We emailed the main candidates in UNSW’s electorate to see who replied

Tharunka sent questions about climate change, cost of living and support for university students to the main candidates in UNSW’s electorate. Here’s what they said. 

The electorate of Kingsford-Smith covers UNSW, with candidates from Liberals, Labor, The Greens and The United Australia Party vying for control of the seat. Only two parties responded to our questions: Labor and The Greens. 

What issues are university students and staff in your electorate raising with you? What key issues do they feel are important?    

Incumbent Labor candidate, Matt Thistlethwaite, said: 

“Almost all students bring up the cost of living, with many struggling to make ends meet on either Youth Allowance payments or through working casual jobs or both. The impact of cost increases in groceries, rent, petrol and utilities is hitting students hard.” 

“Students are also concerned about the cost of university degrees and their ability to pay back their HECS loans as wage growth continues to drop behind inflation. Students are also talking to me about the reduced quality of their tuition – especially in the past three years. Students who started their undergraduate degrees in 2020 are yet to have a regular semester at university and many are set to graduate this year, some without attending many or any face-to-face classes. The continuing casualisation of the teaching staff means that the staff to student ratio blows out and the quality of tuition drops, whilst the cost of the degrees continues to go up. Labor also fought hard to have all university staff included in the JobKeeper scheme during the lockdown. Unfortunately, the Liberal Government didn’t listen”. 

The Greens candidate, Stuart Davies, said: 

“It’s pretty clear! The Greens proposal to make university free – as it was when I was at uni in the 1980’s – and wipe student debt as it stands. By making modest changes to taxation on very large corporations and billionaires (neither of whom pay any tax at the moment) we can easily afford to do this”. 

If elected, how will your party (The Greens/Labor) support university students? 

Matt Thistlethwaite said: 

“An Albanese Labor Government will invest $481.7 million to deliver up to 20,000 extra university places over 2022 and 2023. Labor will aim to prioritise the new funding for universities which are able to offer additional courses in national priority areas like clean energy, advanced manufacturing, health and education, and where there are skills shortages”. 

Stuart Davies said: 

“Firstly, by making University free again (as it was from the 70s to the 90s) and secondly by introducing measures to improve housing affordability and give tenants the right to affordable, well-maintained accommodation. Currently, landlords are able to exploit tenants – my daughter lives in a shared house in Kingsford and it’s absolutely scandalous what the landlord is getting away with”. 

What are your key policies for the Kingsford-Smith Electorate? 

Matt Thistlethwaite said: 

“Locally I will continue to fight against the proposed Matraville Incinerator and a cruise ship terminal in Yarr Bay as well as stop some of the ridiculous overdevelopment in our area and continue our campaign to Save Our Buses from the Liberals’ cuts”. 

What are your goals for this election, given that Kingsford-Smith is a safe Labor seat?

Stuard Davies said: 

“My goal is to use the opportunity to put the case for Greens policies to as many people as possible, particularly regarding climate change, integrity in government and wiping student debt and making tertiary education free again”. 

“We have to give people an opportunity to vote for what’s in their interest and they believe in. If we all just gave up because ‘it’s a safe seat’ there’d be no point having an election at all”.  

“If you vote ‘1’ Green, and then ‘2’ Labor, you will have sent a message about what you care about and will also have helped to kick out the Coalition government”. 

“The Greens aim to be in ‘balance of power’ position – in which the government can only pass legislation with the support of The Greens. This puts The Greens in an enormously powerful position to achieve its own goals.” 

How do you (or your party) plan to address the financial and well-being impacts of Covid-19 on university students?  

Matt Thistlethwaite said: 

“Labor’s suite of policies will address cost of living pressures by reducing the price of medication, reducing the cost of electricity, and tackling the issues of job insecurity and the slow growth in wages. Our housing policy will also ensure that the dream of owning your own home will be more achievable for young people. A Labor Government will introduce a new youth engagement model, to provide a voice and structure for younger Australians to directly engage with the government and contribute to policy development”. 

What do you think of the climate policy of the Liberal and Labor parties? 

Stuart Davis said: 

“Both Liberal and Labor are salespeople for the coal industry. The coal industry donates massive amounts of cash to both parties, and they are both paying back their donors with a promise to build 114 new coal (and gas) mines. This is equivalent to pouring petrol on the climate fire”. 

“The Greens is the only party aiming to curb climate change by reducing carbon emissions quickly and completely”.