By Adam Bandt
It is an absolute honour to be elected as the Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens.
I want to thank Richard for his incredible leadership of our party and service to our country. I’m incredibly grateful to have the support of my colleagues and so many of you in our movement. I’m looking forward to working closely with Greens national councillors, state MPs and local councillors, state convenors and branches in the coming months as we go forward.
In particular, I want to congratulate Larissa Waters for being elected as Greens Leader in the Senate and Co-Deputy Leader and Nick McKim for being elected as Co-Deputy Leader. Holding these leadership positions reflects the years of hard work and commitment you've each made to the Greens movement, and I'm excited to work closely with you both in the years ahead.
Our biggest challenge
I remember a moment, almost 15 years ago, when I realised that by getting into the Parliament and working with the community, together we could transform our country. We could shape the national agenda and refocus the power of government on solving the problems that threaten to divide our society and destroy our planet.
I still hold that hope. I hold that hope despite a summer of devastation.
I remember dropping my kids off at childcare just a few weeks ago and the air was so dangerous that the warning on my phone showed someone in a gas mask.
And as I stood amongst the burned out property of Nick Hopkins in Malua Bay last month, he summed it up perfectly: feeling two parts shattered and three parts angry.
Australians are angry and anxious because the government clearly doesn’t have the climate emergency under control and has no plan to get it under control. But people are also angry and anxious because the basics of life are no longer guaranteed.
Study hard and do TAFE or university and you get underemployed in an insecure job with low pay. You get a job and then find you can’t afford a house because the government has rigged the housing market against you.
We have a climate and environment emergency, an inequality crisis and a jobs crisis and the government’s only answer is ‘well, get used to it, because it is the new normal’.
Well, I refuse to adapt to kids wearing gas masks.
I refuse to accept a world where people put off having kids because they are feeling so insecure about their jobs and their future.
I refuse to accept people living below the poverty line in a country as wealthy as ours.
And I refuse to accept the dismal standard of this rotten government led by Scotty from marketing, a man whose love of coal has helped make these terrible fires worse, and a Labor so-called opposition that celebrates coal in the middle of bushfires and votes with the Liberals to give tax cuts to millionaires.
Denial and spin
It is hard to describe the level of continued denial and spin that is constantly on display in Canberra.
We have had people whose houses burned over the summer come to Canberra with what was left of their homes in wheelbarrows and buckets.
They have spoken powerfully and eloquently about the impacts of the climate emergency on their lives. I was humbled to meet with some of them, but for most of the Parliament it is like they were invisible.
From Barnaby and his band of Nationals wanting to build coal-fired power stations, to the Prime Minister’s contortions over climate and the bushfire crisis and the shameless deceptions as though everything is under control – while their inaction is driving us to a 3 to 4-degree-warmer world that will completely overrule our economy and society.
And unfortunately the Labor opposition persistently defends the continued role of coal in our economy both for energy and export and they have dropped their 2030 targets.
People are angry and anxious and they’re desperately looking for leadership. Now is the time to tell it as it is. Now is the time to face up to the reality of the emergency we face and the action we must take to save the planet and save the future.
We’re in a climate emergency because of politicians and power brokers trying to preserve a status quo that sees the coal, oil and gas barons get rich. They then funnel off a tiny bit of that wealth to political parties when they’re in power, and then give those politicians cushy jobs in their organisations when they leave office.
The crisis we face
We’re on a terrifying pathway that could see us on track for up to 4 degrees of heating, locking us into death, destruction and hopelessness.
It will be a world that may be capable of supporting only a billion people, perhaps less.
This is horrible to contemplate but it is real.
Even if there was a 1% chance of this occurring, the potential outcome is so bad we should mobilise the entire machinery of government and society towards avoiding this possibility.
When the Allies won World War 2 it wasn’t just because the US and other governments put their resources into winning it.
The war was won because the government, industry and communities worked together to meet an unprecedented threat. In 1942 America a spark plug factory started producing machine guns. A merry-go-round factory made gun mounts, a pinball machine plant made armor-piercing shells and a toy company started making compasses. By working together, the government, industry and the American people met and triumphed over an existential, unprecedented threat.
Today, we don’t need to militarise – we need to decarbonise. But the government is refusing to act.
A new deal for the future
This is the fight of our times. We need Australia to deploy every tool in our arsenal to tackle the crises we face. We need a Green New Deal.
A Green New Deal is a government-led plan of investment and action to build a clean economy and a caring society.
We are a smart and wealthy country and if we have the guts to take on the big corporations and the weak politicians they have in their pocket, we can solve these crises.
The two elements of a Green New Deal – government taking the lead to create new jobs and industries, and universal services to ensure no-one is left behind – are the values I have been fighting for my whole adult life.
Before I entered the Parliament, I worked as a public interest and industrial lawyer protecting workers from privatisation and big business. As a lawyer, I fought big corporations on behalf of clothing outworkers and represented firefighters as well as coal workers dealing with privatisation.
While we face enormous challenges we also have an incredible opportunity. This is our chance to not only address the crises we face but to transform our country to be fairer, cleaner and better.
With a Green New Deal we can create new jobs by inspiring a manufacturing renaissance and turning Australia into a renewable energy superpower. We can get dental fully covered under Medicare. We make public schools genuinely free.
It’s possible, but it requires our movement to be bigger and bolder than ever before. Every day, our Greens team is up against the combined might of the major parties with their corporate donations and the constant fear-mongering of the Murdoch media.
Together, I want our party to fight for a Green New Deal to make a better, safer Australia and create a fairer, cleaner future – and I want you to all be part of it.
We have a big fight ahead of us, but we have so much to fight for.
It’s deeply humbling to be given this opportunity to lead this team. I can’t wait to work with each of you to shape our vision for a Green New Deal.
Hero image: Julian Meehan.