Monday, 27 November 2017
I'd like to reflect tonight on the very significant electoral results in my home state of Queensland over the weekend, to note particularly the historically large number of votes for the Greens across the state as well as in a number of key seats.
As counting stands tonight, the Greens are ahead in the seat of Maiwar, the former LNP seat of a senior frontbencher, and we have a very good chance of breaking through and being elected for the first time directly into the Queensland state parliament. Queensland has been the odd one out, electorally, for the Greens over the years for a number of reasons—most significantly because of a combination of having no upper house, unlike the other states, and also by having very large local government areas, making it much harder to build up representation at a local level first.
But the Greens' campaign and the campaigners across the state were something that I was not just immensely proud of but blown away by. I've been through quite a lot of elections over nearly 30 years now, and it certainly is a very difficult challenge when you're a party trying to take on the parties of the establishment—parties that have been entrenched in our political system and basically controlled it for over 100 years. So, to be able to do that and to do it in the face of being massively outspent by parties that take the large corporate donations—and also to do it when being virtually ignored except for the occasional ridiculous overblown attack in a lot of the mainstream media, with wall-to-wall coverage for the other three main parties in the state election—creates a significant challenge. But the key thing that was an essential factor in the Greens' ability to make massive inroads was the huge number of volunteers: literally thousands of people volunteering on the ground at the community level, having those conversations and listening to people.
I want to pay tribute to those thousands of volunteers—to the candidates themselves and also to the many campaign workers and campaign staff, many of whom have been working for over a year and many of them completely voluntarily because of the cause they believe in. It is a huge breakthrough for the Greens to be on the verge of winning a seat in the state parliament in their own right.
I'd particularly like to mention the candidate for the seat of South Brisbane, Amy McMahon, and her hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. There is a swing of over 12 per cent already, with over 35 per cent of the primary vote counted. It is still quite possibly a situation where she will win the primary vote count and the Labor incumbent will have to rely on LNP preferences to retain that seat. Similarly, there is Kirsten Lovejoy, the candidate for McConnel—the old Brisbane Central—which had a swing of over eight per cent. It was a vote in the high 20s, with some votes still to be counted, and within a few per cent of toppling the incumbent there. And, of course, Michael Berkman is poised to win the seat of Maiwar—an LNP seat—in a very tight tussle with the Labor candidate at the moment.
This is worth emphasising because of the criticism that I do see from time to time—no doubt just from occasionally overenthusiastic partisans, complaining about the Greens focusing on Labor seats; it's not surprising that the Greens focus on seats where there are progressive votes to be won—the seat that the Greens are most likely to pick up is an LNP seat. Of course, it also has to be said that there are many Labor-held seats that would not be held by Labor—they would not have enough seats to form government—were it not for the very strong preference flow from Greens voters. The same applied, of course, for Labor's ability to win government in the first place at the previous state election. Certainly, that is something that they would not have got close to without the preference choices of a very high majority of Greens party voters. But those are the choices of those voters, and if they cease to see any significant reason to give their preferences in that way, then that may change down the track.
It has been said—it was said here today in question time on a number of occasions—that the Adani Carmichael coalmine is the largest coalmine in the Southern Hemisphere. Let's not forget that is just one coalmine in the massive Galilee Basin coal deposit, and that both Labor and the LNP still support not just starting that new coalmine, the Adani mine, but trying to open up the much larger other coal deposits in the Galilee Basin. The Greens, along with the massive movement in the community across the state, will continue to fight not just the Adani Carmichael coalmine but all new coalmines in Queensland, as is needed around the rest of Australia as well to ensure that we do not continue to poison the planet and risk our future by opening up new deposits of fossil fuels.
But the election was about a lot more than just Adani. I've travelled around the state, and there are many people across the state that recognise that the Adani coalmine is a con, that it does not stack up economically, that it is diverting resources away from many other projects that would deliver far more jobs, far more sustainable infrastructure of value to the entire community in regions throughout Queensland. The Greens will continue, on day 1 or day 2 after the state election, to support the movements throughout Queensland to ensure that the Carmichael coalmine does not go ahead. It is a perfect example of the influence of corporate donations distorting and poisoning public policy and putting the interests of corporations ahead of the interests of the community, putting people before profits.
One of the issues that resonated very strongly in the electorates where the Greens campaigned hard—and I was part of those door-knocking teams myself over many months—was a disgust in the community at the impact of corporate donations, the cash-for-access dinners for ministers and shadow ministers, that was perverting public policy and leading to outcomes that were against the interests of the community that the parliament is meant to serve and represent. Another was the massive overdevelopment in many areas without the corresponding investment in infrastructure for the community, whether it's schools or adequate public transport. The Greens put forward a radical vision of deliberately promoting an economically redistributive approach, making property developers, coal corporations and foreign mining companies pay their fair share and then reinvesting that money in infrastructure for the community—a massive reinvestment in rebuilding our public and community housing stock and providing affordable housing for everybody—reforming our tenancy laws so that people can not only afford a home but have security in homes that they rent. Another was ensuring a cheaper public transport, ensuring cheaper power. Independent modelling showed the Greens' policies would deliver cheaper cleaner electricity and more job-generating electricity than the policies of the other parties. That is a policy framework that the Greens will continue to promote, and it's one that I believe the public want.
It is worth noting that the joint vote of the two parties of the establishment at this state election was the lowest in over 100 years. Fewer than 70 per cent of the Queensland population, despite all of the money, despite all of the entrenched power, despite all of the corporate media backing, voted for the establishment parties. Whilst 10 per cent of those voted for the Greens, I acknowledge that over 10 per cent also voted for One Nation and that the Katter Australia Party also picked up two, probably three seats as well. There is that recognition that our political system is broken. The free market fundamentalism that has been the model of the two establishment parties for so long has clearly been shown to be a failure for so many in the community. The Greens will work hard—and certainly I'll be working hard as a senator for Queensland—to make those many people in regional Queensland aware that the Greens provide a policy framework that will deliver employment, economic security and a fairer society for them as well. Those parts of the One Nation vote that are driven and motivated by discrimination or by religious and racial bigotry are not votes that I'm interested in chasing. But those who want a fairer society and a system that's not broken are ones that I do support.
Finally, I would like to thank my predecessor, Larissa Waters, for her contribution to the campaign, and also Councillor Jonathan Sri for the inspiration he provided by winning and breaking through in Brisbane City Council last year. (Time expired)