ROUND these parts there’s not a lot of competition for the job of being Greens candidate. In the 2018 state election the Greens scored just 5.69 per cent of the vote in Bass.
So when Callum Bugbird was asked to be the Greens candidate for Bass he said no. Aged 20, he had a full-time job and better things to do.
Not that he wasn’t interested. As a student at Wonthaggi Secondary College, he’d joined the Bass Coast Climate Action Network. He helped to lobby the council to declare a climate emergency and introduce a climate action plan.
He’d also joined the Greens. He liked their ideas but he never went to meetings. He certainly had no intention of becoming a Greens candidate.
When Mat Morgan, a friend and fellow member of the Bass Coast Climate Action Network, asked him to stand for Bass he said no twice.
“I’m not very politically minded. I’ve always been into progressive policies but I’m not educated politically. I wasn’t across all the policies. Mat said ‘Well, you’re the best choice.’
"That was very flattering. And I don’t want to sit around and let things be disregarded.’
Having decided he was in, he’s giving the campaign everything. After a nine-hour day at work he’s on the phone or emailing or writing speeches. During the campaign he’s taking Wednesdays off to spend letterboxing and setting up a stall in town.
Top 3 issues for Bass
1. Climate action.
“I find it mind-boggling that talking about climate action is even contentious.” The Greens are pushing for a statewide moratorium on new fossil fuel projects.
“Availability and affordability are issues. Affordable housing doesn’t exist. I tried to rent a place and I was on a list of 86. Locals need social housing at the bare minimum and rental caps. The Cape ecovillage is a good example of sustainable living but it’s also pandering to wealthier people coming down from Melbourne. We need housing that locals can afford.”
3. The environment.
“We’re fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty and native wildlife that attracts tourists from all around the world. We need to protect our coastal area and the Western Port Woodlands”
"I’ve done my part for the next 10 years!” he exclaims.
He says politics was a theme at home, not in the sense of party politics but in the discussion of issues. “Mum and Dad are influential in that they have an open mind and a sense of social justice. They believed Australia should support refugees.”
Callum has lived in Cape Paterson all his life, apart from a few months in Melbourne last year when he studied environmental management at La Trobe University, and lived on campus. Due to Covid, his course was online. “I wasn’t enjoying it and left. I came back home for the time being – and then I got the dream job I was going to university to get.”
He’s working as an ecological restoration technician. “That’s basically a gardener” he says. He’s learning on the job – about plants, herbicides, environmental management. “A lot of our work is preserving remnant bushland.”
A particular focus of his local campaign is supporting permanent protection of the Western Port Woodlands in the face of a surge in sand mining. “There’s so little remnant vegetation left in this area and we have to protect it.”
He likes talking to people individually but talking to big groups has been a new challenge. With three forums in as many days last week he’s getting plenty of practice. As a 20-year-old he brings new perspective to the forums and public meetings. Try telling someone his age that we can’t afford to stop using fossil fuels or to build public housing.
“I’m not afraid of public speaking but I get a bit stressed writing a speech for each event. I don’t want them all to be the same. I want to come across as clearly as I can and make each speech dedicated to the event.”
His delivery is often quite passionate and the audience responds accordingly. “No matter how many times I rehearse I react on the spur of the moment,” he says. “I feed off the audience.”
He believes the Greens are misunderstood. "Some people are afraid of the Greens or think we’re evil – that we want to raise taxes.
"Well, a social democrat government might raise taxes but those taxes will be spent on improving health care and housing and education and childcare. Wages will rise, the cost of living will actually fall and they will be happier.”
The Greens are preferencing Labor ahead of the Liberal and National parties in every electorate.