Who is he?
The Greens party candidate in the upcoming election is Richard Di Natale. Born and raised in Melbourne, Di Natale is the son of Italian immigrants. After completing his school education, he trained to be a doctor at Monash University and later obtained a Masters from La Trobe. He practiced this profession up until 2004 when he first entered politics. During his time as a doctor, he worked in the Northern Territory in the aboriginal health sector and spent time in India working to prevent the spread of AIDS.
He ran unsuccessfully for the Greens Party in several elections as well as for mayor of Melbourne, before eventually becoming a senator for Victoria in 2010. By this time he had established himself within the party as one of their rising stars and in 2015 when their leader Christine Milne stepped down, Di Natale ran unopposed to take over the leadership of the party.
The Greens party and its candidates have sometimes had trouble appealing to Australians outside the political left-wing, and its members are often portrayed as fringe activists. Di Natale on the other hand, has developed a persona that is approachable and appeals to a wider populace. He is a keen football fan, having played the game in his youth, and has no history of political activism – choosing instead to attempt to make change through his medical work and the parliamentary system. He lives on a farm near Victoria’s Otway Ranges with his wife and two sons.
What are his policies?
Di Natale represents the Greens party’s wider broadening of policy over recent years. While retaining a strong commitment to protecting the environment, the party has sought to articulate policies which address social and economic issues and this has allowed them to grow as they establish themselves as the largest representatives of the Australian left. One of the issues Di Natale has campaigned most strongly on, for example, is the inclusion of dental care into the Medicare system and he also believes that medicinal cannabis use should be permitted.
Economically, the Greens advocate government measures to look after those in need – through socialised services – and to prevent the richest members of society avoiding contributing towards the cost of government. This would be done by reforming taxes to place a larger burden on big businesses and international corporations. This is coupled with progressive social policies such as doubling the budget for homelessness services, strengthening anti-discrimination laws,legalising same sex marriage, allowing same-sex couples to adopt and closing offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Despite their broad platform, the environmental issues on which the Greens were founded on still stand at the forefront of the party’s political agenda. They plan to strengthen laws protecting national parks and press for greater funds spent towards saving the Great Barrier Reef. They also hold the view that Australia must move away from coal mining and towards renewable energy. They present this issue as both as both an economic consequence of supply and demand as well as a pressing environmental necessity and have thus set out a plan to manage Australia’s transition towards renewable energy.
Can he win?
While the Greens have established themselves as Australia’s ‘third party’, they still trail behind Liberal and Labor by a considerable margin. The goal for the party is to build on their previous successes and to influence the policies of the next government, something which Di Natale himself has previously admitted.
Over the past couple of decades, the Greens party has managed to achieve a steady rise in popularity and influence – jumping from 4.9% of the Senate vote in 2001 to an all time high of 13.1% in 2010. As the party is geared to build on this momentum, this election could give them a chance to directly influence policy on a number of issues. In addition, opinion polls are suggesting there is a real possibility of a hung parliament that could work in the Greens’ favour. The last time this happened, the Greens were able to form a coalition with Julia Gillard’s Labor party and managed to get several environmental laws put into place. While Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has stated that he would not form a coalition with the Greens, the possibility should not be ruled out. Di Natale won’t ‘win’ the election in the literal sense, but he might well come out of it with what he sees as a victory.
What do you think?
Can Richard Di Natale Win?