By Larissa Waters, Senator for Queensland
What a year! I'm sincerely grateful to have been re-elected this year as Senator for Queensland, and I'm looking forward to continuing the fight for a fair society and a safe climate on behalf of Queenslanders. It has been a turbulent year in the Parliament and on the campaign trail, and it's become evident that our new Prime Minister is committed to the same dangerous and discredited policies as the Abbott government.
I wish to acknowledge and commend the stellar work Robert Simms has done in the past year, and his commitment to being a strong advocate for South Australians. I have no doubt Rob will continue this great work outside of the Parliament. I'd also like to recognise the mammoth effort our leader, Richard, undertook during the longest federal campaign Australia's seen in half a century!
I have been immensely honoured to be re-elected as the Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, as well as gaining some exciting new portfolios in August 2016 including Environment & Biodiversity; Mining and Resources; Women; Gambling; and Tourism.
Given that I am expecting an addition to the family early next year, at my request I will oversee the Climate portfolio in the Senate, but national carriage of that portfolio has moved to Adam Bandt in the House. I know he will vigorously continue the fight for climate action and I look forward to continuing to work on this most fundamental issue in the Senate.
In the past year, we have some promising developments on issues related to my portfolio of women, but funding for crucial domestic violence support services remains tragically inadequate. Our election platform included a very ambitious plan for a long-term, comprehensive funding package for domestic violence services totalling more than $5 billion over 10 years. That plan was widely recognised by experts as exactly the kind of transformative change we need. It has been fantastic to see members of the Queensland and New South Wales parliaments, including NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi, introduce bills to decriminalise abortion in their respective states. I was proud that the Greens were the only party going to the 2016 election with a plan to ensure access to affordable abortion services. Lower-income women and those in rural areas still face major barriers to exercising their reproductive rights safely.
Climate and coral
The Greens' most important work this year in the climate change, mining and resources portfolio has been defined by our ground-breaking plan released in November — Renew Australia. Our plan provides a bold pathway to transition Australia's economy to at least 90 per cent clean energy by 2030 and would allow us to lead the world in innovative renewable technology.
In December 2015, I travelled to Paris for the landmark climate talks. I heard directly from the leaders of nations on the front lines of global warming who are fighting hard to survive. Australia's weak and dangerous pollution reduction targets will not be enough to do our fair share to stop dangerous global warming, but I was impressed to see real commitment from other nations such as Canada, Germany, the U.K. and France who have pledged to transition rapidly to clean energy and dramatically increase their funding for poorer countries to deal with the impacts of global warming.
Now that the new Parliament has commenced, it's up to the Greens and the community to keep defending the Australian Renewable Energy Agency which is currently under threat, and to support the growing community campaign outside the Parliament for real climate action.
The massive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef which affected 93 per cent of all reefs and killed 22 per cent of all corals was a massive wake-up call. It's now clearer than ever that fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to have any hope of salvaging a liveable world for our children.
Across the country, pressure from the Greens and the fierce community campaigns is fighting the fracking companies to a standstill. Victoria, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory all have bans or moratoriums on fracking, and the Labor oppositions in Western Australia and New South Wales have been pushed to support moratoriums. In the first week of the new Parliament I reintroduced my bill to ban fracking nationwide and to give landholders and traditional owners the right to say “no” to coal and gas mining on their land.
In the environment portfolio, pressure from the Greens and the environment movement has slowed the attacks on our precious places. In positive news, the proposed law to ban citizen and community groups from challenging the government in court over major projects has failed — a big win for democracy. The push to hand over environmental approval powers to State and Territory governments has also stalled thanks to the raised voices of ordinary Australians. I'm proud that our crossbench negotiations and the pressure we've applied together as a movement made this possible.
A highlight of the year was the election of the second-ever Greens representative in Queensland — Brisbane City Councillor Jonathan Sri in the local Council elections in March!
The Greens recorded our largest ever vote in these local elections, and I'm sure we'll continue to increase those numbers.
July saw the winding down of the longest federal election campaign in 50 years, and I was proud to lead 11 other Greens on our Queensland Senate ticket, as well as support 30 fantastic lower house campaigns throughout the state. Yet again, we increased our vote from the previous election and showed the two old parties that we are a force to be reckoned with. All the fantastic work wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of our members and some 2000 volunteers, and I sincerely appreciate their efforts in bringing our progressive Greens message to the people of Queensland. With all this momentum behind us, I have no doubt in the upcoming state election that we will once again improve upon our 2015 election results.
Bring it on!