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Keynote Address - Greens State Conference


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Saturday, 13 March 2021

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Tasmanian Greens State Conference – Saturday, 13 March 2021

Cassy O’Connor MP

Tasmanian Greens’ Leader

Member for Clark

 

Hello, and welcome Green friends to our 2021 State Conference. This is waaay better than Zoom. It’s great to see you all in real life after a harrowing year for the planet and peoples everywhere.   

The sun is shining on this island, however, and in this room. 

Although Tasmanians have suffered, we are still among the most fortunate people in a world gripped by pandemic.

We’re all here as Greens to work towards brighter, greener times ahead.

Acknowledgement

We are standing on the land of the lost mouheneener people of the south east tribe, in the foothills of kunanyi, sacred Aboriginal land, threatened as it is, by the grotesquery of a cable car, against the wishes of the palawa people.

From kunanyi to kutalina, putalina to larapuna, wukulina to takayna, this is Aboriginal land. 

For fifty thousand years or more, the palawa nurtured and shaped this country.  If you are looking, you see the signs everywhere.  The open plains and grasslands, tall eucalypt forests and woodlands, in middens, rock depressions and shaped stone.

Everywhere is the story of a proud people, deeply connected to the natural cycles of lutruwita/Tasmania; the palawa, who survived invasion and attempted genocide, and whose culture and connection to this land remains strong today.

As Greens, we know reconciliation must be must more than a word.  We know this country, this island, was never ceded and justice is not yet done, and it won’t be until the truth is told by the palawa, and understood by the rest of us, until there is Treaty and Aboriginal Australians have their justice.

Justice has so many layers, and in so many ways it’s connected to the terrible injustices and wounds inflicted on our planet.

The dispossession and oppression of indigenous people has driven ecosystem decline and habitat loss at a gargantuan scale, on every continent.

International Women’s Day

The disempowerment of women and girls for millenia has entrenched power in the hands of despots, dictators and predator capitalists. It has prioritized money and power over life and goodness.

Gender inequality, sexism, misogyny and rape culture underpin the extremes of neoliberalism and the plundering of the planet’s life support systems.

Women and girls need justice too. We burn with sadness and rage.

On Monday this week, we marked International Womens Day in Australia, in a political climate that’s shamelessly hostile to women and girls, where men with power stand accused of rape and our Prime Minister has ducked and weaved.  He wants us to believe there’s nothing to see here. Move on, move on, is what he wants us to do.

Well, eff that. We just cannot, will not let this go.

Enough.

On Monday, tens of thousands of people are expected to march in towns and cities across the country, on Parliament House in Canberra, and in Hobart.

Rosalie and I hope to see you there. Wear black.

There is a Chinese proverb – Women hold up half the sky.  I believe across the world, we hold up more than half. We can really help to save the world if we’re given half a chance.

Defending democracy

Martin Luther King said, ‘No one is one is free until we are all free’.

There are a whole lot of ‘isms’ behind the human struggle for freedom and the planet’s very many, interconnected ecological problems. 

Racism, sexism, capitalism, facism, totalitarianism, climate denialism and malignant narcissism to name a few. Many are interconnected.  All are dangerous.

What these forces like to do when they aren’t oppressing and torturing people, is undermine free thought and kick democracy every way they can.

From Hong Kong to Belarus to the US capitol and to Burma, there are relentless, savage attacks on the free spirit of people everywhere.  Those of us who have a democratic voice, wherever we are, have a solemn responsibility to use it to defend the human rights of our sisters and brothers in humanity.

We are not immune from assaults on democracy in Tasmania. 

Just look at that draconian anti-protest legislation the Liberals have parked in the Legislative Council, waiting, hoping the numbers will change at elections in May, so they can rob Tasmanians of the right to peaceful protest and give the loggers, and captains of industry a free pass.

Here at home, millions in misery money from local and mainland gambling interests bought the 2018 State Election.

We haven’t forgotten.  We’ll be much better prepared this time.

We can’t and won’t cheat by taking corporate donations like the Liberal and Labor parties do, but we’ve got a great story to tell as the world’s first Greens’ party.

We’ve a strong track record over decades, at the grassroots and in Parliaments, the policies, the common sense, conviction and heart to grow the Greens’ vote and increase our representation in the next Parliament.

What we have, almost above all, is integrity.  Love us or loathe us, Tasmanians always know where the Greens stand.  We can’t be bought and we’ll never sell out.

The Tasmanian Greens

Our party is in great shape. I’m genuinely excited about the year ahead, especially after getting out and about over summer, catching up with members, supporters and everyday Tasmanians around the State. 

We are a great extended tribe of Tasmanians who simply love this island and its people.

Our candidates

On Monday, the fifteenth of February in Launceston, I was so proud to stand with, and unleash, the outstanding Tasmanians, you as members have preselected to represent the Greens at the next State Election.

My friend and partner in Parliament, Dr Rosalie Woodruff, is again and deservedly so, our lead candidate for Franklin.

Rosalie is an epidemiologist, climate scientist, mum and long time grassroots activist. 

She was arrested and bundled in to an Alice Springs prison for protesting against US bases on Australian soil.  Rosalie is a woman of conviction, green to her core, and dangerous, but in a good way.

Our lead candidate for the beautiful, sprawling electorate of Lyons is Liz Johnstone. 

Liz has worked at the grassroots for a fairer, greener world all her adult life. She knows and loves well, Lyons and its people.  I just know Liz is going to give it everything she’s got, village by village, town by town.  She’d be just terrific in Parliament.

Our Bass lead, Jack Davenport, works in Child Safety and with damaged families.  He has a massive heart for people and an intellect to match. He’s a very good man.  Jack would make an exceptional Member of Parliament.

Dr Darren Briggs works at the Mersey Hospital and in health services as a GP along the NW and West Coasts.  He’s a founding member of the Doctors for Climate group that secured the support and signatures of their peers in a letter to the Premier pointing out the link between climate and health, and the need to end deforestation. 

He’s also just a lovely bloke.

Again, Darren would be a superb MP for Braddon.

And finally, I’ve proudly represented Denison and Clark as a Green MP for 14 years.  I’m a former journalist, community campaigner, and Green minister. I love my job, and have unfinished business since March 2018.

We’ve got an outstanding Party Manager, Deb Rees, who’s whipping us in to gear beautifully.  We’ve put on a campaign organizer who’s hit the ground sprinting.  Our membership is growing, and our amazing Young Greens are invigorating us from the grassroots up.

TYG

A shining light this year has been the Young Greens, a beacon of positive energy and hope.  Rosalie and I and our team just love the Young Greens.

The Young Greens are growing.

At the recent UTAS Societies Day in Hobart, the Young Greens signed up 103 new members.  I hear one of our young greens sidled up to the Young Liberals stall and was told they’d convinced twelve people to sign on. 

Young people know, we’re here for their future.  They know we’re steadfast and true to them.

All this bodes well for a pre-election year, where we all have to give it everything we’ve got and a bit more.

State Election

We know we’re up against a popular Premier.  There is a lot of gratitude in the Tasmanian community for the way Peter Gutwein has steered us through a global pandemic.

I am personally very thankful, just as I am to all our frontline workers who helped to keep us safe.  I’m sure many here feel the same.

We can respect Peter Gutwein’s leadership in a time of crisis, and be clear eyed about his government’s failings. 

We can highlight the necessity of having Greens in Parliament.  Given how often the Liberal and Labor parties vote together, you need a real opposition, one that doesn’t buckle and bend with the political breezes.  I reckon that’s us.

During COVID, Tasmanians learned it is possible to ensure no one is left behind.

We’re not out of this pandemic by a long shot, but Peter Gutwein has already abandoned tenants facing massive rent hikes.

The housing and elective surgery waiting lists have blown out under the Liberals.  People are suffering.

His government is clearfelling and burning high conservation value, carbon rich forests.  His Government Business, Forestry Tasmania, last Saturday torched a coupe in the Styx valley then let the fire get away to pollute the airshed, release plumes of carbon and damage the local economy.

If Tasmanians are driven to protest against this destruction and for an end to native forest logging, Peter Gutwein is threatening you with the harshest, most undemocratic anti-protest laws in the country.

The Liberals are privatizing public protected areas.  They’ve given away an entire island in Lake Malbena to a developer for $20 a week, and their Office of the Coordinator General works hard to dish up the rest to vested and corporate interests, here and overseas.

And, of course, Peter Gutwein and the Liberals owe the gambling industry, big time.

Labor is too rarely much better on the policy front, sadly, so you need us in there, just as you need Nick and Pete in the Senate. 

Greens in Parliament

I’ll let Pete fill you in on the power of good work he and Nick do standing up for Tasmania, its people, for justice, decency in politics and a safe climate.  You both speak for all of us.  You make us proud.

Over at 1 Salamanca Place behind the sandstone façade, we work very hard and stay true to Greens values, every minute of every day.

We are the only true defenders of Nature.

We are the voice for science and climate action.  It does help to have a respected climate scientist and a former green minister for climate change on the case.

We’re the only party to back in communities deeply affected by industrial fish farming, the privatisation and exploitation of wilderness and public lands, threats to Aboriginal heritage, and obnoxious, un-Tasmanian developments like Cambria Green.

We speak for disaffected local communities, and for restorative justice and rehabilitation, for the closure of Ashley and against the proposed Westbury northern prison inside a nature reserve.

We were the only party to represent community angst over the awful major projects bill after Labor did some handwringing to stakeholders, then backed in the legislation.

We’ve been informed, clear and constructive on Tasmania’s response to COVID

We made sure the COVID emergency response contained strong tenancy protections to prevent rent increases and evictions, and we know there’s still much work to do there.

We’ve been a consistent parliamentary voice for children and young people, and survivors of sexual assault

We worked across parties to permanently raise the Aboriginal flag above Parliament House.

We’ve caught out Ministers lying to parliament about plans to make it easier for tenants to be evicted, and secured a commitment they’ll never try such a move again.

In the face of nasty, untrue personal attacks, we’ve worked to raise public awareness and defend Tasmania’s sovereignty from foreign government influence and interference.

We secured a commitment from the Premier in Question Time to adopt all the commission of inquiry’s in to the abuse of children and young people’s recommendations when they’re handed down.

We worked constructively to pass a Greens’ Job Guarantee motion, where the ball is now in Premier Gutwein’s court to report back to Parliament on how it could work in Tasmania, to deliver meaningful jobs that repair and restore Nature, and look after people.

We helped to make sure the voluntary assisted dying legislation that went through Parliament last week, was the kindest and safest it could be.

Rosalie and I were there throughout the twenty hour debate that ended with the House of Assembly voting for the amended Bill 16 for, 6 against.

For Greens in Parliament and this reform, it was a powerful historic moment in a legislative reform story that began in State Parliament in 2009 with Nick McKim’s first voluntary assisted dying bill.

So, that’s just with two of us, backed up by our outstanding team – in alphabetical order - Alice, Jo, Millie, Steve, Tom and Will, supporting by our excellent volunteers, Callie and Sandy, and Bridget when she can.

With two MPs in the House of Assembly, we make a mark for a greener, kinder and more just lutruwita. 

Imagine what we could achieve with our candidates Liz Johnstone, Jack Davenport and Darren Briggs in there, standing up for this island and its people, with us.

The year ahead

In our private members time on 24 March, we’ll be moving for a cap on soaring rents, a bit like the ACT model where tenants can challenge rent increase above CPI before the Tenancy Commissioner.

We’ve written to the Labor Leader, Rebecca White; Speaker, Sue Hickey; and Clark Independent, Madeleine Ogilvie, asking for cooperation on the floor to deliver real relief to tenants.

The 24th of March is their chance.  So far, we’ve heard some positive noises back from the Speaker and Ms Ogilvie, but no word from the Opposition Leader.

I hope Rebecca comes around.  In a finely balanced Parliament, as we have, it is entirely possible to get an outcome for tenants who are facing unaffordable rent hikes, eviction and homelessness, right now.

So many tenants are struggling.  We have to do everything we can to provide relief.  Parliament can do that if it works together.

It will also be very interesting, and I suspect a bit depressing, to see what Rebecca White and her colleagues do when the legislation to extend poker machines in pubs and clubs until 2043 comes to Parliament this year.

We’ll be staying true to our position that these highly addictive, socially destructive machines have to go.

This year, we’ll also again move for the Tasmanian Parliament to declare a Climate Emergency to drive urgent mitigation and adaptation responses.

We’ll also continue to have the Ministers for Climate Change, Forests, Parks and Children in our sights.

And we’ll be pushing for a much needed Parliamentary examination of water policy and management in Tasmania in a time of accelerating climate disruption.

All that, and of course we’ll be firming up the policy platform the Greens take to the next State and Federal election.

The Tasmanian Green New Deal

There’s going back to normal, normal wasn’t working. 

To tackle the twin crises of COVID and runaway global heating and ecosystem decline, we need to reset our relationship with Nature, and with each other.

Ending the War on Nature, at least on this island by really acting locally, and building back greener from the grassroots up, is the foundation of a green new deal.

It applies the basic equation that action equals hope.  And action is what we need right now to tackle climate and COVID recovery.

It’s the policy framework you charged us with consulting on and developing at this State Conference, pre-COVID.

So, I’ll wind up with a preview.

Green New Deals around the world have typically focused on job creation through responding to the climate emergency. This is bread and butter for the Greens. We’ve been pushing for a new social and economic paradigm to protect ecosystems and life on earth, since forever.

The scope of our Green New Deal is much broader. We connect the dots between a healthy environment, a fairer, more democratic society, and an economic system that works for people and the planet, rather than against it.

Rewilding at Skyline Tier near Scamander

Rewilding or restoration, the catalytic and positive opportunities it represents, is a foundation stone of building back greener, of a Tasmanian green new deal in a post-COVID, climate disrupted world.

I’m going to give you a case study of how rewilding works in practice.  It’s happening in our backyard.

Skyline Tier is a former pine plantation in the hills behind Scamander on the East Coast. Sixteen years ago, a group of locals led by Todd Dudley from the NE Bioregional Network decided to restore it and secured an agreement to get to work. 

Over the years, they’ve got money from here and they, tapped in to the Green Army, skilled up a paid local workforce and transformed 350 hectares of once barren land in to a budding natural forest.

A few weeks ago, Alice and I went up to Skyline Tier with Todd.  It’s simply breath taking and hope making.  It’s a baby forest of blue gum, black gum, stringy bark, iron bark, white gum and peppermint.

An evaluation report undertaken for the NE Bioregional Network as the baby forest grew also found,

Hairy pennywort and the woolly crossherb Dollybush and musk daisy bush Black casuarinas Native cranberry and native primrose Every type of endemic wattle

Habitats, carbon banks, water protectors of the future. 

Nature is healing itself, with a bit of help from its friends, at Skyline Tier.

It’s rewilding in action, where jobs are generated that deliver public good and repair the assaults on Nature of the past.

We can do this across the island.

And we can’t forget the dream of restoring the crystal white beach of Lake Pedder.  If it’s feasible, what a beacon of promise to the world it would be.

We need to heal lutruwita, and we can’t do that without palawa knowledge. We need to be a global climate champion.  We can’t do that without cooperation. We can’t do it without harnessing the power of women, of our migrant communities and people of all abilities and ages. 

We must be willing to do things differently.

We can’t do any of this without harnessing the power of our young people.

Conclusion

The plan we’ll take to the next election will include a youth job guarantee, as a first step towards a national job guarantee. 

We’ll pay young people a living wage to rewild lutruwita/Tasmania, to green and thus, cool, our cities and towns, to plant urban food forests for health and food security, and to fill some of the vast need for extra workers in the aged and disability care sectors.

And, we can further protect the wellbeing and rights of Tasmanians through a Tasmanian Human Rights Act, which along with our Safe Climate Bill will be centrepiece legislation to the Green New Deal.

It’s an exciting, evidenced based platform for an even kinder, green Tasmania post COVID.

Having Greens in Parliament really matters, in Tasmania, nationally and around the globe.

The Tasmanian Greens have demonstrated that over the past 40 years, from the grassroots and in to Parliaments, sometimes at the seat of government, and always, back to the grassroots. 

We are part of a long, loyal history of fiercely protective Tasmanians who just love this island, and will defend her with all of our breath to the end of our days.

We do this, for the love of Tasmania and its people, always.