Though the year has been incredibly challenging, it has also reaffirmed the power and importance of grassroots organising and of our Green movement.
By Senator Mehreen Faruqi
The past year has been immensely challenging. We saw the horror summer bushfire season of 2019-20 bring so much destruction to our livelihoods and our environment. New South Wales and the whole country was impacted terribly by the fires. They made clear, in no uncertain terms, the catastrophic impacts that the climate crisis will bring for all of us if we do not take decisive action now. And we have seen a once-in-a-century global pandemic that has upended all of our lives in ways we could not have imagined 12 months ago.
Though the year has been incredibly challenging, it has also reaffirmed to me the power and importance of grassroots organising and of our Green movement. A re-invigorated climate and environmental movement, led in many places by young people and First Nations activists, has given new life to our efforts to save the planet and create a more equitable society. The Black Lives Matter movement, both here in Australia and overseas, has continued to demand fundamental, institutional changes to our society to ensure it is genuinely anti-racist.
The Greens are the party of lifelong public education. From early childhood education and care through schools and on to tertiary education, the community response to our principled support for well-funded public education has been phenomenal.
After years of neglect, early childhood education and care was thrust into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. The broken system came to the brink of collapse and required a rescue package by the government. The Greens’ call for fee-free and universal early learning has been picked up and for a brief period, we saw childcare provided for free. Support for workers in the sector remains a key part of our campaigning.
We continue to call out the exorbitant and unfair funding of private schools by the Australian government, moving in the Senate to expand support for public schools, opposing government cash bribes for cashed-up privates schools, exposing the private school building boom, condemning Labor’s absurd jingoistic call for a citizenship pledge, and leading in support of the school climate strikers.
This year we have grown our campaign for fee-free university and TAFE by tens of thousands of members. We have opposed the government’s attacks on universities at every turn. This included moving to give unis JobKeeper, putting the plight of international students on the agenda, supporting whistleblowers, demanding SFSS debts be wiped, leading calls for inquiries into university research human rights and the future of tertiary education. Along the way, we opposed the Ramsay Centre, Liberals meddling in research, the scrapping of the Education Investment Fund, the lowering of HELP thresholds and the introduction of performance-funding measures for universities.
We’ve highlighted and fought the government’s neglect and privatisation of skills and training throughout the year. We’ve successfully amended bills to include TAFE and union representation, exempted TAFEs from private sector charges and foregrounded the need for investment in public training as the government attempts to further open the sector to profit-driven interests. The inclusion of a commitment to the abolition of all student debt in Australian Greens policy opens a new and exciting front in our tertiary education campaigning.
I’m glad to be a voice for animals in Parliament where we raised issues as varied as baboons and animal testing, the ivory trade, including animals in disaster planning, an end to hunting, and dolphins in captivity. We called for a royal commission into horse racing, brought more people that ever before into the ‘Nup to the cup’ campaign, reintroduced our bill to ban live export, built momentum for national animal cruelty laws, supported wildlife carers in the wake of the bushfires, opposed ag-gag legislation, visited fire affected areas and koala habitat, won a commitment to the establishment of a national horse traceability register, won amendments to the inspector-general of live animal exports bill and continued our work opposing the cruelty of the greyhound racing industry through the pandemic.
The pandemic has shown once and for all that homelessness and housing stress are the active choice of malicious governments. Our work has exposed the depths of the COVID-19 housing crisis, built a campaign focused on renters and their rights during the pandemic, won a national eviction ban and have fought for rental debt relief and argued for generational investment in building 500,000 social homes as part of our COVID-19 recovery. As the COVID-19 recession continues and cuts to income support bite, the focus on everyone’s right to a home remains a focus.
A busy year in the international development portfolio, including calling for COVID-19 funding for the Pacific, opposing foreign aid cuts, responding to the federal Foreign Aid Review, joining a global call for foreign aid debt forgiveness, placing climate justice at the centre of our foreign aid plans, highlighting the use of asbestos in international projects, and successfully exposing the Liberals' attempt to high the Climate Change Action Strategy for the aid program. My work in this portfolio puts racial and climate justice, as well as a commitment to the reparative work necessary for addressing ongoing colonisation, at the heart of the Greens plans.
Committees and inquiries
Education and Employment committee:
○ Inquiry into General Motors Holden Operations in Australia
○ Inquiry into the Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020
○ Inquiry into the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019
○ Inquiry into the Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2019
○ Inquiry into Education Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2019
Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade:
○ Sub-committee on PFAS contamination
Environment and communications committee
○ Inquiry into seismic testing.
○ Inquiry into wage theft and unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration.
Education hearings of the Senate’s Select Committee on COVID-19
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee:
○ Inquiry into the feasibility of a National Horse Traceability Register for all horses into the new Parliament.
As Senator for NSW, I’ve taken the PM directly to task over his climate denialism surrounding the bushfires, supported our community through that time and the beginning of the long recovery to come, welcomed the success of our campaign to decriminalise abortion in the state, drawn attention to local climate and environmental concerns like land-clearing and the Narrabri gas project, supported the Eden-Monaro byelection campaign, and enjoyed every moment of working with Greens members and the NSW community in countless meetings, events, Zoom calls and gatherings. It’s my privilege to work with you all.