We make the difference: Peter Whish-Wilson

It’s been another year where we Greens have been doing what we’re meant to do.

By Senator Peter Whish-Wilson

We are the ones who take on the powerful and vested interests. We are the ones who will speak up for ordinary people each and every time. We are the ones who understand that this mortal coil is the only place our grandchildren will ever be able to inhabit.

When no one speaks up, there is no hope and no change. When we speak up, there is hope and there is change, increasingly and in ever more surprising ways. We are doing the hard yards. We are keeping politics from the abyss. We are showing that there is a better way.

We make the difference.

The banking Royal Commission putting capitalism on trial 

The banking Royal Commission wouldn't have happened without the Greens. We lead the campaign to shine a light on what the banks have been up to and to seek justice for victims of financial crime.

When the government announced the Commission they said that it would not be ‘capitalism on trial.’ Well, sorry Prime Minister – capitalism and its worse excesses really have been on trial! 

After all, banks are the arteries of capital. And they’ve become fat and bloated. In the words of the prudential regulator, APRA, market dominance and super profits have 'dulled the senses.’ The stories of the banks routinely and systemically rorting their customers – dead or alive – have been truly shocking.

What has received less attention is that the Commission has framed this misconduct with a very simple question: how much profit is enough? At what point do you balance returns on capital with the interests of consumers, people and their community?

This is the heart of it. Banks are granted the privilege of being able to provide an essential service. It is not a free market and it should not be treated as though it is. That is only ever an excuse for more money flowing into the pockets of the rich.

While we would like to see the Commission extended, we need strong recommendations for change and political action for real reform. We’ve been on the front foot with the policy response.

Break up the banks. Cap executive pay. Set up a People’s Bank. Level the playing field for mutuals and co-ops. And let the ACCC be the tough cop on the beat that ASIC hasn’t been.

China reminds us to never waste a crisis 

This year the original ‘green industry’ became an industry in crisis. China’s decision to stop importing low quality recycled material has revealed the mess we are in. I chaired a Senate inquiry that showed that this problem has been a long time coming.

For too long, governments and industry papered over the problems. The economic rationalists told us that product stewardship (like container deposits) was not worth people’s time. Instead, we collected high volumes of low quality material, and sold it to China.

But now the party is over. This is the shock we need. We need to transform our economy. We need to change the way we produce, consume and use.

The Greens are the only party to have launched a blueprint to reboot recycling and transform to a circular economy. This starts with buying less. But we also need government to lead and to act.

We need to phase-out single use plastics. We need mandatory product stewardship to make corporations responsible and to show the end-of-life cost at the point-of-sale. And we need to invest in better sorting facilities.

This will clean-up recycling so that we can do more with what we collect. And then we can buy recycled and build a local industry and local jobs.

Our oceans are the canary in the coal mine 

Our oceans are the source of all life on this planet and they are facing the greatest threat they have ever faced. Overfishing, the toxic tide of plastic pollution, and the warming and acidification of the seas are serious challenges that we must face and that we must act on.

The Greens have been the federal Parliaments true ocean champions, rallying support and community action on the multiple threats to our precious marine life, and ultimately human wellbeing. We have led on opposing the escalation of illegal Japanese whaling in our Southern Ocean, the return of industrial super trawlers to plunder our fisheries, this governments watering down of crucial marine parks, the culling of apex predators like sharks, and the indiscriminate killing of marine life from outdated and destructive shark nets and drift nets.

No one has campaigned harder to highlight the dangers posed to healthy oceans from not acting on climate change, and for putting in place policies to stop the scourge of marine plastics. No one has worked harder than the Greens to oppose new coal mines and reduce emissions, and to drive the transition to renewable energy required to help safe guard the future of a dying Great Barrier Reef.

We have demanded our government show real global leadership on climate change action and healthy oceans. There is much work to do but with growing community campaigns and protests to protect our marine environment, we don't stand alone.