House debates

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Grievance Debate


6:30 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Like the climate, the right to protest in Australia is under threat. It's under threat from Labor governments who are more concerned with protecting the profits of coal and gas corporations and increasingly introducing laws to put protesters in jail. In South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales, Labor is backing new laws which imprison people who are making legitimate peaceful protests against coal and gas corporations. Labor is standing up for private property and against the public interest.

Last week, brave activists stood outside the gas conference being held in Adelaide and demanded and end to fossil fuels. One woman, 69-year-old Ms Thorne, suspended herself from a bridge, blocking traffic to raise awareness of the damage gas is causing to our future. We should all be supporting her cause, but instead SA Labor rushed into parliament to introduce new antiprotest laws to give them the power to lock up anyone who obstructs a public place. At the same time, the world's scientists once again warned that we were heading into dangerous and uncharted territory, driven by mining and burning of coal, oil and gas.

The member for Macnamara is here interjecting, defending. The 69-year-old woman, Ms Thorne, is defending each and every one of our futures. The right to protest is a fundamental right. It's not something you can just write off because the gas industry doesn't like it.

Around the world people are increasingly being criminalised for fighting for a safe future. In February police in Western Australia raided the home of a climate campaigner who was opposed to Woodside's climate-wrecking profiteering, in what can only be called state-sanctioned intimidation. Under the laws in New South Wales, Violet Coco was sentenced to 15 months of prison for a protest on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. She was released after the court heard she'd been imprisoned on the false evidence of police. We need to protect the right to protest, not the coal and gas corporations.

Labor needs to remember its history. It needs to remember the importance of protest in the Labor movement and the many things protest has delivered to working people. We in the Greens do not forget our roots about the history and the importance of protest, which has protected the rivers, reefs and forests across the country which were going to be subjected to dangerous destruction.

We are in a housing crisis. Rents and mortgages are going through the roof, and people are waiting years and years for a public home as the waiting list grows longer. The fastest-growing group of people who are becoming homeless is children. There are nearly half a million women over the age of 45 who are at risk of not being able to find a secure place to live. It is incredibly stressful trying to find and keep secure housing, and it doesn't need to be. Housing should be a fundamental human right. In a country as wealthy as ours, everybody should have a secure home. No-one should be homeless.

For people in public housing, life is even more stressful because the Victorian government is selling off public housing land to property developers. Labor has always been too close to the property developers. Before the last election in Victoria, Labor proposed making developers pay a levy, which would have gone towards social and affordable housing. Under pressure from developers, they scrapped it and kept selling off public housing to private developers. The whole housing market is stacked towards profit and against people. We need to give the power and the homes back people.

Last week, two of my constituents, Brian and Marise, invited me over for a piece of cake and a chat about their experience living in public housing. Brian and Marise have lived in public housing for years. Over the course of about a year and a half, their home was flooded 10 times through no fault of their own. Each time, their furniture would be ruined, water would run into their electrics, their walls would become mouldy, their mattresses had to be replaced and their prized possessions, including Marise's own artworks, would be damaged. Understandably, this was a very stressful and disruptive time for Brian and Marise, who were moved into a motel for long periods of time each time the flooding occurred. The department offered no solutions and expected them to go on living like that forever. The folks in my office fought for Brian and Marise, and we were overjoyed when the couple finally got moved into a new property where they didn't have to live on high alert anymore.

These are the people who should be the focus of our public housing policies, not the developers or the wealthy landlords. Brian and Marise could be kicked out if their public home is sold off. Labor likes to say it's tackling the housing crisis, but really it is making it worse. It's pushing up rents, pushing up mortgages and giving billions in tax concessions to property moguls who've got more than three properties.


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