election, and then if it was considered necessary, or expected, from local ratepayers then I could resign without the need for a by-election. I would be up for that if that’s what ratepayers wanted, but I feel I could do both roles justice.
‘I already juggle council and election campaigns, work life and home life, and trying to recover from the huge flood, so I’m used to having a full plate. I would do both roles justice for as long as the period required.;
What is your background? What did you train for? What skills do you bring to this position?
‘I moved to Lismore about 20 years ago to study at Southern Cross University, because I wanted to be in a regional rural area, having come from the mid north coast. I wanted to stay in a big country town, and I studied arts, got an arts degree, a law degree and then a teaching diploma. I was at university six years straight. I’ve dabbled in all of those professions but never really been long term in any of them.
‘I’m a trained English teacher and I’ve worked at Trinity Catholic College for a number of years. I’ve done all sorts of things. My most recent job is working for the New South Wales Health Service in health promotion, which is really about creating healthy communities to prevent chronic health problems later on.
‘It’s about creating workable neighborhoods, leafy green streets, access to community gardens, footpaths, cycleways and healthy food outlets, etc. So it really ties in with my work as a councillor as well.’
What do you do for fun?
‘What I love most is being in my garden and with my animals – the guinea pigs, chooks and ducks and sheep I’ve had at various stages. I’ve downsized a lot lately, though. [Guise’s house was flood inundated].
‘I love trying my hand at agriculture and farming in a small scale way, and I love regenerating landscape, which is planting trees and trying to grow food. I think it’s one of the most important skills we can have in these uncertain times, and living on the floodplain.
‘I really want to regenerate the floodplain – make it clean and make sure that we’re growing food for both ourselves but also the other critters that live here.’
As your own house goes, can you resurrect it?
‘I love my house. I want to grow old here on the floodplain, but I recognise the uncertain times we live in under climate change. We can probably expect more extreme weather and more dangerous floods, so I don’t really want to put myself through that stress and turmoil and also just the huge amount of waste that our whole city and region has experienced.
‘The amount of rubbish that we put into the environment with the floods, and leftover from the damage after the floods is just heartbreaking, and I don’t want to be part of that.
‘I don’t know what my options are going forward. I’m in limbo like everyone else. I’m doing up my house as I can, over time. It’s got good bones. It’s an old hardwood house and the last thing I’d want to see is it being bulldozed or destroyed or wasted.
‘If we are to retreat off the floodplain and offer people relocations, buybacks, and land swaps, which is what I think we should be doing, then we need to be preserving the hardwood houses and the materials from them and certainly not going down the track of sending them to landfill.’
Why is it important to you, that you’re in parliament?
‘I love our region and I love the diversity of the people. I love standing up for the community and the environment, which I care about so much. So I think it’s really important to have people in parliament who genuinely love what they stand for, and love the region that they represent, and that’s absolutely me.
‘I fundamentally want to put climate change action and saving our environment and protecting our precious places front and center on the agenda. I’ve been all around the world. I’ve seen beautiful parts of the world. And it’s so important that we protect it and save it from the impacts of climate change.
‘We’ve only got one livable planet. We don’t have a planet B and we must do all that is necessary to keep it habitable for us and our future generations.’
Looking at New South Wales Parliament at the moment, what is the thing that frustrates you the most?
‘I guess my main concern is the short-term thinking of some of our elected leaders, that they’re not governing for 10, 20 or 100 years down the track. They’re only governing for the immediate interests of lobby groups or vested interests, or their mates.
‘They’ve kind of given up on any visionary future thinking about where we want to be, and really are just there either for themselves or their donors or vested interests, rather than for the long-term survival and public good of people who, at the moment really suffering, they’re really hurting. They’re hurting physically and mentally and economically. And I feel that the government and our parliaments are still looking after the big end of town and not really delivering to the most vulnerable and needy in our communities.’;
How does this election compare to the time you almost knocked Thomas George off in March 2015? [Adam Guise led a 21.5 per cent swing away from the Nationals].
‘Ever since that election, Lismore has been a contestable seat for anyone. Optional preferential voting leaves it open to a whole lot of uncertainty because it means unless people preference through their votes, they can go into the rubbish bin.
‘So I really encourage people to think about their preferences carefully and make sure that they keep out people who they don’t want by not even preferencing them. But certainly, if you’ve got a second best option, preference through so we can send a loud message, and kick out the state government and drive whichever government gets elected to go harder and faster on things like climate change and housing and protecting our precious environment.
’In terms of the excitement of possibly winning, I know that election night was pretty exciting. That was probably the highlight of my claim to fame – but really, what that election was about was having a mandate on coal seam gas, which essentially killed off coal seam gas and forced the government to cancel the licenses. And that legacy lives on today. That’s why we have a gas field free region.
‘And that was from the community campaign that drove that issue for many, many years and ultimately resulted in the incumbent member being rattled, and losing that social licence to force that industry upon our region.
‘We [The Greens] want to make sure that any progressive voter knows how important it is to preference through – being optional preferential, we can understand that certain voters will have particular preferences over the candidates who they want.
‘If your preferred candidate doesn’t get in, it’s much better that your second preferred candidate gets in, rather than someone else who doesn’t represent your interests, or who takes our region backwards or who will force upon us a waste incinerator, or a giant dam or more fossil fuels or gas pipelines etc.
‘You want a government that’s going to stand up for this region and the people.’
Why the Greens?
‘The Greens are the only party standing up for people and the planet. The Greens don’t accept dirty donations from fossil fuel companies, corporations or gambling industries, which means we’re accountable to the voters not vested interests.
‘The Greens are the only party to say no to new coal and gas which is cooking our planet and driving extreme weather. The Greens have a plan and vision for a fair society and liveable planet which is essential to our health and wellbeing.’
The Echo has asked all Lismore Seat candidates – Matthew Bertalli, Adam Guise, James McKenzie, Vannessa Rosayro, Alex Rubin and Janelle Saffin MP – to answer the same set of questions.
See all the candidate interviews here.
So far two excellent candidates: Janelle Saffin and Adam Guise.
It will be interesting to see what the Nationals offer.
Quite possible with Labor ‘on the nose’ a Green candidate could win with Labor preferences – not the other way around as usual in Lismore.
I had voted The Green since they formed but their utterly nonsensical position on the rail trail has left me thinking they are too far out of touch with reality to get my vote.
I would be interested to know where Adam stands on this issue but he refused to show his hand on council when he recused himself from the vote for the rather limp reason of living next to the corridor. The local Greens policy is to save the decrepit useless railway to nowhere.
Adam as a key local government Green, why did Greens’ Lismore councillor then delegate to Rous Water Board, vote to remove Rous Water to Ballina – all those jobs and income ripped out of Lismore CBD? And, what was the political deal done in return for gutting Lismore CBD of this very significant business?