By Nick McKim, Senator for Tasmania
It's been a busy but ultimately successful year for the Greens in Tasmania. On a personal front, I was honoured to win the backing of our members to be selected as Christine's replacement. Christine has been a giant of the environment movement, and of our party, and I'm well aware that I have big boots to fill. I've loved my time in the Senate so far, and am really relishing being part of a Party Room full of people with intellect, compassion and the values we all share as Greens.
We had a target to hold our two Tasmanian Senate seats, which we achieved. It was a close run thing for our second seat, and we've learned a few lessons for next time. Our House of Reps candidates ran great campaigns, and it was heartening that we achieved positive swings across the state.
Tasmania has had a pretty difficult year as the effects of global warming impacted on our state. Over summer, fires tore through large tracts of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, including many ecosystems that are not fire adapted. We successfully pushed for a Senate inquiry into the responses to the fire and to investigate how we can adapt for similar events in the future.
As 2016 rolled on, severe drought struck the state, putting at risk the state's hydro energy supply. Then, when the drought broke, devastating floods claimed two lives and caused widespread damage across the state.
It's been a wake-up call for Tasmania, and has only steeled our resolve as Greens to fight for strong mitigation and adaptation measures.
It's been a rewarding year as Greens spokesperson for schools, despite the federal government's complete abandonment of the Gonski funding reforms. It's always refreshing to visit schools and be reminded of the hard work that our teachers and school leaders do to educate the next generation. The Greens went to the election with the most comprehensive schools funding policy of any party, including a crucial $4.8 billion extra funding to support students with disability, and will continue to fight for needs-based funding for every single student in every Australian school.
Unfortunately civil liberties in Australia have continued to be eroded as the Coalition and Labor take a rushed, evidence-free approach to fighting violent extremism. The Greens were the only voice of opposition as the government rushed through draconian changes to Australia's citizenship laws, and we will continue to closely watch all other changes made in the name of national security. With recent new threats to destroy the integrity of Australia's Racial Discrimination Act, there will be plenty to do in this portfolio.
The Greens were the real voice for small business in 2015 and 2016, having successfully fought for stronger protections against unfair contracts, and for the introduction of an effects test to prevent the misuse of market power.
I'm extremely honoured and grateful to be given the Immigration portfolio, and look forward to the challenges and hard work of this crucial area.
I'm humbled to be following in Sarah's footsteps. She has been a tireless advocate for people seeking asylum and refugees, and a strong voice of compassion and courage in the Parliament.
There will be no lessening of focus or effort in this portfolio, and I will continue to fight for the camps on Manus and Nauru to be closed, to lift the government's veil of secrecy, and champion a humane, compassionate response to people seeking asylum that reflect our party's values.