What a year it’s been: Larissa Waters

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who worked so hard to achieve our electoral goals in the face of increasing adversity.

By Senator Larissa Waters

What a year it’s been!

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who worked so hard to achieve our electoral goals in the face of an ever more extreme and motivated far-right and an increasingly polarised media.  I am incredibly proud that we returned all our senators to the parliament and achieved strong swings in several lower house seats, putting them in a great position for the next election – including seats in my home state of Queensland! 

For many of us, it has been difficult to come to terms with what this returned Coalition government means for us – given their overall awfulness – in parliamentary terms and for our planet.  The words and actions of our prime minister during the UN Climate Summit threw this into stark relief. 

However, I continue to find optimism and strength from the broader community movement for climate action and equality, and our role as the political expression of that sentiment. I hope you do, as well – our grassroots movement continues to grow from strength to strength and I hope that in 2020 we continue to unite under our shared values and common causes.

Rallying for our climate

A few weeks back I joined almost 50,000 Queenslanders at the September School Strike for Climate.  It was the biggest rally Brisbane has seen for almost 20 years. 

Coming off the back of catastrophic bushfires that ravaged the southern parts of Queensland just a week out of winter, it was uplifting to see our community come together across the country to call out the inaction from our government on this global issue that has such severe consequences. Amidst the horror forecast by the IPCC, I found hope that people power will deliver climate action in the nick of time to keep us from a 1.5 degree rise.

I look forward to continuing to campaign alongside the community and call for not just drastic action to cut emissions but also to ensure that communities that have historically relied on the thermal coal, gas and oil industries for their livelihood are not left behind in our transition.

I'll be participating in the Jobs for the Future in Regional Areas inquiry to listen to the people who will not only be most affected if our government fails to plan the transition, but are also already facing some of the worst consequences of global warming. I’m excited to join friends and colleagues from across the country in our national climate campaign as we prepare for 2020 and beyond. See you on the streets!

Towards a stronger democracy

After more than 10 years of campaigning and six attempts, in September we passed our National Integrity Commission Bill through the Senate! This is only the sixth Greens bill to pass the Senate, and it’s due to years of work on the issue by wonderful Greens.

The first iteration of this bill was introduced by Bob Brown in 2010, then by Christine Milne in 2013 and then by Lee Rhiannon in 2016, as well as Adam Bandt in the House in 2012 and 2017. Their years of community campaigning is why we now have a bill that passed the Senate for a strong corruption watchdog with teeth.

The bill is now on the notice paper for consideration in the House, but sadly we don’t expect the government to bring it in any time soon. We will call for that each time another scandal occurs, and are continuing talks with all MPs to either get my bill brought on, or at least to pressure the government to strengthen and hasten their own promised bill. We will keep you updated!

Alongside our campaign for a federal ICAC we’ve got campaigns gearing up on donations reform, electoral spending caps and ministerial standards that are actually enforceable, along with a bevy of other ideas aimed at putting everyday people back in the centre of decision-making. 

Following every election, the parliament undertakes a review and puts forward some recommendations to improve the electoral process.  I am the Greens rep on the committee that does this review: the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM).  I’ll be using this process to push for greater transparency on authorised materials, truth in political advertising, and other ways we can level the playing field and ensure greater financial resources do not disproportionately affect electoral success.

Standing up to the deniers  

First they doubted the climate science – now they doubt the water science, while our Great Barrier Reef dies. 

After years of undermining and questioning the peer-reviewed science, a few loud, right-wing senators have finally got their way and established an inquiry into the science behind the water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef and the regulation of associated farm practices. This is just another in a series of tactics designed to distract and delay so that a small group of powerful people can continue to make a lot of money at the expense of our environment.  I’ve joined this inquiry and will ensure that the committee hears from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

The government has also rolled over and set up toxic family law inquiry with Kevin Andrews as chair (who thinks DV survivors should go to couple’s counselling with their perpetrators) and Pauline Hanson as deputy chair (who has victim blamed and accused women of lying about abuse to the courts to keep children away from their fathers).

There is no doubt that the family law system has serious problems that need addressing, however this committee is not fit for the task and I have no confidence in it. This is clearly a political stitch up between the government and One Nation.

We’ll continue to support the calls by expert domestic violence legal service providers like Women’s Legal Services Australia to create a family law system that keeps women and children safe, but this inquiry is stacked with extremists that have pre-determined, non-expert opinions on the gendered drivers of violence against women and their children. This whole inquiry is a dangerous invitation to continue victim-shaming, blaming and denial.

The evidence is already available on the type of changes needed for improving the family court system. The government should not be subjecting women who have experienced domestic violence to yet another intrusive inquiry that doesn’t even have oversight by domestic violence experts.

Making our parliament as diverse as our community

As the largest progressive party in Australia, the Greens have a vital role to play in ensuring that diverse voices are heard in our parliament. One of the easiest ways to do that is to preselect diverse candidates into winnable seats, and through quotas.

I will be hosting a workshop at National Conference to discuss ways in which we can ensure our party room reflects our communities.  I look forward to discussing options to implement quotas with delegates and state parties in November.

Queensland 2020 

Next year is a big one for us in Queensland with both our council and state elections within a seven-month period.  We’ve set ourselves a pretty big target to not only retain Jonathan Sri on Brisbane City Council and Michael Berkman in the Queensland Parliament, but to pick up multiple extra seats at both levels. 

Coming off the successes of the last several elections in Queensland, I am confident we can achieve that.  I look forward to hitting the campaign trail again over the coming year; I hope friends and colleagues from around the country will join me.