By Elizabeth Watson-Brown
Member for Ryan
I can’t believe it’s already been more than a year since being elected! We’ve been moving at such a breakneck pace and things are only speeding up further as we start to prepare for the next election campaigns! There’s absolutely no time to lose.
Time is certainly the issue when it comes to the major crises we face – time to take real climate action and tackle urgent cost-of-living issues. In our parliamentary work over the last year we have continued to shine a light on Labor’s unfettered approvals of new coal and gas projects, focussing on their hypocrisy and inaction on climate in the midst of ‘global boiling.’ While they continue to rubber stamp everything the fossil fuel industry puts on the Environment Minister’s desk, we continue to call them out.
As spokesperson for transport, one of my major parliamentary projects this year was to call on the federal government to fund an Australia-wide 12 month trial of free public transport. There would be so many benefits to free PT – cutting household costs, congestion and emissions. It’s common sense! It’s not so hard to imagine: state governments already subsidise public transport by around 75%. The federal government could easily partner with state governments and fund the remaining 25% normally covered by tickets. A 12 month trial would only cost $2.2 billion. While the common counterargument is that we should instead invest ticket revenue into expanding services, I have a different view: public transport should be a universal right, like education and public healthcare. It shouldn’t have to raise its own revenue but should instead be funded by taxing billionaires and big corporations. Even simply cutting funding to a few destructive and wasteful road widenings could fund a massive expansion of public transport and making it free for everyone.
In other parliamentary work, I moved an amendment to the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill that would have barred coal and gas executives from being appointed as Commissioners. Infrastructure Australia has an appalling history of links to fossil fuels - including Julieanne Alroe, who was on the board of Infrastructure Australia for seven years and was chair of the board from 2017 to 2021 - and while she was chair, she was also a director of Shell.
I’ll also shortly be introducing a Private Members’ Bill to introduce flight caps and a curfew at Brisbane Airport. Aircraft noise has become a major local issue in Brisbane, and Max, Stephen and I have been working hard with the community to pressure Labor into action. This Bill will be the chance for Labor and the LNP to show whether they’re on the side of the community, or on the side of corporate profits for airlines and airports (many of which were previously publicly owned!).
Our Ryan community interactions and local campaigns are a good way to canvass, at the grassroots level, responses to policy directions and to help inform future initiatives. My team has been campaigning hard on local issues including an important proposed bus route on Samford Road, a new high school in Moggill-Bellbowrie, flight noise, other local developments, transport issues, and so much more. We’ve run pop-up offices every month across this large and varied electorate, along with free community BBQs focussing on local issues. We will be engaging in a comprehensive ‘listening tour’ in the coming months to the end of the year, to meet with even more people close to home.
At the start of the year we ran a small grants program for families struggling with back-to-school costs, providing money to be spent on supplies, uniforms, fees and other school expenses. It was concerning that there was so much need for this kind of direct support. but bittersweet that there was so much gratitude from the recipients. plans for running this program again.
We have also just set up our free community pantry outside my office in Taringa, which again has proved necessary, and popular. With so many people struggling with rising costs of living, more people than ever need a hand with the basics. Our office is supplying some baseline stock, but we’re relying on members of the community to donate to help a neighbour in need, and we have already had some fantastically generous donations.
Next year will be an incredibly intense one for campaigning in Brisbane/Meanjin, with crucial local government and state elections and possibly even a federal one! The momentum and deep community engagement we’ve built with the newly increased capacity of my skilled and devoted team has been well-timed. Things will become even more focused as we engage with more members of the community than ever before and work as hard as we can to advocate for their issues and concerns.
I’ll end with a huge thank you as always to all the volunteers who’ve been helping my office function – from getting flyers for my next pop-up office into letterboxes, to donating items to the pantry or helping out with the local BBQs, volunteers have been doing so much, and I’m always humbled to be a part of this amazing and growing movement on the West Side and across the country.