Looking back on the year in which the Abbott Government entered the twilight zone, it's hard to recall a time when politics in this country has been so bizarre.
By Senator Peter Whish-Wilson
Politics has always been a strange business. But looking back on the year in which the Abbott Government entered the Twilight Zone it's hard to recall a time when politics in this country has been so bizarre. This has been a tremendous opportunity for The Greens to sound our voice of reason and promote our strong vision and values, which is something I'm tremendously proud to be able to do in the Senate. Our strength stems from our enlightened view of the world, our respect for the natural world, and our belief that the economy should serve the people and not just private profit.
This year, the fight against crony capitalism has had a global focus given the threat posed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is not about free-trade. The TPP is a deal being negotiated in secret that is designed to hand multinational corporations more control over our lives. It's a deal that has seen the business lobby and the Productivity Commission line up with environment and social justice groups in calling for greater transparency. Outside of government circles, I haven't yet met anyone who understands the TPP and thinks it's a good idea. The Greens have bought on legislation, got stuck into inquiries and reached out to the community to bring attention to what our government is doing in our name.
Financial advice scandals
Vested interests have also been in my sights with Senate inquiries I initiated into financial advice and managed investment schemes. These inquiries have exposed the corporate greed that saw hundreds of ordinary Australians, including farmers, lose their life savings. The reputations of some of our largest banks have been seriously damaged by the revelations about unscrupulous and unethical conduct. These inquiries have helped force the government's hand, with steps being made towards improving the education and oversight of financial advisors.
Protecting our oceans
Last summer was all quiet on the illegal whaling front. But with Japan having announced its intentions to resume commercial whaling this coming summer it seems that the International Court of Justice might once again be called into play. In other illegal fishing news, Sea Shepherd was able to successfully pursue and put out of business gangs plundering icefish and Patagonian toothfish on the back of information revealed by The Greens' southern ocean inquiry. Another inquiry that I kicked off this year will be looking at how to tackle the plastic pollution which is choking our oceans and marine life. This is an issue I intend to pursue to the end during my time in parliament.
The last twelve months also saw the return of supertrawlers to Australian waters. The large factory-freezer vessel MV Geelong Star was given permission to access the small pelagic fishery. This is despite the health of fish stocks not being understood and despite a cloud over the independence of government processes. The first time the MV Geelong Star went to sea it killed four dolphins and two seals. The second time it went out it did the same. The government kept it in harbour to try to sort things out. When it went back out a third time another dolphin was killed. The government then sent the boat back to harbour, this time for six months, to see if they can really fix the problem. History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.
Calls for a national park to be established in the magnificent Tarkine forests in north-west Tasmania were rekindled this year. The Bob Brown Foundation has joined with other groups in mounting a five-year campaign for a Tarkine National Park and to recognise the aboriginal heritage of the area. I commissioned a helicopter fly-over of the nearby Arthur Pieman Conservation Area to highlight the damage being caused by 4WDs and quad bikes to the largest indigenous midden site in the world. N.B. Bronwyn Bishop: this is what politicians' charter entitlements are intended to be used for.
Finally, parliament said farewell to an extraordinary woman this year. Christine Milne has been a trailblazer for The Greens and the wider environment movement. There has been no fiercer defender of forests or World Heritage than Christine. I'm privileged to be able to call her a friend and mentor. And I have no doubt that Christine's advocacy for our precious environment and for climate action will continue to be as strong and passionate as ever. Thank you, Christine.