Forever Green: Richard Di Natale

On exiting politics, there is still so much to be optimistic about.

By Senator Richard Di Natale

This year I took one of the most difficult decisions of my life: to step down as Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens.

It was not a decision I came to lightly – leading this movement in Canberra and in communities everywhere for almost five years has been an incredible honour. But representing a political party in federal parliament is a uniquely demanding job and my boys, who are 9 and 11 years old, have only ever known their dad as a busy, tired and sometimes grumpy politician. As my young boys quickly grow up to become young men, I wanted to spend more time by their side than a relentless political schedule allows.

On exiting politics, I feel there is so much to be optimistic about. Here is what fills me with hope for the future of our movement, and our country:

  • Last year, the Greens achieved our second best federal election result ever and, if it’s repeated in 2022, we will elect three new senators and, potentially, hold balance of power.
  • In recent decades, the vote of the two major parties has steadily decreased while the Greens vote has continued to climb. We are undoubtedly the third major force in Australian politics, and we’re growing.
  • The Greens put the climate crisis on the agenda last election, and this is just the beginning. Every election is now a climate change election.
  • The Greens movement goes from strength to strength, with representatives at every level of government, a record number of volunteers last election, our biggest campaign ever being run right now (climate emergency) and a party room full of inspiring and committed MPs leading the charge in Canberra.

I became a Greens MP to fight for a future that sees governments care for people and look after the environment, and to hold the other parties to account. Ten years later, I’m proud to have led a party that demanded marriage equality and worked with the LGBTIQ+ movement to win it; to have been the driving force behind much-needed royal commissions into the banking, finance and disability sectors; to have won cross-party support for a federal anti-corruption commission; to have negotiated billions for Medicare-funded dental care; and to have championed medicinal cannabis and an end to the war on drugs.

And there’s no better example of why we need the Greens in power than our achievement in establishing a price on carbon in partnership with the Gillard government. This world-leading legislation shows what cooperative politics can achieve and is the brightest moment this country has had during a decade of climate wars and shameful denialism. Progress happens when people come together to demand it, and never before have so many voices pressured the government to take urgent climate action so I am confident we can do it again.

Over the past few months, I have watched proudly as my Greens colleagues, led by Adam Bandt, have pushed back against the government’s cruel trickle down agenda, outlined a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and fought for vital supports for people who have found themselves out of work. Like the rest of you, I cheered when Lidia Thorpe entered the Senate for the first time: it’s taken far too long for Victoria to have an Aboriginal senator, and she will do a ripper job of shaking the place up.

I don’t know what comes next for me. What I do know is that there will be more time at the farm to cuddle my boys and support my wife in her career – she has sacrificed so much to support mine. They’ve been absolute heroes these past ten years, but they’re not alone. It’s you that I want to say a special thanks to you – all of you.

As Greens MPs, we are proud to give voice to a thriving grassroots movement that is bigger than any one person. You give us the energy and passion to get up every day and take on Morrison, Murdoch and all the other powerful interests that are holding back progress. I will never forget seeing your smiling faces at local community events, protest marches and voting booths all over the country every single election. It’s seared into my memory and I cannot thank you enough.

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