For me, life after parliament will not be life without politics and activism – I'll always be a Green, ready to be an additional pair of hands to assist with whatever needs to be done.
By Senator Christine Milne
Looking back over my 25 years in politics, July 2014 stands out as an absolute debacle in the Federal Parliament, consistent with the media frenzy that heralds the arrival of a brand new, shiny thing. We saw it with Pauline Hanson, Steve Fielding and Family First; this time it was with Clive Palmer and the PUP. We were extremely pleased to be welcoming Senator Janet Rice to our Greens Party Room, but apprehensive about what would come of the ad hoc policy perspectives of the crossbench Senators with whom we now share the balance of power.
The Clive Palmer show was a real circus — he held a press conference with Al Gore in the Great Hall, where the gathered media was not allowed to ask questions. He flew in his own jet and drove luxury cars to Parliament to show he was a man of the people. He and his three Senators put up token displays of resistance, then inevitably and predictably caved in and helped Tony Abbott repeal the carbon price and the mining tax, stripped hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and blocked millions of Australians from receiving 12% superannuation contributions. But as quickly as it was erected, that circus tent collapsed and PUP now has one remaining Senator and a frequently absent Member for Fairfax.
Criticisms that the Greens were not "using" our balance of power because we stood up to Tony Abbott, rather than facilitate deals to deliver his agenda, have been well and truly debunked. In these difficult circumstances, faced with what I would unreservedly name as the worst government in this country's history, the Greens used our balance of power in a way I'm most proud of: in steadfast opposition to the cruel, anti-environment, short-sighted and inequitable agenda of the Abbott government. We stood resolutely against so many efforts to make life harder for people now, and for generations to come. We stood unwaveringly for strong action on global warming and the promotion of renewable energy, for equitable access to university, for universal health care, justice for the unemployed, single parents and those needing social support, for the rule of law, and decent, humane treatment of those seeking asylum in our country. While others haggled and facilitated versions of Tony Abbott's agenda, we made it clear to the community that we are a real alternative focused on the wellbeing of our planet and our constituents, not trading in the policy positions our voters supported for the appearance of power.
History will demonstrate that a strong, principled stand is what people want; political parties that stand for something and have the courage of their convictions, not saying one thing and doing another. But unfortunately, in part because of the speed of the 24 hour news cycle, real leadership has become confused with celebrity, brinkmanship, wheeling and dealing, and opinion polls rather than the policy outcomes of the process for people, the environment and the nation.
The Australian Greens position is one of unprecedented strength. We have a record number of Greens MPs in the federal and state parliaments and in local government. Heading into the 2014/15 year I said we would bookend the success of Scott Ludlam's re-election by bringing it home in Victoria, and we did: more than doubling the Greens' numbers in the Victorian Parliament and boosting our party's membership along the way.
The momentum continued to build with an early election in Queensland, in which we achieved our best result ever, and I take my hat off to Larissa and the Queensland Greens for swinging into action and securing the result they did, setting us up so well for the federal election.
The New South Wales election followed quickly and the success continued. The new seat of Newtown went Green with Jenny Leong's election, Jamie Parker held Balmain and we took the seat of Ballina from a sitting Nationals MLA.
In one year, Greens won seats from Labor, Libs, Nationals and a newly created seat, plus the Party's transition to one National Council is complete. With a growing national party, successful state elections and a great, talented team of MPs and Senators, it's full speed ahead to the 2016 federal election.
When I was voted into the leadership in 2012, I promised a cabinet-style, collaborative, enabling approach and I'm so proud of the way my colleagues responded. As I've said a number of times since resigning the leadership, I feel that they're all ready to fly, and with Richard, Larissa and Scott at the helm they're already demonstrating so impressively how well they'll lead the Greens into the election next year. I couldn't be prouder of my federal Parliamentary colleagues and friends.
With our new party constitution and National Council in action, we are more robust than ever, truly functioning as a national party. We are a strong, capable, visionary Greens team from local to global. As neoliberalism disintegrates and the world reels from global warming heading towards 4 degrees, more than ever we need bright, engaged people working from a values base of community and environment to frame the alternative world view. The Australian Greens, from our members to our Party leaders, from our think tank, The Greens Institute, to our Parliamentary teams, we are it — and we're set to deliver in 2016.
For me, life after parliament will not be life without politics and activism. I'll always be a Green, ready to be an additional pair of hands to assist with whatever needs to be done. The fight to restore our democracy, to take it back from the hands of the wealthy and corporate interests, needs us all. We cannot win the struggle to address global warming and global inequality until we do. I will take my passion and all that I've learnt to that fight, standing shoulder to shoulder with you and the wider community for a safe climate, a new appreciation of the wonders of the natural world, and of the need for justice in the way we share it.