It has been a pretty strange 12 months for everyone, and it looks to get even stranger. Once again, the coming year will be defined by COVID, cruel neoliberal austerity measures, continued legalised corruption – and amongst all that, possibly even a federal election.
By Adam Bandt
An election year? Maybe. A Covid year? Definitely.
It has been a pretty strange 12 months for everyone. For me, it’s been 12 months since I became the leader of the Australian Greens. I knew I was taking on a massive challenge, but I couldn’t have guessed that we were about to head into such a tumultuous year. I’m so proud of what my colleagues, staff and the Greens membership and volunteers have achieved in the most challenging of times.
We’re entering a new Parliamentary year, possibly an election year, with wind in our sails. Queensland and ACT election results were massive and we’re on track to match our 2019 election result – in which we won a Senate seat in every state.
The coming year will be defined by COVID once again, but we have some huge battles against the neoliberal push on industrial relations, welfare and tax. We also have to stop this government as they try to lock in infrastructure that would see Australia burn and export more gas and coal, hastening a climate catastrophe.
Rachel Siewert was right, is right – and the pandemic has proven her right. For over a decade Rachel has been the strongest voice for raising the cruel and insufficient supports for unemployed Australians. Then the COVID pandemic came along. It showed first of all that we could raise people out of poverty, it showed that in addition to it being the right thing to do, it is good for the economy too.
However, faced with such a stark lesson of what we can and absolutely should do, the Morrison government is hard at work reversing the increase to JobSeeker. In fact, just this week the government floated changes to social security that could see some people’s payments *cut*.
Amidst the ‘JobSeeker’, ‘JobKeeper’ and ‘JobMaker’ marketing terms, we need to go back to basics and remember what these payments are. They are payments to people who live in our society at a time when there are 12 applicants for every one job, and two million Australians can’t get enough or any work. But while successive governments have kept this payment below the poverty line, the Greens have argued that it should be enough for people to live on.
As the government readies the axe, too many people in our community are living in extreme anxiety and distress. It is just plain cruel to keep 1.3 million people worried that they’ll go back to living on $40 a day.
When it comes to lifting people out of poverty, the Greens have helped lead the public debate for a long time and COVID has shown us how easy and clear the choice is. This lesson must not be lost, and never again can we accept the false arguments made by politicians who argue austerity for the poorest, while giving tax cuts to billionaires.
Big money and big political parties
Politics is working for billionaires and big corporations. It isn’t working for everyday people.
The government should recover from the pandemic by tackling the long-term problems our country faces and investing in nation-building, planet-saving projects.
But it’s not happening, because Labor and Liberal take money from the billionaires and big corporations that are causing the very same problems.
There is no issue more fundamental to our democracy than the influence of money on decision-making. Political donations are out of control – it’s legalised corruption. The rules are designed to hide huge quantities of cash and its intent. It’s something that almost everyone in the Australian public wants changed and which is only maintained by Labor, Liberal and National Party collaboration.
Take the example of Crown Casino. The Bergin Inquiry found Crown has been facilitating money laundering and associating with criminal gangs. The Labor Party has received $859,914 from Crown. The Coalition got $899,458. It’s dirty money. They shouldn’t hold on to it and should give it to anti-gambling organisations.
Hero image: Julian Meehan.