Taking on the old parties: Adam Bandt

As the old parties try to tear themselves and the social fabric of this country apart, our roles as the Greens becomes even more important.

By Adam Bandt

As the only Greens MP in the House of Representatives, it’s painfully obvious that the major parties are either unable or unwilling to solve the most urgent political challenges of the 21st century.

I’m in the front-row seat, watching as the old parties try and tear themselves and the social fabric of this country apart, making our role as Greens even more important. A political climate that is increasingly fractured and devoid of compassion, foresight and fairness needs people that will stand up against politicians who are driven by nothing but self-interest and ego.

Government should be for the many, not the few – but in Australia the richest 20 percent of Australian households own 62 percent of all wealth, while the lowest 50 percent own just 18 percent.

Instead of tackling climate change, pollution continues to rise. Instead of welcoming people from other countries fleeing war and persecution, we lock them up in offshore camps. Instead of protecting the rights of working people, we tear them to shreds. Instead of protecting public land, we sell it off. Instead of inclusiveness, we spread fear.

But there are rays of hope. At the end of 2017, we finally – FINALLY – achieved marriage equality. We wasted hundreds of millions of dollars and inflicted months (and years) of unnecessary pain on the LGBTIQ+ community but, eventually, love won. 

Local wins

In Victoria, we elected the first ever indigenous women to Victorian Parliament, Lidia Thorpe. Lidia is a powerhouse and, amongst her other achievements, has been instrumental in Victoria’s push for a treaty with Victoria’s first peoples.

In Melbourne, we:

  • had the highest ‘yes’ vote for marriage equality in the country, after a huge ground campaign to ‘get out the vote’;

  • built the campaign for a medically supervised injecting facility in Richmond, forcing the Victorian government to finally open a centre that is now operating and already saving lives;

  • collaborated with Victorian Greens offices to run a unique Greens Campaign Fellowship, a one-year program of training and development that supported a cohort of activists from marginalised communities to build campaign skills and take on leadership positions;

  • continued to work closely with culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Melbourne, including attending local community events, taking issues to Parliament, hosting a major Iftar for local Muslim communities, and securing grant funding for community projects;

  • have worked with FMECC (Federal Melbourne Election Campaign Committee) as it has established a field campaign that has hired organisers and knocked on thousands of doors, talking to constituents about a range of issues as well as the upcoming election;

  • have stood firm against the racialised fear campaign and law-and-order bidding war targeted at the African-Australian community. We have supported local community groups, held a major public meeting, supported community meetings and a rally, launched a pledge campaign, and held anti-racism door-knocking events;

  • worked with local community groups to tackle local amenity issues and protect Melbourne’s liveability, including on planning, aircraft noise, transport, and local facilities;

  • have built a campaign for a massive increase in public housing to tackle the housing crisis, and to stop Labor’s sell-offs of public housing estates in Melbourne. We have worked with public housing residents and supporters to establish the Public Housing Defence Network and hold rallies at estates, and secured a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the sell-offs;

  • secured $150,000 for local community projects through the Stronger Communities grants program, distributed to local not-for-profit grassroots organisations;

  • through my electorate office, have directly assisted hundreds of Melbourne constituents with personal issues such as housing, immigration, Centrelink, disability support, and accessing government services;

  • spoke out in federal Parliament on important issues for the Melbourne community including racism, housing, Aboriginal sovereignty, men’s violence against women, climate change, multiculturalism, international issues, public transport, animal rights, and local community achievements and organisations.

Beyond Melbourne

We’ve also been busy in Parliament and on the national stage.

In June I launched a comprehensive suite of industrial relations policies, that would, among other reforms, enshrine the right of working people to bargain at whatever level they consider appropriate, abolish ‘work for the dole’ and ensure workers in the ‘gig economy’ get paid minimum wages and conditions.

The Greens were also the first party to propose amending workplace laws to enshrine 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave, penalty rates, and the right of casual and contract workers to convert to secure employment and for all workers to have more control over work/life balance.

The debate around energy policy and climate change has become increasingly toxic over the last year. In the media, we’ve consistently voiced our opposition to ludicrous proposals from the hard-right to build new coal-fired power stations and we’ve fought the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) all the way – a policy that would strangle investment in renewables and almost guarantee that we are unable to meet our already measly Paris targets.

We’ve also called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry – essentially, a Royal Commission – into the excessive profiteering of energy retailers and the failures of the privatisation and deregulation of electricity.

There is growing public awareness that the addiction to neoliberalism has had a toxic effect on our democracy and our institutions, particularly on vital infrastructure like electricity. The failed agenda of privatisation and deregulation needs to be exposed and deserves scrutiny, so we can start to wind back the damage the conservatives have done by turning essential public goods into profit-making markets.

This work is just a snapshot of what we’ve done this year to make society fairer and cleaner. As the next election looms, I will be fighting for a government that works for the many, not the few. My commitment to tackling inequality and climate change is unwavering and I hope that, together, we can kick out the conservatives and start building a future that works, for all of us.