November 14, 2014 – 12:35PM
By Keryn Reynolds
The Nationals candidate for the seat of Buninyong has declared on Facebook that she would cross the floor on issues of environmental importance, and that she was previously asked to run as a Greens candidate.
In a fiery discussion with students from Federation University, Ballarat, Ms Sonia Smith said she was an idealist who imagined an alliance with the local greens movement and a ‘reformed next generation’ of Nationals.
Greens candidate for Buninyong Mr Tony Goodfellow also waded into the Facebook stoush, which followed the candidates’ attendance at an event held in the electorate last week by Green Drinks Ballarat, an informal environmental group not affiliated with any political party.
The next day Ms Smith joined a public Facebook group to discuss sustainable living with Federation University environmental students.
Students seemed less than pleased with some of her responses, but she gave as good as she got in a discussion that lasted over 12 hours and included references to Star Trek and a few allegations of aggression and trolling.
At one stage Ms Smith tangled with Mr Goodfellow saying she was asked to be the Greens candidate ‘you could have been out of your gig, Tony.’ She also told students ‘rather than vent your anger, go plant a tree’.
Ms Smith said she plans to reform the National Party and has ‘given up’ on Labor and the Liberals as they are ‘too encrusted in their ways and run by big machines.’
A spokesman for The Greens told UniPollWatch that to his knowledge the party had never formally approached Ms Smith about running in Buninyong, but it is understood there were some informal conversations.
Ms Smith suggested some local candidates were ‘coasting’ on the campaign, asking Mr Goodfellow if he had ever been to the township of Dereel, as small communities ‘deserve some representation.’
Mr Goodfellow responded by posting a photo of himself at the Dereel Lagoon Reserve.
Conceding the photo was a good sales pitch, Ms Smith said she didn’t want to ‘bicker’ as ‘Greens are often trailblazers and we have much that unites us.’
Accused by students of being out of her depth on environmental issues, Ms Smith said she was ‘trying to make the world a better place’, reminding students that she was ‘just’ a human rights lawyer with 15 years experience in development projects around the world.
‘So I guess I don’t know much compared to students these days. Students know everything! I love you guys, you’re angry and have passion. It’s good.’
Students were less than impressed, with one saying, ‘Bottom line is, you joined a group of people who are passionate for the environment, won’t answer their environmental questions and then accuse them of becoming aggressive. It’s confusing and downright insulting, actually.’
Keryn Reynolds is a Master of Journalism student at the University of Melbourne