Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, John Green was a good man and, on behalf of Dr Woodruff and me, I pass on our very sincere condolences to his family, friends, and his Labor colleagues.
John Green was a proper Labor leftie. His whole political and legal career was about looking after people, standing up for social justice, but in that big heart there was a lot of green.
I remember going to see John Green at his humble legal HQ in Moonah when we were confronting the then Labor government's attempts to massively shrink the Ralphs Bay conservation area and put a 500-home canal estate on an internationally significant bird habitat. He listened very thoughtfully and provided some helpful advice and I believe he demonstrated that it is possible for a Labor person to be motivated by a desire to part of good public service and looking after people, but also to look after the planet and our natural environment. That is something Labor members today could learn from.
John Green had a distinguished legal and political career. His manner could sometimes be concise and he could also be a little bit brusque, but he really had a very good heart. His heart was there for the battlers. You only had to look at the shingle outside his humble legal practice in Moonah to know that. It was the fact that he took the law out to Moonah and improved access to justice in the northern suburbs, that we need to mark.
I understand that when he left state politics after losing his seat in February 1980 - this is a historical footnote - that by-election came about as a result of campaign funding irregularities. It was thought that the only way to resolve this was through a by-election and it is one reason that spending caps on lower House elections were scrapped. Forty years later we are still dealing with that decision to scrap lower House spending limits, which was clearly a mistake because there are spending limits on upper House members and on Local Government candidates, but not on House of Assembly members. The House needs to address that.
When you have a look at the many organisations John Green was a member of, or contributed towards, a few certainly stand out to the Greens. He was a member of Sustainable Living Tasmania since the late 1970s, serving on the board since the early 1980s and as treasurer. He was a member of the Tasmanian Council of Civil Liberties, the Tasmanian Pensioners Union, the Tenants' Union, and the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, of which he was a former board member.
I thought, as Ms White did, I would put a few words of John Green's on the Hansard record. This is a letter to the editor of the Mercury that he wrote in June 2014 after the most savage budget that has come out of a federal government in many years, the Abbott government's 2014 budget, which Tasmania's health and education system is still dealing with the consequences of today. John Green says:
Dear Sir, re: freedom of speech?
I have now discovered another nasty little trick in Abbott's budget. All community legal centres have been forbidden from taking part in any law reform activities or any kind of policy activities on threat of their funding being cut. They have been explicitly banned from criticism of the Commonwealth Government or any of its agencies. One of the major purposes of community legal centres is to develop policy to improve the law and make proposals for law reform.
It is clear the Abbott Government opposes freedom of speech and is determined to stop all voluntary bodies from criticising it if at all possible. No doubt they will try to do the same to the Australian Council of Social Services, particularly since they exhibit a dislike of pensioners as shown by the fact they expect persons under 30 who become unemployed to live on fresh air for six months.
That is definitely a cruel and unjustified proposal especially since the NewStart Allowance is only $250.75 a week. It is impossible to rent any decent accommodation even in Hobart for much less than $200 a week, making it almost impossible to live on NewStart unless you can find a lot of people in a similar situation who rent a house and you get a room, or find a room in a cheap boarding house. Even that pittance would be taken away from you if you are under 30.
The Government proposes that the unemployed work for the dole or study, but it is not making any money available to assist unemployed persons to get jobs. People with no income cannot afford to have their resumes photocopied and they cannot afford to pay the bus fare to attend job interviews, so how can they possibly get jobs?
There is no money for courses which would help people get jobs. There is no attempt at community development in areas with high unemployment. The Government refuses to acknowledge that people are unemployed because of government policy.
I am old enough to remember in the 1970s when governments implemented a policy of full employment and the unemployment rate was 2 per cent and everybody had a job.
With the election of the Fraser Liberal government and the Howard Liberal government we have now got relatively high unemployment, about 20-30 per cent in poor areas.
The attitude of this Government shows a punitive approach to poor people. If you are a billionaire the Government says you can have an incentive to invest your money and they give you money. If you are unemployed and broke, they say you should starve to death.
The poor will only respond to punishment, the wealthy will only respond if given more wealth. This is the peculiar, perverted sense of morality of the Abbott Government.
John Green LLB
Madam Deputy Speaker, I think that letter to the editor said a huge amount about John Green's heart and his values. On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens, my deepest condolences to John Green's family, friends and colleagues. Vale John Green.