In the Hot Seat: Interview with Jonathan Sriranganathan

Welcome to Glass’ interview series with the Brisbane Lord Mayor candidates! In these conversations, we dive into the issues that are important to students and ask each candidate why they deserve your vote. Our aim? To make sure that the QUT student body knows what’s going on in your community, so you can make an informed decision.

This interview is with Greens candidate, Jonathan Sriranganathan.

Jonathan Sriranganathan is a 35-year-old writer, musician and community worker who was elected back in March 2016 as Brisbane’s first ever Greens city Councillor, representing the Gabba Ward on the city’s inner-south side. He stepped down from the council in April 2023, after seven years of service in that role. He is running for Lord Mayor because he believes that the city Council campaign is a solid opportunity to elevate ideas, policy solutions and campaigning methods that don’t usually get enough attention.

What is your vision for the future of Brisbane?  

My vision for Brissie is to create a city where everyone can afford high-quality long-term housing, and we all get a democratic say over the issues that are important to us, where our housing, transport and waste management systems are more sustainable and energy-efficient, and where we have more live entertainment and cultural activities throughout the suburbs, and not just in the city centre. 

What are your plans to revitalise the Brisbane CBD? 

Brisbane’s city centre has a problem. Wide streets that should be the beating heart of our city are instead choked with speeding traffic. Hundreds of thousands of people visit, work or live in Brisbane’s CBD, and most either walk, ride or take public transport. The CBD should be an easy, comfortable place to walk. It should be a destination to access services, catch a show, and see friends and family, but city streets aren’t designed for people.  

Large sections of the CBD have very poor foot traffic, and many street-level shops and restaurants are struggling. The LNP Council is stuck in a “cars first” mindset, but even they have recognised this major problem. Unfortunately, their proposed changes just make minor changes to landscaping without reducing car traffic.  

The Greens would reimagine the heart of the city, creating a space for people first and cars second. This includes:  

  • Pedestrianise Albert Street from the Queen Street Mall to the Botanic Gardens 
  • Lower speed limits to 30km/hr across the CBD between Adelaide, North Quay, Alice Street, Eagle St and Creek St.  
  • Create shade on the Victoria Bridge, reversing the LNP’s plan to cut this project 
  • Bring back more greenery and shade to King George Square 
  • Investigate the feasibility of installing an all-ages playground on Albert St in the reclaimed road space. 

How will you tackle the housing crisis? 

Unfortunately both Labor and the LNP talk in vague terms about ‘housing affordability’ but when push comes to shove, they don’t actually want rents and house prices to fall significantly, whereas the Greens have proposed a range of detailed policies including a vacancy levy, a two-year freeze on rent increases, and a crackdown on Airbnb conversions, that would actually make housing cheaper. 

We want to put downward pressure on rents and house prices. Our proposals would flood the rental market with properties, force developers to either build or sell vacant land rather than waiting for its value to rise, and would directly drop rents back to their January 2023 levels. Ultimately, we want to change the behaviour of investors, and strongly discourage them from leaving properties empty, from making homes into hotel rooms, and from jacking up the rent. 

Do you have any plans to improve the public transport system? 

We want to improve the frequency of public transport services and ensure that more buses run late into the night, seven days per week. We also want to create new high-frequency routes that run directly between suburbs so you can get from A to B without travelling all the way in and out of the city centre. And most importantly for people on low incomes, we want to roll out free public transport. 

What policies do you have to lessen the cost-of-living load on uni students and young people? 

Free public transport and a two-year freeze on rent increases would make life so much easier for uni students who are struggling with rising living costs.  

A Greens-led Brisbane City Council would also invest directly to build council-owned public homes at the Eagle Farm racecourse, make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists to encourage more people to ditch their cars, and make access to public pools easier by making them free and building more public pools. The Greens will ban pokies at council-owned venues and help 50 venues transform into vibrant hubs of live music, art and hospitality in our suburbs. This means you have better access to entertainment in your local community, instead of having to traveling into the city. 

What is your policy on refugees? 

For those who aren’t clear on the terminology, basically an ‘asylum seeker’ is someone who has applied for protection as a refugee but hasn’t yet had their claim fully and fairly assessed… Australia is locking up asylum seekers for years, even though it should only take a couple of months at most to assess a claim. 

Australia is also locking up people whose claims for refugee status have already been assessed as genuine. These people are refugees who can’t safely return home, and they should be released into the community immediately. 

What is your stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict? 

I stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and strongly condemn the Israeli government’s ongoing invasion of Gaza, recent Israeli attacks in the West Bank, Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian land, and the system of apartheid that deprives so many Palestinians of their basic human rights.  

I share our wider community’s concerns that the Israeli government’s actions, including bombing civilian neighbourhoods, displacing millions of Palestinians, and blocking access to food, water, electricity, telecommunications, medical supplies and other essential services, is a form of genocide and ethnic cleansing. I’m mindful of the gravity of those words, and I do not use them lightly, but considering the rhetoric used by Israeli government officials in recent months, we must call this invasion what it is.  

I’m also deeply concerned that here in Australia, both the Labor Party and the Liberal National Party continue to support and tacitly endorse the Israeli government’s behaviour. The Australian government should be introducing sanctions to pressure the Israeli government into respecting international law, but is refusing to do so. 

Now for a fun one, what’s your favourite place in Brisbane? 

What’s my favourite place in Brisbane? There’s a spot along the Maiwar river at the mouth of Kulpurum (Norman Creek) where the currents of the river and the creek merge and swirl. If you position your kayak in just the right spot, you can float in the same place for ages without the current or the tide pulling you in either direction. It’s a beautiful spot to bob around and watch the sunset. 

Lastly, why should the students and young people of Brisbane vote for you as Lord Mayor? 

Young people should vote Greens because we’re the only party in the local election that’s serious about making rents and house prices cheaper, because we want to make public transport free and frequent, because we’re willing to face up to the harsh realities of global warming and because we want to support more live music and late-night entertainment. Most importantly though, we want to transform our political system itself, so that it’s more democratic and less prone to hijacking by big business. 

Celeste Muller
Celeste Muller

Celeste (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane based writer and Editor at Glass Media. She has a Bachelor's degree in Design (Interior Design) and is currently studying Journalism and Economics at QUT.

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