Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Statements by Senators

South Australia

1:15 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to speak today, on Valentine's Day, about one of my greatest loves: my state of South Australia. We've got a reputation for being a clean green state, and so many of us love that. We lead the way in renewable energy technologies: we're home to the world's largest lithium-ion battery, we've got wind power going gangbusters and we're building a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta to replace a tired old dirty coal power station. South Australia is leading the way. We've put electric car manufacturing on the national agenda. We can come back, we know, from the closure of Holden. We're savvy, we're thinkers; we think about things differently and we get on and get them done. We've got an abundance of fresh produce and, quite frankly, the best wine in the world. I see Senator Ruston is here in the chamber. Senator Ruston, may I say I think we have the best roses as well!

The Murray is our state's food bowl and playground and has great cultural significance to our local Aboriginal nations. We're a state of fighters. I'm driven by the Murray communities that want me, as their South Australian senator, to stand up for our beautiful river and fight against the big greedy corporate irrigators in upstream states who, purely for their own greedy selves, are ripping away environmental water largely unchecked, siphoning it off and ripping off the river.

South Australia is incredibly beautiful, and tourism is a vital part of keeping our economy ticking. Kangaroo Island attracts over 200,000 visitors each year. Kangaroo Island's identity as a clean green destination is a core part of the island's economy and a key reason it has so many visitors each year. It adds to the broader South Australian history of looking after our most precious places. It is a place that is treasured by South Australians and locals alike, and we know that it is an iconic destination for visitors from the rest of the country and the world. It is where Australians get to see sea lions and New Zealand and Australian fur seals, it is where we have nationally and internationally threatened seabirds and it is where great white sharks lurk just off the coast.

The Kangaroo Island community is fighting hard, like other coastal communities in South Australia, against oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight. It's folly to think, after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, that the Liberal Party would even consider allowing drilling in the Great Australian Bight. This pristine wilderness is home to some of the most diverse marine life on the planet—it's right there in our backyard. It's a nursery for the southern right whale. All South Australian politicians—all Australian politicians—should be protecting the Great Australian Bight and the thousands of Australian fishery and tourism jobs that rely upon it. This isn't just about doing the bidding of corporate donors. We need to be standing up for our environment and our future generations. Not only would drilling in the bight put the environment at risk; this would be a dud project for South Australian jobs as well, with most jobs, the very few that would eventually exist, going to people who reside outside of South Australia—most of them outside of Australia altogether.

In South Australia we have a strong sense of what's right and what's wrong, and we stand up for what we believe in. Over the years, thousands of people have marched against uranium mining in the far north. They've protested against locking up asylum seekers at Woomera and Baxter detention centres. Thankfully, those hellholes have now been closed. South Australians have rallied together to demonstrate against the Adani coalmine. Even though it's in Far North Queensland, South Australians know that in the long run it's bad for our nation and bad for our planet. We've stood up against drilling in the Great Australian Bight and storing the world's nuclear waste in our beautiful state's backyard. South Australians have come together to ban live animal exports and stand up to animal cruelty. This year South Australians gathered on the steps of Parliament House to call for a date that we can all celebrate as our nation's day of significance. To change the date is something that South Australians want to see happen.

I have marched in some of the biggest rallies that Adelaide has ever seen, from action on climate change, marriage equality and, the biggest of all, the rally against the Iraq war. People power has defeated state government nuclear waste dump plants—thank goodness for that—and we'll keep fighting against any risk to the beautiful Flinders Ranges and the farming land in Kimba.

I stand with the traditional owners in the Flinders Ranges who are scared and angry about the prospect of their ancient connection to their land being desecrated by storing nuclear waste in their spiritual homeland. Successive governments have failed to deliver a solution for managing this nuclear waste, while continuing to produce and, indeed, increase this waste. We have a responsibility to manage Australia's waste to the highest possible standards, and that doesn't mean dumping it in remote Indigenous communities.

We have a welcoming community in South Australia. South Australians are proud of our multicultural heritage and our rich future. I'm encouraged and inspired every day that Australians are doing what they can to make a positive difference to their communities. In South Australia, many of them are befriending new neighbours, who have come such a long way to start a new life in safety in our great state. Many South Australians volunteer their time to help these people feel less vulnerable, more welcome and part of our South Australian community. As South Australians, we have held the door open to new migrants from every corner of the earth. The cultural and economic contribution that they make is being celebrated in our great state. We hold the door open to new, exciting business ventures that will benefit the state and take it into the future.

We know that South Australia cops it from the federal government and some of the eastern states, but, I tell you what, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. We've got so much to offer. We've got such a bright future. We're forging our own path rather than waiting for the rest of the country to catch up.

This year I will be standing up for South Australians who want to see our stagnant wage growth boosted, increasing the ability for young South Australians to get jobs and to get the education that they need. We know that the government has continued to cut essential services—schools funding, childcare funding, all the things that are meant to help families who are struggling. I stand in solidarity with our many, many early childhood educators who, next month, will be walking off the job to send a message to the government that they deserve better. Many of these people work and live in South Australia and they do deserve a pay rise, and they do deserve better treatment by this government.

Next week in Adelaide, thousands of students will be arriving at university for the first time without a clue of what kind of debt they will be left with at the end of their degrees. They don't know if they'll have access to the tutors that they need or whether, indeed, there'll even be space in the classrooms. These are South Australians that deserve the backing of their federal government and the backing of their federal politicians too. I won't be standing by and letting young people in my state, who can barely afford to go to university, pay their rent and bills and cover the costs of their textbooks, be forgotten by this government any longer.