Meet the Independents: Tiffany HARRISON (Ungrouped, Northern Metropolitan)

I’ve been saving ungrouped Independent Tiffany Harrison for last, because she’s in my home region of Northern Metropolitan, and also because I wanted a nice, bracing dose of left-wing goodness (or even left-wing loopiness, I’m not pre-judging here, except about the left-wing bit) before diving back into my parade of right wing political parties.

As it happens, Ms Harrison is really only technically an independent.  She is a member of Save the Planet, and is representing them as a candidate, although they are not registered as a party in this election.  If I recall correctly, this is the second election in which they have run candidates as independents – they seem to be having difficulties reaching their minimum requirement of 500 members.

Because Ms Harrison’s own FaceBook page states that she is running as a Save the Planet candidate, I think it’s appropriate to look at this party’s policies as a representation of what she believes and will stand for.

Save the Planet’s home page informs me that:

Save the Planet is a new political party and community campaign focused on reversing  global warming, creating a safe climate and providing real leadership in the climate emergency.

On their home page and FAQ page they state quite clearly that they “will not be distracted by issues unrelated to the building of a safe-climate-restoring economy, done at emergency speed”.  While they acknowledge that the Greens and Socialist Alliance have some good policies, Save the Planet views them as too distracted by social policies that ‘dilute’ their focus on the climate emergency.

The purpose of the Save the Planet Party is to campaign so effectively on our core goals that we make it a political necessity for all other major parties including the Greens to lift their environmental policies and performance to match our position. It then will be possible to build a safe-climate-restoring economy in Australia at emergency speed. We can do this through public education and using political leverage at elections.

Further down, they add:

We have deliberately restricted Save the Planet’s policies to a limited focus around key issues on climate change with the hope that we can attract wide support for emergency speed action to restore a safe climate. All candidates have agreed to our purpose and goals which include the creation of a world that is environmentally and socially sustainable and working to eliminate high levels of inequality.  Candidates also have to pass a good character test which includes not being racist or sexist. In the context of these constraints, on any other policy issue, a Save the Planet candidate is effectively an independent and you would need to ask their personal views.

So, essentially, we have a party that makes no bones about being a single issue party, because they view that issue as the paramount emergency of our time.  But… without actually having concrete policies on other issues, they do actually have some very definite ideas about how candidates should think and behave.  I am also interested to note that they are also encouraging people to work from within the major parties, and particularly the Greens, to push for a safe climate policy.  While Save the Planet’s founders feel that they, personally, have taken the ‘reform from within’ strategy as far as they can, they acknowledge that it is still a useful one.  This is far more pragmatism than I would have expected from a group that manifestly leans left.

(As a known leftie, I’m not knocking the left side of politics here.  But, as a movement, we do have a tendency to let our ideals get in the way of actually achieving something.  I’d say the right of politics has the opposite problem – pragmatism getting in the way of ideals.  But I could be wrong.)

They also have a page about preferential voting, and explain in several different places how voting for a small party does not, in fact waste your vote (including a link to this gorgeous cartoon on the subject). This is useful information – and yes, it’s also something that small parties need to make sure people understand!

Let’s have a look at how the other parties have preferenced Ms Harrison.

Not many surprises, here.  The Sex Party, Greens and BRRP put her 12th, 13th and 15th, respectively, and the Cyclists and Voice for the West have her at 17th.  The ALP has her at 19th, the Liberal party at 46th and Family First at 42.  I think we can safely say that she is being viewed as left-wing by the other parties!  Interestingly, even the Country Party and Shooters and Fishers don’t really hate her, putting her at 29th and 31st respectively, while the Animal Justice Party surprises me by putting her at 24 – I thought she would do better with them.

According to their Vision statement, “Save the Planet is a campaign to create a sustainable, secure, innovative, just and fair system for this world.”

Their goals are:

  1. Return the global average temperature and ocean acidity to pre-industrial levels as quickly as possible
  2. Create a world that is environmentally and socially sustainable
  3. Work to eliminate high levels of inequality

Interestingly, they also have some policies on politics itself, including setting a limit to how long an elected member can serve in a position both within internal party positions and in an elected public office.  I think a lot of political parties could benefit from this – I’m not sure a class of career politicians who have never worked in any other profession is actually the best group of people to run a country…

The Key Victorian Campaigns page tells us that Save the Planet is supporting the following campaigns being run by other organisations within Victoria:

  • Creation of the Victorian Great Forest Park – a new national park in Victoria’s Central Highlands
  • Shut down the Anglesea power station
  • Trains, not Toll Roads (for those of you who have been living under a rock, that would be the campaign against the East-West link)
  • Yes to Renewables
  • A Sustainable Population for Australia
  • Earth Workter Co=Operative
  • Quit Coal
  • Lock the Gate (which is against the creation of coal and gas fields on agricultural and other land)

In each case, they link to the campaign, and pretty much leave it at that.

Their Policies page is a bit more detailed, so let’s give that a look…

Save the Planet tells us that their policies fall into the following areas:

  • Eliminating net emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Returning to a safe climate (pre-industrial temperature and ocean heat and acidity)
  • Preparing for climate change (that is not avoided)
  • Creating a sustainable future

And they have four core policies:

  1. Drive the creation of Emergency Plans for Safe Climate Restoration.
  2. Implement an emergency speed transition (10 years or less) to a safe climate economy.
  3. Transition our economy away from dependence on constant material and population growth, human exploitation and high levels of debt, while continuing knowledge growth, and service and technological improvements.
  4. Bring climate criminals to justice.

I am having a Batman moment with their fourth policy.  And I don’t even live in the Batman electorate! (And you cannot know how sad it makes me that I do not.)

Getting down into the nuts and bolts, they want to rapidly phase out use of fossil fuels and move to renewable energies.  They also want to improve energy efficiency in appliances, as well as in building design.  They want to massively upgrade walking, cycling and electrified rail infrastructure, and expand both rail and light rail into regional areas (light rail for rural towns, replacing existing buses).  They support electric cars, and want “no further expansion of the road system until the transition to a zero emissions, high resource efficiency economy has been completed”.

I like this, but I think that last bit is going to be a hard sell.

Save the Planet is against logging (nobody is surprised by this), and want to support urban forestry to minimise the heat island effect, in order both to reduce deaths from heat waves and to act as carbon sinks.  I’ve never heard of such a policy, but I like it.

In agriculture, Save the Planet is against genetically modified food and land clearing, and for heirloom vegetables, organic farming, and farmers’ markets.  No surprises here.  They also want to reduce greenhouse gases by encouraging a reduction in consumption of products from sheep and cattle, and using long rest, short rotation grazing systems.  Also “using safe and reversible geo-engineering options such as painting roofs white to speed cooling”, which is pleasingly simple.

The most interesting section, to me, is the one on preparing for climate change, because this is the first set of policies I’ve seen that acknowledge that climate change is something that is already having effects that need to be mitigated, rather than being something that needs to be prevented.  In fact, I think this section is interesting enough to quote in full:

We are already seeing the effects of climate change including extreme weather events, killer heat waves, fires, floods and storms. Rebuilding community and improving community capabilities to respond to increasing climate impacts is a vital part of the response to climate change.

  • Rebuild community connections to encourage people to support each other 
  • Ensure vulnerable members of the community are looked after
  • Support localised food production – including suburban open space such as backyards to ensure people have access to food growing spaces
  • Boost planning and preparation for extreme weather safety strategies for floods, storms, fires and heat waves including: strengthen building code, strengthen existing infrastructure, retreating from vulnerable coastal and flood prone areas, and making homes and property exposed to bush fire risk less vulnerable including planting of fire resistance and suppressing species.
  • Support urban forestry designed to reduce the heat island effect and impacts of heat waves by growing and maintaining shade creative such as oaks, elms etc in public parks and only side roads and supporting them with storm water harvesting systems.
  • Strengthen the civil emergency system
  • Accept regional climate refugees and commence integration and migration of the populations from the drowning Pacific islands

I am still excited about urban forestry, but I also like the focus on community, localised food production, and just the simplicity of more shade trees – though how the latter fits with their policies elsewhere about sustaining native vegetation, I’m not entirely sure.

Finally, Save the Planet tells us that we need a less consumerist society, a more sustainable population, and less corruption in politics.  But it’s OK, because I think most of us already knew that.

And that’s about it for Ms Harrison and Save the Planet.  I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised – I was expecting a much more ‘please stop being on my side, you make my side look crazy’ sort of situation.  But looking at this, I’m actually quite tempted to put Ms Harrison first on my ballot.  Mostly for the urban forests, which have completely captured my imagination…

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