With the election of the Abbott Government, hard-fought wins for the environment and women’s rights are at stake.
By Senator Larissa Waters
With the election of the Abbott Government, hard-fought wins for the environment and women’s rights are at stake. While we’re also looking to make gains in both of these spaces, we can’t afford to let the government get away with any of the backward steps it plans on taking. It’s wonderful to have the support of so many passionate Greens members and both the environment and women’s movements to achieve that.
In the environment space, we’ve campaigned strongly against the destruction of national environment protections, the industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef and the expansion of unconventional gas and coal.
The Abbott Government is signing up state governments to its plan to hand federal environmental approval powers to Premiers, winding back 30 years of national environment protection. The States can’t be trusted to protect the environment – the risk of corruption and cronyism is too high. If State Premiers had their way, the Great Barrier Reef would be scarred by oil rigs, and the Franklin River would be dammed. But the fight to save our national environment laws is far from over – we’ve been working with a wide range of groups to rally public opposition to this retrograde step and will continue to fight for our iconic landscapes and wildlife, which are simply too precious to lose.
This year saw the federal approval of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest coal mine in the Galilee Basin and the associated coal port at Abbot Point, the world’s largest, in the Great Barrier Reef. Public opposition to both of these projects has been loud and clear. Those raised voices have been heard inside the halls of Parliament, and the Government is under pressure. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people up and down the coast of Queensland working to save the Great Barrier Reef, including fishers, tourism operators, scientists and grass-roots environmental activists.
I’ve also really enjoyed travelling to regional areas in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales to meet communities locking the gate to coal and gas to protect their land and water. A highlight of the year was visiting the Bentley blockade in the Northern Rivers just after Metgasco’s tight gas drilling license was suspended due to the sustained community protest.
This year, it was a privilege to take on the women’s portfolio and to meet so many wonderful people working for women’s rights through advocacy and at women’s refuges. The personal stories shared throughout these meetings really brought home to me our country’s shameful domestic violence crisis. One woman a week is killed by domestic violence in Australia and one in three women have experienced violence. I’ve initiated a Senate Inquiry into domestic violence that will assess the effectiveness of government responses. The Inquiry will also make clear how brutally the Abbott Government’s budget will impact victims of domestic violence and I hope as a result will prevent these cuts from occurring.
We’ve also strongly advocated for solutions to the gender pay gap, which atrociously sits at 18 per cent. Although the Abbott Government is threatening to water down requirements for businesses to provide information about how many women they employ and how much they are paid, we’re vocally opposing this, as are quite a few progressive businesses.
As our work in the women’s portfolio continues, we’ll continue to work toward eradicating violence against women and the gender pay gap.
As well as progressing our women’s and environment campaigns, we’re looking forward to our state election next year, which will give Queenslanders the chance to kick out Campbell Newman, after his repeated attacks on our environment and community. I can’t wait to work with our excellent local candidates to communicate with Queenslanders across the state that the Greens stand for a more caring society and protecting our environment and climate for future generations.