This past year will go down in history as extraordinary, but not for good reasons. Our work is more important than ever, and it is time for solutions.
By Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
2020 has been an awakening for everybody. COVID-19 is not like anything we have experienced before. This is not just a health crisis, but also an economic, and social and community crisis. We are facing climate and extinction crises.
There’s a lot of work to do. I’ll be working hard to save our environment and wildlife, our ABC and a generation of artists and entertainers – thanks for taking up the fight with me.
Fighting to protect our environment and wildlife
The Morrison Government is seeking to take a chainsaw to environmental protection laws to make it easier for their mates in mining and property development to get their projects up. Without even waiting for the report from their own expert panel, they have tabled legislation that would hand over approval powers to the states, leaving our environment and wildlife vulnerable.
We need stronger environmental protections, not less. That’s why we are fighting to introduce national environmental standards and an independent watchdog that will able to ensure compliance.
As we all know, last summer was devastating to communities across the country that were ravaged by bushfires. I started the year visiting fire-affected areas, including Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and East Gippsland. I witnessed the complete devastation felt by communities affected by the climate fires.
There is no doubt that these fires were climate fires. As we once again head towards the bushfire season, communities around the country are understandably anxious about what this summer holds. We know we need a climate and environment policy that is fit for the crisis we’re in. The time for debate is over – it is time for solutions.
A win for the Bight!
In February, following intense community pressure, Equinor abandoned their plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight. This was a huge win for our team and the South Australian community that have strongly fought against the proposal to drill for oil in this pristine and iconic environment. Our Bight is a marine wonderland and home to the world's most important whale sanctuary. The next step in this campaign is to secure United Nations World Heritage listing for the Bight to protect it from any future attempts to drill.
Save our ABC
The Morrison Government have continued with their relentless attacks on our ABC. Since 2014, over $700 million has been cut from the ABC by the Coalition Government. Now, the government has deliberately left the ABC and SBS out of the ACCC’s News Media Bargaining Code that will see Facebook and Google forced to pay news organisations for the content that they use on their platforms. I have been publicly advocating for the inclusion of our national broadcasters in the code.
Help for our struggling artists
COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on many industries. The arts and entertainment sector has been one of the hardest hit with so many concerts, festivals, exhibitions, events and so much more cancelled. In June the Prime Minister stood with Guy Sebastian and promised to help support artists struggling since restrictions shut the industry down overnight. But still, no money has flowed. People are going broke, small businesses are hitting the wall and the government hasn’t lifted a finger. Throughout the pandemic I have been standing in solidarity with artists around Australia while the government lets down this vital $112 billion industry.
Ensuring press freedom in Australia
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. Recently we have seen the chilling results of these laws with both the ABC news oom and the home of journalist Annika Smethurst raided by the AFP.
I have been chairing the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedom where we’ve heard important evidence critiquing our country’s laws and policies on press freedoms and whistleblowers, and suggestions for reform. It is clear that we need a Media Freedom Act in Australia and I will be introducing this to the Senate in the coming months.