It’s hard to talk about this year without acknowledging off the top that we have a PM and government that seem committed to making things harder for so many Australians.
By Senator Rachel Siewert
It is fair to say that this past year has been a whirlwind, especially in WA. First, the election, then uniqueness of a Senate by-election – one of the most amazing shows of support and unity I have seen during my time in the Greens. We then had the Budget and now the new Senate.
It's hard to talk about this year without acknowledging off the top that we have a Prime Minister and a Government that seem committed to making things harder for so many Australians, particularly the most disadvantaged.
Each Greens MP speaks passionately about the impacts that the Federal Budget is having in their home states and in their portfolios. It's hard to know whether the Abbott Government's policy making is a result of inability, cruelty or, more realistically – both. Across my portfolio areas, the impact of the budget has been significant.
Wide ranging cuts across income support and social services are proposed without consultation or justification. Some measures, including moves to deprive job seekers aged under 30 of income support for six months a year, are almost beyond comprehension. Half a billion dollars of cuts have been made to programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, greatly undermining efforts to close the gap and making a mockery of Tony Abbott's promise to be the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Cuts to Landcare and NRM, along with the Government's reckless abolition of the Clean Energy Package have weakened efforts to protect our environment, agriculture and oceans. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has failed in his responsibilities by rubber stamping the first year of the Barnett Government's shark cull and also removing the management plans from what was Australia's world-leading network of marine protected areas.
Despite the Government's agenda, we continue to take the political lead when it comes to the critical discussions about Australia's future. When you discuss climate change, health, education, the treatment of asylum seekers, the most vulnerable in our community, building sustainable cities or the need for marriage equality, the Greens are there.
As I write the future of a referendum on constitutional recognition of our first peoples is unclear but today I have been working with many people to build support for Constitutional Recognition, we've helped pile the pressure on Colin Barnett's shark cull and we've made sure the Government can't escape the public backlash against their budget.
We have also put a focus on building our community campaigning and engaging Greens members and volunteers in community action. In November of last year over 100 people crammed into a room in one of Perth's western suburbs to talk about the Greens' climate campaign strategy. For some of the people in the room, this was their first Greens meeting, so it was great to see at the end of the meeting everyone agree that door-knocking and field campaigning was a great way to engage with the community.
As a result of that meeting, over the summer, more than 70 different people tried their hand at door-knocking. Together, we knocked on more than 3000 homes, in five different areas. As it turned out, this was the start of the WA door-knocking campaign to re-elect Scott.
The climate door-knocks were going well but when we were reasonably sure that a Senate by-election was likely, we knew we had to step it up. What followed was the biggest grassroots engagement campaign that we've managed in WA.
Since the election we've worked hard to keep the enthusiasm for field campaigning high. Most recently, through the #BustTheBudget campaign. In the last two months we've continued having one-on-one conversations with the community in shopping malls, at rallies, and at people's doors. This has helped us build stronger opposition to Tony Abbott's cruel budget. Our challenge now is to carry the momentum through to 2016, where we hope to grow our vote in Western Australia.
As always, your support is what keeps us going, and this year we've seen just how much the Greens are capable of achieving. I know that we will continue this great work in the year ahead.