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2019 State Conference Keynote Address

21 Sep 2019

Cassy O'Connor MP | Leader of the Tasmanian Greens

Good morning Green family.  How great it is to be here in Nipaluna Hobart and to see so many of your friendly faces, many of whom I saw on Parliament lawns yesterday for the biggest, most seismic strike action Tasmania’s ever seen.  What an unforgettable, energising day!

We meet on the land of the Mouheenener people, in the foothills of wild kunanyi on the island of Lutruwita, Tasmania. 

We Greens - who are committed to true reconciliation with First Nations people - respectfully acknowledge this country was stolen at the point of a musket and that its people have never ceded their sovereignty. 

We pay respect to the warriors who died defending this country; to all the elders, past and present, and those who are learning their wisdoms today.

On a personal note of respect, I want to thank the Quandamooka people of Minjerriba, Stradbroke Island in Queensland, where I mostly grew up, and the home of the great poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Cath Walker. 

I’m grateful for what they taught me about the stories of the old people and the wild places, Minjerriba’s mysteries, and the tough lessons the Quandamooka kids gave me about how to grit your teeth and fight. 

These are lessons I bring to a job I love, working with people I love and who inspire me every day.

As Greens and decent Australians, it’s important we remind ourselves of where we came from and the people who have lived on this country for tens of thousands of years and shaped its ancient landscapes at all points of the compass.

Truth, Treaty, not just a voice to Parliament – but political representation in our Parliaments – the return of lands. These milestones we must achieve, for a measure of justice to Aboriginal Tasmanians, and because in this hard century, we all need to work together for climate justice.

We need to work together across this beautiful, wounded planet, to learn from indigenous peoples everywhere, from lutruwita/Tasmania to the burning Amazon and the scarified forests of Borneo.  The fight for indigenous rights is also the fight for human rights, and for climate justice.

It’s all connected.  We are all connected, to each other and to every living, breathing creature on Earth. 

Everyone here knows we’re are all in this together as deeply worried peoples of the world, and there’s no question what the enemy looks like. 

It’s naked greed, the one percent, corporate and political corruption; this is what’s poisoning the planet and robbing our children of a happy, peaceful future.

We must disrupt the economic system the greedy and corrupt have fashioned to suit only themselves, a system which is sending humanity to Hell on Earth. 

Just as we did striking for climate yesterday and across the planet today, we have to peacefully and implacably disrupt the status quo.

Nothing we do as Greens is as important as working for a habitable planet and climate justice, for an economic model that doesn’t suck all that is good and beautiful out of life on Earth. 

The scientists are telling us – only about 99% of them, to be fair – that we’ve got ten years to rein in the very worst of global heating.

That truth is what drives us now.

We need to harness the anger and the energy of the global strike for climate to restore nature and set a new, greener, kinder and more democratic course for humanity.

It can be done.  As Greens, we live on both realism and hope, and we know action equals hope. Look at the climate strikes, profound mass civil actions that light the spark of hope inside us. Let’s nourish that spark and all be part of climate action now, inspire more hope and in turn more action to reshape the world we live in for the better and the greener.

We know the future must be green, that this is the green century.

Every slice of a degree of warming we can avoid is critical, every action we take as citizens and communities can have a positive impact.

Beyond Parliaments corrupted by fossil fuel interests and dark money, outside the corporate boardrooms, this is what humanity is demanding.  Only the wilfully deaf and wicked – the Future Eaters - refuse to hear the roar for change.

All over the world, the children are rising up in their millions, their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends standing with them.

Across Tasmania yesterday, we witnessed the biggest civil protest action this island has ever seen.  In Hobart, Launceston, St Helens, Burnie, Devonport, Wynyard and Zeehan, Tasmanians tooks to the streets to demand climate action now.

The peaceful revolution has begun.  It’s unstoppable. It will force change.

This is the Green century.  Our global green movement, born here in the campaign to save Lake Pedder, is right in the thick of it and the task ahead of us is enormous.  This campaign of campaigns will be bruising.  It will exhaust us at times and we will feel despondent.

‘If you get tired’, the subversive artist, Banksy, advises, ‘learn to rest, not to quit’.

Just as Churchill said, and Tasmanian living treasure, Peter Cundall, roared in Launceston’s Albert Hall to stop the pulp mill more than a decade ago; We shall never, never give up. 

We didn’t give up on the Tamar Valley or the forests, or Ralphs Bay, and we won’t be giving up now.

For the engaged and purposeful young people who are rising in their millions to demand leadership, who energise us with their courage - born as it is of fear - we will be in the fray, with them at every step.  The Greens will not let those kids down.

Just as citizens, countries and states all over have decided, it’s time for a Green New Deal.  We need the quadruple bottom line catalyst for the change that the planet and the myriad life it supports, so urgently need. 

The good news is that the Australaian Greens are working on it, and with the help of our scientists, wise elders and equally wise young people, of our members, supporters, Senators and Councillors,  the Tasmanian Greens will deliver a Green New Deal for this island, Lutruwita, to take us to the next State Election in 2022 and into the challenging decade ahead.

Our Green New Deal will be a ten year plan through a century long lens.  It will set out a clear path for Tasmania to be a beacon of action and hope to the world.

Through a Green New Deal, we can restore nature, rewild our degraded landscapes. We can farm and sequester carbon and be a climate positive island. This will give our children hope through meaningful, practical action. 

We can create jobs in restoration and conservation, in forest and wilderness protection, sustainable agriculture and tourism, in innovative climate-resilient design and construction. 

There are thousands of local jobs to be created in renewables, in social enterprises with a light touch on the environment and in worker cooperatives that return profits in to communities instead of global corporations that have no care for this island or its people.

A Green New Deal will make sure the economically and socially marginalised aren’t left behind.  Its big green heart will reflect the Greens unwavering dedication to investing in the wellbeing of people through well funded, quality public health, education, housing and community services.

There are jobs to be created in looking after people too, of course.  Plenty. In the aged and disability sectors alone, we’ll need around 10 000 new workers over the next decade.  These too are the jobs of the future and part of a Green New Deal for Tasmania.

We will reaffirm our commitment to a Human Rights Act for Tasmania and to strengthening the foundations of our democracy by getting the dark and dirty money out of politics.  Tasmania needs electoral law reform as a priority.

Climate action demands a cleaner politics. It requires accountabiiity and transparency, elected representatives who put the public interest first, every single time, as do the Greens.

Effective climate action to lower emissions, draw down carbon in to natural sinks and to help communities adapt, demands new policy and legislative frameworks that serve people, not the toxic political and corporate structures that are hurtling us towards catastrophe.

When I was a kid, there was a great big splash of graffiti on a building near Brisbane’s CBD, ‘SUBVERT THE DOMINANT PARADIGM’.  It really mystified me until I got to the dictionary, but it’s what we have to do.

The dominant paradigm is unending growth.  It’s a madness and we must subvert it by all peaceful, powerful means.

It comes back to the imperative for disruption, and politically, the Greens are the great disrupters. We take on the true radicals – the planet wreckers – in Liberal and Labor, and we speak truth to power.  Every single time.

Having Greens elected at every level of government is vital, fostering the next generation of leaders and electing more Greens even more so. 

We need new laws for nature that remove the poisonous paradigm of Dominion and protect Earth’s life support systems, and we need Greens in Parliament to drive and deliver them.

Every one of us has a role to play and a responsibility to respond with hearts and heads to this profound climate for change.

Let’s get back out on the streets, hands in the Earth making carbon banking accounts, let’s eat less meat – vegetables taste and make your feel better anyway, fly less, drive less, walk and ride more, harass the dinosaurs in power, vote them out and deliver a Green New Deal that works for the planet and for people.

Our little crew in the State MPs Parliament offices are energised by the momentum that’s growing exponentially for real climate action.  That’s the focus of our work every day.

Earlier this year, after raging bushfires sparked by dry lightening threatened lives and torched Gondwana, Rosalie and I move for Parliament to declare a climate emergency.

The vote was close.  Not.  Every Liberal and Labor member voted for the status quo.  It was just Rosalie and I standing there with the Ayes, glowering across at a pack of climate criminals and with students who’d been watching in the gallery and on screens downstairs, in tears.

We’ll be back, you can be sure of that, and before too long.

And if this Liberal Government thinks it’s going to unleash the loggers on the 356 000 hectares of wondrous, old, carbon-sink forests on 8 April next year, it’s in for a mighty shock. 

We’re ready.  So are the Wilderness Society, Bob Brown Foundation, Conservation Trust and thousands of everyday Tasmanians who know that to log those forests would be a crime against nature and humanity.

Those forests are part of Tasmania’s gift to the world.  They must be protected and that is our collective duty. 

Logging native forests in an age of climate emergency just can’t be justified and, according to the logging industry’s own recently leaked polling, it has diminishing public support, with 61% of Tasmanians say they don’t support native forest logging.

Our Green New Deal will be a pathway out of forest and wilderness destruction.  Those days are over, just ask the kids.  They’ll tell you straight.

It’s pretty straight forward really.  We just have to listen to the young people and act.  There isn’t a second to spare.

The Earth’s immune system is kicking into gear.  You can hear the rumbling on the streets, in every public and private place.  That rumbling is becoming a roar.  Those who play deaf to it will go the way of the dinosaurs.

We are part of that immune system, connected to good people everywhere and a movement that is only gaining momentum.

As the late, mighty Green scientist, Louise Crossley, was famous for saying, ‘Let’s just get on with it.’

Thank you and here’s to another great State Conference!