Sam Hibbins expected the last election to be close. “There were more Greens than people had anticipated,” says the Greens MP for Prahran of his narrow victory in 2014. “The people had the power.”
With Ellen Sandell in Melbourne, Hibbins became one of the first two Greens candidates elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly at the 2014 election. He won the seat by 261 votes, ousting Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown, making him the first Greens candidate to gain a seat from a sitting Liberal MP.
Prahran is a “priority seat for the Greens”, says Hibbins, who will once again represent the party when the seat is contested on November 24. Being the sitting MP, he says, “does have some advantages but the Greens are always the underdogs when it comes to the Lower House”.
Hibbins was a City of Stonnington councillor from 2012 to 2014 and a youth worker at the Victorian Government’s Department of Human Services.
He says that he had three local priorities when he won the electorate, “to upgrade South Yarra station, focus on the local school and care for people in need”.
Prahran High, due to open in 2019, will be constructed on a site previously occupied by Swinburne University’s Design School. Total funding for the school is $25 million, and it will cater for 650 students. Hibbins says he believes it is critical that the school meets the needs of local families. He brought together parents and educators during the planning process to ensure their voices were heard.
The Victorian Greens LGBTI spokesperson, Gibbins says Victoria’s laws still discriminate against that community. He plans to combat this by strengthening and removing religious exemptions from the Equal Opportunity Act. Hibbins says religious bodies run many Victorian schools and community service organisations and have special exemptions within the act to discriminate against people. “They are legally allowed to discriminate based on if you are pregnant, your gender and your sexuality, which is completely unacceptable,” he says. “We need to remove exemptions from the act in faith-based schools.”
The Victorian Greens welcomed the state’s inquiry into gay conversion therapy, two months after the party announced it would establish a parliamentary inquiry. Hibbins says that the inquiry must give survivors of gay conversion therapy a chance to tell their stories. “It also needs to look more broadly at the ‘ex-gay movement’ and shine a light on the dark recesses of religious organisation where this insidious practice is still occurring.”
Hibbins has pushed for stronger planning laws and says he believes Prahran can be kept liveable by protecting the electorate from inappropriate development and planning long term for better transport, green spaces and services. “There needs to be stronger local planning laws, it has been far too discretionary and there have been some really bad decisions made in the past,” says Hibbins.