He may be the youngest person in the Senate, but he’s by no means a novice, and next week, Senator Robert Simms will launch his first campaign ahead of this year’s election.
On Friday February 5th, Senator Simms will celebrate his campaign kick off at Entropy in Thebarton, a venue he chose because it aligns with the Greens’ values and ethics.
“We wanted somewhere that had good quality, local produce and Entropy has that. It’s also close and accessible to public transport, so we thought it’d be a good place to have the event. It’s a sustainable design as well,” Senator Simms says.
“It’s really a way to kick off the election year and, of course, I’m facing my first campaign as a Greens Senator. So this is an opportunity for us to hit the ground running and get volunteers and supporters together.”
The Australian Greens party was founded more than 30 years ago when an attempt to dam the Franklin River in Tasmania for a hydroelectricity scheme sparked a protest by Bob Brown and Christine Milne, who would later become the leaders of the political party.
Senator Simms got involved in politics when he became aware of injustices that required activism, which led to his joining the Greens.
“The issue that sparked my political awareness was the treatment of asylum seekers. I thought morally it was appalling for the Howard Government at the time to be treating vulnerable people that way, so that was an issue that got me thinking about politics, and politically engaged,” he says.
“Then, when I got to university, the issue that drew me to political activism at that time, was the government’s push to increase HECS fees by 30 per cent. I thought that was really unfair, so I decided to get involved with my student association on campus. From there, I went on to be politically active and have been ever since.”
Fortunately, one of the portfolios the Senator manages is higher education, which inspired his political career, but he speaks about his other areas of focus with just as much fervour.
“Politics is about changing people’s lives for the better and that’s what’s inspired me as an activist, and certainly what inspires me now as a politician. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been given some portfolios I’m really passionate about. Higher education, for instance, and the right of everybody to have quality education,” Simms says.
“It’s something I’m very passionate about and it’s something that’s come under siege from this Liberal Government, because we know they want to bring deregulation back onto the agenda after the next Federal election. Also, as a gay man, I’m very passionate about standing up for outsiders, and that’s something I’ve consistently done as an activist and something I’m passionate about doing as a politician as well. That’s why I’ve always been concerned about the treatment of asylum seekers, for instance.”
Senator Simms spoke with us during our recent 16 for ‘16 spectacular and was happy to share his ideas about South Australia, and how he intends to make it a better place for all of us.
If he is re-elected into the Senate, Simms will continue his commitment to the issues he was already raising in parliament, but there’s a few other problems he’s keen to solve.
“There’s a few issues on my agenda that I want to keep pushing. I introduced, in my first few weeks in parliament, a Private Member’s Bill for support for production and manufacture of electric cars here in South Australia, and that’s going to be a key focus for me. I see that as being a real opportunity to harness the skills of our manufacturing industry and create some sustainable, long-term jobs,” he says.
“South Australia should be a leader in sustainability, creativity and social justice. We’ve got some amazing natural assets here, with being able to harness the power of the sun through renewable energy, for instance. We should be making the most of the opportunities that come with that, but we also should be harnessing the skills of our manufacturing industry and creating new green jobs for the future.
“In creativity, we obviously have a terrific arts centre here in South Australia and we need to be ensuring that we support that, and that means guaranteeing funding for the arts that’s independent of political interference. Then of course in social justice, South Australia has a very proud record when it comes to advocating for, and standing up for, vulnerable people, and leading the way in terms of social reform. I think the Greens’ message around human compassion for asylum seekers, and support for important social reforms like marriage equality will resonate well in South Australia.”
And speaking of marriage equality, Senator Simms would like to see an end to the debate and some action taken.
“I want to see progress on marriage equality,” he says, vehemently. “This debate has been going on far too long and we know a majority of Australians want to see this reform delivered by the parliament and we don’t have to spend $160 million to ask a question we already know the answer to (through a costly and divisive plebiscite). We know Australians want this and I’ll be campaigning hard to get the parliament to deliver it.”
Simms is excited about kicking off his campaign and is calling on South Australians to get on board with him as he heads towards a 2016 election.
“Unfortunately in our politics, there’s been so much focus on the politics of power and personality, we’ve forgotten about the politics of purpose and passion. I think that’s one of the things the Greens really bring to the table,” he says.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting year for the Greens, actually, and our message is being well received by the community. I think a lot of the issues we’ve been talking about for many years, things like focus on innovation, things like sustainability becoming mainstream issues; and the Greens really have the runs on the board when it comes to advocating on those things.”
You can join Senator Robert Simms’ campaign launch at Entropy (37 Little Queen Street, Thebarton) on February 5th, 2016 by booking your tickets here.
By Libby Parker
Libby Parker is a journalist, teacher and life enthusiast.
You can follow her on Twitter at @upsidenews_lib