Hi Redditors. I’m a Western Australian Greens Senator, home-town North Fremantle. I started out as a graphic designer and web developer, landing in the senate via the Jabiluka uranium mine blockade and policy studies at Murdoch uni.

First real challenge on arriving was the Government’s announcement of mandatory net filtering; also my first experience of a decentralised, kickass online campaign to bury the idea. No sooner had the filter been pushed underground (where yes, it mutated) we were dealing with the AG’s data retention proposal. It hasn’t been all bad: I’m a vocal supporter of the NBN and worked hard to keep the wholesale network in public hands and safeguard against future privatisation. I rather hope it gets built.

I am a cities nut and spend a lot of time thinking about urban form and function in the age of housing stress and climate change, and I really enjoyed visiting one of the world’s largest solar plants in Spain last December.

I’m up for election this year. Go on. Ask me Anything. Will kick this off at 730pm EST (530 in the west)

Something of me:

Something of the digital comms work:

[Something of an infrequently updated blog](www.fieldnotes.org.au) ...must do something about that. Maybe I’ll write up tonight

some proof i'm me

edit ok. that was great fun. provocative questions and some extremely interesting threads... i will go explore reddit some more and do this again if you'll have me. look out for adam bandt in the next couple of weeks, meantime thanks for showing up and treating a reddit n00b with courtesy and curiosity.

til next time.

Comments: 737 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

orru177 karma

Hi Scott,

The Greens' policy page on nuclear energy contains the point "Prohibition of the mining and export of thorium."

Could you please explain why exactly this policy exists? While it's definitely not ready for commercial use, thorium energy (particularly LFTR's) has the potential to be a reliable, clean(er) energy source. When you add the possibility that it could be used to dispose of nuclear waste from uranium reactors, it really seems like something the Greens would support.

Thanks for doing this btw, I look forward to hearing your answers.

scott_ludlam124 karma

Have thought a lot about this stuff – won’t rehearse the various ways in which thorium reactors, although a lot more expensive than uranium fission reactors, appear to have resolved some of the drawbacks (in short – harder to reprocess fuel for weapons, less propensity for exploding in a loss of coolant accident). Turns out its not as simple as that, even on the things thorium advocates pose as advantages.

The reality is a lot more complex – IEER have written one of the best summaries http://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/thorium2009factsheet.pdf

Here’s where I landed. The task is to reliably spin a big magnet. That’s your job. You could open a thorium mine and take on a several centuries of legacy costs looking after the tailing piles, find some surplus U235 or plutonium to kickstart the fission process, look after the wastes for several hundred years and produce some really expensive electricity. Or you can build a wind turbine and back it up with dispatchable solar thermal. Either way the magnet spins. Nukes get more expensive every year. Solar gets cheaper.

r1nce13 karma

Because thorium might as well be unicorn farts for all its practicality at this stage?

scott_ludlam26 karma

unicorn farts this is cool.

andrewinmelbourne101 karma

Hi Scott,

Do you think marijuana should be legalised for medicinal use in Australia? To take it to another level, what is your stance on legalising marijuana as a whole? Would it not be better that the tax revenue generated from legal sales go to government coffers (schools, infrastructure) than criminals?

Also, what is your stance on euthanasia?

Thanks for your time.

scott_ludlam159 karma

As far as medical marijuana goes, I don’t see any reason to ignore the medical advice on this issue. It has been a success in other countries. Full legalisation is a more vexed issue but I certainly don’t see criminalising people who use drugs as the answer.

Everybody should have the right to a dignified death. With the right safeguards in place including oversight from multiple doctors, voluntary euthanasia is long past due.

ellther100 karma

Hi Senator, thanks for the discussion.

I believe the Australian Greens are facing increasing pressure at the ballot box today as a growing number of Australians - particularly STEM professionals, researchers and academics - identify the Greens as "the anti-science party".

What do you think about that?

Part of that is due to silly anti-biotechnology policies such as "ban genetic engineering of animals" without qualification (of course in medicine and life sciences genetically engineered animals such as knockout mice are used everywhere every day) as well as Bob Brown's support of the Anti-Vaccination Network (recorded in hansard!), but a large part of that is also due to the party's fervent opposition to nuclear anything - and you are the main public face of this fervor.

Without going into a deep discussion of this issue, suffice to say this fanaticism is all but indefensible to a technically literate, scientifically literate audience.

Statements such as "Without nuclear power stations - there can be no nuclear weapons, no possibility of fuels being stolen to build ‘dirty bombs', no possibility of a nuclear power station being hit by a conventional bomb and setting off a nuclear explosion." make you - and the party, more generally - a scientific laughing stock.

What can the Greens do to correct this course and improve their scientific respectability?

PS: I fully agree with and love your work with regards to support for Labor's NBN, standing up against Conroy's "you're either with us or you're with pedophiles" rhetoric on Internet censorship, etc. :)

scott_ludlam157 karma

Nukes is a big thing for me. I tried to set it to video a few years ago (before I got this job) – starting from first principles. So that’s here: http://fieldnotes.org.au/2007/04/13/climate-of-hope/

Uranium mining was the first issue that really got to me, and flipped me from former life into this one. Jabiluka made a really big impression – particularly that we won. In 1999 I got to visit Jadugoda, the Indian uranium mining complex in Jharkhand, which is just a horror show. I went on from there. Last year, I spent a couple of days in the area around Fukushima. Happy to take follow up questions on this stuff, but my opposition to this technology is based on a lot of research and fifteen years of fairly direct experience.

What kind of pisses me off is to conflate an anti-nuclear stance with anti-science sentiment. The scientific method does not have a preference for energy sources. Physics and chemistry permits controlled nuclear fission if you’re careful enough. It also permits wave energy generators, large-scale solar farms, geothermal energy and all kinds of other stuff.

If some people see us as anti-science that’s unfortunate because the Greens party room is easily the most scientifically literate of any of the parties in parliament. We are committed to evidence-based policy and defending it even when it’s politically awkward. Some examples of where we have been leading here are around wind turbine syndrome and other psychogenic illnesses where the science is clear but the anecdotes say otherwise. We’ll back the science every time - for the last few years we've been the ones going after science + research funding inc. the discoveries need dollars campaign.

We don’t support a blanket ban on genetics at all. If you read our policy it’s about the precautionary principle. The emerging science of genetics has all sorts of crazy cool possibilities for helping humans when it comes to medicine and feeding ourselves. When these advances are rushed into the environment for commercial reasons, or used unethically in conjunction with IP laws to harass farmers, of course we’re concerned. We just want proper transparency and a measured approach because the potential for harm is as great as the potential benefits.

Since he was a medical doctor I’d be surprised if Bob ever expressed support for the anti-vax whackos at the AVN. In any case we are strong supporters of vaccination and support government incentives to get kids vaccinated (we checked the Bob ref. and it was taken wildly out of context; he since cleared it up and hassles us every winter to get flu shots).

and PS thanks for your props on comms and censorship.

scott_ludlam85 karma

hoi. so this has been fun. i am almost out of time but will hang out a bit longer because great questions.

would like to hear from people which of my colleagues you'd like to ask anything of - Adam Bandt who MUST BE RETURNED IN MELBOURNE is doing one in June.

wondermuffin73 karma

One of my best friends is a member of the Pirate Party, and was prevented from running in the federal election this year because he could not afford it. The current funding system only assists candidates who receive 4% of the popular vote, of which he could not be assured.

Do you think that this disadvantages minor parties and allows candidates like Clive Palmer an unfair advantage?

scott_ludlam94 karma

The Greens strongly fought the increase in fees to run in Australian elections. In February the parliament doubled the fee to $1000 for a lower house seat and $2,000 to run in the senate. It sucks. Lee Rhiannon opposed them for the Greens and moved amendments and the old parties voted them down. Believe me we know a fair bit about the barriers that the incumbents try to throw down in front of newcomers.

cibyr61 karma

The Greens have a policy against patents on genes, but where do you stand on software patents (which are effectively either patents on ideas or patents on math)?

scott_ludlam153 karma

software patents are a disaster - patent trolls running wild like godzilla or that weird turtle balloon with boobs thing.

earwig2057 karma

Scott, what are your thoughts on Julian Assange running for Senate and the new Wikileaks party?

Does it not make more sense, for a 'one issue' person to join a different party to adopt their other policies.

We know he is for transparency, but where does he stand on the environment, abortion, healthcare, public transport.

scott_ludlam58 karma

it’s great the WikiLeaks party has formed - if it brings focus to government secrecy, war crimes and corporate reach into government.

The old political parties have effectively closed ranks against Julian Assange and his team. More participation in Australia’s democracy and parliament, I can only see that as a good thing.

Although the party does not have the policy breadth of the greens, I don't know that it's fair to describe them as single issue (and there's a place for single issues in Parliament anyway IMHO) As to those other issues, yes that's stuff we've been working on for years.

k-rwalski10 karma

Scott, have you considered joining the WikiLeaks Party. You stand strong with wikileaks, internet freedoms and even give mention of heros such as Manning & Swartz. Senator Scott Ludlam, WikiLeaks Party, Western Australia. Sounds cool hey?

scott_ludlam88 karma

Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens Senator for Western Australia sounds way cooler.

yumicheeseman56 karma

How can I stop the liberals from ruining the NBN with their shitty FTTN?

scott_ludlam174 karma

  1. Under no circumstances vote liberal.

jwestcott52 karma

Hi Scott, There are a lot of less politically minded folks on Reddit who would still be interested in what a Greens senator has to say. Could you describe the Greens' policy platform in layman speak, and how it could benefit the average Australian Redditor?

scott_ludlam91 karma

In plain english. Ok. The platform developed 20 years ago from these pillars: Social justice, economic and ecological sustainability, participatory democracy, peace and nonviolence.

What its about for me is avoiding smashing society into the biosphere so hard in the next few decades that we end up pulling the place down around our ears.

Depops_au49 karma

The Western Australian 2013 state election saw a 3.5% swing against the Greens. What challenges to you face representing a constituency that is becoming increasingly conservative and sometimes reactionary?

scott_ludlam51 karma

Good damn question. Huge population increases happening in WA at the moment, a lot of people drawn in by the resources boom. However, not sure I agree the place is becoming inherently more conservative - we got Jo Vallentine elected in the mid-1980s, not really a heyday of progressive causes, and have had people in state and/or federal parliament ever since.

Fair question though; 3.5% swing is a big deal for a smaller party and we're doing a lot of thinking and policy work by way of response. For a serious answer i guess, ask me on September 15.

todopickusername40 karma

You mentioned housing stress, so I thought I'd ask you about it, and why so little has been done to alleviate it. Why does government seemingly do everything in its power to keep house prices as high as possible? Any why is housing stress so seldomnly ever given any attention, either by policitians or the media?

It seems like scrapping the First Home Buyer's Grant and negative gearing will not only make housing more affordable, it'll also help tremendously with the government's current budget problems...

scott_ludlam22 karma

Successive Governments have taken the idea of housing as a human right and mutated it into housing as just another asset class: then you have a whole industry premised on driving house prices up as rapidly as possible. And it works, so now we have a whole generation priced out of the market, and homelesness on the way up.

As to the attention paid to the issue, look no further than the budget tabled last night - zero. Nothing. Not even the word 'housing' in the budget speech. Actually there is some new funding to study homelessness, so the people facing winter in a doorway or a car will be better analysed for the next couple of years.

We'll be saying a lot more on this stuff in coming weeks...

mahler00437 karma

Hi Sen. Ludlam

First, what role do you see online activism having in our political system in the future?

Second, what are your thoughts on the referendum in September (allowing the Federal Government to fund local governments?) Do you support a plebiscite regarding marriage equality?

Finally, how will the Greens work with an Abbot-lead government in the Senate if he is elected in September?


scott_ludlam71 karma

First can we dispense with terms like 'clicktivism' as though online campaigns are worth less than other kinds. I think online activism will play an increasing role in things here, and we're still finding its place. Government is still a black box in a lot of ways (try searching across all budget portfolios - you can't - or find out what arm twisting the AGs department is up to in their closed copyright 'consultations') so it's good to see a movement gathering speed to open the place up.

LG referendum: yes, absolutely. Cth funding happens all the time anyway, the referendum just unkinks an ambiguous high court decision.

Marriage equality plebiscite - nope, not at all. Its a delaying tactic and I've had a gut full of those. Every day it's not legal is embarrassing.

ImNotJesus17 karma

I prefer the term 'slacktivism'.

scott_ludlam18 karma

not a fan of that either :-P

PatternPrecognition14 karma

how will the Greens work with an Abbot-lead government in the Senate if he is elected in September?

Hopefully not budge on the Carbon Pricing legislation!

scott_ludlam27 karma

not budge, not after we got the damn thing in place. hoping for a measure of prevention (ie hold the line in the Senate come September) to make it harder for them to put a wrecking ball through it

geneticflowerfield34 karma

Okay, firstly I want to say that I am a long-term Reddit reader but first time poster. I've signed up so I can comment on this; this isn't a throwaway account or anything. I saw you at what I think was the first Melbourne rally against the internet filter, and I have been following you via social media (in the least creepy way possible) ever since. Thank you for doing this IAmA! I was legitimately excited to see it.

Because I suck at questions (but am avidly reading the others): -What do you personally think are the biggest issues (national and international) facing us today? -What do you think the average person could do to improve the way they participate in Australian politics?

Thanks again!

scott_ludlam63 karma

Hoi. Guess what - this is my first post too. Thanks for showing up.

The biggest issue facing us today - I can't go any further than climate change. If we lose that we lose everything else.

Kind of answers part ii of your question too - politics is way too important to just show up and vote every three years: get stuck into what ever matters to you the most.

ajreloaded30 karma

Hi Scott What do you think about fair reasonable and non discriminatory (FRAND) access to copyrighted material as it would open up our media market to competition on all platforms be it iptv or broadcast tv.

scott_ludlam60 karma

Our copyright laws are obsolete. I hope the rumours about the ALRC inquiry are right – we need a fair use exception, our content providers and unis need safe harbour protection and visually impaired folks need those TPMs to be unlocked. I’m convinced by the Lateral Economics report on copyright – exceptions are a bonus even if all you care about are the economic indicators.

This latest foxtel play over GoT is the best example i can think of right now as to the fundamental borked-ness of relying on existing copyright law to police the dissolving bottlenecks of 20th century distribution networks. winter is coming to the content cabal...

PortiasCreed24 karma

Do you see a place for geothermal energy in Australia's future? If so, to what extent?

What's your position on geothermal fracking?

scott_ludlam21 karma

Yes I believe so. Hard to know what the economics of it are though and it's taking a lot longer than people hoped to bring the first deep geothermal pilot plants on. shallow geothermal is going great already.

re. fracking, approach with caution but still not a deal breaker in my view.

i_am_a_bot23 karma

What do you think will be the greatest threats to personal privacy in Australia in the next decade?

scott_ludlam42 karma

data retention that allows spooks (and all kinds of other people) to mine everything you do. srsly.

HansieC18 karma

How would you say the Greens have changed since you were elected? In which way(s) for better, in which way(s) for worse?

scott_ludlam19 karma

We've changed a bit - there's twice as many of us in there for a start, and that is very, very, very much better. We've got a much larger compliment of amazing staff, got an MP in the lower house (go adam) and we have got things done that I really care about.

And for the worse. Growing pains. Being in balance of power and having the swing vote in both houses means cultural change and interesting creative tensions with crew who have been around for longer and have seen us grow and change our style some. I think as we get bigger we have to be real careful that we don't hollow out the volunteer culture that got us started and is still the most important element of our success.

Still. give me growing pains over shrinking pains any day.

AlwaysCrashing16 karma

Why don't the Greens talk about their good taxation policies or promote public ownership that much anymore?

scott_ludlam18 karma

Well we got telstra wholesale re-nationalised, that's kind of cool..

We talk about good taxation policies quite a bit, and we even got one passed ;-)

roguedriver15 karma

Hi Scott, cheers for doing this! I imagine you won't be able to answer my question as freely as you like (since Aussie hacks journalists are probably all over this), but how would you suggest we fix the biased and uninformative "traditional" media? I think our democracy suffers when most of the population is getting its "facts" from media organisations like News Ltd, which publicly declared in the Australian that they were out to "destroy the Greens".

Ignoring the uninformed complaints about how everything and anything is censorship, what would you suggest we do?

scott_ludlam22 karma

the old indymedia slogan still works for me... don't hate the media, be the media.

open_book15 karma

Hi Scott,

Sometimes I think politicians are half unfeeling cyborg and half Cory Bernardi so I want to ask a tester questions to see if you're really human: When have you put policy before politics?

scott_ludlam50 karma

wow a political turing test. i don't know if i should take it. what if it turns out i'm a replicant. do you like our owl?

to answer, and not to sound glib, we kind of do that every day.

we still cop a lot of derp over giving legal shelter to people fleeing war and ethnic cleansing, but i wouldn't be in a party that had abandoned that principle.

jabberworx14 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

scott_ludlam38 karma

I am kind of freaked out by the idea of the big duck. Give me the flock of horses i think, with some trepidation. And a cricket bat.

i_am_a_bot13 karma

IIRC you've had an interest in Australia's troop deployment in Afghanistan. What are the biggest problems we'll face in winding that deployment up?

scott_ludlam35 karma

After spending a brief time in Afgh (and campaigning to get the ADF out for years) I’m convinced that only the Afghan people can end the war. foreign troops are a lightning rod for insurgents. The biggest challenge in withdrawal is the quantity of shit over there – huge amounts of equipment and actual excrement. The Tarinkot base is a small city. I’ve written a bit about my visit here http://fieldnotes.org.au/2012/04/18/afghanistan/

Best thing would be if Parliament got to vote on future troop deployments, with obvious safeguards for urgency etc. Was the first bill i introduced.

teheditor11 karma

How much time do you spend on Reddit?

scott_ludlam18 karma

have been lurking for a bit but actually the idea of the AMA was what got me into it. so, yes, the longest i have ever spent on reddit is the last hour and a half and so now i'm hooked.

faireclochette10 karma

Hi Scott! Currently sitting in a Young Greens meeting all the way across the country - we're admiring your AMA!

How do you think we'll do in the federal election? If the Liberals gain power, what will this mean for us until 2016?

scott_ludlam17 karma

gotta hold the line in the senate - prevention is better than three years of fighting relentless acts of repetitive stupidity.

PS go young greens thanks for checking in. How will i go this year? It actually depends on you crew, and everyone you know.

radisonwright10 karma

When will the Greens take a principled stand on drug legalisation? Is the one area they seem to lack guts. Also- how do we kill the TPP?

scott_ludlam16 karma

This is a cracker I enjoyed today on the TPPA http://whytheheckshouldicareaboutthetpp.com/ The NZ, Canada and Oz Greens issued this statement http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/news-stories/joint-statement-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement It’s a secret process and it’s ACTA dressed up in a new acronym.

and on drug legalisation see earlier post - we've led this debate from the beginning and been beaten up for years over it. this guy: http://richard-di-natale.greensmps.org.au/ is a very, very good advocate for us on drug law reform

eyepee9 karma

My question: are you pro urban density? Context:

Scott you state here that you're a cities nut, which is awesome! I'm a life long Greens voter and have considered membership, but at the local level in Melbourne the party presents as quite anti development which puts me off. Each time a big development is denied approval by Greens councillors I voted for in the inner suburbs it just leads to a hundred bungalows in the outer suburbs, with all the environmental impact that goes with that.

scott_ludlam7 karma

hey - good question. density is not a pro or anti thing for me - but i am really proud that we did this:


wallyupdabungenstein8 karma

Hi Scott

Do you support ANSTO in the manufacture and use of radiopharmaceuticals which will improve the health of Australians?

And since you oppose their proposal for a nuclear waste dump, what do you think we should do with the waste that we already have?

scott_ludlam18 karma

ANSTO – hmm. after years of working with broken whistleblowers from their isotope plant I have a respectfully different view.

The OPAL reactor itself is patched and leaking, engineers found light water leaking into the heavy water three months after it opened. A series of scandalous incidents and poor worker health and safety standards were the subject of five inquiries one year.

But. Nuclear medicine is an integral part of medical practice in Australia, although it does not have to come from nuclear reactors, with all of the associated health and safety risks. We should follow Canada’s lead; they have adopted a policy to source radioisotopes from non-reactor sources from 2016. Cyclotrons. PET, MRI and advanced CT are already reducing reliance on reactor based nuclear medicine procedures.

Re the waste we already have, we've got a proposal afoot for a process based on actual science and actual social license (we pinched the best bits from Obama's blue ribbon commission and the UK process). most important thing is: don't start with the presumption that some remote Aboriginal community has to cop the shit. seriously. If this stuff is not safe in Sutherland, it's not safe out at Muckaty either. Maybe until the industry actually has a waste isolation technology that's proven up, we should keep it under observation pretty close to where it is.

msbeckyl8 karma

Hi Scott, well you said ask anything so what advice do you have for young people? And also what is your favourite season?

scott_ludlam22 karma

favourite season is autumn in fremantle when the weather starts to hit up the coast.

any advice for young people is going to come across as a bit glib. "please pay attention. the ones who went before you have really, really, stuffed it up."

scott_ludlam5 karma

short post by way of thanks for the iama -

bloegd at field notes

happysinger3 karma

How do you manage to care so much about science when it comes to climate change, and so little when it comes to nuclear power and genetic engineering?

scott_ludlam17 karma

please see above. conflating anti-nuclear with anti-science is one of my least favourite forms of utter derp. sorry.