Stepping down as leader, the Press Club speech

Press Club 2015

I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present. In doing so I condemn in the strongest terms the Prime Minister’s decision last year to slash $500m from Aboriginal programmes and his decision to back Western Australian Colin Barnett in closing remote communities in WA, claiming they are a ‘lifestyle choice’.

This funding must be restored in this year’s budget. After so long in politics working for the apology, working towards reconciliation, recognition in the Constitution; it is very clear to me that if we are genuine about reconciliation, closing the gap and respecting Aboriginal connection to country, then Australia’s history of forced dispossession must not be repeated. National stories only mean something if they are backed by consistent, philosophical action. That is what it will take to get the recognition in the Constitution that we need for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This whole episode has been an example of why you need a vision before you deliver a budget.

The budget, more than anything else a Government delivers is a mirror into the values that they hold. Budgets offer insights into both the priorities, and the prejudices, of its writers. If you want to know what people and governments value, then look at how they raise and spend their money. If you want why they raise and spend money, then you have to know what the big picture is and what that money is supposed to be delivering. You need to know what we want Australia to be like in 2050 for example, and that is what is completely lacking with the Abbott Government up until now and almost certainly will be in the Budget that’s upcoming. Money and the market are their drivers and it’s almost as if they think that just pursuing money and market will of itself deliver public policy outcomes.

But I can tell you after all these years it’s pretty clear to everyone that you won’t deliver a 21st century economy, a safe climate, a futuristic public transport system with light rail, freight and high speed connections unless you have a multi-decade plan. You won’t deliver the sort of happy, confident society that Australia wants to be unless you have a multi-decade plan. Handing nations over to the vagaries of markets has proven disastrous.

That’s why it’s absolutely wonderful to be here today, at this moment in time in Australia having just stepped down as Leader of the Australian Greens and in the lead up to the Abbott Government’s second budget. Because, I know that what we are seeing here in Australia what is being seen around the world, and will be seen in the British Election today and that is the death throes of neoliberal economics.  The future is now full of possibility and there is no going back. What a great place to be in determining public policy in Australia.

Over three decades my life as an environmental activist and parliamentarian, essentially my life has bookended by the fundamentally flawed and extreme ideological experiment that has been neoliberalism. But it is also that which has lead me to be part of the emergence and growth of Green politics both here and around the world. The era of the environment, with its precious ecosystems, as dispensable fodder for economic growth is over.

Greens Senator Christine Milne resigns as leader and replaced by Senator Richard Di Natale. Parliament House Canberra 6 May 2015. Image David Foote- AUSPIC/DPS

Greens Senator Christine Milne resigns as leader and replaced by Senator Richard Di Natale.

As I leave the time is now ripe for the great Green team here lead by the new leadership team of Richard Di Natale, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters in the Australian Parliament; the leadership that is being offered in other countries around the world, to drive and implement the raft of ideas and policies that people want. People sense that values, like community and public interest, that they’ve been forced to suppress for so long, made to feel as if they are not worthy aspirations, now have a chance of re-emerging. And I can tell you, revolutions occur not when people are totally ground down. They occur when people start to believe that things can be better, and that’s where we are right now.

As a philosophy neoliberalism has at its heart ‘the market’ which its adherents think should be free from interference from government. Economic growth is paramount. Corporations and their agents need to be free to pursue whatever gives them an economic advantage. As a consequence, domestic and global markets must be free to operate with little or no government constraint or regulation. The hall marks of neoliberalism are free trade, deregulation, privatisation, public spending cuts and small government – and I can tell you, the Trans Pacific Partnership is the extreme expression of the last death throes of neoliberalism and we’d better make sure we prevent it actually coming to fruition.

The ideal market driven world was supposed to solve all social and economic problems we have with the trickle-down effect. How many times are we told just give it to the big end of town, just give it to the market and everyone else will benefit? By maximising self-interest over the community interest, or the common good, everyone was supposed to be better off. What a spectacular failure it has been. A failure environmentally, socially and economically such that only a radical reassertion of government into decision-making gives us any hope.

As Sir Nicholas Stern said in 2006, global warming is the greatest market failure of all time and it continues to be with the science getting worse we are living in a climate emergency. It is a matter of fact not of opinion. Ice sheets are melting, sea levels rising, extreme weather events intensifying, coral reefs are dying and 1 in 6 species are headed to extinction because of it. The market sees the Earth as having infinite capacity to provide resources and life supporting clean air, clean water, uncontaminated soil and an infinite capacity to absorb wastes into its rivers, oceans and atmosphere. This idea that the market considers the very earth we live on as an externality shows you just how flawed this is. It has led to the World Economic Forum identifying food, water, climate and extreme weather as four of its top ten risks in 2014. That is where we are.

The rest are risks associated with income disparity, fiscal failure, unemployment and underemployment and social instability. Even the IMF is now saying that progressive taxation should be more of a focus than regressive sales taxes. But no one is listening in Canberra where insulating the rich has been the focus.

Even after the Global Financial Crisis where failure to regulate the market led to the most massive bailout of all time, it is back to business as usual. Regulating the financial services industry has been largely thwarted. Greed has thrived as every day those who argue that taxes, bailouts, regulations and subsidies are unwarranted restraints on market freedom, simultaneously put their own hands out for all the corporate welfare they can muster. Rescue packages for the loggers, regulation to stop protesters but deregulation to facilitate mines and coal seam gas, cut the RET for aluminium smelters and coal fired generators, abolish the mining tax, pollute for free, keep the fuel tax credits for the big miners, subsidies for oil and gas exploration, avoid any penalties or crackdown on tax avoidance. You can guarantee that when the light is shone on the 55 millionaires in Australia who right now pay no tax, or the 700 richest private companies that want their affairs to remain secret, or the big miners and polluters and their use of tax havens, or the immunity from prosecution for the wealthy, the chorus will be “look over there, the GST. Look over there, don’t look at us. Look over there, the community can pay more with the GST.”

Interestingly, the global wave of innovation that was supposed to result from the last thirty years of neoliberal economic policy has done so, where it has occurred, in spite of neoliberal economic policy, not because of it. If you look at Australia’s largest solar farm, for example, it’s a result of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Look to the CSIRO, fantastic innovation, that does not come from small government, that comes from government supporting science.  Any innovations that threaten those who profit from old economy environmental and social exploitation are actively opposed. Research and development is slashed, education is denied Gonski funding, universities cash, and effective programmes, social programs, and environmental programs are closed down or rendered ineffective.

All this was done with great fan-fare in Abbott and Joe Hockey’s first budget and first year in government. In fact, the one good thing about the 2014 budget was that it was so transparently extreme, so obviously the naked implementation of the market, right down to the cigar smoking of the Treasurer and Finance Minister, or the list of 75 asks from the Institute of Public Affairs, that no one could miss, no one in the whole country could miss, just how unjust it was.  How much it made life harder for people and how dismissive of the environment.

The Prime Minister had no nuancing or disguise, no consultation with anyone who might know or care about education or health or the environment. He imposed the agenda of the mates who had been salivating about it in their two terms in Opposition. Hit pensions, unemployed, students, single parents, cut superannuation entitlements for low income earners, call it a budget emergency, tell people it’s in their best interests to suffer and just plain lie. That’s what they did last year.

community climate rally canberra

The community rallied. The Australian Greens stood with people in every capital city and beyond  protested against this madness, this smashing of lives and values.

We are people, not economic units.

We live in a society, not an economy.

We care about one another and our community, our environment, not just bank accounts.  And it is with great joy I can say that after the last 12 months, both Prime Minister Abbott and neoliberal economics have been discredited at the same time.

The old order didn’t go down without a fight as they tried to blame the Senate. They called it obstructionist and argued that the Australian Greens should use our power to negotiate a compromise on these abhorrent policies. But, one year on I’m proud to say that the Greens used our power, in unwavering opposition, and forced the government to back down on the pension indexation, university deregulation, and Medicare co-payments. We have saved the Climate Change Authority, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA. If the ALP had held the line on the Renewable Energy Target we could have forced a back down on that too.

Meanwhile there were senators who were lauded by the neoliberal echo chamber, particularly the Murdoch press, were lauded for doing deals and throwing in their lot with the Abbott Government, boosting mining profits by abolishing the mining tax, allowing the big polluters to pollute for free and handing them over $2.5 billion of taxpayer funds under Direct Action, abolishing the low income superannuation payment and taking $700 million out of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. If the common good is the benchmark then it was a resounding failure.

So what comes next?

Will the Prime Minister be able to rescue himself with a dull Budget, on the pretext of learning from his mistakes? Will Abbott’s style of neoliberal-lite, cut it this year?

Well I say, not at all.

As Einstein said, you don’t solve problems with the same mentality that created them and let me tell you, the same mentality of governing for the big end of town remains. Rather than governing for the people that elected it, this government treats the market as its primary constituent, demanding that Australians shoulder greater and greater pressures and make more sacrifices.

But it is all in vain because as I say, a revolution is underway.

In his seminal work on the structure of scientific theory, Thomas Kuhn gives insight into why that is so.

He was the scientist who brought about the much used term ‘paradigm shift’.

He challenged the notion of steady cumulative progress and saw discontinuities and revolutionary phases leading to conceptual breakthroughs, which settle down to become the new norm.

Revolutionary phases are preceded by an accumulation of unresolved anomalies to the point where people question the paradigm itself and a period of crisis ensues. In his words

“The proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and to debate over fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research”

.. and that’s what is happening now in the broader community. People are expressing discontent.

People are expressing discontent.  In the 1950s, the average American CEO was paid twenty-times that of an employee of the firm, a pay ratio that has since exploded to over two-hundred times.[1]

This trend is echoed around the world. With of all global wealth being owned by the 1%. Just 80 people own the same amount of wealth as 3.5b billion others, the poorest 50% of the global population.[2]

The free markets, espoused by Reagan and Thatcher, and the Abbott Government, have enabled the powerful to capture and concentrate wealth at obscene levels, leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests ignored and their environment destroyed.

Elevating markets, and trusting businesses to regulate themselves resulted in the Global Financial Crisis. However, in scrambling to deal with the disastrous impacts of the crisis, much of the world doubled down on the very orthodoxy that had caused it in the first place. Governments tried to fix the problem with the very policies that had caused it, to disastrous effect.

Governments have to change, and that is where we are now. Anomalies in neoliberal economic outcomes are rife. People see the lies.  They want something different.

Knitting Nanna's of ToolangiThat’s why I say the Greens are set to come into our own. We have been challenging the fundamentals of neoliberal economics from the beginning of our party. We put people, communities and the place we call home, our planet, before the market and individual self-interest. And I am leaving a party that will continue to do that in the Federal Parliament, in state and territory parliaments and right around the world.

We say yes to sustaining life on our planet, yes to healthy rivers, oceans, forests, wetlands, reefs and species, yes to regulations and laws that make it happen and no to reducing everything to a dollar value of ecosystem services or the stupidity of offsets.

We say yes to public ownership and and no to the endless cutting of essential services like health, education, public transport, energy transmission and affordable housing to people.

We say yes to government intervention in the market by legislation and regulation in the public interest. And in this government’s pursuit of small governments, another one of the anomalies of neoliberalism, they say small government and then they dole out $3 billion a year to the world’s most profitable mining companies.

The Green team, and handing over.

The Green team, and handing over.

So I’m leaving some unfinished business to my colleagues here, in the climate space alone we can shut down coal fired generators now by regulation and set hard and fast limits to greenhouse gas pollution. We can regulate new standards for vehicle fuel efficiency, and we can make new rules for the national electricity market. We can and should save the RET. We can end destruction of the environment by protecting farmland and water and banning fracking and coal seam gas, tight gas or shale gas. We can legislate to stop logging of native forests, and exploitation of fisheries by rapacious trawlers. And we could do all those things in the next few months.

We say yes to Australia being able to determine what’s in our own best interest and not handing that over to multinational corporations as in the Trans Pacific Partnership and other free trade agreements because they are not fair trade agreements. This is the biggest assault on our national sovereignty and Greens are leading the charge in Australia in opposing that assault on our national sovereignty.

And because we support the common good and the public interest, the need to reduce income inequality and wealth inequality is essential. So we support progressive taxation and revenue raising measures that strengthen the social or environmental fabric of our society. That’s what taxes can do. Instead of paying polluters as in Direct Action, what was wrong with giving low income earners a tax break with the rise in the tax free threshold while making the big polluters pay? It made absolute sense.

Time for action

Time for action

I’m excited. Humanity is on the cusp of righting itself. The dominant paradigm is under question. People are willing to try new things at a time when global warming and wealth inequality demand a transformation.

We need a wave of social technical and economic innovation that will touch every person community, institution and nation on earth is needed.

It is a call out to everyone to embrace this challenge and bring to it the greatest resource of this century. Imagination. The average age of the team who put a man on the moon was 28. They did what was thought impossible and put a man on the moon in a decade. That’s the scale of the challenge now.


In my 25 years in politics, the one lesson I would say I have learned and would pass on to my team is that you have to do the work in preparation for the time when you have a window of opportunity to act. You can never know when that is but the first person with a good strategy and well researched plan on the table when a crisis or opportunity arises often succeeds. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about knowing what to do and having a plan.

It was my experience in Tasmania with gun law reform after Port Arthur massacre, and in balance of power with the Gillard Government when the Greens achieved the Clean energy package and Denticare and included the Tasmanian forests in the World Heritage Area rounding off 30 years of campaigning for those forests.

The Greens have the philosophy, commitment and track record of being able to be ready when the opportunity arises. And as neoliberalism disintegrates and the world reels from a warming world heading towards 4 degrees, the world will need bright engaged visionary teams of people coming from a values base of community and environment.

That’s why the Australian Greens are it. And are set to deliver in 2016.

People are already showing they are willing to try new things, including voting for what they believe in instead of what they’ve always done. Voting in line with your values in is a way of re-engaging the community especially young people who are tired of neoliberal and neoliberal-lite, and who want to secure their future physically, with employment and addressing the climate emergency. The latest polls show 1 in 4 voters have abandoned the old parties and their neoliberal tendencies and I can tell you the Greens are out there talking to those people.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to have to have gone out hard for 25 years for justice, for the environment and for the community. To have held the line long against the ‘market it god’ philosophy, long enough through thick and thin to now see the Greens develop the policies and culture at a local, state national  and global level such that in at least 70 countries in the world the alternative philosophy to neoliberal economics is ready to roll and I’m particularly proud that all that started in Tasmania, my home state, many years ago with the establishment of the United Tasmanian Group.

Stopping work at the Franklin blockade

Stopping work at the Franklin blockade

So many people have contributed to get us to that point. I want to thank them all. Start with the activists who have been prepared to put their bodies and their freedom and well-being on the line from the Lake Pedder campaign, through to the Franklin, the fight for the forests right across the country from Farmhouse Creek to Toolangi, saving farmlands of Wesley Vale, the Tamar Valley and Bass Strait from pulp mills and Gunns. The campaigns against Jabiluka, sand mining, for the Reef, against coal in the upper Hunter and the Bowen and Galilee Basins and coal seam gas from Darling Downs, to the Liverpool Plains to South Gippsland and James Price Point. I say thank you to those activists who are prepared to stand up when the laws do not deliver what the community needs. I say to them, without your courage we the Greens, would not be where we are. But we need to keep it up if the Greens are to be the dominant political and social influence of the next century.

Australian greens party Group shot. front row seated l-rAdam Bandt, Christine Milne, Rachel Siewert, back row,  Larissa Waters, Janet Rice(Sen Elect), Peter Whish-Wilson, Penny Wright,Scott Ludlam,  Lee Rhiannon,Richard di Natale,  Sarah Hanson-Young..23 september 2013

Australian Greens MP’s.

But I say to those activists, Green politics is environmental and social activism. It is Green MPs who are taking the cause to where the decisions are made. Greens MPs are the people who share your passion and values. They are the ones who have a coherent philosophy and voting record and will not sell you out. Backing neoliberalism or neoliberal-lite won’t drive the transformation that you know the natural world needs and society requires. You know how urgent action is, don’t let the future down by advocating a vote for a party or individual who doesn’t share your values. Surely that is what constitutes a wasted vote.

To my voters and supporters in Tasmania, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you and for backing the vision for a clean, green and clever Tasmania. A place renowned for its clean air, clean water and uncontaminated soil and loved and globally appreciated  for its wilderness and the creativity that inspires, a place of outstanding universal value to human kind.

Standing up for our Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage

Standing up for our Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage

I couldn’t be prouder of the role the Greens played in doubling the size of the World Heritage Area through to the inclusion of the forests and the ongoing campaign to protect it to ensure it is there for the future. There’s more work to do in Tasmania but we’re brilliantly placed in a world that is focusing on the Southern Ocean and the science, we are well placed to change our economy to be based on that.

I am stepping down as Leader because now is the time I had to make a decision as to whether or not to stand again for election in 2016. I could not in my heart of hearts promise to represent you for another term. We have always been honest with each other and I do not intend to mislead you now. It is time for generational change and for new energy as to the possibilities for our state and nation which are immense.

To the members of the Australian Greens around the country and to my Parliamentary colleagues, thank you for the privilege of leading this great party. It is a humbling experience to carry the hopes of people for a more caring society and a life sustaining planet on my shoulders and that of my parliamentary team and my staff in Hobart and in Canberra. Over the past three years we have together not only strengthened our national party and our global party, we have built a strong national culture and an exciting direct engagement campaigning strategy with the community which has delivered for us in state elections and we have a wonderful depth of talent in our Parliamentary team all ready to take off, and that will enable the Greens to bring it home for people, and the planet, in the federal election next year.


To my family, my partner Gary, my sons Thomas and his partner Antony, James and his wife Shannon, my mother June who at 91 will be watching with my extended family from North West Tasmania today, thank you for believing that it is possible to change the world and for the support you have given me for so long, for the sacrifices you have all made to enable us all together to do this. I could not have done it without you.

In conclusion, one of my favourite poems, one that has sustained me over the years inspires me now as I embark on the next phase of my life. And I hope it will inspire the Greens as they enjoy this moment in Australian politics when the old neoliberal order is crumbling and what replaces it is being actively imagined in order to give our planet and people a safe climate and future. And I quote:

The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.

The cabin passage is not for me or the Greens, it hasn’t been the passage for Adam and I over the last few years, and it won’t be the passage for my Parliamentary colleagues. I am confident that we will continue to enjoy the moonlight and the mountains from before the mast.

Thank you.

the full video of this speech can be viewed by clicking here

Local food leads to local gains

Everywhere I go across Australia people can’t stop telling me how much they loved their trip to Tasmania, how beautiful our state is and how delicious our food and beverages are.

While we should all be proud of our outstanding producers, a couple of important reasons to support local food get lost in all the enthusiasm about the highest end products.


We locals know most Tasmanian produce is sold interstate or overseas – that’s why it’s often hard to find locally grown fruit, vegetables and meat in the supermarkets.

It’s why we flock to farmer’s markets when they are on.

Tasmanian produce is often shipped interstate before it eventually makes its way back to our supermarkets, reducing freshness, increasing prices, and costing us jobs. We don’t always know if it’s even come from Tasmania.

There is strong evidence that producing and selling food locally creates jobs as well as helping people access affordable, healthy food.

The US Agriculture Department found that fruit and vegetable farms selling locally employed 13 people for every $1 million of sales, compared to just three staff for farms selling nationally and internationally.

apple pressing

In the UK, local paddock-to-plate food production creates three times the number of jobs than national and international companies do.

The Australian experience is no different. A study of a south-east Melbourne region of 331,000 households found that supplying all food locally would be worth $3.7 billion.

By building a strong local food economy, Tasmania can create secure jobs supplying quality produce to our communities and we can build stronger community relationships between the people who produce our food and we who eat it.

March dump 061

We also know that local produce is a draw card for our hospitality and tourism businesses, further increasing the benefit of local food production for local consumption.

A greater concentration on local markets will benefit food producers over the long term as they dodge the vagaries of international commodity prices and changing value of the Australian dollar.

One vital reason to support local food for local people is that it improves our ability to tackle diet-related illnesses.

We can’t hope to get Tasmanians eating healthier food if we don’t grow for local sales but concentrate almost exclusively on exports.


Farmers growing a variety of healthy fruit and vegetables on our doorstep and providing that food at a reasonable cost is just what we need to help combat diabetes and heart disease and give our children the best possible start in life.

A University of Tasmania study has found that consumers pay up to 40% more for a healthy diet and access to healthy food is uneven across the state, with only 5% of fruit and vegetable retailers located in low-income areas.

It’s mind boggling to think that up to 40% of vegetables grown in Tasmania are ploughed into the ground or fed to livestock while we have communities crying out for affordable, healthy food.

This is why we should support farmers to meet local demand and sell locally through markets, food co-operatives and local grocers. We can also help match small businesses with equipment they need to add value to their produce through bottling, pickling, drying and more.

But we will need a shift in government thinking for this to work.

Most other developed countries recognise the need to support and nurture local food economies but Australia seems stuck in the mentality that the only good market is an export market.

Tasmania is well placed to embrace a local food economy. We have the land, producers and ability. We also love our own locally grown food and want to support the people who produce it.

What we need now is the will for this shift. If we can make the move we can create jobs, greater certainty for food businesses and access to healthy, quality produce for all Tasmanians.

Farmers Markets

Farmers Markets

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

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:

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.