Natasa Sojic is the 2022 Greens candidate for the federal seat of Fenner. The electorate of Fenner stretches from Ainslie in the inner north to Dunlop in the west and all the way out to Jaka in the far north. I Spoke to Natasa about a range of issues, but most notably the Greens’ newly announced plan to raise the welfare rate from $44 a day to $88.
Q: Good Morning Natasa, Tell me about yourself?
A: My name is Natasa Sojic. I’m of Eastern European descent, my parents were migrants who came here fleeing the Yugoslavian wars. I’m the first person in my family to be born in Australia. I’m also the first one to go to University where I studied environmental geoscience. That’s what first got me interested in the environment and creating change in the community. I moved to Canberra in 2020 and very quickly became involved in the community, through things like the local Landcare group and neighborhood watch. The opportunity came up to be pre-selected as a candidate, I was voted in by the Greens membership which was exciting as it’s the first time I’ve been a candidate for office.
Q: What are the issues that are important to you in this election?
A: The issues that are important to me are the issues that are important to the community. I’m hearing a lot of people that are being affected by the cost of living and rent increases. A lot of gentrification in the Belconnen area that is pricing people out of their homes. I have a lot of women speaking to me about surviving domestic violence. Climate change is also an issue that a lot of people are worried about and how that will affect the future of their children. I’m hearing a lot of real issues while out the speaking to constituents.
Q: The Greens have just announced plans to change the welfare payments from $44 per day to $88 per day, why?
A: Why? Because you just can’t live on $44 a day. Honestly, it’s as simple as that. I’m on Centrelink myself and it’s a struggle. I’ve spoken to a lot of constituents that are having to use their children’s Centrelink payments just to be able to pay rent and buy food. I spoke to a woman that spent 12 months saving up just to be able to get her nails done at a salon, that was her treat, her birthday present. These are people that are budgeting every single dollar and making every penny go as far as it can just to keep a roof over their heads. There are a lot of people that just need a bit of a leg up, especially with the cost of living being so high. These people need help and increasing the welfare rate to at least $88 per day is one of the ways we can help them.
Jobseeker is probably the worst one at the moment. I remember when I graduated from university at 21, I was only getting about $60 a fortnight because it was factoring my parent’s wages even though I’d been independent of them since I was 18. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I was getting the full wage. Even then it was unlivable, you can’t pay rent on that, you can’t buy groceries, you can’t pay for petrol. You just can’t do it, as I say people are cutting payments that should be for their children just to pay rent.
Q: The welfare rate has been this low for a while, why are you pushing for this now?
A: The Greens have always been pushing for an increase in welfare, it’s something that has always been part of our policy platform. Now with the increased cost of living it is about to become an even worse problem. If we don’t do something about this now we’ll have a homelessness crisis to worry about as well. There are already a lot of people that are relying on charities to support them. This just shouldn’t be the case, it should be the government preventing them from being so vulnerable in the first place. Everybody deserves to have a roof over their head, everybody deserves to be able to put food on their table. These things are the bare minimum and we have always advocated for ensuring people can get these things, we are just being lounder about it.
Q: Generally speaking, there isn’t interest in raising the welfare rate within political circles. How do the Greens plan to get this through the houses of Parliament?
A: Look, it’s a real shame that most political insiders aren’t interested in helping the most vulnerable. I think comes down to the fact that when you’re a politician you’re earning a six-figure salary, plus all the bonuses they get for things like travel. Your average politician can’t be anything other than out of touch. I think if politicians actually went out onto the street and get in touch with voters they would feel very differently about the issue.
And so that the crux of the idea, give parliament a reality check. Out there I’m hearing so many people that are fed up with the status quo of politics, hopefully, that translates into votes and we see a real shake-up of parliament this election.
Q: One last thing before I go, how do you think things are looking for the Greens this election
A: I think they are looking really really good. As I said before a lot of people are sick of two major parties. They don’t feel that can trust either of them and they don’t feel heard on most of the major issues, things like the cost of living and climate change. Listening to people is core to the Greens’ party, our slogan is “we’re listening” and we are. We’ve put forward a climate plan that is far more ambitious than either of the major parties, as well as plans to raise welfare and combat the increased cost of living. What’s best about all these policies is that we’ve told voters how we are going to pay for them, by taxing the rich.
Original photos by Sam Dirkis