April 17: ACT Greens leader Meredith Hunter
ACT Greens leader Meredith Hunter will answer your questions, live from noon. Photo: Karleen Minney
Today, Lunch Times sits down with ACT Greens' parliamentary leader Meredith Hunter.
This is your chance to ask about anything Greens - from Bob Brown's resignation last week, to what the Greens are planning for the upcoming ACT elections. Ms Hunter will be answering your questions live from noon.
To submit a question, you can email it in, or leave a comment below.
Thanks to Meredith Hunter for joining us on today's Lunch Times session, and for agreeing to go over time in order to get a couple more questions in. Join us again next week when we hope to have a distinctly Anzac Day theme in preparation for the dawn service.
1pm: Last question: Do you regret using the "f" word under parliamentary privilege - the "f" word being fraudulent?
Meredith: Not at all. The comments in my speech were made in relation to allegations raised in the motion as to whether or not an inquiry should be held into the administration of Mr Seselja's office. I encourage people to read the hansard and they will see quite clearly that I did not make an accusation. I was responding to an allegation. My comment was phrased as a question and was part of my arguments as to why the Greens were supporting an independent audit of Mr Seselja's management of his office.
Zed's claim that I made an accusation of that nature under parliamentary privilege is simply untrue. Again, I invite people to read the hansard.
12.55pm: How do you back up support for limiting police pursuits? The Canberra Times survey in itself shows that the public support police pursuing criminal offenders. Don't you think that with the knowledge that police won't pursue offenders; this might actually increase crime and the potential for incidents to occur?
I would hope that in your quest to limit these pursuits, we are only interested in protecting the non-offending members of the public.
Meredith: It's always important to look at the evidence, and six out of 10 people who wrote submissions supported the trial of a new new policy on police pursuits. In recent days we've seen tragedy in Western Australia from a police pursuit when an innocent bystander was killed. We need to get this right so that offenders are caught in a safe way that doesn't endanger civilians or police.
I encourage everyone to read our discussion paper which is up on the Greens website.
12.44pm: With 40% of parents choosing to send their children to non-government schoolsin the ACT, will the ACT Greens support increasing funding for a child attending a non-government school to 25% of the cost of educating a student in an ACT government school?
Meredith: The Greens were the first party to come out to support the implementation of the Gonski review, including an increase of $5-10 billion into education.
Further work refining the funding model needs to be undertaken especially in regards to the ACT, with our unique socio-economic status situation. I have been meeting regularly with the Catholic Education office, the Australian Education Union, and the Independent Schools Association to discuss the potential impacts on ACT schools if we don't get the model right.
There could potentially be significant impacts on school sectors in the ACT. We need to make sure this doesn't happen. We need to make sure there's a fair and equitable education system for all students, regardless of the school they attend.
12.40pm: Could the Greens realistically hope to form government in the near future? Do you expect a poll-bounce from Federal Labor's attack on public service jobs in the ACT?
Meredith: As Bob Brown has always said, the Greens are not just in politics to keep other parties honest; we're here to replace them. The Greens vote has continued to climb nationally with 1.7 million Australians voting Greens in the last federal election.
This is our goal and we'll keep working hard to show that we are an alternative government.
The Greens have been very vocal about our opposition to the slashing of public servant jobs, whether it has been proposed by the Labor Government or the Liberal Opposition. We understand the important work that the federal public service does for people right across Australia, and the importance of a strong public service to the ACT. We won't back down from our stand on this issue, as Christine Milne has said over the past couple of days.
12.35pm: The Greens want us to use bikes. What are the Greens going to do protect pedestrians from bike riders who increasingly regard walking paths as speedways? The path through Westbourne Woods is one example. Women and children among others are under threat from bike riders coming down the hill from Government House at speeds of up to 40 kilometres an hour.
Meredith: I acknowledge that this is an issue and the Greens are concerned for the safety for all who use bike paths and footpaths, and roads. Canberrans need to understand that these are all shared paths, and need to be considerate of other users. The Greens secured money for new signs on these shared paths to remind people that they're for all users, and they should be considerate of this.
In the last budget we also secured money for lighting on bike paths. Just to finish off, the Greens have an active transport plan that can be accessed on the Greens website that has a section about safety.
12.20pm: Mark Crawley asks:
With the recent discussions about Canberra being a back-up airport for Sydney as well as the horrible traffic experienced coming from Gungahlin everyday, how are we as a community going to get our Governments (both ACT and Federal) to invest in some long-term well needed infrastructure projects like light rail in Canberra and high speed rail between Canberra and Sydney? What are the ACT Greens doing to push this through?
Meredith: These kinds of sustainable transport projects would be fantastic for Canberra and the nation. With issues such as growing congestion, environmental problems and peak oil, we need to look at these new forms of sustainable transport urgently.
We can't keep pushing a business-as-usual approach for transport that sees reliance on cars, roads and airplanes. The first step is to get governments to start acting on their words. Too often, we've seen rhetoric about rail projects, only to see them drop off the agenda once the moment has passed. There are various ways to fund these big projects, including cooperation between the state and federal governments. Private public partnerships, and value-capture mechanisms that take advantage of land value.
Done right, these projects will pay off in the long run - economically, socially and environmentally.
12.12pm: Bill from Griffith has sent in a double-pronged question on planning:
1) Who owns the Brumbies?
2) If you do not know who owns the Brumbies why did the Greens support the rezoning of land at Griffith set aside for community purposes to allow the Brumbies to build 150 units on the site?
Meredith: The deconcessionalisation of the lease at Griffith went through examination by the planning committee and the Greens supported the recommendations from that committee.
The recommendations included a reduction in the number of proposed units on the site and ensured plenty of green space was retained for public use. The heritage aspects of the oval have also been retained and this was important to the Greens. Urban infill is a vexed issue, but the Greens understand the importance of balancing urban infill with greenfields land release. We need to get the balance right if we're to have a sustainable city.
12.05pm: Jon has left a comment with a question on transport:
If the Adelaide Avenue transit lanes are only saving commuters no more than 15 seconds per journey (Canberra Times 17 Feb 2012), won't the introduction of Adelaide Avenue Bus stops only make the bus journey from Woden to Civic even LONGER once an already overcrowded bus stops an additional three times?
Meredith: It's all going to come down to the design.
The Greens would hope that the bus stops will be "flyer stops". While the stops may slow down the bus a little, it will ensure that more people in Yarralumla, Deakin, Curtin and Hughes, for instance, can access the fastest and most reliable bus service in Canberra, which is the Blue Rapid.
12.00pm: We're live, with a big question kick off proceedings. William Bourke from Sydney wants to know:
Population growth in a finite space is a key factor leading to Canberra having among Australia's highest rent stress and housing unaffordability, as reported in the Canberra Times today. Do The ACT Greens support a stable population for Canberra? If not where should the ACT's population growth end?
Meredith: Population projections show that Canberra will reach a population of about 500,000 within the next few decades. This is a result of natural population increase.
The ACT’s ecological footprint is the highest in Australia, and this means we need to look at how we can reduce consumption. This can be done without sacrificing good living standards, and some of the simple ways that can be achieved is through better public transport, building more energy efficient buildings, down to simple things such as only shopping for the food that we’re going to eat.
I agree with you that housing affordability continues to be unacceptable in the ACT. Reports out today show once again that for low income earners in the private rental market, rent assistance is not keeping them out of housing stress.
Many people would agree that $350,000 for a one bedroom flat is not affordable.
One of the solutions is to continue to ensure that we have enough housing in our public and community housing stock to meet the needs of lower income households. We also need to be moving ahead with land release and urban infill.
At the moment I'm chairing a committee that's enquiring into the ecological carrying capacity of the ACT and surrounding region, and it will report in May.