Between COVID, the situation in Afghanistan and the latest IPCC report on climate change, it’s been particularly hard to find hope in August. But there are some bright spots amongst the shadows.
By Adam Bandt
The news has felt relentless in August, with escalating COVID cases haunting the eastern states, urgent evacuations from Afghanistan, and the dire environmental warning in the IPCC report on climate change.
For Australian Greens this is also a month that we farewell Rachel Siewert from the Senate and Greens Party Room after an incredible 16 years of service. We’re going to miss Rach so much.
But we’re excited for what’s coming, too. Yamatji Noongar woman Dorinda Cox enters the Senate from WA, bringing with her a wealth of experience campaigning against domestic violence. In inner Melbourne, Sonya Semmens will square off against sitting Liberal member Katie Allen in Higgins, a key seat that could go Green following an electoral redistribution. And in Queensland, Penny Allman-Payne is getting ready to oust Pauline Hanson with a very clear message of taxing the billionaires to get dental into Medicare. We’re on the verge of something big!
The collapse of Kabul after decades of imperial military intervention
The scenes coming out of Afghanistan in the last fortnight have been nothing short of horrific. But it’s important to remember that this hasn’t just been a few days of catastrophe.
More than 70,000 Afghan civilians were killed in the last two decades of imperial military intervention in Afghanistan, and that number will continue to rise now that the Taliban is in control.
This was a war that Australia got involved in just because the USA asked, with no clear strategic objectives. The last 20 years destabilised a country and left a power vacuum that allowed the Taliban to seize control.
If Parliament was required to approve going to and staying at war, rather than it being something the Prime Minister alone can decide, we might not be in this situation.
In the shared power Parliament of 2010 the Greens secured a Parliamentary debate on Australia’s continued involvement in this war. But we now need to go to the next step and join many of the world’s other democracies in requiring that the decision about whether to put Australian troops in harm’s way and go to war in another country rests with the whole Parliament.
If politicians had to regularly explain to the public why we were at war in other countries, we may well be out much sooner, or perhaps never in there in the first place.
Greens offices around the country have been working around the clock assisting Afghan families to flee the country and reunite with loved ones in safety, and the Greens are urgently calling on the government to offer permanent protection visas to all Afghan citizens at risk of persecution by the Taliban, and take in 20,000 people who need assistance, on top of our humanitarian quota.
The IPCC report: code red for humanity
At the beginning of the month, against the backdrop of floods in Europe and China and fires in Greece, came the report that almost every climate activist and expert was expecting.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirmed three main points: climate change is happening, human activity in burning fossil fuels is causing it, and we can stabilise the climate if we change our behaviour.
But what the report stresses is that there’s literally no time left to waste. If we want to do our share of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, Australia has to cut emissions by 50-74% on 2005 levels by 2030, and net zero by 2035.
That’s a lot more than the feeble 28% emissions cut that Scott Morrison’s government has committed to.
And if we don’t succeed? Exceeding 1.5 degrees will leave the Great Barrier Reef unrecognisable. Widespread and sustained drought, extreme weather events, and catastrophic bushfires will become the norm.
But the most important takeaway from the IPCC report is that all is not lost. Every tonne of CO2 we avoid emitting makes a vital difference, and this election will be key to guaranteeing Australia goes further and faster on climate.
Betaloo climate crime
But how did Liberal and Labor respond? No sooner was the ink on the report dry than Labor and Liberals voted together to spend $50m of public money to frack the Betaloo Basin in the NT.
What’s worse is that if Labor had voted with the Greens instead of the Liberals, we could have stopped this criminal use of public money. We had the numbers.
It’s a climate code red, but Labor and Liberal want *new* coal and gas projects.
Every molecule of carbon that stays in the ground helps. The IPCC report makes efforts like blocking the fracking in the Northern Territory Beetaloo basin even more urgent, and the Greens will come back again when Parliament resumes to try and stop Liberal and Labor funding this new gas project.
We need to kick the climate-denying Liberals out, but it’s now clear that Labor can’t be trusted to act on the climate crisis, so we must get the Greens into balance of power in both houses of parliament to push the next government to act.
Farewelling Senator Rachel Siewert; welcoming Dorinda Cox
This month we farewell the inimitable Rachel Siewert as she prepares to leave the Senate. Over the last 16 years, Rachel has been a fierce and fearless advocate in parliament for people doing it tough.
Rachel has been instrumental in fighting for a fairer income support system and led the campaign to increase Newstart and Jobseeker in parliament.
She fought punitive measures imposed by successive Governments on vulnerable people in our community, including cuts to single parenting payments, the Northern Territory Intervention, the cashless debit card and work for the dole.
She chaired and referred the Robodebt debacle to senate inquiry in 2017 and 2019, campaigned for a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect of disabled people, and was a driving force behind the forced adoptions inquiry and was instrumental in securing a National Apology to mothers and their children.
Even in this small sample of her achievements, it’s clear that Senator Siewert has been one of the most dedicated and hardworking members of parliament, and her passion will be sorely missed. You can watch her farewell speech here.
As one champion departs, another steps up to the plate.
Dorinda Cox is a proud Yamatji Noongar woman, a mum to two daughters, an anti-domestic violence campaigner and former police officer with over 20 years’ experience working in government and non-government sectors at the local, state and national levels.
Dorinda will enter the Senate soon and has been preselected as the lead Senate candidate for the Greens (WA), and I can’t wait for her to join us in parliament.
Hero image: IMTFI/Flickr.