Greens candidate for Scullin takes aim at disadvantage


If Patchouli Paterson is elected as Scullin’s next member of parliament, she has vowed to press for wage increases and to reduce the cost of living.

The Greens candidate is not a new face in federal politics. She ran for Corangamite, an electorate in the south-western part of Victoria, during the 2016 federal election and secured 11.45 per cent of the primary vote.

For Paterson, the high cost of living – especially housing prices – was a big issue in Scullin, which encompasses the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne.

She said that many people living in the area Scullin were “struggling financially, and housing is a huge part of it”.

For Ms Paterson, who lived in public housing as a child, the issue is important and personal.

According to Sally Miller, a member of Ms Paterson’s campaign team, high house prices mean that home buyers will need to take out a larger mortgage, making them susceptible to spikes in interest rates.

This can lead to mortgage stress, a situation where a household spends more than 30 per cent of their pre-tax income on servicing home loans.

Data from the UNSW’s City Futures Research Centre indicated that 65.36 per cent of households in Scullin were under mortgage stress last year, the 13th highest of any electorate.

To lower the cost of housing, the Greens want to build a million homes across Australia. Their goal is to reduce homelessness and create jobs in construction and services. The party plans to cover the cost of this policy by taxing billionaires and large mining companies.

In addition, the Greens promise to increase wages, to ensure no one lives below the poverty line.

“Wages are not high enough to keep up with the cost of living,” said Paterson, who said the people of Scullin “deserve better.”

Paterson believes that the Liberal government’s policies were responsible for perpetuating poverty and inequality in Australia.

“The conditions and structures that lead to people being in poverty … these things are intentional, and far from trying to correct them, the Liberal government is quite happy to further entrench these issues,” she said at her campaign launch.

Born near Mullumbimby, a town hit by the recent floods in NSW, Ms Paterson is passionate about protecting the environment.

“The UN just released a report last week, saying that we are on track to have an unlivable planet. That’s pretty scary stuff,” she said, stressing the need to “go much faster and much harder on addressing climate change”.

She urged government to shut gas and coal mines, and work on transitioning mine workers to other industries and wants to move to 100 per cent renewable energy within the next decade.

Ms Paterson graduated from Deakin University in 2013, where she majored in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies.

Dr Matthew Hardy, who worked closely with Paterson at Deakin, described her as “someone who has overcome tremendous barriers in her life in terms of poverty and social access”, and “a sincere and credible person when talking about those issues”.

She also completed a Master of Public Policy and Management at the University of Melbourne. She believed her postgraduate education gave her the confidence to take on the federal elections, by giving her experience in writing policy papers and ministerial briefs as part of her degree. It’s knowledge she knows will stand her in good stead if she gets elected and works in parliament.

The Scullin candidate, who ran unopposed in her party’s pre-selection process, is currently working at the not-for-profit organization Brotherhood of St Lawrence, something which has been a “huge influence” on her.

“I work in communities that experience disadvantage, and I can see how government policy directly impacts these people’s lives every day,” she said.

“There are so many people living in poverty in this country who just don’t need to be living in poverty.”

Vinay Nair, an Epping resident who met Ms Paterson on a few occasions, described her as “a genuine person who wants to help the local community”. He says she will get his vote on May 21.

In her free time, Ms Paterson is an avid cricketer, enjoys bushwalking and spending time with her family. She lives in Reservoir with her partner and is not discouraged by being an opposition candidate in a safe seat.

“I think it’s important that people have a choice,” she said, adding that she wanted to give all the Greens supporters in the area “someone to vote for”.