Benjamin Law’s Dicey Topics with Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John


And now, given they have a son in the Greens? [Laughs] They were the first I converted to the Greens. Originally I was going to join the Australian Labor Party; I was inspired by Kevin07 and all that. But I was so disappointed by the way Labor caved on refugee and climate issues, deciding it was too difficult. I found the Greens and never looked back.

In the lead-up to the last federal election, Labor Senator Penny Wong described the Greens as “a virtue-signalling protest party”. Is she correct: that the Greens aren’t pragmatists, only idealists? That’s a silly argument I’ve heard many times before. What you’re effectively saying is you should never bring any kind of conviction or moral compass into political decision-making. Australian people entrust the Greens to do a lot of complex work in parliament. I’ve watched Labor make decisions totally at odds with the values of members and supporters, because it was the easiest political thing to do. Then at the last election, they tried selling one message about coal to Victoria, and another message to Queensland; neither of them effectively.

Outside of the Greens, who do you have time for in the Australian parliament? Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Anyone your least favourite? [Laughs] Oooh, many contenders. It’d be easy to say Pauline Hanson or Peter Dutton, but I object to anybody doing the bidding of corporations rather than people.

SEX

You’ve rolled sex. [Laughs] Naturally we’d veer into that realm! Especially given I’m currently wearing a Kmart top and cream chinos!

Tell me about your sex education. I was home-educated by my mother, who worked in child protection, so my sex education was really good. It also turned into sharp relief how few of my friends had an educational experience like that, and how utterly lacking their sex and relationships education was – and is – to this day.

Those in the queer community often don’t get the sex education they need. What about those in the disabled community? It is one of the things we most need to talk about. We need to bust open this taboo around disability and sex, because the stereotype of the disabled person as asexual, as desexualised, is one of the key factors in us being subjected to horrendous levels of abuse. It’s presumed we’d never want to engage in a sexual relationship, nor would anyone want to engage in one with us; therefore, we don’t know that it’s wrong when somebody touches us in a certain way. That lack of information increases our vulnerability.

You’re still in your 20s. You’re a senator. Has becoming a politician increased your sex appeal? Oh, Jesus Christ! [Laughs] One to ask other people.

MONEY

What does the Australian government spend too much money on? Defence and subsidising corporations.

What does the Australian government spend too little money on? Our social safety net and environmental protection.

What do you spend too much money on? I was a university student prior to doing this … and my family never had any money, really, in terms of our background. Now I have a wage of a couple of hundred thousand dollars. (The base salary for a senator of the Australian parliament is $207,100.)

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I try not to spend it on things I don’t need. Just being able to go out to dinner with somebody and not have to worry is a treat. There was also a lovely tie in the parliamentary shop, that had this gorgeous First Nations pattern on it from the Kimberley, that I bought. I also just got my own Netflix and audiobook subscription, for those long flights. People often say, “Life’s about more than money.” But actually, the stress that comes with not having money and not being able to get by is profound. People in jobs like mine rapidly forget that, because we are paid well. That’s why we’ve spent 25 years not raising Newstart.

It’s your final day on earth and you’re down to your last hundred dollars. What do you spend it on? Cake. Traditional mud cakes, Victoria sponge, chocolate drop and white chocolate sponge cake. And a certain amount of tea to drink with the cake, obviously.

Speaking to your English roots there. What kind of tea? English Breakfast. All other forms of tea are the work of the devil. [Laughs] Particularly herbal teas which are, in fact, cough medicines that have been rebranded as “tea” to trick us all. I know I’ve just lost myself a massive amount of the vote, but I sit by that proclamation!

diceytopics@goodweekend.com.au

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