A Serious Loss for Greens (WA) | The Greens (WA)

A Serious Loss for Greens (WA)

Although The Greens doubled their representation in the Legislative Council in the March 2017 WA state election, we also lost a high-achieving MLC – Lynn MacLaren. 

By Chris Johansen, GI Co-editor and South Metro resident
Monday, April 24, 2017

Lynn was first in Parliament in 2005 for a matter of 3 months upon the retirement of Jim Scott. She was elected as MLC for South Metro in 2008, and survived the conservative tsunami of the 2103 state election which halved the then Greens upper house representation to two – herself and Robin Chapple. However, the tsunami flowing in the opposite direction in 2017 largely swept over the heads of The Greens, with only a marginal increase in the state-wide Greens vote, and in South Metro only increasing by 0.45 % to 9 %. Whereas Labor bequeathed over half a quota to help Lynn over the line in 2013, it only had less than 0.2 of a quota spare this time, as it only just exceeded three quotas (= seats). But, really, we need to be well into a double figure percentage to ensure a Greens rep, rather than having to rely on the vagaries of preference flows.

But, time to take a moment to reflect on Lynn’s considerable achievements on our behalf over the last two terms of parliament. With the halving of Greens MLC representation in 2013, the parliamentary workload of Lynn and Robin effectively doubled. Lynn covered 20, repeat 20, portfolios, seriously addressing them all. OK, elected representatives of small parties have a swathe of portfolios to cover but they usually just concentrate on the main issues for which their party stands. However, The Greens have detailed policies that cover the entire realm of politics, all of which need to be addressed by whatever parliamentary representation we have.

During her time Lynn introduced five private member bills, none of which were passed as such but all of which have influenced policies of the major parties, not only in WA but nationally. Firstly, there was the Climate Change Readiness (Coastal Planning and Protection) Bill introduced first in 2012 and again in 2013. Probably the first time anyone has explored the possible consequences of climate change along the WA coastline, and what to do about it – something that inevitably will have to be addressed by whoever is in charge of the place. Then the Same Sex Marriage Bill laying out the rationale for this reform, a reform which again is inevitable. And the Free Range Eggs Labelling Bill 2013 is to ensure that only eggs produced in real free range conditions can be labelled as such in WA. Also the Biodiversity Legislation (Priority Reforms) Bill 2014 aimed at updating WA’s outdated approach to biodiversity conservation. And not forgetting the Road Traffic (Keeping Safe Distances from Bicycles) Amendment Bill, initially ridiculed by the Liberals as impractical but now under consideration by all parties following successful trials in other states.

These bills seemed to be ahead of their time, but perhaps so because introduced in a place behind the times; they will undoubtedly shape future thinking into the inevitable adoption of the concepts proposed.

 In addition to introducing bills, Lynn has debated other bills introduced in parliament within the scope of her portfolios, as well as supporting those under Robin’s portfolios – obviously a lot of homework here. She has effectively used question time to probe the Government on various issues, especially those relating to South Metro (e.g. Roe 8). And she has eloquently delivered speeches on a range of motions and other government business.

Lynn has by no means confined her activities within the walls of parliament. She has liaised with various community groups, and individuals, joining their public events and protests and providing a conduit to parliament on their behalf. Some of these (but too many to spell out here) with which I am familiar are as follows. She stood up for Steve Marsh, whose farm was contaminated by GM canola, causing him to lose his organic certification; she has been at the forefront of the GM debate in WA. She has also been at the forefront of the animal rights movement, such as in opposition to live exports and greyhound racing, defeating former Premier Colin Barnett's plans for an annual summer shark cull, protecting habitats of endangered native species, as well as with respect to the biodiversity and free range egg bills as mentioned above. She was instrumental in delaying, and ultimately stopping, the previous government’s anti-protest legislation, by stalling it in the upper house – a blow against those in our community intent on undermining basic human rights. She has advocated for saving Point Peron from a canal development and Mowen Forest near Margaret River from logging. And much more.

However, there is an irony to one of her greatest achievements, the cancellation of Roe 8/Perth Freight Link resulting from the March election. Since 2004, while working for the then South Metro Greens MLC Jim Scott, she has been active in advocacy for the protection of the Beeliar Wetlands/Bibra Lake area from ‘development’ (= environmental destruction). Once in parliament Lynn prepared fact sheets on saving the Beeliar Wetlands to assist people making submissions to the Public Environmental Review; she probed the Government for release of documents relevant to Roe 8, questioned its rationale, presented petitions for scrapping it, and generally raised the profile of the issue in parliament and among the public. It was The Greens that really ‘upped the ante’ with the establishment of ‘Rethink the Link’, which multiplied into an alliance with >20 other community groups opposing Roe 8. This no doubt encouraged Labor, who seemed wobbly on stopping Roe 8 earlier on but later realized the extent of local popular support, to wholeheartedly adopt the issue in their election campaign and promptly scrap Roe 8 on their election. Thus, Labor’s South Metro vote just exceeded three quotas (up from 2½ quotas in 2013), with little left to flow on for Lynn, and Lynn lost her seat.

In addition to the specific accomplishments mentioned above, in a general sense, Lynn, along with other elected Greens, has been our public face, projecting the beliefs that we share, such that they are placed before all parliamentarians and the public in a way that would otherwise just not happen. We in South Metro feel particularly deprived as we are by now used to having a Greens rep in the Legislative Council – Lynn from 2008 and Jim Scott during 1993-2005.

So, a huge vote of thanks to Lynn for what she has done on our behalf so far. We look forward with anticipation to whatever will be her contributions to our cause into the future.