Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

First Speech

5:00 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land that this parliament is meeting on, the Ngunawal and Ngambri people, and also the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners of the lands and waters across my home state of Queensland. I pay respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I recognise that sovereignty was never ceded and that there is still so much unfinished business that our country needs to address before we have truth, reconciliation and justice for the first peoples of this land.

The greatest failing of Australian parliaments and our political system has undoubtedly been, and continues to be, this inability to deliver justice, equality and proper recognition to the First Australians. Time and time again, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been let down by broken promises, bad decisions and parliament collectively putting politics ahead of principle. We collectively have failed to fundamentally alter the systemic injustice which we all know continues to seriously impact so many Indigenous Australians. The key reason why is that we have never done enough listening or been willing to take direction directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. Surely, after well over 100 years of this federal parliament thinking we know best and continually stuffing it up so comprehensively, it is well past time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a direct say and have the power to have free, prior and informed consent over decisions, programs and policies that affect them.

As some of you would know, this is not actually my first speech to this chamber. Indeed, a quick search of the parliamentary database, using the broadest definition of what constitutes a speech, suggests that this might be my 4,532nd speech in this place. I'm aiming for quality to go with the quantity, I assure you! I do try to use my comments and my role in this place more broadly to raise the views of those who are often ignored and disempowered by parliamentary and political processes. I believe politics works best when it empowers other people and communities to have a meaningful say in decisions which affect them, not when it just delivers power to a small number of people to do what they think is best for others or, more often, what they think is best for their donors and their mates.

I very much recognise that it is only due to a very unexpected twist of fate and the misfortune of another that I find myself back in the Senate. Whilst it is true that this is an unusual and unexpected circumstance that has caused me to be elected to this position, it is nowhere near as unusual, unlikely or unprecedented as the circumstance which caused me to be in this place the first time around, in 1997. For those of you who can't remember that long ago, that involved the leader of the party I was then in defecting without warning and joining the Labor Party. I can very much assure you that that is never going to be repeated!

Unlike that circumstance, my predecessor on this occasion, Larissa Waters, remains a committed and enthusiastic member of the Greens in Queensland, and it was a great pleasure to be able to doorknock and campaign alongside her regularly in the months leading up to the recent Queensland election. It is an honour to have the opportunity to build on the work Larissa has done over the last seven years, and I would like to acknowledge her both as a friend and for her achievements as the first Greens senator for Queensland.

This is a historic time for the Queensland Greens, something which has nothing to do with the fact that I'm giving my 4,000-and-somethingth speech. Rather it is because it is a day when, after more than 25 years of building and supporting movements aimed at substantial political change in Queensland, the party can say that we're on the verge of having our first person directly elected to the Queensland parliament.


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