Housing, democracy, gun control and more


The Greens again prove we were the only party to propose actual solutions.

By Senator Lee Rhiannon


As the housing crisis dominated the headlines in 2016-17 the Turnbull government tried to make out it had the answers and cared about housing affordability. During Senate Estimates we exposed their Budget housing measures as a sham. There was little detail behind the government's new social housing initiatives. They admitted they had no idea how much new affordable supply they planned to build, nor what impact their dog-whistling attack on 'foreigners', would have on housing availability. Instead of winding back generous investor tax breaks, they raised the capital gains tax discount to 60 per cent for 'affordable' housing. Again, they had no detail to back that proposal. Despite rising homelessness numbers, there was shamefully not one extra dollar for frontline and specialist homelessness services.

The Greens again proved we were the only party to propose actual solutions. We released an updated tax reform package which proposes bridging finance for states and territories to transition from stamp duty to a broad-based land tax. The removal of stamp duty will make it easier for households to buy a property and for empty nesters to downsize. We also announced removing grandfathering for multiple negatively geared properties. The winding back of the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing will raise tens of billions of dollars which will be invested in social housing programs.

Our office has developed links with a number of grassroots housing organisations. We have supported groups fighting public housing sell-offs, including the Millers Point, Dawes Point, The Rocks, and Walsh Bay Residents Action group. Homelessness services have continued their vital work despite years of underinvestment, and we have been pleased to support the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space in Sydney.

Through the year we met with Greens local groups and other housing stakeholders to further develop our renters' rights and affordable housing finance initiatives. The initiatives have been strengthened to match the deepening housing crisis and we will be announcing them in the second half of 2017.

Animal welfare

We had a big win on ending cruel cosmetics. In 2014 I introduced the Greens End Cruel Cosmetics Bill. That kicked off cross party negotiations and the result has been that the government has agreed to take on the issue. In the latter half of 2017 government legislation to achieve this will be introduced. It was excellent working with animal welfare NGOs who played a key role in achieving this win.

With the cruel horror of the live export trade continuing unabated, we reintroduced the Greens bill to end live exports into the Senate. The meat workers union and vet and animal welfare NGOs support this initiative. We have also worked with Senator Hinch in calling for a ban on the live export of horses and donkeys, a new area of trade the government is attempting to expand into.

The definition of free range eggs remains a battleground since the government caved into the big egg producers and agreed to 10,000 hens per hectare and not the stricter 1,500 hens per hectare standard adopted by the ACT government and widely recognised as the way to reduce cruelty. The Greens motion condemning the government's misleading new free range egg labelling standard for factory farmed eggs was voted down by the Nationals, Liberals and Labor.

I have spoken about the threat to kangaroo species and the cruelty involved in the kangaroo meat trade. We have taken up the inappropriate role the Australian Ambassador to the US played in lobbying to reopen the export of kangaroo products to California. Australia and the kangaroo industry were not successful and the ban remains in place. California's Fair Political Practices Commission found the Australian government violated Californian lobby laws with undeclared payments to influence the Californian legislative process.

An Independent Office for Animal Welfare (IOAW) remains a top priority for the Greens. My bill to establish an IOAW is before the Senate. The decision of the major parties to back the continuation of the greyhound industry in NSW was a setback. There are only eight countries where this cruel sport continues on a commercial scale. The Greens continue to push for a national ban on this industry.


In this portfolio we are working for a national corruption watchdog, legislated ethical standards for ministers, stronger lobbying rules, political donation reform and tighter disclosure on MPs' allowances.

As each scandal has broken over MPs misusing their publicly funded allowances I have been a consistent voice calling for a clean-up of this system and advocating for MPs to be required to publicly disclose their expenses on a searchable public website in close to real time. The Scottish parliament has such a system and it is time the Australian parliament caught up. I publicly disclose my travel expenses each month. The information is on my website.

The decision of the former resources minister Ian Macfarlane to take up the position as CEO of the Queensland Resources Council exposed the weakness of the Ministerial Standards. I took this issue up strongly. Given advocacy and lobbying have been the Queensland Resources Council's bread and butter for the last 11 years it is hard to see how Macfarlane won't break the Standards. The Liberals and Nationals voted against the Greens motion on this issue that was passed by the Senate.

When reports broke that key health industry players were lobbying the government over prostheses list prices I again spoke out about the need to strengthen the Lobbying Code of Conduct. There is a strong case for amending the Lobbying Code of Conduct to expand who is the subject of lobbying to include corporations and organisations which employ in-house lobbyists, and expand who is the subject of lobbying to include all MPs and Senators.

The major parties continue to sidestep political donation reform despite the periodic scandals. Most of the attention around reforms concerns a ban on overseas donations and improved transparency. Even on these issues progress is slow. Interestingly Labor did back the Greens motion passed by the Senate that called on the Turnbull government to ban foreign donations and place caps on domestic donations to protect the integrity of Australia's democratic institutions, cap election expenditure per seat, and mitigate any caps with increased public funding.

Gun control

Through our work in parliament, with state MPs and Gun Control Australia I have consistently raised the need to strengthen the National Agreement on Firearms. However, despite the government's stated commitment to public safety its actions are taking Australia down the US path of weakening gun control measures. The Liberal, National and Labor parties voted down a Greens motion in the Senate that backed strengthening the National Firearms Agreement in order to ban all semi-auto handguns and dangerous rapid fire guns like the Adler shotgun.

We are working closely with Gun Control Australia which recently revealed the that the Coalition government's consultation on the National Firearms Agreement only involved pro-gun advocates and the firearms industry. The biased way this process was run showed that the Justice Minister is assisting the gun lobby promote their plans to increase children's access to guns, legalise snub nosed pistols and allow even more dangerous semi-automatic weapons into the country. This is an issue to watch as there is growing concern that the government will lift the import restriction on lever action firearms.


When the Greens NSW Steel Protection Bill passed the NSW Upper House it gave a boost to similar work being undertaken in the federal parliament. Ensuring a future for the steel industry in Port Kembla and Whyalla is a top priority for the Greens. We have called on the Turnbull government to commit to using Australian steel on the Inland Rail project as a way to secure thousands of jobs and to help secure the survival of the Australian steel industry. Mandated procurement on all government projects backed by stringent anti-dumping and quality control rules would be a solid survival plan for the steel industry.

I regularly speak, particularly at union and manufacturing events, on the need for jobs growth across industry sectors. The rise in the number of people out of work or under employed highlights the failure of the Liberal-National government to have any plan for full time jobs growth in the industry and service sectors. Our message is that Australia should be a jobs rich country. Increased resources should be allocated to public vocational education and training run by TAFE to train young workers and retrain manufacturing workers. The clean energy economy remains the area for huge jobs growth. This would be particularly significant for regional areas previously reliant on coal fired power such as the Hunter and Geelong.

Local government

The Greens remain strongly committed to constitutional recognition of local government. As part of the Greens political donation reform campaign we are calling for developer donations to be banned in all local council elections. A number of councils in Queensland and Victoria have been under investigation for issues linked to developer donations. This has been an ongoing problem in NSW.


I spend a lot of time meeting community groups and concerned citizens across issues in NSW. This work is extensive and diverse.

We have been working with Williamtown residents impacted by chemical contamination from the RAAF Base. The Department of Defence have admitted total responsibility for the toxic contamination of water and soil around their Williamtown RAAF base but residents are feeling uncertain about their future as the government to date has refused to buy out contaminated properties or to provide fair compensation for loss of livelihood and business. There are many other contaminated sites in NSW and around the country.

I am an active supporter of the Save Bondi Pavilion campaign that is campaigning to stop the Liberal lead Waverley Council plan to privatise Bondi Pavilion with a $38 million make over. The local arts community is heavily involved. As part of support for multiculturalism we work closely with both the Tamil and Arabic communities. Also one of our staff works with the wider Palestine support community. This is a very big community in Western Sydney and they welcome our support for Palestinian self-determination.

The No Western Sydney Airport campaign is active in the Blue Mountains and across Western Sydney. The Greens support the community demands to scrap plans for this Airport and put all allocated resources into fast tracking High Speed Rail along the nation's east coast. This airport is the wrong project in the wrong place.