2015 has been a year of hard-fought wins, and I’m proud to be part of your Senate team that has managed to achieve an enormous amount along the way.
By Senator Larissa Waters
It has been a year of hard-fought wins, and I'm proud to be part of your Senate team that has protected so much from Tony Abbott's backward-looking agenda, and managed to achieve an enormous amount along the way.
This year I was honoured to become Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens and our climate change spokesperson. I'm excited to be following on from Christine's legacy under Richard's leadership and working alongside Scott as deputy. Together with all Greens members we are now building the next exciting chapter for our movement.
As climate spokesperson I have huge shoes to fill after a lifetime of work and leadership on climate by the indomitable and inspirational Christine Milne. With the next milestone the international climate negotiations coming up in Paris in December, it's up to us to champion the strong desire in the community for Australia to take real action on climate and to hold Abbott to account for making this country an international laggard.
In the environment portfolio, one of our biggest challenges has been Abbott's attempts to hand-off our national environment protections to the states – a change that would have resulted in a one-stop shop of cronyism and self-interest. I'm proud to say that with careful negotiations with the cross-bench we successfully fought off this challenge, and our environment laws live to fight another day. We expect the Government will bring this defeated legislation back to the Senate later in the year, and they are even now attempting to ban environment groups from courts, so this battle is far from over and we must all continue to build support and awareness both in the Senate and in the community.
In the women's portfolio it has been a privilege to work alongside courageous advocates for women's equality. It was over a year ago that the Greens initiated the Senate inquiry into domestic violence, and it was with great pride that the committee recently handed down our final report, having achieved tri-partisan agreement on its recommendations, including for domestic violence leave and school education. However, the recommendations did not go far enough to address the harrowing evidence the Inquiry heard of calls going unanswered at crisis lines, and women and children being turned away from shelters due to lack of funding. The brutality of the Abbott Government's budget cuts on victims of domestic violence was clearly exposed. While the inquiry put pressure on the Abbott Government, leading to back-flips on some community legal centre and homelessness funding cuts, the sector desperately needs much more funding, and we will keep working to end domestic and family violence.
Our Great Barrier Reef is still under serious threat – from coal ports, global warming and poor water quality. But it's important to recognise that in the last 12 months we have come a long way. Achieving a law which bans the dumping of dredge spoil in the Reef has been a personal goal of mine since I first came to the Senate in 2011. This year we went from having a huge dredging and dumping project approved by the Abbott government, to having that approval scrapped and a dumping ban instituted all in twelve months. This is a huge win, and it only happened because of an effective community-based campaign that I'm proud to have been a part of. It's our Reef, and we're going to have to keep fighting for it.
The fight against unconventional gas around the country goes on and I've visited many regional communities who are being supported by their local Greens MPs and candidates to successfully lock the gate and protect their land and water. The Senate is currently holding hearings into my bill that gives landholders the right to say no to coal and coal seam gas and we're continuing to build public support and pressure the other parties to put people ahead of fossil fuel companies.
A highlight for the year was the Queensland state election earlier this year, when Queenslanders kicked out Campbell Newman and the Greens recorded a record high vote. It was a delight to work with 89 excellent local candidates and over a thousand talented and committed volunteers to communicate with Queenslanders across the state that the Greens stand for a more caring society and protecting our environment and climate for future generations. The Green wave is steadily building in Queensland, and we hope to bring it home in the coming federal election.