At last, women don’t need to behave like men

Later this year I will become a grandmother. I’m very excited – overjoyed to be thinking about a new life in the family, apprehensive about the world that my precious grandchild will inherit, and keen to read the latest in amazing children’s books.

But becoming a grandmother is not an easy thing for me to publicly discuss.

With Thomas and James  at the opening of the Douglas Apsley National Park in Tasmania, which was declared a National Park the same year I was elected to Tas Parliament

With Thomas and James at the opening of the Douglas Apsley National Park in Tasmania, which was declared a National Park the same year I was elected to Tas Parliament

It is not my political modus operandi to talk about my personal life. I broke into politics at a time when you had to behave like a man to succeed, and the only time “real” men talked about their families was when they were resigning from politics. It was a time when people truly wanted to see women in the kitchen, not in the parliament.

I was married with two young boys when I entered the Tasmanian Parliament in 1989. I campaigned for – and got – more family-friendly sitting hours to replace the all-nighters, and a “spouse’s room” to facilitate family visits, but I did so in the face of retorts telling me to just resign and go home to my children, because that’s where I should be.

On the farm

Last week, Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign. It didn’t take long for the  misogynists to start on her age, appearance and pants suits, to the point that Donald Trump tweeted: if she couldn’t satisfy her husband, then how could she satisfy America? How great that he ended up having to delete it, when the comment was seen less as a criticism of her than a reflection on him. At last!

If you were to blame the victim, you’d say that Hillary has opened herself up to these vitriolic, misogynistic, ageist attacks. I would say what we see played out in the media is just an amplified version of what all women experience. Yes, all women.

It exists here in the Australian Parliament. When male senators yell about something, they are seen as impassioned and authoritative. When female senators raise our voices, we are “shrill,” “hysterical,” “school marms.” Julie’s too thin, I’m too fat and our first female PM just couldn’t make anyone happy with what she wore, her haircut or her marital status.

It’s the kind of cultural bias that plays out in the boardrooms of Australia, in workplaces, in the family home – and with it comes exclusion, belittling and sometimes violent or deadly outcomes.

As one of the five independents elected to Tas Parliament in 1989, prior to the formation of Tasmanian Green Party

As one of the five independents elected to Tas Parliament in 1989, prior to the formation of Tasmanian Green Party. 

But after 25 years in politics I can say I have seen a shift. It’s an important and exciting one: women don’t have to behave like men to succeed, nor do they have to keep their families out of the picture

Women have begun to be seen as assets because of their differences, not in spite of them. Today, I can speak of my pain for the two Australians on death row in Indonesia “as a mother,” without being derided. Hillary Clinton can add a #grandmotherknowsbest hashtag to her own tweets without being dismissed. Women –  and men – can talk openly, call out bias and inequity, demand better and keep enabling each other to live happy, safe, fulfilling and healthy lives. We must continue to do so.

Women now don’t need to stop ageing or stop being grandmothers, or stop having babies to be in politics. Next we need to make flexibility central to life for everyone so that work is part of life, not life subjugated to work. As legislators we need to create a framework to enable women to make the contributions we are all capable of, and as a society we need to support that change.

Launceston, in opposition to the Wesley Vale pulp mill in 1988.  Where I really entered public life and what prompted me to then run for parliament.

Launceston, in opposition to the Wesley Vale pulp mill in 1988. Where I really entered public life and what prompted me to then run for parliament.

This article has been published in Mammia, you can find it at http://www.mamamia.com.au/career/christine-milne-mamamia/

Green women lead the way.

How nice it is to stop and appreciate what Green women have done. To celebrate International Women’s Day I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with some of Tasmania’s best and brightest Greens women, and had the honour of presenting Melva Truchanas on behalf of the women of the United Tasmania Group with the inaugural Tasmanian Greens Women award.

Cassy O'Connor MP, Melva Truchanas, Zoe Kean and Christine, all Green women in leadership roles

Cassy O’Connor MP, Melva Truchanas, Zoe Kean and Christine, all Green women in leadership roles

We are terrible at celebrating our own history and contributions to the movement. Throughout our movement and various campaigns it is women who organise things and then continue on with organising the next thing. Too often we forget to celebrate the work and achievements of women in the Greens, and in our community.  I want to give a big shout out to Greens women who are the instigators and organisers.

Looking back on women in the movement, and I put the movement broadly, it is the environment movement that led to the development of the Greens in Tasmania.  First of all through the Lake Pedder and Franklin campaigns,  the forest and Pulp mill campaigns and so on. The peace movement contributed as well, as it was very much part of the Cold War environment in which people were thinking about  and working for greater peace. They were thinking about non-violence and environmental protection. Social justice was a definite feature in the beginning and it has rightly become more a part of the environmental  movements in recent years, probably more so than at the start.

Initially the campaigns we undertook here in Tasmania were about looking after the places we lived in and looking after ourselves and future generations. So it is not surprising that it was women in the community who wanted to protect the environment, women who wanted to build a peaceful cohesive community. This has been the leadership, coordinating and organising role of Green women throughout.

One such woman was Helen Gee, a leader, coordinator, organiser and bringer together of community to protect our beautiful island. Margaret Wilkinson from the north-west coast of Tasmaniawas one of our first life members best known for her campaigns to protect the Don Heads from subdivision.

In all of these campaigns it is the women who have been the people who make things happen. They have organised the hall, organised the flyers, organised the doorknockers, organised the bucket for fundraisers, and organised their community into action. All the while sharing child care and providing food.

In looking back on International Women’s Day and all the wonderful Greens women across Tasmania, Australia and the world, I pay tribute to and celebrate the crucial leadership, coordination and organisational work undertaken by women that enables us all to work for the planet, and our communities.

Christine and former leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Peg Putt.

Christine and former leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Peg Putt.

It is all too true that behind every “front” person in the movement there is a team of strong, passionate, hard working women.

Why the future depends on restoring democracy.

There is a crisis of confidence in democracy in Australia. It is a crisis for people and the environment. It is a situation I have been mulling over for quite some time, but has been front and centre since the Abbott government tore down a price on pollution and mounted its all-out assault on renewable energy, the environment and social justice.

It is now clear to me that we can’t prevail on the gravest issues of survival in this century, in an age of rapidly accelerating climate change and growing inequality of wealth and opportunity, until we restore democracy in Australia.

We can march, write letters, make calls, post tweets, and vote, but as long as the rich few can buy the political process, there is little hope of saving the global commons or caring for people. We have to step back from fighting each of these battles as they arise, from being placated by painkilling sops like more inquiries or minor amendments, and instead turn our minds to aggressively treating the disease.

To get our country back, to give ourselves a chance, we need to restore health to our democracy. We need to educate everyone: put it up in lights, just how big business and wealthy individuals use their money and connections to take and retain power.

As a child in the 1960s I used to walk around our dairy farm with my dad and sometimes he would lean on the fence, smoking his pipe, stare across towards Bass Strait and say, ‘things are crook in Tallarook’. As kids we got the gist of it. The world was in a pretty bad way. If he were alive today, he would be saying the same thing about the state of politics in Australia.

The paper bags of cash from property developers to political candidates; the fast tracking of coal mines, gas wells and ports; a coal magnate forming a political party and voting to abolish the mining tax and carbon pollution price; the abandonment of environmental laws and protected areas; banks making mega profits and ripping off customers; mandatory prison sentences for protesters; governments keeping track of everyone’s phone calls; more debt for university students; reduced support for the unemployed; no vision for future employment; higher charges to go to the doctor; delay in getting the pension; and all the while a revolving door between mainstream politicians and the boardrooms of their big business mates.

Dad would have been right, things are crook in Tallarook.

To read my full piece and thoughts on this subject please go to: http://greenagenda.org.au/2015/02/things-are-crook-in-tallarook/

The Greens: Standing up for what matters.

The Greens: Standing up for what matters.

Frack Off. Ban Fracking in Tasmania & Australia.

Lester Brown the famous US environmentalist has said that food is the oil of this century,  and that means land and water is the gold of our time.

With global warming accelerating we have to look after ecosystem health,  productive farming land and water. That is essentially the message of the film Frack Man that I had the pleasure to open in Hobart on Thursday night.

At the packed premier of Frack Man in Hobart

At the packed premier of Frack Man in Hobart

I have seen the impacts of unconventional gas mining in person.  I have been to the Darling Downs,  I have been to the Liverpool Plains,  I have sat around kitchen tables with farming families and stood around shearing sheds  talking with people  about the fact that they never thought it would happen to them. They never thought that people would be able to walk on to their property and essentially destroy  their livelihoods, their future and what they have inherited from previous generations.  People ask, how come a mining company can just walk on here and do as they like?  Well they can because that is the law. They can walk onto anyone’s farm and do as they like, so that is the first thing that has to be changed.

In an age of dangerous climate change, where we know we need to shift to 100% renewables as fast as possible, we do not need this unconventional gas – absolutely do not need it.

Tasmanians do not want this unconventional gas mining, do not need it, and we will stand up for a ban on unconventional gas and fracking.

We have to ban fracking because just having a five year moratorium means that these corporations,  which already have exploration licences over about 24% of Tasmania, can continue to raise money from financial institutions to keep exploring.  Once that exploration is done they will  then argue that they have established the resource so they ought to get the license to go ahead.

The sign says it all, Frack Off and ban fracking in Tasmania, and Australia

The sign says it all, Frack Off and ban fracking in Tasmania, and Australia

It comes down to fundamental questions of whether Australian people who live in affected communities have a right to sustain their communities and livelihoods?  Or are they to be pushed out of the way for corporations making profits out of a resource that should not be used because it is accelerating global warming and undermining the very thing that we do need, which is land, water healthy ecosystems and the capacity to produce food?

The film Frack Man is confronting. It shows how rural and regional Australia is being devastated  by gas mining and fracking but it offers Tasmanian communities an insight into what can happen when corporate profits are allowed to destroy a community.

That is why when governments sell-out communities we have no option but to stand up, and that is exactly what people featured in the film Frack Man are doing. It is what the Greens and Frack Free Tasmania is doing by campaigning for an outright ban on fracking and unconventional gas mining in Tasmania.

Local food economies, and resilient communities.

Last month I was honoured to be hosted by Trev Wittner and Linda Cockburn for lunch with the Huon Producers Network at their farm just outside of Geeveston. It was a welcome opportunity to talk about a few of the key issues we could help them with, and to learn more about this exciting network of community minded farmers and producers.

Outstanding company and food, to talk about the local food economy and opportunities.

Outstanding company and food, to talk about the local food economy and opportunities.

A few of the most pressing issues we discussed over a sumptuous lunch of food grown and made by those at the table included egg regulations for small producers, the options for a small dairy processing unit in the region, building a strong local food economy, and regional food hubs.

The current food production system is geared towards large scale producers and growers. Putting immense cost pressures on small farmers such as those within the Huon Producers Network.

With Trev Wittner at his farm sharing our mutual stuggle growing green gages plums.

With Trev Wittner at his farm sharing our mutual stuggle growing green gages plums.

Local food systems and economies empower people to be able to choose where they get their food from and have confidence in the quality of the produce they buy. Farmers markets and community food cooperatives are on the rise in Tasmania. I am so excited to see people building strong resilient communities and food economies by banding together to promote their local produce in the way that the Huon Producers Network are doing.

Please remember to buy local and direct whenever you can and support our local growers and producers. It not only gives you some of the freshest food possible, but also cuts down on the food miles and puts money back into our community.

You can read more about the work the Greens are doing to help farmers sell direct and build their business by clicking here.

Garden blooming wonderful

Glad to get home from Canberra to enjoy my garden. How much beauty is there in a garden.

 

Triabunna site could unleash Tasmania’s imagination

It is a ridiculous notion that tourism and woodchips can co-exist in Triabunna.

The whole focus Graeme Wood says he wants to bring to the old woodchip site is renewal. This used to be the old economy, the old destroy-the-environment type economy, now with renewal we are going to build on Tasmania’s strengths. You cannot do that by saying you’re going to leg-rope the site to the old economy. It is a completely failed vision. That is why we need to get behind Graeme Wood’s idea.

Spring Bay Mill

Spring Bay Mill

I think the Spring Bay Mill will be the most exciting thing that could happen to the East Coast. If the government was successful in trying to compulsorily aquire the site or set up next door, it would need to massively subsidise any new woodchip facility. It would be putting in an industry for products that nobody wants to by. How stupid would that be? And it will be a further drain on taxpayers’ dollars.

Why should the whole of Australia prop up an industry that the world does not support, and in an age of global warming and species extinction it is going to want even less. We had a report out last week that almost 50 percent of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in the past 40 years. That is a shocking statistic.

Tasmanian Devil, threatened by habitat loss from logging and mining.

Tasmanian Devil, threatened by habitat loss from logging and mining.

The pressure to end native forest logging is going to get greater, not less. It’s aking to building a cigarette factory and getting tobacco plantations up and running when the world is trying to stop smoking.

The problem is that the native forest industry is desperate to keep on woodchipping. The next major push is going to be for native forest furnaces and they will use the excuse of existing residues and want renewable energy certificates (REC’s) to burn native forests.

What they are doing is trying to get a lifeline to keep on logging native forests. Until such a time as they stop there is no conversation about how to remove existing  wood stockpiles because what they are trying to do is use existing stock piles as a mechanism to get the industry a long-term commitment to continue native forest logging. This is how the woodchip industry started. We had sawmilling and people said, well we just need to get rid of the residues, so they opened up the woodchip industry and before you knew it  what drove the industry was the woodchips.

The old way of woodchips at Triabunna.

The old way of woodchips at Triabunna.

The Spring Bay concept is based on Tasmania’s reputation for fine food, its reputation as a natural and beautiful, clean, inspiring place. The deep-water port could provide tremendous opportunities from visiting cruise ships and other vessels. The location of it will provide better access to the North East and Maria Island. And as an education/arts facility it spreads the notion of creativity that MONA and our other arts hubs have embraced. It has enormous potential to bring more jobs and a new focus to the North East, where they have already built a reputation on wines, walnuts, seafood, and other quality produce. It’s a tremendous opportunity to make it a real hub, to take tourists out of Hobart and focus on staying on the East coast for another couple of days. It also brings a new group of people to Tasmania who come for the culinary school and those kinds of experiences.

Part of the Spring Bay vision.

Part of the Triabunna Spring Bay vision for the future.

I am really captured by the notion of a centre in Tasmania for renewal. The whole point of the forest peace process was to save the forests, of course, but also to say we need to get away from the old industries which are failing and build new ones. To have a vision for Tasmania and renew Tasmania and this is really at the heart of what Greame Wood is trying to do.

I think it’s terrific, and it is what the Greens have been working towards for some time. It is actually a terrible thing to have the Liberal party here and in Canberra determined to say to people: forget all of that about the future, if you vote for us we’ll take you back to the old days of dig it up, cut it down, and ship it away. That is all you need, you do not need a good education, you do not need sophistication, you just rip things up. That is where the Liberals are coming from, and it is a recipe for economic stagnation. We still have poor retention rates to senior secondary school and university. The only way you are going to encourage people to stay in Tasmania is to get them thinking about the sort of careers that they can do.

If people are given the idea that the only option is to follow their parents onto the farm, down the mine or into old school forestry we are not going to get the refocusing needed for young people to see that the future is about innovation and imagination. Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott and Will Hodgman’s vision is about dig it up, cut it down and ship it away and therein lies the last century compared to this century.

Tarkine, Too Precious to Lose

The Tarkine is one of the great environmental and cultural jewels in Tasmania’s crown.

At Nelson Bay River falls, down stream of the minesite.

At Nelson Bay River falls, down stream of the minesite.

Growing up in the North West of Tasmania I have always been enamoured by the region, its wild forests and coastline, unique flora and flora, and the sense of well being and wonder I get every time I have the fortune to be in that part of the world. It is now starting to get the recognition it deserves as an extraordinary destination for nature-based tourism, and as the backdrop to the high quality food and beverages that North-West Tasmania excels at producing.

Old Myrtle in logging area MD032d

Old Myrtle in logging area MD032d

This sense of well being I get from being in the Tarkine is offset by the knowledge the Tarkine is facing increased logging following the passage of the Tasmanian Liberals new Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014. Approximately 14,000 ha of Tarkine forests and rainforests were left open to logging as part of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement (TFA), and with the passing of the new forest bill this amount will increase. Especially for ‘specialty timbers’ from rainforests.

Thankfully, a falling iron ore price is putting a halt to a couple of the nine proposed mining ventures in the area, including the Shree Minerals, Nelson Bay River mine. I flew over this magnificent area less than 12 months ago to see first-hand what is at stake in the Tarkine and managed to view the Shree site from above.

Nelson Bay River, Shree Mine Site

Shree Minerals, Nelson Bay River minesite.

Shree Minerals is now under investigation for breaching its federal environmental permit. This newly formed company has been allowed to go ahead with commencing operations while failing to address mine waste and rehabilitation plans. It’s believed the Tasmanian Government amended the permit to allow Shree, at the Nelson Bay River Mine, to produce 20 times more acid-producing waste rock than originally declared. The federal Environment Department was not notified or given a chance to model the impacts on threatened species in the area with this increase in acid-forming waste rock.

Australia is on the cusp of our third wave of animal extinctions: the first caused by European arrival, the second by introduced species and now the third by our refusal to address global warming or adequately fund habitat protection and research.

Mt Lindsay, Tarkine. photo. L.O'Brien

Mt Lindsay, Tarkine. photo. L.O’Brien

A Tarkine National Park representing the enormously diverse environmental and cultural values of the region would be a step towards protecting the future for the people and the environment of the renowned North West.

 

Toolangi, Greater Forest National Park and a little possum.

There is nothing so relaxing or awe inspiring than to visit the bush. Last weekend I went to the Toolangi forest in Victoria where the beautiful mountain ash forest is the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered leadbeater possum.

Standing with the many who are campaigning to protect Toolangi.

Standing with the many who are campaigning to protect Toolangi.

They live in the hollows of old trees which are disappearing as the loggers continue to destroy the area for pulp and paper. Honestly, you would think in an era of climate change that the carbon dense forest would be saved as a big contribution to climate action and preservation of plants and animals as well as co benefits of providing Melbourne with water and recreation.

One of the Healesville Sanctuary residents.

One of the Healesville Sanctuary resident leadbeater possums.

If you have never seen a leadbeater possum, let me tell you, they are are soooo cute. We need to make the area a National Park so that these wonderful animals, Victoria’s faunal emblem will be saved. It is incredible that after thinking they were extinct they were rediscovered in 1961 and now are being deliberately driven to extinction by state sponsored logging.

With Janet Rice at Healesville sanctuary.

With Janet Rice at Healesville sanctuary.

Knitting Nanna's of Toolangi

With the Knitting Nanna’s of Toolangi

Vic forests is losing money whilst wiping out possum habitat. I was incredibly lucky to enjoy a close encounter with a leadbeater at Healesville sanctuary after catching up with local campaigners and the Knitting Nannas. Isn’t it great that they are using their skills to draw attention to the web of llife and the future for their grandchildren? They remind me of the wonderful women knitting against coal seam gas. Women at work for nature are inspiring.

The Art of Dissent

I was really pleased to open the wonderful exhibition Giving voice: the art of dissent, curated by Dr Yvonne  Rees-Pagh at the Salamanca Arts Centre earlier this month. It is free! and open until September 14, so I urge you to get along if you can.

This exhibition couldn’t be more important or timely, showing the power of art to shine a light on aspects of our society we don’t always want to think about, and confronting us with issues of power, control and our own agency.

There are many extraordinary pieces of art from equally extraordinary artists in this exhibition.

Richard Bell’s works Kick Somebody Else and Scratch an Aussie, calling out racism in Australia, couldn’t be more timely as the Abbott Government outsources its Indigenous policy to mining billionaires like Twiggy Forest, who has demanded further institutionalisation of paternalism and control over Aboriginal Australians to tell them how to spend their own money and live on their own land.

James Barker’s two pieces on Gaza shine a light on the silence and complicity of our government, now on the United Nations Security Council, while UN shelters, schools and hospitals were bombed and thousands of innocent people in Gaza killed. 

Michael Reed’s work calls out the connection between multinational corporations and big business driving their agendas through government policy and against the common good.

Here in Australia where this year’s aid budget was not only cut back, our foreign aid budget, but has been rolled into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and 25 percent of the remaining aid budget is now to be given to trade for aid. It is going to be given to multinational corporations to be able to hand out part of that aid money so they can say to communities if you give us the licence to access your resource, whether it’s minerals, whether it’s forests, we will give you money for a school or for a medical facility or for something else, but it is tied to trade. The work that Michael has over there: soaked bandages, blood- stained bandages, multinational business, and genocide, it is very powerful and it is an important statement to make.

Megan Keating’s work meditating on the ripping up of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement and associated destruction of forests producing pulp and smoke is timely while we have a state Liberal Government determined to not only open up all our forests for logging, but bringing in some of the most draconian and anti-democratic anti-protest laws in the country. Never has it been more important that we all take a stand in this state, and voice our dissent.

Pat Hoffie’s work highlights the role of spin doctors in the use of smoke and mirrors to distract us all from the real issues, the things that matter. It is the story of our shameful national policy on asylum seekers at one level, but it is also the story of the fog that the Australian community lives in and then is told what it means by the people who are spinning stories.

All these wonderful artists and their work say to us: this is the reality of life for people, this is our reality, and why voices of dissent are so necessary.

All point to the question: who has the power in our democracy? Peter Hay’s essay to accompany this exhibition picks up on this theme. Do we still live in a democracy? Who is actually calling the shots, where is the power embedded?

You get to the point as I have now come to believe, that we no longer do live in a democracy, but a plutocracy – a country governed by the wealthy for the wealthy.

So how do we come back from where we are?  What I am asking from all of you if you get a chance to see this exhibition, or read this post,  is to say: What am I going to do about it? How am I going to respond to the situation?  We’ve already done it once in Tasmania, when Tasmania thought we would never get beyond Gunns running the state, and yet we did. Tasmanians took the state back. I think we now have to take our nation back. That is why I would encourage you to think as Schumacher has said, and this inspires me as we face up to a lot of these challenges:

 We must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether or not we’ll  be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll be doing the wrong thing. We’ll be part of the disease, not part of the cure.

I congratulate all of the artists, Yvonne for curating this exhibition and Salamanca Arts Centre. Thank you for opening our eyes to the power of dissent and encouraging us to take it on.