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Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor MP Election Night Speech

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Saturday, 1 May 2021

Tags: Political Leadership

Cassy O’Connor – Tasmanian Greens Leader

I respectfully begin by acknowledging Tasmania’s first people the palawa pakana, who shaped and nurtured this island’s landscape for tens of thousands of years.

From putalina to kunanyi, kutalina to wukalina and takayna. Everywhere you look are the signs of a people who lived deeply connected to nature and this island for millennia - in the open plains and grasslands, in the fire-born giant Regnans towering over younger rainforests, in tool scatters across all parts of this island. 

You can read this island’s long human story in the coastal middens, and rock depressions where women slept with their children, before all was taken away with the arrival of the English and their guns. 

To the proud and wily Aboriginal warriors who fought for their country, to elders past and present and those who will come, I pay deep respect. 

The Greens will keep fighting for Truth, Treaty, Justice and the return of lands.

What a beautiful autumn day. We’re back, the Greens are back in town.

On behalf of everyone who worked so hard on this campaign, I want to warmly thank every Tasmanian who put their trust in us today. We will not let you down. We have never let you down. 

We’ll keep being your voice, a voice for your children and grandchildren, for the wild places and creatures, and for what makes this beautiful island we share unique in all the world. 

We’ll be your voice for a greener, fairer Tasmania, and a cleaner democracy, and a fierce one at that.

To the people of Clark, who have again voted Green, thank you. It is the honour and privilege of my life to be your representative in parliament. I will be so proud to continue that service. 

And congratulations to my fellow Clark candidates for helping to make this the most fascinating and, as it turns out, most critical race of this election.

To the Premier Peter Gutwein, congratulations on being resoundingly re-elected to Bass. You took a gamble on an early poll and you can’t yet be sure it will pay off. If it doesn’t, it’s up to you what happens next. I hope you find a way to make it work for our island and its people. 

Congratulations, Rebecca White, I really admire your guts. Congratulations for giving it a red hot go and for gaining momentum in the last couple of weeks. I hope you and your precious little baby get a well-earned rest in the days ahead. 

To everyone who ran for elected office in this campaign, good on you. It takes real guts to put yourself forward to face the slings and arrows, knowing that all that effort may not bear fruit.

But long live Tasmania’s democracy. When the people speak, we must obey. I am so proud of the campaign the Greens have run at this election. We’ve given everything we’ve got and then some. 

We were out there from day one ready with great candidates, so much positive energy, and a hopeful vision for Tasmania’s future. We knocked on thousands of doors in five short weeks, and we’ve heard the mood for a greener, fairer Tasmania.

Unlike our petulant winner-take-all colleagues in the Liberal and Labor parties, the Greens will always respect the will of the people.

It is the Tasmanian people who decide who governs Tasmania, not the Premier, or the leader of the Opposition. It’s the people who decide.

The Greens have won back Clark and Franklin with strong swings, and we are still in the race for Bass. There’s been a solid swing to the Greens right across the island. 

We set out to make this campaign about creating a greener, fairer Tasmania, turning a social and economic crisis into a reset that creates the future so many Tasmanians, particularly young people, are yearning for. 

There is no going back to normal because normal wasn’t working. We can do so much better by this beautiful island and its people. 

More than 120,000 Tasmanians live in poverty. Children are going to without. Our hospitals are in dire straits. The rental and housing supply crisis is pricing Tasmanians out of their own paradise, and increasingly onto the streets. 

And nature is under assault with a renewed level of almost gleeful intensity under the Liberals. 

Our mighty forest carbon banks are being flattened and burned and sent to China as chips. 

Our native species are being driven to extinction. The world’s fastest parrot, the exquisite and miraculous swift parrot, is now said to be reduced to 300 individual birds. 

Once pristine marine waters are being privatised and filled with fish shit, chemicals and marine debris by a rapacious industry that wants to double in size over the next 10 years. Not on our watch.

We have to create a new future where Nature is respected and protected. And where no one is left behind. Only the neo-liberals in both the old parties will tell you it isn’t possible. It’s about the choices government makes. 

The Greens choose a climate safe future for all our children and grandchildren. We choose a greener, fairer future, because that’s what every Tasmanian deserves. 

We’re the only party that took a climate plan to this election. That is a shameful indictment on the two parties that have asked Tasmanians to let them run the state for the next four years, as the climate keeps warming and the urgency grows.

It’s past time they woke up to the challenges and to the opportunities ahead. This little island of ours, with its extraordinary natural riches, its clever, resilient people and strong sense of community, can show the world how it’s done. 

Step one, we have to stop logging and burning our life-giving forests.

It is a massive, loss-making crime against the planet and future generations. It’s immoral to desecrate and to destroy such wonders. 

We need to protect what is left and to restore what is lost. 

On a stressed planet, protection and restoration are the future. And it’s where the green jobs will be found. In climate action, there is hope in abundance. And that’s what the planet and young people need right now. 

We also took to this election a comprehensive plan to drive a housing-led recovery with 8000 new energy efficient, affordable homes in a decade and a skills drive in green building and construction. 

And unlike our major party colleagues, we told Tasmanians how we would fund this critical social infrastructure. We’d tax the big corporates that have been given this island’s wealth, the people’s wealth, at bargain basement prices. 

InTasmania, big mining, logging, fish farming and gambling, pay some of the lowest royalties and license fees in the country.

So do the developers moving in on our public lands and protected areas. This is robbing the Tasmanian people blind, usually at the expense of the environment. 

If the mining industry had paid even the national average in royalties over the past 10 years, the state budget would have been $460 million better off. 

People of Tasmania, you are being ripped off by both the major parties who are taking their corporate donations, then trading your treasures for trinkets. 

The Greens have the courage to stand up to the power and the influence of the big corporations. We always have. We always will, you can count on it. Just as you can count on us to stand up to bullying foreign powers, who see this island as a nice morsel for the taking. 

You can count on us to defend this island’s sovereignty and democracy every day of the week, and we will always be fierce human rights defenders. 

We’re truth tellers. It’s what we do.

The backdrop to this election has been a pandemic and a Premier who listened to the advice of experts and got us through. But it’s also been seven long years of the Liberals in government. On every key social metric, Tasmania is going backwards. 

Throughout this campaign, the social and economic crises of health and housing were the issues on the lips of every voter we spoke to. 

People are dying on elective surgery waiting lists and in our emergency departments, because the Liberals in government have been more about spin than substance in health. 

Homeless teenagers are sleeping between the bins in shopping centre car parks, families with children are sleeping in cars on old forestry roads, and old people with nothing or no-one under bridges and in bus shelters. 

And under the Liberals, our forests and marine waters are under increasing threat from corporate greed, while the wilderness is being gifted to private developers who see places like Halls Island, and the beautiful South Coast track, as the last free real estate. Well not on our watch.

We hear some Liberals gloating about the state’s climate record while they accelerate native forest logging. Tasmania’s status as a net carbon sink is the result of decades of commitment and heart from the broader conservation movement and civil society, and the Greens’ hard work to protect this island’s extraordinary carbon rich forests. 

Plenty of voters we spoke to during this campaign understood very well that neither the Premier nor any of his ministers ever told them what casino pokies tax rate they’ve negotiated with the Liberals’ major donor, the Federal Group, following the end of the monopoly deed and extension of pokies in pubs and clubs for the next 20 years. 

This secret deal is likely to cost the state budget, in lost revenue, hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s money not going into our schools, hospitals, new homes and community services. An honest answer to that question really mattered in this campaign. And because the Premier didn’t tell Tasmanians before they went to the polls, he will have no mandate for whatever deal was struck.

Of course, Tasmanian Labor with its secret MOU with the gambling industry isn’t much better. Nor is their enduring attachment to loss making native forest logging and industrial fish farm expansion all over our beautiful coastline. 

And to be fair, neither is their Liberal-lite threat to crack down on Tasmanians, who take a stand in defence of wild Tasmania.

Communities coming together to defend their place and way of life are ignored and demeaned by both the major parties as a matter of routine, whether it’s over forests, fish farms, the wilderness, or a monstrous mega development at Cambria Green or a prison in a nature reserve at Westbury. 

And if Peter Gutwein or Rebecca White think threatening the nastiest, most corporatist anti-protest laws in the country will stop Tasmanians from bodily defending their place, they are very slow learners. 

It won’t. No bad law will stop Tasmanians from defending our glorious forests from the bulldozers and the napalm, nor will it stop young people striking for a safe climate, nor will it hold us back. You can be sure of that.

To our members and supporters who’ve been such an important part of growing the Green vote this election, thank you. You gave this campaign real strength and visibility, and you give us motivation every single day. 

To our wonderful candidates who made up the most diverse, inclusive ticket any party has ever taken to a Tasmanian election, thank you. 

My friend and colleague, my rock, but just terrific and talented Rosalie Woodruff, in Franklin, who has romped home to a solid win in Franklin.

Big-hearted Liz Johnstone in Lyons, I know how hard you worked, and how much you love Lyons and its people. 

Jack Davenport in Bass, a man truly of the people has run a cracking campaign and is still in the race. 

Dr. Darren Briggs in Braddon, our doctor, healer and big Green thinker. Braddon’s a hard slog for the Greens, but Darren gave us his all. 

And my big green-hearted running mate in Clark, Vica Bayley. I felt stronger. standing within your calm and helpful aura. We all did. Thank you.

To our campaign manager Deb Rees, there just aren’t the words. You pulled this together so magnificently. Just looking at you some days made me believe everything would be alright on the night. Thank you, thank you wonderful Deb. 

An enormous thank you to our incredible little team. My mighty Green wing woman Alice Giblin. Our policy genius Thomas Whitton, and our talented parliamentary crew of Will Greer, Steve Wright, Jo Bull and Millie Knott and our volunteer, Sandy Bowden. Eddie Gray, thank you for your sterling effort, you made a real difference to this campaign. 

To the campaign organising team, Kristian, Callie, Danny, Bridget, Jordan and Nina, I still can’t believe what you pulled off in such a short time. I am in awe and deepest gratitude. 

To our secret weapons for good, the Young Greens. You have been catalytic in this campaign. Catalytic to its energy, its colour and its purpose. I am humbled by your faith and your dedication.

When I look at you, Young Greens, I know the future of our great party is in the best of hands. It fills me with hope. 

I also want to thank those of you from the environment and community groups who stood with us because you’re brave and you believe in a greener Tasmania. Thank you. It made a real difference to us. 

And last, but almost most, my dear friends and family, my darling Nick, my firstborn, Lachlan, who is watching from New Zealand, and Conor, Jasper and Stella, who are up here giving me strength tonight.

So what’s next? Well, we’ll stay true. And here’s our message to the next Premier, whoever that might be. Stop trying to destroy the joint. Be part of creating a greener, fairer, kinder future. 

I’m blessed to have many conversations with Tasmanians in my wonderful job and this is what I know. From all corners of the island and all walks of life. Tasmanians just love this place. They love it’s wild beauty, the wilderness on all our doorsteps. How lucky we are. 

People want the old parties and their corporate cronies to stop trying to squeeze the goodness out of this lovely island. They want governments that can see past the dollar signs, who can see what it is we are stewards of, our heart place, Tasmania, an island like no other. 

They want to be led by people who understand how rare and precious our island is. They want decency and integrity in politics. 

That’s why we’re here. It’s why we’ve been here for the past 38 years, staying true to this beautiful island and its people. We are the Tasmanian Greens and we are here to stay. Thank you.