There have been changes within the federal Greens team this year – but we have remained strong and unified in the face of the alternatives offered by Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten.
By Senator Scott Ludlam
The past 12 months have emerged as formative ones for Australia's political future. We have an increasingly erratic government, an enduringly feeble opposition and the Greens: providing the only political resistance to Tony Abbott and his administration.
It's impossible to reflect on this year without first acknowledging, thanking and congratulating Christine Milne and Penny Wright for their commitment to the Australian Greens.
Christine has been an iconic political leader for the last 25 years and will now continue to be a remarkable community leader and campaigner. Penny has built a fearless reputation in the Senate, never backing down from the likes of George Brandis in her pursuit of justice and outcomes.
While there have been changes within the federal Greens team this year, we have remained strong and unified in the face of the alternatives offered by Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten.
The fratricidal conflict within cabinet continues, and the Abbott Government shows no sign of changing from their hard-line course. The ALP, meanwhile, remain all too keen to fall into lock-step over key issues of national security, privacy and freedom – the very rights an opposition should be fighting to protect.
In contrast, the Greens have remained at the forefront of progressive politics, leading environmental, social and economic debates and not being afraid to stand up to cruelty, negativity or complicity in parliament.
We've led debates on issues such as reforms to negative gearing and the capital gains tax concession – complex economic and political issues that the other parties have treated like kryptonite for too long.
Through our proposed negative gearing reforms, we've shown that distortions within our tax system can be addressed; that low and middle income home buyers, including first home buyers can be assisted into the property market; that homelessness can be addressed; that the social housing waiting list can be slashed; and that sustainable pre-fab housing businesses, which drive employment in manufacturing and construction, can be supported.
The Greens are also front-and-centre against the government's crusade against clean energy and pollution reduction, as they maintain their fanatical commitment to coal mining, in the face of the scientific and economic reality.
Subsidies for clean energy technology, which we've shown through our Solar Postcodes help drive take-up of rooftop photovoltaic systems, drive manufacturing, employment and R&D, have been abandoned, even as other industries in WA, including the mining sector, are on the wane, affecting employment and economic opportunities. This is the ideal time to be driving new investment and new technologies that will create our nation's next boom, not the time to be stopping fledging industries in their tracks.
One area in which the government shows no sign of pinching pennies is in the building of roads – in particular the increasing enigma that is the Perth Freight Link. With more than $900m of federal funding being dumped into this freight freeway (which remains unplanned, unapproved and fails to reach the port it is intended to serve), this is a national issue, and the backlash against it is affecting the federal government, along with the increasingly maligned Barnett government in WA.
The Greens are part of a significant community campaign which is exerting unprecedented political and public pressure on government. This is a project with massive community, environmental and heritage impacts, which puts trucks on the road and ignores any development options for rail traffic or alternative proposals to deal with WA's growing freight needs.
It is a typical scenario of a Liberal Government ignoring all else in favour of private interests, including our communities, our environment, the science and the evidence.
One of the biggest areas of work for us in the past twelve months has been in the realm of online privacy, most notably mandatory data retention.
As the ALP capitulated to the government's wishes, the Greens won strong community support for our stance against this infringement of our online rights. There was a massive backlash against the government and opposition over this intrusion, and it firmly demonstrated the value of the Greens within our nation's political debates.
None of the work we do in Parliament, in our home states or around the country would be possible without the support of members and the party. I'd like to thank you all personally for the support we have received this year. It makes all the difference when it comes time to front up to another day in the Senate to know that you're here with us.