From the Parliamentary Leader


2013–14 has been a year of milestones, challenges and victories for the Australian Greens.

By Senator Christine Milne

2013–14 has been a year of milestones, challenges and victories for the Australian Greens. 

We pushed for the recount in WA that ultimately led Scott Ludlam to contest not one, but two elections for his Senate seat. The initial disputed election result brought out the best in our party – defence of democracy, genuine engagement and a grassroots campaign that energised and involved people all over the country, in support of a stronger Greens voice in the Federal Parliament. 

Indeed, I’m proud to be leading the Greens’ largest ever Party Room, with 11 accomplished and dedicated Members of Parliament representing our voters and our values at the federal level. The newest member of the team, Janet Rice, took office as a Senator for Victoria on July 1. She will look after matters relating to tourism, forests, transport and infrastructure. Janet’s first speech was brilliant and made us all so proud. 

The parliamentary team came into its own in responding to the Abbott government’s first budget. That shocking and cruel document contained such a mass of measures that would make life harder for people, it was almost overwhelming. But overnight, as each office sifted through the horrible detail, we launched the campaign to Bust the Budget, which gained swift momentum around the country and continues to pressure the Prime Minister, item by item, to back off his brutal agenda. Congratulations to everyone who’s worked long hours in every office and on every campaign to give us the depth of policy analysis that has placed us so well to take on the Abbott government. 

Most devastating to me personally, and I know the feeling was shared across the Party Room and the Party, was the undoing of years of work with the repeal of the carbon price. That day, Tony Abbott and the crossbenchers threw away effective action, regarded as template legislation for the rest of the world, in an era of dangerous climate change. It will be remembered in just a few short years as a massive blow inflicted on the climate and future generations, not to mention Australia’s international standing, our own way of life and the competitiveness of our economy. 

But as I said on that day in the Senate, we may have lost that vote and that version of carbon pricing, but we are coming back stronger and even more determined to make sure Australia does rise to the challenge. Carbon pollution, which causes global warming, is environmental vandalism and intergenerational theft. There is a price to pay, and the Greens will make sure the polluters are the ones who pay it. Tony Abbott’s gang of climate criminals must not be allowed to pollute for free while raking in multi-billion dollar profits. 

The Greens will lead the national campaign to reenergise climate action. 

Campaigns like these highlight the opportunities presented by the current review of the Australian Greens Constitution. Ways to engage with current and future members are many and varied, if we’re willing to embrace them. I want to grow the party and increase members’ participation and ownership of the Greens beyond the traditional local groups. Geography does not impose the same restrictions it used to, as the Internet age allows for a much more immediate and comprehensive engagement of members. I believe our structure needs to facilitate that and I encourage your input in helping to make the Greens Australia’s best placed party to advance transformative change. 

With forest campaigners and Greens around the country we Greens ensured Tony Abbott was delivered a major rebuke courtesy of the World Heritage Committee. It rejected Tony Abbott’s bid to delist 74,000 hectares of forest in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. This was a wonderful example of how parliamentary work and community campaigning can leverage each other to deliver a real outcome. The Senate Inquiry I initiated exposed that destructive ideology was behind Tony Abbott’s push to redraw the boundaries. Cooperative efforts with Greens MPs around the world, and the loud and impassioned community voice, made it clear to the international Committee that Australians didn’t support the destruction of forests or undermining the integrity of the World Heritage Convention. We also continue to lobby hard for the World Heritage Committee to take a strong stand against ongoing destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. 

As for the big picture, the Greens in Parliament are looking forward to the opportunities we’ll get, and create, to reflect the values of those we represent. We look forward to Ban Ki Moon’s summit in New York, where nations will come together, make pledges for shifting to a low-carbon global economy and make serious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to protecting people from budget measures that would make life harder, showing the Abbott government that it won’t get away with selling out ordinary Australians through GP co-payments, cruelty to the unemployed, pensioners and uni students, to protect the profits of the big miners and big polluters. We look forward to being the strongest opposition to the Abbott government from now through to 2016. 

In my third year as Greens Leader and my 25th year in politics, with almost 10 years in the Australian Senate, I am humbled by the passion and commitment around the Party Room table and throughout the Greens around the country. We remain the only political force with a clear view of the challenges which face people and the planet, and with the courage to drive the necessary changes to meet them. 

Australia has become a plutocracy, a nation governed by and for the rich, which means the Greens are needed more than ever to defend the environmental and social fabric, and to restore the transparency and accountability that will return power from corporations to the people; that will restore democracy. 

Thank you for the support you’ve shown in these testing times. Thank you for the stories you’ve shared about your lives, hopes, aspirations and dismay in response to the Budget and destruction of renewable energy and the climate. Your passion and compassion is indefatigable, an abundant renewable energy source that will make the Greens ever stronger and give Australia a brighter future.