Following the media buzz of recent weeks, The Greens have finally confirmed that former Gabba Ward Councillor, Jonathan Sriranganathan, will be their candidate for Mayor at the March 2024 Council elections.

Right now, our city is essentially run by big business, but we believe that putting people’s basic needs before corporate profits ultimately leads to better outcomes for everyone,” Sriranganathan said in statement today.


Former Gabba Ward Councillor, Sriranganathan, has announced he is The Greens’ candidate for Mayor in the 2024 Council elections, saying electors have an appetite for change:

  • His vision includes democratising council decision-making processes using participatory budgeting and collaborative planning.
  • He strongly opposes the Kurilpa TLPI, putting developers on notice that if elected he will shelve the plan.
  • Sriranganathan wants Council to move beyond party lines, promoting policy voting based on Councillors’ responses to community needs.
  • Sriranganathan says it is not too late for Brisbane to pull out of hosting the Olympics.

First elected as The Gabba Ward Councillor in 2016 and again in 2020, Sriranganathan stepped down in April, sparking speculation that he was contemplating a move to State or Federal parliament. However, he has been tight-lipped about his political future until now. This week he spoke with us about his vision for Brisbane.

Vision for democratic decision-making

Sriranganathan envisions himself as a transformative Mayor who will put decision-making power into the hands of the people.

“Fundamental to our vision for Brisbane City Council is to democratise decision-making about urban planning, about transport networks, about the design and management of public spaces and green spaces, and about Council policies more generally.”

In 2016 as a new Councillor Sriranganathan introduced a trial participatory budgeting process in The Gabba Ward, inviting residents to vote on how the Ward’s local public space infrastructure budget should be allocated. 

If elected as Mayor, he said, he will build on that approach.

“We want to give residents a direct say through mechanisms such as community voting and participatory budgeting, participatory and collaborative planning, and engaging in genuine consultation that actually cares about what residents think.”

Putting developers on notice

Community groups in West End and South Brisbane have rejected the State Planning Minister’s decision to support the Lord Mayor’s Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) for the Kurilpa Sustainable Growth Precinct and refute the Minister’s claim that it will deliver affordable housing in the precinct.

Sriranganathan says there is no evidence that “approving 1000s of additional dwellings on the Kurilpa floodplain will improve housing affordability or make housing cheaper.”

The TLPI, will allow for up to 48,000 additional units in South Brisbane’s Kurilpa Precinct and developments as tall as the 90-storey Sky Tower in the CBD. The final Kurilpa plan is set to be released at the end of the year.

“I am strongly opposed to the TLPI, and I’m putting developers on notice publicly that if the Greens have the power to do so, we will revoke the TLPI, and we would not make the zoning changes permanent. So, anyone who’s thinking about investing or planning a 90-storey project better hold off because you might find that in a couple of years’ time, it’s going to be a lot harder to get that project through.”

“To build hyper-dense high rises on a floodplain is catastrophically short sighted and irresponsible. It sets future residents up for persistent and frequent disruptions due to flooding and impacts to the lower levels of the building regardless of whether the apartments themselves are above the flood level.”

Breaking Down Party-Political Binaries

While Sriranganathan has been characterised on occasion as polarising, he says he is keen to break down the party-political binaries within Council. 

“I would like to support and facilitate a council where people vote on policy on its merits and based on what they think their community and their constituents want, rather than strictly on party lines.”

Economic Credentials

Sriranganathan has served on Council committees for Finance and Administration, Public and Active Transport, Lifestyle and Community Services and sat for several years on the City Planning and Development Committee.

He rejects criticisms that the Greens lack experience and are not financially savvy.

“There is a commonly repeated trope that The Greens don’t understand economics. I think we understand it very well. And one of the things that’s really important to me is that we factor in externalities that are often omitted by conventional economic analysis. So, a business case for a new project, for example, won’t look at the value of all the trees that have been removed. It won’t look at the long term, community impacts of widening a roadway or the elements and variables that we include and exclude from our economic theories and our economic analysis. These are highly political questions.”

Political Opposition and Achievements

Sriranganathan also rejects the commonly held notion that the Greens are more interested in disruption or grandstanding than negotiating tangible outcomes.

“I think our political opponents often say that because they’re trying to delegitimise us, but there’s no strong evidence base to back up that claim.”

“Despite a really hostile LNP administration, we have still managed to secure some positive improvements in the Gabba Ward. And that was not because the LNP wanted to do it, It was because we combined respectful negotiation and diplomacy with some more assertive forms of political pressure.”

“We’re not here to throw a spanner in the works. We’ve brought a whole toolbox – we want to fix this broken system.”

Affordable Housing

Labor and the Greens will compete for Brisbane’s more marginal LNP Wards. Adrian Schrinner undoubtedly hopes these battles and policy debates will divert attention away from him and his party, and he has been signalling that a critical issue he wants the electorate to focus on is the housing crisis.

Sriranganathan thinks Council has a role in affordable housing and says its decision last year to introduce a higher rates category for Airbnb property owners was a direct response to the Greens’ pressure.

“There are definitely opportunities to use rates to shape behaviour and release more housing stock into the long-term rental market.

He also thinks there is a case for implementing inclusionary zoning in cooperation with the State government. 

“And the Council could also be directly investing in public housing. So, there’s a raft of options that the Council could be exploring.”

Not too late to pull out of the Olympics.

Sriranganathan says it is not too late for Brisbane to pull out of hosting the Olympics.

“Even if it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to back out of those contracts, that would still save us money in the long term, because going ahead with hosting the Olympics will cost us billions that we arguably can’t afford.”

But, he says, if Brisbane does host the Olympics, his priority will be ensuring that facilities are “sensibly located”, and that money and resources are not wasted on building new stadiums such as the Gabba.

“Hosting an event like the Olympics should leave a positive legacy for the city and based on all the current plans we’ve seen, the overriding impacts are going to be negative.

He says Labor is using the Olympics as a smokescreen, “to supercharge gentrification and private property speculation and enrich their developer mates at the expense of long-term community interest.”

Election Prospects

The LNP controls the Council with 19 of 26 seats, while Labor has five, the Greens have one, and Tennyson Ward Councillor Nicole Johnston sits as an independent.

Following successes in inner city federal electorates and the senate, the Greens are targeting LNP Wards in the 2024 Council elections. They have already announced candidates for Paddington, Central, and Walter Taylor.

“The thing that makes me excited about winning more than five wards is that we now have Federal MPs who cover wards like Enoggera, The Gap, Holland Park, etcetera, and voters in those areas are now having a positive experience of a Greens representative which really helps neutralise some of the main barriers to voting Greens. 

Labor leader in Council, Jared Cassidy, is also optimistic about Labor’s prospects for the 2024 elections recently declaring candidates for the LNP held Wards of Northgate, Bracken Ridge, Marchant, Enoggera, and Hamilton. Local businesswoman Rebecca Mcintosh (Bec Mac) will be up against Trina Massey in The Gabba.

Labor has nominated lawyer and small business owner Tracey Price as its lord mayoral candidate. She says she will prioritise issues related to housing, service delivery, and traffic congestion.

Asked how he would assess his appeal outside of the Gabba Ward, Sriranganathan said,

We honestly don’t know how I, as a mayoral candidate, will be received in the outer suburbs. But I think there are a lot of people across the city who have a strong appetite for change, and not just tweaking around the edges, but system change.

“I think that [appetite for change] cuts across traditional party allegiances, and we can, and will be able to appeal to people with a message of democracy that says, “Look, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Greeny or a conservative, the point is we want you to have more say”, and that’s a message that I think will appeal to a wide range of people.”

“I think realistically, if we win the mayoralty, we will also be winning enough wards to knock the LNP out of majority.” 

Jonathan Sriranganathan will join Greens Colleagues today at a Community Picnic in Hanlon Park, Stones Corner.


Feature image by Jan Bowman