From the Senator for Victoria


After my first full year in the Senate, this government has shown itself to be more out of touch with the concerns of Australians and our environment than any other.

By Senator Janet Rice

After my first full year in the Senate, this government has shown itself to be more out of touch with the concerns of Australians and our environment than any other. Unfortunately, the Labor Party has proved itself to be not much better, falling into line with the government on their appalling treatment of refugees, war and data retention.

I'm proud to be part of the party truly holding this woeful government to account. We have set the agenda, built the campaigns and the community is listening.

In my own areas of responsibility, we've had some big wins. Where we haven't won yet, we're building a strong platform for winning.

We've stood up to Tony Abbott's roads agenda.

The victory over the East West toll road was a powerful example of a community coming together against a policy that would have hurt residents and wasted billions, while doing nothing to ease congestion.

Although the message is starting to get through that more roads simply means more cars, the federal government insists on these great big polluting toll roads and Liberal and Labor state governments are falling into line. From WestConnex in Sydney, to the Perth Freight Link, to the Western Distributor in my neck of the woods, we are standing with local communities against these illogical proposals.

Our answer is simple: if you give people viable options to get out of their cars, everybody wins.

This means prioritising public transport and bike infrastructure at local, state and federal levels, which the Greens are leading the way on.

Getting more freight onto rail is also critical. My office has been undertaking research that shows we can get at least half of all freight coming through our ports and travelling between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane onto rail. This would make a massive difference to truck traffic and pollution, but we need a commitment by state and federal governments to invest in upgrading our rail networks, ports and intermodal hubs.

I was honoured to take the role as spokesperson for LGBTIQ issues and marriage equality earlier this year.

The show of support for marriage equality from the community has been overwhelming. While a handful of the more extreme elements of the Liberal party continue their delay tactics, change is inevitable. Meanwhile, thousands of loving couples continue to face discrimination based on who they love. The Greens are leading the way to make sure we catch up with the rest of the world as soon as possible.

We must not forget that discrimination of LGBTIQ people and their families does not stop with wedding bells. One source of such discrimination is the barriers faced by transgender children and their families to receive proper treatment. It shouldn't take a Family Court order and tens of thousands of dollars to get the treatment doctors know these children need.

We've got native forests back on the political agenda.

The Great Forest National Park was a prominent campaign during the Victorian election, and I have pursued the plight of Leadbeater's Possums in the Senate, wearing the epithet of 'Senator for Possums' with pride. Leadbeater's Possums were very sadly reclassified as critically endangered, but logging of their habitat continues to be supported by state and federal governments. This is also the case for other threatened species, including Swift Parrots in Tasmania and Carnaby's Cockatoos in WA.

Including energy from the burning of wood from native forests under the renewable energy target is an ominous sign of the future that our government sees for our forests. There are potential large forest fuel energy projects in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and WA, including the potential of co-firing the massively polluting Hazelwood coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley with wood from our forests. With 80-90% of the wood logged in a clearfell considered to be waste, the prospects of ongoing industrial scale clearfelling largely to feed into power stations is frighteningly real. This is just when the collapse of export woodchip markets and increasing plantation wood production means it would be straightforward to begin the shift of logging out of native forest altogether.

The big polluters, with the backing of the Abbott government, have tried to use these issues to divide the environmental movement. Instead, we've been united. It's been a great privilege to have facilitated bringing together dedicated campaigners from across Australia.

Our challenge continues to be showing not only that our native forests don't need to be destroyed, but that they are worth so much more standing – for our clean air and water, for biodiversity, for reducing the impacts of climate change, for nature-based tourism and for local communities.

The attitude of this government towards forests sums up their backwards, frustrating and dangerous attitude to the environment in general, in particular climate.

We've made sure that real action on climate change is front and centre of the upcoming federal election. We'll be working with the community to make sure we take the action we need to safeguard our planet's future. 

On a personal note, I want to extend a massive thank you to Christine for her leadership over the years and her support she has offered on my journey to the Senate. Losing Christine is a huge loss to the Parliament, but the movement will still benefit from her work and wisdom. Richard has already proved himself to be a great leader and the future is looking stronger than ever for the Greens.