We lead, they follow | Australian Greens

We lead, they follow

Senator Richard Di Natale's Senate adjournment speech on why the Greens lead the national policy debateand why we would welcome a Labor backflip on Adani.

By Senator Richard Di Natale
Friday, February 16, 2018

The Batman by-election shapes as so much more than a choice between the Greens and Labor.

For the people of Batman, one of the most progressive places in the country, this shapes as a choice about the kind of country and community we want to live in:

  • One that fights climate change by stopping the Adani mine, banning new coal mines and restoring the Renewable Energy Target.
  • One that shows compassion towards refugees and closes offshore detention centres.
  • One that stands up to racism and bigotry to protect multiculturalism.  
  • One that solves the affordable housing crisis and tackles inequality by getting rents under control, closing the tax loopholes locking out first home buyers, and investing in public housing.
  • One that gets big corporate interests out of politics and restores integrity to our political system.

People around the country know that these are values the Greens will always speak up for—whatever the day, not just when it’s politically expedient.

A Labor about-face?

No issue contrasts the Greens to the Labor Party and the Liberals more than that of the Adani coal mine.

As the Batman by-election became more likely—after 8 months of the citizenship debacle—Bill Shorten and his Labor colleagues have been through dozens of shades of equivocation, dodging and hedging on this issue.

Mr Shorten could well be limbering up, preparing to say the words he should have uttered years ago, when this massive, polluting mine first came into the national spotlight.

It’s taken a huge Greens win in the Northcote by-election, a backlash in the Queensland election and a nationwide campaign from the Stop Adani movement to drag Labor kicking and screaming from supporting the mine to casting doubts on it—and to potentially opposing it outright on the eve of a by-election.

Some people would say ‘better late than never’. But make no mistake: this will be a win for the Greens. It will be a win for the Stop Adani campaign, for those people who have worked for months and years to protect us from the massive threat posed by this mine. But mostly, it will be a win for the planet.

We will welcome Labor if and when they finally join the campaign to Stop Adani. And we invite them to join us and the movement for action on global warming to commit to no new coal mines.

A bigger issue

This is not just about Adani—this is about the future of coal in our energy mix, and the future of our planet. We need a rapid transition away from coal to renewables and battery storage, and we need a plan for coal workers and their communities.

The Greens have that plan.

It’s an indictment on Labor that they have waited so long to speak up. Australians deserve representatives who will speak up for what’s right each and every day, not just when an election is called.

That is what the Greens provide. And it’s why the Greens achieve so much through our campaigning, our advocacy, our work in the community and our work in Parliament.

If we can achieve this much already, imagine what more we can achieve as we elect more Greens to this place.

Shaping the national conversation

We lead, and they follow—whether it’s Adani, housing affordability through reforms to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, a banks royal commission or a national ICAC.

And why are we out in front, leading the national policy debate in this country? Because of the corrupting influence of dodgy and dirty political donations, from corporate giants, from the mining industry, from the big banks.

Is it any wonder the old parties avoid a banking royal commission like the plague when they’re the beneficiaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the financial sector? Is it any wonder that taxpayers’ money is handed out to the mining sector and the private health insurance sector, rather than being spent on renewable energy, schools, hospitals and all the things that people across our community are crying out for?

The Greens have the courage to speak up and to act when it counts, not when it’s easy or politically convenient. People can trust that when we get to Parliament, our votes will reflect our words.

That is what the people of Batman will see in the coming weeks as the Greens and our amazing candidate Alex Bhathal provide a strong, local and independent voice, advocating courage and compassion on those things that really matter.