Much of this year has felt like being in a washing machine: hard to know which way is up. But more recently, things are starting to come together – and our party is ready and energised for a huge finish to 2020.
By Adam Bandt
It’s been a huge month for the Australian Greens and first and foremost, I’m thrilled to welcome activist, former Victorian Greens MP, Aboriginal leader and Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, Lidia Thorpe to the Greens team in Parliament. Lidia will be sworn into Parliament in the coming months to fill the casual vacancy soon to be left by Senator Richard Di Natale.
In stark contrast to the kind of shenanigans we saw in other parties in Victoria, Victorian Greens Co-convenors Effy Elden and Ella Webb reported that thousands of members took part in the vote over two weeks, with 65 percent of members participating in the state-wide preselection. What a wonderful display of the Greens culture and commitment to grassroots democracy. We are proud to be the only progressive party in Victoria whose members currently have a genuine say in their parliamentary representation.
From being the first Aboriginal woman elected to Victorian parliament, to winning renters rights, forestry protections and LGBTIQ support, Lidia has a strong track record of fighting for the environment and social justice. Parliament is overdue for a shake up, and Lidia’s fearless advocacy for economic and social justice will strengthen the case for a Green New Deal and provide a voice for so many people that have been let down by politics.
What a coincidence
Our Prime Minister believes in an amazing set of coincidences. Apparently, the perfect response to a once in a century pandemic just happens to be all the Liberal Party’s favourite policies. Gut unis, defund the ABC, strip workers rights, and trash environmental protections. We stand for the exact opposite:
Looking for a new level to set uni fees, Scott Morrison? How about $0. If our unis are going to recover, they need more support, not cuts, and tuition must be made free, not a 100% fee increase as the government is proposing for many subjects. The Greens will fight the government’s plans to lift uni fees.
The ABC has just proven through the bushfires and the pandemic that it’s a vital public resource that should be strengthened and politicians must stop cutting jobs and making threats designed to lessen editorial independence.
The long-term erosion of workers’ rights has been a critical part of the economic hit that COVID triggered. Just look at the US. We need a whole new deal for workers, starting with fundamental rights like sick leave. These protections aren’t just fairer, they also make the whole community safer.
Removing environmental protections after fires killed a billion native animals is terrifying.
A generation being robbed of their future
Young people have been hit hardest by the economic impact of neoliberalism, compounded by the pandemic. The numbers are coming through now and they should be a cause for alarm and action. Unemployment is up, but so too is underemployment, together with a huge drop in participation.
Are we going to let a whole generation go without the things that should be basic rights: free education, income security, affordable housing and a liveable planet? We can solve these problems if we want to. The good news is that Australia is a very rich nation with the choice to solve these problems. The bad news is this government appears to have no interest in doing so.
This is why we are calling for a Next Gen Guarantee - our plan that responds to the crises we face and sets young people up for the future.
The Morrison Government is displaying a Trump-like disdain for intellectualism as they attack humanities subjects in their latest terrible attempt at University reform. To try to create divisions between students and fields of learning in order to justify more cuts and corporatisation of our unis is as ugly as it gets. We’re not going to stand for it. We beat the Christopher Pyne attack on higher education, and we can beat this one too. To do so we need to keep winning over the public and, in turn, crucial crossbenchers to make sure this bad idea is also defeated.
Beyond that, we remain the only party committed to free education. It’s a core principle and one that has been a success in many countries around the world (including Australia).
Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement shows the power of organising. While it is making history on the streets around the world, it is also shining a light on history itself, exposing the dreadful legacies and unaddressed grievances of the past in the US, and also Australia. We’ve all been confronted with some history we didn’t know, and should have known much more about. This is an opportunity to listen, to learn and to grow.
The first thing we must do is address the national shame that is the world’s worst record for indigenous incarceration. That means asking the hard questions about how our justice system works, from the cop on the street to the judge with the gavel, and being ready to implement really big changes. At a minimum, Scott Morrison should put deaths in custody on the national Cabinet agenda, and make it a standing item until the states change their laws and stop locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in such high numbers. The Greens are committed to making whatever changes are needed for the root and branch eradication of racism in our justice system.
What price democracy?
It’s not unusual today to read about the struggles and threats to democracy. It’s a vicious cycle: corruption scandals break, nothing is done about it, the public loses faith, apathy grows, corruption continues.
You might remember a certain Greens Senator named Bob Brown. He tabled a bill for a national ICAC ten years ago. Bob pointed out then a fact that remains very true today: if every state government needs an anti-corruption watchdog (and it’s very clear they do) then there’s no reason to believe Canberra has some kind of magical corruption-proof fence.
The Greens’ bill to establish a national corruption watchdog with teeth has passed the Senate. It is only a couple of disillusioned government backbenchers away from passing the House too and becoming law. In June, the Senate again called on the House to pass the Greens’ bill, but the Liberals gagged debate and rejected the Senate push. But we’ll keep coming back. This is how we got a banking royal commission and marriage equality, and we’ll get there on a Federal ICAC too.
A national anti-corruption body should be welcomed by Parliament. It would be good for all parties and politicians, as well as for the public, to restore a bit of faith in our democracy.
Thank you Richard
The other side of a new senator joining us is the departure of my friend and our colleague, Richard Di Natale. Richard and I have done so much together over the past 13 years that it’s almost impossible to imagine him not being around. In fact, he was the one who first asked if I'd be interested in running for the seat of Melbourne back in 2007! If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, he is one of the warmest people you could meet. He has done a massive service to our party, and our country. We will all miss him greatly.
Get ready to see a lot more of us
For most of this year it has felt like being in a washing machine, hard to know which way is up. But more recently, things are starting to come together, and our party is ready and energised for a huge finish to 2020.
The Greens are leading the debate on issues that are more relevant and vital than ever. We had legislation for a national anti-corruption body before the ALP branch stacking scandal broke. We have a bill tabled in Parliament for the 3.3 million workers with no sick leave. The Greens have been demanding liveable income support for over a decade. We have an ‘Invest to Recover’ plan, backed by a Jobs and Income Guarantee, that will tackle the multiple crises we face while getting the economy back on track and making it work for the people, not the big corporations. And the Green New Deal was on the table before the global economy was hit by the pandemic.
This is the thought leadership, backed by the gumption to stick to our principles every single vote, that makes the Greens, the Greens. Thank you to every member for building this party into the best progressive force in Australian democracy.
Stay safe everybody.
Image credit: Julian Meehan