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2022 Tasmanian Greens’ State Conference; Leaders' Address


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Saturday, 24 September 2022

Tags: Political Leadership

Tasmanian Greens’ State Conference

24 September, 2022 – Spring Bay Mill, trayapana/Triabunna

Cassy O’Connor MP, Greens’ Leader

(*check against delivery)

 

Intro

Hello fellow Greens from all corners of this beautiful island lutruwita/Tasmania and welcome to the Tasmanian Greens’ Covid-safe State Conference for 2022. 

Hello and a warm welcome too, to our people joining online.

A big thank you to the Lyons Branch for hosting us here, at this place transformed as it is by having Greens in government, and the persistence of a great friend of lutruwita/Tasmania, Graeme Wood.

To our Convenor, Damien, the Executive, our party staff, Greens’ legends, elected reps from all levels of government, and local government candidates in the thick of campaigning, a big, in-person Hello.

Acknowledgement

We meet on the country of the Oyster Bay people, one of the nine great tribes who lived deeply connected to this island and its cycles for tens of thousands of years, before colonization and war shattered what was.

The timeless stories of the Oyster Bay people, their bones and blood are in, and of, the landscape all around us.

Oyster Bay territory extended from piyura kitina/Risdon to kutalayna/Brighton, through St Peters Pass, to the east of Ben Lomond, down the east coast from south of larapuna/Eddystone Point to the turrakana/Tasman Peninsula.

Home to the paradarerme Aboriginal clan, the true and ancient name for this place is trayapana.  The life-giving Prosser River just near here they called, liyamangina minanya,

Triabunna is one of the very few places in Tasmania that kept a vestige of its first name. That is, until a Greens’ Minister for Aboriginal Affairs worked with Aboriginal leaders and keepers of the palawa kani language to introduce the State’s first Aboriginal Dual Naming Policy in 2012. 

The attempted erasure by the English of a people and their languages was savage and through, but ultimately it failed. Tasmanian Aboriginal people, their culture and their language live, and are strong, today.

As Greens, of course, we want them to be stronger.

We should all be humbled by the tenacity of Aboriginal Tasmanians, but still they suffer great injustice.  Still they wait as white-skinned leaders make promise after promise unfulfilled.

Treaty

As Greens who’ve long stood by First Nations people in their fight for justice, we know this island community will never be what it is capable of being until it confronts its past.

There can be no reconciliation or justice for First Nations Tasmanians until there is truth telling, Treaty and land returns.

Regrettably, the process to achieve this has stalled despite strong beginnings under former Premier, Peter Gutwein. 

It’s almost a year since Professors Warner and McCormack handed down their landmark report mapping out the path to truth telling, Treaty and the return of lands.

We have a Premier now who is a decent person but still struggling with priorities.

He seems more concerned with dumping a billion-dollar stadium on nipaluna/Hobart’s waterfront – displacing a planned Truth and Reconciliation Park - than he is showing the leadership required to hold true to Aboriginal, and non-Aboriginal Tasmanians, who yearn for a new beginning.

It’s time he took the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio back from the dithering Roger Jaensch, and made truth, Treaty and justice a priority of his government.

Racism

So, it’s Grand Final day and I’m sure some of you will be watching the game later this afternoon.

Some of the fastest, most gifted players on the field will be First Nations, as always, but a very dark and heavy cloud hangs over the game they love right now.

Let’s speak plainly about one of the most tragic and ugliest episodes to feature in this country’s already grim, still unfinished, story of institutional racism.

The Hawthorn Football Club has uncovered the most horrific stories of racism.

Like many of you here today I’m sure, I am revolted to my core by the first-hand testimony that’s been made public recently.

Story after story, from Aboriginal players and their families, consistent in their themes, point to institutional racism at Hawthorn.

And let’s face it, structural racism in the AFL is unlikely to be limited to Hawthorn and Collingwood; the two clubs who have done reviews which both exposed significant racism.

Why would we expect anything else when there is so much structural racism right across our country?

I understand all those subject to these allegations have vehemently denied them. There is a lot more to be written in this story.

At face value, the reports are so damning.

Tasmanians are entitled to ask - did their taxpayer dollars (in a sponsorship deal the Greens never supported) fund racism, family separation and abortion at the Hawthorn Football Club?

Have we paid our people’s money into a sport which has a dark side which is only now starting to be exposed?

Whether or not Tasmania is successful in securing our own AFL men’s and women’s teams, what future do we have with Hawthorn after so many Aboriginal voices spoke up about their alleged treatment by the club?

The sponsorship deal, which has paid a rich Melbourne club, tens of millions of dollars over the past sixteen years, is up for negotiation as we speak.

The sponsorship was always a bad idea, and now there’s an even stronger argument for the Premier to just pull the pin, tell Hawthorn it’s over, and to take the word Tasmania off the players’ jerseys.

At the very least, Jeremy Rockliff should immediately suspend negotiations on the sponsorship deal until the AFL’s internal review is done and the outcomes made public.

The AFL itself meanwhile needs to spend less time telling Tasmanians they need a brand-new stadium while it already has two, and people are sleeping in tents or dying on the elective surgery waiting list, and address the allegations of racism in its ranks by conducting a full, independent review of every club, and the AFL itself.

Queen Elizabeth II

As non-Aboriginal Tasmanians and Australians, we have to confront our colonial past and work to stop it infecting the present and future.

The death of a great and gracious Queen, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has brought some hard truths in to sharp focus.

Many of us felt a genuine sadness at her passing.  Some of us loved her.  Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor had been with us, steadfast, decent and kind, all our lives.  It is the end of an icon and an era. Some have grieved.

First Nations’ Australians live with another kind of grief. It is unending, unresolved. Few shed tears for the late Queen.

How we felt about the Queen, and how her departure from this earthly realm affects us, depends very much on whether our history is that of the colonizer or the colonized.

We can be thankful for the Westminster democratic system at one level – and the Greens will always fight to defend it - but what a heavy price was exacted for its existence in Parliaments across the globe.

Colonisation

Her Majesty was not herself responsible, but she was the embodiment of the Crown, in the name of which over centuries, nations were stolen and plundered.

So much of what is wrong with the world today can be sheeted home to colonization, the racism that underpinned it, and the dispossession of first nations’ people from their lands.

The assault on ecosystems at scale began with colonization and it continues.

Psychopathic modern-day corporations that are poisoning natural systems and cooking the planet are where our colonial history has dumped us as a species.

So too, we see it in a deadly global pandemic where vaccines go to wealthy nations and the poor are left without.

Much hasn’t changed from the days of Old Empire.

As Greens, we’re part of a global political ecosystem that lives to end ecocide, racism, sexism, fascism – which we know is on the rise – assaults on peaceful protest, inequality, human rights abuses and corruption.

It’s all connected, as we know.

Climate

On the day her Majesty died, the world’s leading climate scientists warned we’re crossing multiple planetary tipping points and are deep in to the trajectory of civilizational collapse.

It barely made the news.  A corporatist, mainstream media was too busy breathlessly following the Queen’s coffin around Scotland and England for almost a fortnight.

Again, by omission, they told us not to look up.

We’re being failed by political leaders bankrolled by corporations with dead hearts, and we’re being failed by a corporatist media that increasingly just doesn’t care about truth and the public interest.

Hope

When corporate media does cover climate, we’re often essentially told there’s no hope, so just keep shopping. 

Very similar messaging is being used by Western governments, and their public health quislings, to facilitate mass infection with Covid.

As with climate, the science of Covid has taken a backseat to the politics and a brutal profit motive.  It’s utterly malignant to life and must be challenged.

People are being as good as told not to care about each other, that having a sense of community doesn’t matter when in fact, without it, we are lost. 

The safest places in the world are those where there are the strongest communities. That’s what the climate scientists will tell you too.

Green

Green is not only the colour our eyes can see more shades and tints of than any other colour, it is also the colour of hope. There is always hope. Always.

Where there is life there is hope, and there will always be Greens to show the way.

There is a peaceful, democratic, green revolution simmering all over the world.

So many good people, doing so many good things.  And so much courage out there.  Look at those incredible women of Iran, ripping off and burning their hijabs in the face of tyranny.

More of that kind of bravery is needed everywhere.

We need more courageous people in community, business and political leadership. We need them in positions to collaborate, mobilise and make real change.

We all have to step up and bring others with us.

We can’t and we won’t give up on this wondrous planet.

So too Aboriginal Tasmanians and civil society, who’ve bodily defended this island we now share for countless and many generations respectively, will never give up on this incredible island.

Peaceful Protest

The Rockliff Government’s harsh legal crackdown on peaceful protestors is doomed to fail.

It won’t stop young people striking for a safe climate.

It won’t stop their grandparents who’ve joined Extinction Rebellion.

It won’t stop defenders of the forests, wild rivers, protected lands, and takayna. 

These laws won’t protect Chinese state-owned mining company MMG from peaceful protest.

They won’t stop farmers and rural communities from standing up against privatization and industrialization of the landscape from transmission lines, or a massive wind farm on an internationally significant bird habitat at Robbins Island.

Nor will this odious law change stop communities defending their waters from corrupt global corporations cashing in on weak regulation, captive regulators and a brand like no other on Earth - clean, green, creative, and – as we know - constantly under threat.

Elect Greens

As Greens’ members, our first best hope is to promote and elect diverse, talented people with green hearts, brave activists and truth tellers, every way and everywhere we can.

As we did in May this year as a glorious green wave washed over the country. Now we’ve got a federal party room of sixteen. There’s cause for hope right there.

In October, we’ve got the chance to elect even more Greens in to local government to upscale the great work of our Greens’ councilors, and, because of our people, I’m sure we will.

As a party, we’re getting better at organizing, engaging, fundraising, negotiating, and administering.

We are unstoppable, and we’re coming for government here, on the mainland, everywhere, in this, the Green century.

 

Greens Wins

Restoration

And, we celebrate our wins along the way.

Rosalie and I and our dedicated little team have enjoyed some real wins in Parliament and for Greens policy in 2022.

By the end of this year, the House of Assembly will have passed legislation to restore the numbers to 35.  Yes!

This is, in significant part, the result of years of public and private advocacy on our part, and a Premier finally willing to recognise it’s the right thing to do.

The affront to democracy inflicted on this island by the Liberal and Labor parties in 1998 will finally be undone. 

At the next election we’ll be running seven candidates in each of the five electorates, and we will win seats.  We can win one in each with the right strategy, candidates and campaign.

We can do this. We’re the mighty Tasmanian Greens!

Harm Minimisation

Just last week, we had a big win for people and Greens policy with the Rockliff Government announcing a mandatory pre-commitment scheme for electronic gaming machines from 2024, with caps on spending.

We called for this system in debate and our recent submission to the Liquor and Gaming Commission investigation in to harm minimization measures under the industry-purchased, post-monopoly Deed framework.

This decision will save lives, ensure kids are fed, prevent poverty and mental health breakdown. 

It’s a game changer and we sincerely commend the Treasurer, Michael Ferguson, and Premier Rockliff who backed him in, for standing up to the pokies’ barons. It’s a genuine first.

I have no doubt they both felt stained by the industry’s bankrolling of the Liberals’ dirty 2018 election win, under another Premier and a different Treasurer both of whom have left the Parliament after selling Tasmania out to the Federal Group.

What we now need to hear from Labor is that they unequivocally support these nation-leading harm minimization reforms, and that they won’t do another deal with the industry and undo them should they be elected to government in future.

To date, we haven’t heard this pledge from Labor.  You can be sure Rosalie and I will keep up the pressure until we do.

Whistle Blowers

Earlier this month, our Public Interest Disclosures (Members of Parliament) Bill 2021 passed the House of Assembly, the first Greens Bill to do so in more than a decade. It’s now with the Legislative Council. Our Bill will pass, with Liberal and Labor support.

Our bill amends the Public Interest Disclosure framework to allow conduct complaints against Members of Parliament and their employees to be made to the Ombudsman, or Integrity Commission.

Quaintly, the current provisions only allow for referral to the Speaker for the House of Assembly, or the President of the Legislative Council.

Policy Outcomes

In Budget Estimates last year, we were delighted to hear ministers announce policies we’ve been pressuring them on for years.

This includes plans for the long overdue closure of Ashley Youth Detention Centre, although we still have frustrations and questions; the introduction of a waste levy, which was opposed by Labor; and amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 1993.

Since before the announcement of Ashley’s closure, we’d be calling on the Liberal Government to abandon its plan for a northern prison inside the Brushy Creek reserve, and instead, close Ashley, build two small therapeutic youth justice facilities north and south, and – if you have to build a prison – put it where Ashley is today.

That’s now what’s going to happen, and the Brushy Creek reserve is safe; a haven for birds and local critters.

This year at Estimates, the Attorney General finally announced government would move to ban the display of Nazi Memorabilia – something she’d committed to us to investigate during last Budget Estimates.

You’ve got to fight fascism everywhere, and we do.

The AG also announced an expansion of the range of groups required to hold working with vulnerable people registration.

In light of the revelations to the current Commission of Inquiry, this is essential.

This was always the plan when, as Human Services Minister, I introduced, and Parliament passed, this legislation in 2013, but the Liberals never followed through with the scheduled extensions.

We kept up the pressure, and now vulnerable people will be that bit safer in the care of others as a result.

Parks

After years of pressure from Aboriginal people, lovers of wilderness and the Greens, the dodgy Reserve Activity Assessment (RAA) process for development inside protected areas will be replaced with a statutory process.

The obnoxious, opaque Expression of Interest process for private developments inside Parks is also in for a shakeup, but it’ll always be privatization by stealth. It should be scrapped altogether and the rent-seekers sent packing.

Speaking of which, Lake Malbena heli-tourism proponent Daniel Hackett is back with a development that’s so far been rejected by Aboriginal people, Tasmanians from all walks, planning authorities and courts.

Some developers just can’t take the hint.  The project is now up for an already compromised EPBC assessment, where submissions are sent through to the developer.

We’ll keep you posted on that one, but if this project is approved despite its very significant degradation of wilderness and cultural values, there’ll be a blockade at Halls Island, I’m sure of it.

We’ve also secured Government support for strengthening amendments to the Homes Bill, Climate (State Action) Bill, and we’re in productive discussions about improving their regrettably weak electoral reform legislation.

We identified a loophole in the electoral bill that would have allowed the bypassing of donation disclosure. It’s being fixed.

Conclusion

Our work on your behalf as members, and the people who elect us, is always by necessity, a combination of cooperation and confrontation.

It continues in earnest. We’ve got some great legislation on the table from a ban on single use plastics to stronger rights for renters, and a cable car facilitation repeal Bill for the day kunanyi no longer is threatened with desecration.

That day is coming.

The State MPs’ team has put a few motions on the agenda today where we’ll be hoping for some extra guidance and direction from members.

On forest carbon, marine protected areas, homes and health instead of stadiums, and on ensuring the most inclusive possible party culture and platform, there is a lot for us to talk about together.

Let’s crack in to it!