Wikinews interviews Sandra Jephcott, Sustainable Australia candidate for 2020 Groom by-election

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Groom, highlighted in green, within the state of Queensland.
Image: User:Canley.
Portrait of Jephcott.
Image: Sustainable Australia.

Voters in the Australian electoral district of Groom are scheduled to go to the polls in a by-election this week following the resignation of Liberal National MP John McVeigh for family reasons.

Groom is located in the state of Queensland, and is centred around the city of Toowoomba. At the last federal election, the Liberal National Party, Queensland's dominant conservative party, won this seat by over 70% of the two-party-preferred vote, and since the seat's creation in 1984, it has been held by conservative political parties.

Some political analysts considered this a foregone conclusion, with analyst Kevin Bonham having declared it on his blog as "Australia's most boring by-election", however Bonham noted the size of the swing may have been indicative of the dominant centre left Labor Party's general performance in Queensland. There was a 4.2% swing against the Labor Party in the state of Queensland at the previous federal election.

Wikinews spoke to one of the four candidates running in the by-election, Sandra Jephcott, who is running for the Sustainable Australia party. Sustainable Australia describes itself as a "independent community movement from the political centre". According to the party's website, Jephcott is a veterinarian and farmer, who has completed a veterinary degree from the University of Queensland, as well as a Master of Business Affairs at Bond University and a Master of Science at James Cook University. With Wikinews, Jephcott discussed climate change, COVID-19, water security, and foreign ownership.



: Why are you running to be Groom's local MP?

Sandra Jephcott: I am a veterinarian and farmer and live on a 4000-hectare property west of Toowoomba. I have a broad range of experiences that I can bring to the role of federal MP [Member of Parliament]. When approached by the Sustainable Australia Party to run and help to raise awareness for our party, I was very happy to contribute.
I believe that the Groom by-election offers voters an opportunity to send a message to the two major parties that we're not happy with business as usual politics — including rampant overdevelopment and systemic political corruption that negatively impacts on the environment.
File:Night work at the Carmichael Mine.jpg
Jephcott expresses opposition to the Carmichael coal mine owned by Adani Group.
Image: Cameron Laird.

((WN)) : You've said that you want to act on climate change — what would your plan be?

Sandra Jephcott: There is no silver bullet to addressing climate change. Sustainable Australia Party has a holistic plan to act on climate change, including:
  • Funding and subsidising research and development into renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency initiatives;
  • Net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (or ideally sooner);
  • Imposing a moratorium on all new coal mines in Australia such as Adani (and all major coal mine expansions such as New Acland)
  • Imposing a moratorium on all new fracking, including for coal seam gas;
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies;
  • Adopting a globally-consistent carbon pricing mechanism that does not unfairly penalise Australian industries;
  • Promoting the environmental benefits of plant-based food;
  • and Lowering population growth pressures.
Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers.
Image: User:Snapcha.

((WN)) : What do you think needs to be done in Toowoomba to properly protect the environment and water?

Sandra Jephcott: Despite holding a Carnival of Flowers each year, Toowoomba came in last nationally for its resident's access to green space. It is therefore important that areas in and around Toowoomba — including Mt Lofty — are protected and where possible expanded. Housing sprawl and density is a key contributor to destroying tree canopy and green space, so stopping overdevelopment is a key priority.
In terms of water, we need to better manage Toowoomba's water security, including through lower wastage, an expansion of water tank usage and the revisiting of recycled water options. Strong action on climate change will also be vital to the long-term viability of Toowoomba's water supply.
Scott Morrison is the current Prime Minister of Australia.
Image: Office of U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

((WN)) : What are your thoughts on the COVID-19 response plan federally from the Morrison government?

Sandra Jephcott: Overall, the Morrison Government's response has been reasonable, after initially being very reluctant to prioritise health and well-being over economic growth. Also, there were major gaps in coverage for affected workers and industries. For example, casual workers and the arts were not adequately supported throughout the pandemic.

((WN)) : Why did you decide to join Sustainable Australia?

Sandra Jephcott: I come from a science background. It was very important to me that Sustainable Australia Party is from the political centre with an evidence-based, science-based approach to policy. For example, Sustainable Australia Party is the only party in my view with a holistic plan to address our various environmental crises. It was important for me that this plan not only includes strong action on climate change but also stabilising population in Australia and globally.

((WN)) : Why do you think that foreign ownership of farms, housing and land is an important issue to combat?

Sandra Jephcott: Australia is a sovereign nation. We need to be able to both manage our natural resources sustainably and ensure that we maintain profits, jobs and taxes in Australia for the well-being of Australians. Selling off our resources undermines our capacity to achieve these very important economic, environmental and social objectives.

((WN)) : How have COVID-19 restrictions impacted your ability to campaign?

Sandra Jephcott: I've been able to comfortably work at early voting centres and do media interviews, so there has not been much restriction at all.

((WN)) : What's one key issue in Groom that you think needs acting on?

A map of Queensland regions, with Darling Downs at the bottom in green.
Image: User:Roke.
Sandra Jephcott: Sustainable Australia Party has three big priorities in this by-election: Protect our environment; Stop overdevelopment; Stop corruption. But number one is protecting our environment, including strong action on climate change. Of the four parties running — the others being Labor, Liberal National and Liberal Democrats — only Sustainable Australia Party advocates for a moratorium on all new coal mines and major coal mine expansions. Locally, this means no to the proposed expansion of New Acland Mine on the Darling Downs.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.