Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


Climate Change

7:40 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

On this day of national shame—and that is the only way you can describe it when the government and the Labor Party have completely lost their moral compass—to retrospectively legalise the illegal, under the law as it stands, to send babies into offshore detention indefinitely, I rise here to say how proud I am that the Greens are a strong and rising political force here and around the world, a force for hope, resilience and change in an otherwise bleak political environment. That force for hope, resilience and change was on show here last night as well, as we stood up for addressing global warming, for renewable energy, for the conversion to the low-carbon economy and, instead, watched what I can only describe as the 'hollow men'. I will come back to that a bit later.

The Greens are a force for standing up to the only two things that are really in the world: people and nature. We know that economics is simply a tool that governs that relationship. The problem we have at the moment is that we have to change the economic and political philosophical view that is in place. We have to change that as a radical rethink, and we do not have any time. We need a reconnection with people. We need a reconnection with country. There is no time: 'If not now, when? If not us, who? It is a famous quote. Senate President Kennedy said it. People said it before him. It is true. Political expediency is stopping us getting the change we need in the time frame we need it in.

So it is that I celebrate the fact that on a cold winter's day less than two weeks ago I was in New Zealand for the ratification of the Asia-Pacific Greens Federation conference and its charter. It was fantastic to be there to see all of the representatives from around the region. We had people there from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia, Iraq, the Philippines, the Solomons, PNG, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. They were all making another milestone in green politics for the region and for the world.

That means that the Asia-Pacific Greens Federation joins the federation from Africa, and the federation of the Americas and the European Union, strengthening the global Greens network. We are the only political party in the 21st century that is global in its view, global in its reach and consistent in that philosophical view with a ratified charter, which was ratified here in Canberra in 2001. It is no mean feat when you think about the cultural and language difference around the world that we have managed to come together with an agreed philosophical view that we are representing in parliaments from one end of the planet to the other.

That is really important, because the overwhelming issues of our time are global and that is why it is important that as a political party we are global. Those issues start with things like the very basics. We live on a finite planet. We live on a planet going to nine billion people by 2050 and it is because of the pressures of that economic system that I talked about, the pressures of multinational corporations, in particular, that we are now seeing accelerated global warming, the scramble for what is left of the earth's resource. We are seeing increasing conflict and displacement of people.

That came up in every session of the Asia-Pacific Greens conference because the same problems exist there—that is, it is Australian mining companies in Mongolia displacing people, destroying people's quality of life. It is logging companies in Indonesia. There is bribery and corruption throughout all of those countries in the region. Once, we would have said that that would not be the case in Australia, but we heard only two weeks ago that here we have an Australian government prepared to bribe people smugglers—pay cash to people smugglers—contrary to international law and contrary to the OECD Convention Against Corruption. It is everywhere. We need to fight corruption everywhere we find it.

It is great to hear that, when we get to those meetings, we have the Australian Greens being able to stand up and say to the Taiwanese, to the South Koreans and to the Japanese, 'Yes, we oppose uranium mining in Australia because we recognise it is the wrong way to go,' and they get hope from the fact that they are campaigning against the rollout of nuclear in response to global warming. They want renewable energy; they do not want Australian uranium. It is fantastic to be able to work with them in that capacity. We also work with the Global Greens in the Framework Convention on Climate Change. At those global meetings you have Green MPs from all over the world in various government delegations working together to try to secure a better outcome. It was a moment of great pride to me that the European Greens took on the case of Peter Greste when he was in jail in Egypt and they moved a comprehensive motion and got it through the European Parliament to great effect. That is the kind of thing we can do together. It was wonderful to see the Young Greens supporting the British Greens in the recent election and particularly campaigning for Caroline Lucas in Brighton. Who would have thought that you could have had a global movement working together and sharing and identifying with those outcomes even a few years ago?

We might be a fledgling political organisation in terms of the level of development in various countries and the level of connection, but we are there as a philosophical view, we are there responding to the greatest challenges of this century and we are doing it in a consistent and collaborative way, and that makes it a really exciting place to be. The campaigns we are running for democracy are really important in that context. We have to fight for one vote, one value; free and fair elections; and proportional representation. We need to take on bribery and get rid of the influence of political donations. We have to respond to the need for freedom of speech and gender equality, and end discrimination on the basis of anything, whether it is race, religion or sexuality, and we have to respond to the rule of law. We have to reinforce the rule of law. That is slipping in this country. I did not think we would get to a point in Australia where we would see the rule of law disappearing in the way that we have. We need to stand up for those things.

People have said to me, 'You've been around politics for a long time,' and I have, but I want to say how proud I am about that, because I was there through the formation of the world's first Green party out of Tasmania. How proud am I of that! I would hope that, Mr President, as a Tasmanian, you would recognise that this is globally significant: the United Tasmania Group. Then there was the formation of the Tasmanian Greens, the Australian Greens and the Global Greens, and now there is the ratification of the Asia-Pacific Greens. Marg Blakers is in the gallery. I want to acknowledge the work that she has done over the years to get us to the point of being a global organisation. Looking back, people have said, 'How have you stood some of it? How have you stood the sexism and how have you stood the ignorance that you hear in many of the debates?' Last night was a classic case where we almost went back to the modern version of dunking stools, listening to the commissioner for wind farms et cetera debate. My answer to that is: TS Eliot's The Hollow Men has been a favourite of mine, and I sit here listening to that and what is going in my head is:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw—

and that cheers me up because I know the Greens are not in that category. People say, 'What's going to guide you from here?' Tennyson's Ulysses has been a poem that has guided me for a good deal of my life and it does now.

Essentially, to Richard and this wonderful team that I am leaving behind in the Greens, let me say that I am leaving you the sceptre and the isle and I have every confidence that they are in good hands. Like Ulysses and the elders of the party that have gone before me: 'There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail.' It is a case of striving to seek to find and not to yield, or, as Peter Cundall in Tasmania would say, 'We will never, ever give up,' and that is essentially where the Greens come from and it is where I come from. I am an activist. I am not leaving politics. I am not leaving the Greens. I am leaving political representation. But for the Greens activism is everything in and out of the parliament, and I will be there as an activist, with purple stockings, and more dangerous than ever.