Green passion runs high in Hinkler

Hinkler, Qld


Andrew McLean says the time for voting conservatively is over

At a camp called Waddanganggu, meaning “The Talking” in Wirdi language, Andrew McLean nailed himself to the floor beside the bora ring and watched a young First Nations man vent and rage. The Labor Government had extinguished native title from the Wangan and Jagalingou people so the Adani mine could proceed. Mr McLean said he witnessed the lies that were told and felt compelled to tell others about it and of the impact of a board room decision.

“This has real life consequence, and it’s going to make some people really rich, but it’s going to destroy and rip the heart out of people’s culture,” Mr McLean said. The land is their mother, and he said seeing it dug up is “like watching their own mother being cut up in front of them”. And so his campaign began.

Mr McLean, a mechanic and business owner, ran for Glass House in the 2020 Queensland election. This Lutheran minister and father of three adult children is the Greens candidate for Hinkler in the 2022 Federal election. Hinkler, which includes Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, has been held by the LNP’s Keith Pitt since 2013. Mr Pitt will contest this seat along with Independent and Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey, Labor’s Jason Scanes, United Australia Party’s Kristie Nash, and One Nation’s Zak Menhennett.

Mr McLean, 52, said he was “proud to be a part of the Greens”. Like his father, he voted LNP for many years. He said his dad used to scoff at the Greens, but he was wrong. “We know that we’ve got to be sustainable,” Mr McLean said. “We know that we can’t just trash the earth. We know we’ve got to look after our people.”

Although not a resident of Hinkler, Mr McLean said he has spent a lot of time in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay with family who live there. “I desperately would love to represent the people that I live with, there’s no question about that,” Mr McLean said.

He said it’s hard for the Greens as they’re up against the major parties and wealthy mining companies. “It’s time to make these billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share in tax so we can afford to fix the climate, housing and public health crises,” Mr McLean said.

“Free uni, free TAFE, wiping student debt, building a million homes, putting dental and mental [health] into Medicare and stopping new coal and gas, that’s our platform.”

Housing affordability and availability is a major issue in Hinkler – and across Australia. At a recent housing forum Mr McLean, co-founder of the non-profit affordable housing organisation Eco Villages Australia, told heartbreaking stories of people struggling. He said people who could afford $650 per week rent were homeless.

“The rental crisis is really hitting our region hard right now,” Mr McLean said. “Families are struggling to find a home while some landlords exploit the tight market to drive up rents. The Greens propose to ban rent bidding, end no grounds evictions, and cap rent increases so rents are tied to inflation.”

Non-affiliated community group Voices of Hinkler (VOH) is a social media forum for residents to express their concerns and be informed, and all candidates are able to address constituents. VOH spokesman John Bunney said for a long time local housing was relatively cheap compared to other places, and people on government benefits moved to the area to access lower rents. However, rents have increased substantially making housing unaffordable for many and placing strain on local charities.

“There’s an increasing demand on things like food banks because of that,” Mr Bunney said. “So people on government benefits that haven’t seen any material rises in their benefits but are having to pay a lot more rent now are seeking to access those sorts of services a bit more.”

A 2021 Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) report revealed Hinkler as the most disadvantaged electorate in Australia with high unemployment, low wages, poor access to education, healthcare and housing. CSSA executive officer Monique Earsman said the inequality and disadvantage in Hinkler was debilitating. “Many local families are unable to find adequate housing, don’t have enough money to cover the necessities and are living lives that seemingly offer no hope for the future,” Ms Earsman said.

Hinkler voting patterns

Bundaberg Mayor Dempsey, a former state LNP Minister, said Hinkler has been taken for granted for years because it’s a safe LNP seat.

Mr Pitt, who holds Hinkler on a margin of 14.5 per cent, voted for the cashless debit card. The card was introduced to his electorate, one of only six regions in Australia with it, in 2019.

Mr Bunney said it has been indiscriminately applied to anyone under 35 on a government benefit in the region. “There’s lots of impacts that these people face that are quite negative that reduce their freedoms quite significantly,” Mr Bunney said. The Greens said the card punishes people on income support. The LNP plan to expand its use across Australia, while Labor and the Greens will scrap the card.

The LNP and Greens also disagree when it comes to climate change. Mr McLean, whose interests include science, permaculture, regenerative living and the environment, said the biggest killer was heat waves. “That already kills more people in this electorate than any other natural disaster,” Mr McLean said. “Fossil fuels have just turbo charged all that.”

He said it’s insanity that the LNP and Labor want to build new coal and gas projects. “We know the science,” Mr McLean said. “We know we cannot build another single coal or gas field. Both our major parties putting 114 new coal and gas projects is clearly because they are funded by the fossil fuel industry, not because it’s better for the children, grandchildren and even us.” In 2021-22 the government subsidised fossil fuel by $11.6bn.

The Greens said Australia was in a climate emergency and the LNP’s net zero by 2050 target isn’t enough. “It threatens the safety of people, our health, water, ability to grow food, and the air we breathe,” the Greens said. “If we continue to mine and burn coal, oil and gas, we’ll experience further economic losses, food, insurance and health costs will go up, and we’ll pay much higher energy bills. Over a million jobs in industries including tourism and farming are at risk.”

Mr McLean said action was needed now. “The time of voting conservatively is over,” Mr McLean said. “We have 10 years to turn this climate emergency around, so a three-year term is a third of that. We are running out of time.”