Interview questions drafted by Mark Han and Miguel Galsim, Written by Miguel Galsim
Christina Hobbs is the ACT Greens’ candidate for the Senate, bringing a wealth of experience from her former career as an economist and food security specialist with the UN. She has also worked with refugees in Syria and Turkey in 2013, and with Somali refugees the year prior. Additionally, Hobbs is a Board Director of the Global Women’s Project, and helped manage the WWF’s Earth Hour. She is an alumnus of ANU, having studied a double degree in Science and Commerce.
In the lead-up to the federal elections, Woroni asked Hobbs a number of questions on climate change, tertiary education, and refugees, to which the Greens candidate promptly answered.
Hobbs believed that there was no negotiating the science behind climate change, and claimed that the Greens were the only party with a serious goal of increasing the nation’s share of renewable energy production to 90% by 2030 – a point where “science tells us we need to be.”
In response to the criticism that such a policy would be cost-inefficient, Hobbs stated that – as per the Garnaut Review commissioned by the Australian Government – further delaying the transition to renewable energy would be costly to the country overall.
“Without a doubt we know that economies that transition quickly will be better off than those that do not. This is backed up by the World Bank and the IMF – hardly progressive organisations.”
She continued, “Currently we spend $7.7 billion every year handing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Our policy is costed by shifting this money out of an old industry and towards the infrastructure required to build a 21 century clean energy powered economy and society.”
Regarding education, Hobbs stated that the Greens’ platform was to create an “equality of outcomes” and a fairer funding model in education. She upheld universal access to university as the “heart of equality”, and claimed that more equal societies generally have better performing economies. Moreover, responding to criticisms of how these schemes would be funded, Hobbs stated that “inefficient tax subsidies would be shifted away from the fossil fuel industry.”
Responding to the critical issue of Indigenous access to tertiary education, Hobbs proposed the reinstatement of rural relocation scholarships, which she said would increase the number of families that see university as an option. She also acknowledged the importance of completion rates amongst Indigenous students.
“Aboriginal people often face a lot of challenges outside of university that other Australians don’t face. I used to tutor Indigenous students through a special Indigenous tutoring and support program at UC and these programs of support really work, and we need to see more of them at ANU.”
Concurrently, Hobbs stated that her party would see a halt of the Liberal plan to cut university funding by 20%. Moreover, she proposed a $2 billion investment into renewable energy research and development and stated that Canberra’s universities and the Canberra Institute of Technology would “benefit strongly.” She blamed both the Liberals and Labor for “stepping away from the universities over the years.”
On the current government’s PaTH plan to subsidise businesses taking in young interns, she slammed the “potentially illegal policy” as “terrible news for young people.” Rather, the Greens see the solution for the current employment problems as investment into the “industries of the future” to create meaningful, full-time jobs.
“I have met students who have done two, three internships and have worked casually during university and still can’t get a job in the field they have studied. [PaTH] is not going to address the underlying problem of needing to transition the economy and my great fear is that employees will keep young people cycling through lower level positions instead of actually hiring someone full time,” she said.
Drawing from her first-hand experiences working with refugees, Hobbs was also scathing towards the current government’s treatment of asylum seekers.
“Can we agree that it is wrong to lock people up for years in offshore hell holes under conditions internationally labelled as ‘torture’ where our Human Rights Commissioner tells us that children are being sexually assaulted with no media allowed in and with Australian doctors at risk of two years in jail if they ‘leak’ information on this abuse? If we can agree this is wrong, then we need to talk about solutions.”
She claimed that the Greens was the only party forwarding a workable solution, which entails the establishment of UN processing centres in “feeder countries” like Indonesia and Malaysia, providing legitimate refugees the opportunity to fly to Australia and curtailing the need to cross the sea.
Hobbs concluded, “If we start acting like leaders in our region, instead of bullies, we can also restore our relationship with our neighbours. If we stop pushing boats back and set up processing centres, then we can expect that our neighbouring countries will be more willing to participate in patrolling their own borders.”
“And this humane approach will save us hundreds of millions of dollars every year. We can and must do better.”
Mark Han is a former member of the Liberal Party