The fight continues: Sarah Hanson-Young

While the election campaign has ended, the fight has not. Our work is more important than ever in the face of the climate and extinction crises. 

By Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Thanks to the hard work, support, and commitment of our volunteers and members, we doubled the vote and I kept my seat as a senator for South Australia for a fourth term. 

We campaigned for climate action, renewable energy, protecting the Great Australian Bight, saving the River Murray, and keeping the bastards honest because we know what really matters to South Australians.

A massive thank you to everyone who helped out during the campaign, it couldn't have happened without you!

Protect our Bight

Australians have made it clear: we don’t want drilling in our Bight.

More than two-thirds of South Australians and 60 percent of people around the country oppose drilling in the Bight. The risks are just not worth it. The wells are so deep and remote, and the ocean so rough that a spill would devastate our southern coastline from Albany in WA to Port Macquarie in NSW, putting at risk over 10,000 fishing and tourism jobs in SA alone and the future of dozens of threatened species. 

The fight for the Bight is a simple choice: the Parliament can vote for people and planet or they can vote for Big Oil and the destruction of jobs and the environment. Together with the SA Greens and Bight Club volunteers, we have campaigned strongly against drilling in the Bight and firmly cemented it as an election issue this year. 

The next two years will be crucial for the Bight, with Equinor pushing ahead with plans to begin drilling in late 2020. It is high time the Bight was protected from drilling. It is the role of the Parliament to listen to the will of the people, and the people have made their views crystal clear, as I have consistently highlighted in Canberra. In one of the most stunning protests, tens of thousands of people have participated in paddle outs across the state and around the country, which I was able to witness. I have also met with Equinor to tell them directly that they’re not welcome here!

The Bight is a unique, natural wonder that should be celebrated, not put at risk by Big Oil. 

I have introduced the Great Australian Bight Environmental Protection Bill to Parliament. This Bill would stop drilling in the Bight and move for World Heritage Listing. The government cannot be let off the hook on drilling in the Bight. The power to stop Big Oil is in the hands of politicians in Canberra.

Climate and extinction crisis

Australia has one of the worst extinction rates in the world. Over the past 200 years, more than 100 animal and plant species have become extinct. It is a national disgrace.  

Our environment laws need updating. Currently, they don’t even account for climate change. 

For all the talk of Adani’s approvals, drilling in the Bight, and widespread land clearing in Queensland and New South Wales, there is no mechanism in Australian law to consider their climate impacts.

That’s why we are campaigning for a climate trigger in federal legislation. Our environment laws have not kept up with environmental reality. This climate trigger would give us a mechanism to assess major developments, and approve or reject them based on their emissions.

Also in the Senate, I have pushed environment ministers to do their job and start acting in the best interests of the environment not their donors in the fossil fuel industry. I’ve raised the shocking extinction rate and called for funding for a threatened species strategy as well as calling out the terrible decision making by consecutive Environment Ministers that has gone against their own departments advice and the EPBC Act to the detriment of critical habitats.

Protecting press freedoms and strengthening media diversity 

In the lead up to the 2019 election, I announced a media reform package targeted at strengthening media diversity, holding Big Tech and corporate social media platforms accountable. Our policy aims to stop the spread of misinformation and hate. This policy turns the blow torch on the big corporate media giants and places quality, public interest journalism front and centre. Together with our proposals for an inquiry into media concentration and social media giants, and a series of tax changes and transparency measures, we are aiming to ensure that public interest is prioritised ahead of profits. 

Late last year, news broke that the ABC chair had demanded a journalist be sacked to appease the government. The Australian Greens welcomed the Senate’s support in establishing an inquiry into the ABC. The Inquiry recommended a number of reforms to the selection process and criteria for the ABC board. We want to ensure trust in the national broadcaster is not diminished, due to governments continuing to undermine the organisation's independence. Australians love their public broadcaster, and the Greens will always defend it.

Then this year, we established a Senate Inquiry into press freedom and whistleblower protections. After raids on the ABC and News Corp journalist’s homes, press freedom and whistleblower protection are finally getting the attention it deserves.

A free press is a vital pillar of democracy and journalists reporting in the public interest should not be treated like criminals. Over the past six years the Liberal Party, aided by Labor, has passed laws attacking the freedom of the press and whistleblowers in a very slippery slide towards criminalising journalism. Through the Inquiry, we will help shine a light on their actions and work with stakeholders to develop recommendations to ensure a free press and reverse this undemocratic attack by the major parties.

Don’t dump on SA

In the face of the climate crisis, we know we need clean, renewable energy – not expensive, water-intensive and high-risk nuclear energy with a waste legacy that remains unsolved. 

Thanks to a successful Greens motion, the Senate has reaffirmed its support for a ban on the development of nuclear power, however the issue is far from over with Liberal backbenchers continuing their push and using Lower-House only committees to investigate its viability. As we keep reminding them, it’s illegal and we won’t let them change that fact without a fight. 

I called on the Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology, Senator Canavan, to provide a full explanation of the current plans for the nuclear waste dump site in South Australia. The reports that the waste dump site will now be at least 60 percent bigger is concerning and must be clarified.

The process to select a nuclear waste site has been badly botched from the start, with community concerns ignored and the Adnyamathanha and Barngarla people sidelined. This process must be halted, and an independent expert panel established to address the unsolved waste legacy once and for all. South Australia is not going to roll over and be the country’s nuclear dumping ground and the Greens are backing the anti-waste dump campaign all the way.

Save the Murray  

The Coalition has had six years in government and instead of implementing the Murray Darling Basin Plan to ensure it’s managed in the worst times, it has completely messed it up. 

Our river is in crisis, small family farms are suffering and a growing number of river communities don’t even have clean water to drink. Summer is looming and if the government doesn’t act we will see more mass native fish deaths and more family farms in crisis. I saw this first-hand in January when I visited farms and rural communities devastated by the fish deaths and struggling against the powerful interests of upstream corporate cotton irrigators. No longer is this a debate about farmers versus the environment – it is the big corporates versus everyone else: family farms, river communities and the environment.

My motion condemning the National Party for opposing the delivery of 450GL of environmental water for the Murray was successful. The Senate additionally voted to support the delivery of the agreed 450GL of water, as required under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Unfortunately, the government is refusing to support the Bill to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin I introduced when Parliament resumed after the election. But I won’t give up – the future of our biggest river system is at stake.

Standing up and calling it out

Over the past year, one of the things I’ve been advocating for is more women and fairer treatment for women in the Parliament. Since calling out the behaviour of David Leyonhjelm and Barry O'Sullivan, I have been inundated by support from the community across Australia. 

The court case against David Leyonhjelm is currently still pending. Thank you to everyone who has reached out or donated. If successful, I have pledged to donate any money awarded to two very worthy organisations: Plan International and the Working Women's Centre SA. 

Making sure women are respected – whether it be in their homes, in their workplaces, or in the corridors and chambers of Parliament House – is something we can all be a part of.