The next two years in the Parliament with the current government are going to be a challenge.
By Senator Janet Rice
As I write, it is almost exactly 12 months since I was elected as the 10th Greens senator in federal parliament. Together with Adam, we could now field a cricket team!
Last September's election seems such a very long time ago in so many ways, yet just an instant in others. For most of the last year, I was in limbo: elected, but not yet having taken my seat.
After the election, the advice from my colleagues was to make myself scarce. With no staff, no office and no salary, there are limits to what is possible as an elected representative!
It was with this in mind that I headed to Antarctica over summer, thinking this was about as far away as possible. What I hadn't counted on was getting stuck, and our expedition became the centre of an international media storm as we were rescued from our ship, the Akademic Shokalskiy.
Regardless, it was an awesome experience and a great way to put Australian parliamentary politics into perspective!
I filled the rest of my time as Senator-elect recruiting staff, familiarising myself with parliament and its workings, and planning and then undertaking my bike ride to Canberra through regional Victoria. This was such a wonderful way to travel — two weeks on the road, supported by a generous and dedicated team of Greens members and supporters, and meeting wonderful people from all walks of life.
I arrived in Canberra with so many stories from my journey. I heard from Hazara refugees in Shepparton desperate to be allowed to stay and contribute to Australia, from people passionate about renewable energy and tackling global warming in Daylesford, Murchison and throughout Victoria, and from people worried about the impact of the Abbott government's brutal budget. Gary from Violet Town summed up what most were feeling: “It's gonna hurt,” he said.
And then it was on! The first two weeks in Canberra were an exhilarating and exasperating introduction to being your elected representative, as we fought for the retention of the price on carbon and the mining tax, and opposed laws encouraging state governments to privatise publicly owned assets.
It was great to spend the winter break establishing my office and getting to know my team. My terrific staff will be such a great resource for our campaigns over the coming years, particularly in my portfolios of transport and infrastructure, forests and tourism.
My first speech was such a great opportunity to detail my background and my hopes and plans for the future: for urgent action on global warming, to protect our forests, for transport which works for people, the environment and our economy.
The next two years in the Parliament with the current Government are going to be a challenge. Our focus has to be on building our campaigns and support in the community so that come the next election we have the political power to turf out Tony. I look forward to working with you to do this.