You are here

Tasmanian Greens - Fiftieth Anniversary

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Tags: Parliament

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, happy birthday to the Tasmanian Greens. Fifty years ago, on this day a group of people met in Hobart's Town Hall, 23 March 1972, two days after the writs were issued for the state election to be held only four weeks later on 22 April. The United Tasmania Group, the world's first Green Party was formed to contest that election. Centre Party, Kevin Lyons had resigned as deputy premier leaving the Liberal Bethune government without a majority and forcing an election.

In the chaotic politics that followed the late and wonderful Green, Dick Jones, saw there was a great opportunity. In a rowdy meeting at the Town Hall where the shouts of Hydro workers were trying to drown out the people who were there to stand up for a beautiful drowned, drowning lake. This motion was passed:

In order that there is a maximum usage of a unique political opportunity to save Lake Pedder - now an issue of national and global concern - and to implement a national well-researched conservation plan for the state of Tasmania, there be formed a single independent coalition of primarily conservation orientated candidates and their supporters.

That was the beginning of the United Tasmania Group, the Tasmanian Greens, the Australian Greens and the global Greens which are now in 90 countries around the world. We are in government, currently, in six European countries: Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Finland and in New Zealand. We are part now of a global Greens network and it all began here on this beautiful little green heart-shaped island at the bottom of the world. It began with the campaign to save Lake Pedder from flooding by the Hydro Electric Commission. History tells us, and we know this, that that campaign to save Lake Pedder was temporarily lost.

The assaults on nature and particularly on this beautiful island are relentless and the next campaign in the early 1980s was the fight to save the mighty Franklin River and we won that fight. A consequence of that was that a shy young doctor, who was launched onto the national stage in a campaign to save Lake Pedder, found himself here: Dr Bob Brown, elected to the Tasmanian parliament in 1983 as the member for Denison.

In 1989 Dr Bob Brown was joined in this place by other champions for Tasmania, Christine Milne, Gerry Bates, Lance Armstrong and Di Hollister. They went into an accord government with Michael Field and the consequence of that government was that we had the balance of power in Green hands for the first time in history. Logging ended in the national estate, the woodchip quota was slashed, forests were saved, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was extended and Freedom of Information laws were enacted. Like all unhappy marriages, it did come to an early end. Rest in peace.

In 1992, all five Greens members of parliament were re-elected to this place by Tasmanians who wanted something better, something greener, something fairer for their island home. Five Green independents became the five Green Party MPs. Bob went off to the Senate and Peg Putt was elected into this place on a countback.

Another really important period in Tasmanian political history was in the Rundle minority government in which the Greens campaigned hard for forests, secured gun law reform, gay law reform and an apology to the Stolen Generations. As we know, naked fear and self-interest saw the major parties collude to cut the numbers in this place from 35 to 25.

We were also in government, implementing Greens' policies and standing up for Green values between 2010 and 2014. There were two Greens ministers in a cabinet of nine. It was not exactly what you would call a joyful marriage but we made things happen.

We knocked off the Tarkine Link Road, which at that time was not supported by the Liberal opposition. We delivered a massive rollout of free energy-efficiency house upgrades to low-income Tasmanians and thousands of new affordable energy-efficient homes. We built twice as many new homes in four years as the Liberals have in seven. We restored TasTAFE, implemented an Aboriginal dual-naming policy for lutruwita/Tasmania, and delivered the first elder abuse prevention plan that Tasmania had seen.

We also made sure that Tasmania had working with vulnerable people registration. We commissioned Australia's first forest carbon study, confirming the priceless carbon stores in the native forests of which we are all custodians, and some of us take it more seriously than others. We drove a ban in this parliament on lightweight plastic bags. We helped to ensure 170 000 hectares in the Southern Forests , Florentine, Nevada Plains, the Western Tiers and the Mount Field National Park were added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

We helped to get the loggers out of 570 000 hectares of iconic battleground carbon-rich forests. They remain outside those forests to this day. These are forests that the Greens have fought long to defend and we will never give up on wild Tasmania, and we will never give up on those beautiful forests. It becomes even more important in a time of climate emergency that you have Greens in this place campaigning to see those carbon reserves protected for current and future generations.

We had a lovely party at Town Hall on Saturday night. Bob Brown was there, Christine Milne, Peg Putt, Di Hollister, Jerry Bates, Nick McKim, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Rosalie and me, and we were joined by hundreds of loyal Greens supporters. We were joined by some of those who were part of the original United Tasmania group.

The take-home message from that night was: we have been here for 50 years, we will be here for another 50 years, and thereafter, because this is the green century, and now more than ever, you need to have good, strong Greens underpinned by a set of values in parliaments.