By Dr Richard Di Natale, Australian Greens Parliamentary Leader, Senator for Victoria
After a huge year in federal politics we Greens are in an exciting spot. We have more members than ever before, and our largest ever field campaign has activated more supporters than ever before. We’re seeing people all over the country, from the cities to the bush, having the courage to stand up for what matters by standing with us.
The political landscape has changed dramatically over the past year, as has the Greens’ role within it. We stood with the community to see off One Term Tony, and now we stand as the only party left opposing many of Abbott’s cruel 2014 Budget measures, after Labor caved in during the election. Clive Palmer and his party are gone from the Parliament, but Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party is back, driving fear and division when we should be celebrating strength in diversity. The gloss has well and truly worn off PM Turnbull — what a disappointment he’s turned out to be.
Runs on the board
In Parliament, the past year has seen the Greens win a number of our long-running campaigns, like passing Senate Voting Reform to strengthen our democracy and put power back into the hands of voters, legislated steps toward getting medicinal cannabis into the hands of patients, intensifying scrutiny of Australia’s foreign owned land and water resources that are particularly precious in this era of global warming, and implementing new tax transparency measures to expose multinational tax avoidance that robs our community of important revenue.
While the other parties ran scared from the ‘spendometer’ that featured heavily in the media’s 2016 Federal Election coverage, we Greens set out a clear alternative vision to demonstrate that governments can afford quality schools, hospitals and services if they’re prepared to raise enough revenue. The Liberals and Labor refused to contemplate ending sweetheart deals for their vested interests in the mining sector, the big banks and the top end of town, which resulted in Labor agreeing to back-in large swathes of Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget in order to balance their books. So much for ‘the Opposition.’
We need creative new ways of doing things — true innovation in our economy and our politics — if we are to serve the Australian community and fulfil our global responsibilities. The next four years are critical if we are to upgrade our economy and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at the UN climate talks, which Larissa Waters and I attended in Paris. The world is in the midst of a refugee crisis that is seeing record levels of global displacement and the Greens believe Australia is strong enough to help, not punish, people who are fleeing conflict and seeking asylum. These are our future neighbours, colleagues and friends.
I’m immensely proud of the Greens’ 2016 federal election campaign and my nine talented, dedicated colleagues who we together succeeded in re-electing. We do return to the Parliament without Robert Simms, who made an incredible contribution in his short time as a Senator for South Australia. Robert stepped with grace, passion and confidence into the hard-to-fill shoes of Penny Wright and we thank Robert so much for his hard work and positive, powerful campaign.
This was the first double dissolution the Greens have ever contested and we achieved our second strongest result, matching our 2013 Senate vote prior to the WA by-election and lifting our lower house primary back above 10 per cent. We have changed a number of lower house seats forever, turning what were safe Liberal and Labor electorates into real contests where voters felt, for the first time, that their votes truly counted. We approached the election with a long-term strategy to win lower house seats and in places like Batman and Melbourne Ports we’ll only need a tiny swing at the next election to get more Greens voices heard in the House of Representatives.
Values and voters
In an election that the Liberals tried desperately to make about jobs and growth, we were pleased that the community focus was resolutely on funding for health care and education, marriage equality and the need for a national anti-corruption watchdog. These are outcomes our party has championed for decades, even when they were deeply unpopular, and we’re committed to being the strongest advocates for human rights, for equality before the law, and for integrity in our Federal institutions when parliament resumes.
I said, when I took on the leadership, that the Greens are a party that represents progressive mainstream values. I talked about lifting our primary vote to 20 per cent within a decade. I said both of these things because I’m certain that our values are shared by much more than 10 per cent of the population. We have a lot more work to do to connect with those voters and convince them to empower us to represent them in the Parliament. We’ll do it by demonstrating that we stand up for what matters — strong action on climate change, well-funded schools and hospitals, humane treatment of refugees — and empowering more and more people in the community to have the courage to stand with us.