Searching For The Nation’s Soul: Greens Launch Campaign For Federal Election

The Australian Greens have launched their campaign for the federal election at a rally in Canberra today.

The party’s leader, Senator Christine Milne, was introduced by the deputy leader and member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

Milne

Milne told the gathering: “There are moments in history when people are so troubled that they search for their nation’s soul… One such moment is now. At this election, we as a people have to choose between the best in us and the worst in us.”

She said the election was a “choice between the past, the conflict and greed for absolute power from the old parties, and the Greens”. She said the Greens is a party that “stands for the future, for a caring Australia and a liveable planet”.

  • Listen to Adam Bandt’s introduction (7m)
  • Listen to Christine Milne’s speech (30m)
  • Watch Milne’s speech (28m)
  • Listen to Milne and Bandt following the campaign launch (20m)

Text of the campaign launch speech by the leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne.

Well thank you everyone, that’s a bit overwhelming! What a fantastic Green crowd you are here today. I want to thank Adam particularly, he is such an outstanding Deputy Leader for the Australian Greens and I’m confident that Melbourne’s going to bring him back!

I acknowledge that we meet here on the land of the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. The Greens will continue to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the nation until our first peoples are acknowledged in the Constitution and until racial discrimination is erased from that Constitution once and for all.

This election, like never before, is about who you can trust to care for people regardless of their circumstances – rich or poor, country or city – and to care for the environment in the face of rising temperatures, growing global population and increasing habitat loss.

There are moments in history when people are so troubled they search for their nation’s soul, moments when things so fundamental to human decency and the future of the world in which we live, hang in the balance, and one such moment is now.

We as a people have to choose between the best in us or the worst in us.

And at this election, the Greens are offering Australians a clear choice. A choice that hasn’t been on display with the current debates, but a choice between the past, the conflict and greed for absolute power from the old parties – or the Greens, the party that stands for the future, for a caring Australia and a liveable planet. That’s the choice.

The Greens are the party that you can trust to put care back into the heart of the nation’s governance.

The Greens do not have the money of the big parties or the backers that they have in the press, but what we do have is a vision and a plan. We know what we stand for, we have the courage of our convictions and we also have you – our volunteers, and our supporters. And I want to say to our members, volunteers and supporters: thank you for everything you have done in this campaign to date, and in anticipation of seeing you out there on the booths on polling day.

We know what we can achieve together because we have the runs on the board. As Adam has just told you, our achievements of the last three years are pretty impressive, and they have been made possible by the historic decision by the people of Melbourne to return Adam Bandt, to give us balance of power in both Houses of Parliament.

And as a result, we have now put a smile on the faces of 3.4 million children across the country, who anticipate the Denticare improvements, and of course the price on pollution. $13 billion going into renewable energy, energy efficiency, rolling out jobs across the country. That’s a pretty impressive effort and I really thank the people of Melbourne and the people of Australia who gave the Greens that opportunity.

There were three signatures on the agreement that delivered so much for Australia – there was Adam Bandt’s signature, but there was also the signature of Bob Brown together with my signature on that. And I wanted to really thank Bob and acknowledge his presence here today, it’s the first time the Greens have had our very own wise elder – and aren’t we lucky to have that!

Friends, the Greens are the biggest challenge to the absolute power of the old parties – and that’s why they will do anything to lock us out.

Despite the bluff and bluster we see on the TV every night, Labor and Tony Abbott agree on much more than what separates them:

  • refugee policies based on cruelty,
  • condemning single parents and the unemployed to poverty to bring the budget back to surplus slightly earlier,
  • cutting university funding and converting scholarships to debt,
  • they refuse to see marriage equality as a matter of discrimination
  • they both want to support weakening environmental laws, pandering to the interests of big business, massively expanding coal exports, clinging to a woefully inadequate 5% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target,
  • refusing to acknowledge that Australia needs to raise more revenue from those that can afford to pay if we are to foster a caring society that looks after people and the environment and reduces the gap between the rich and the poor.

These are the reasons why the future demands, we keep and amplify a strong Greens voice in Parliament to ensure the old parties don’t have absolute power.

Tony Abbott only needs 3 seats in the Senate to gain effective control if he wins the election on the 7th of September. The Greens stand between Tony Abbott and the kind of future we envisage, caring for people and the environment – so, can I suggest that voting Green is double value voting. Not only does it return the Greens, but it stops Tony Abbott getting absolute power in the federal Parliament.

Together, all of us and around Australia, we are standing up for the poorest and for single parents, for refugees, for right of people to marry regardless of sexuality and for cutting pollution and global warming.

Together we’re driving investment in education from early childhood, right through school to university and TAFE, investment in research and development, in the Arts, new information technologies, clean energy and new future focussed jobs.

You can trust the Greens to stand up to the old parties on the issues that matter and you can trust us to vote against dumb cuts to our universities.

The cruelty towards refugees by the old parties is the defining issue of this election campaign. The old parties are leading us into a legal quagmire and international shame with their willingness to play politics with the lives of people seeking asylum. That Labor can give up on such basic human principles and human rights in the rush to an election is the clearest evidence yet they can no longer be trusted to stand up for what matters but will do whatever it takes to claim power. Paul Keating yesterday spoke of ‘mean and small’ – well I say, his words apply to both the Coalition and Labor on refugee policy.

The level of debate in this country on refugees has sunk to new lows. Cruelty in pursuit of power shames us all. It demeans us as a people. The cruel proposals being put forward by Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott will be found to be illegal. The United Nations Human Rights Committee on Thursday found 143 violations of international law by Australia due to the practice of indefinitely detaining people with ASIO adverse security assessments. With Australia on the UN Security Council and set to host the G20, this is not just an embarrassment and a horror for the people involved, but it is an international body blow to our global standing.

As Australians we are better than that.

I announce today in the new parliament, the Greens will subject the policies of whoever is elected to the most rigorous and wide-ranging Senate Inquiry from the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry, calling on experts from around the world to comment on the legal, moral and global implications of the cruelty inflicted on refugees in the name of Australia.

We cannot allow Australia to destroy the lives of thousands of people, nor deny ourselves the benefits and contributions that refugees bring to enrich our communities.

I wanted to thank Sarah Hanson-Young, in particular. She’s up for re-election in South Australia in a pretty tough battle, but she has been relentless in pursuing the government and opposition over their cruel refugee policies. She has advocated so strongly that there is a better way – that we can be compassionate and save lives, and I hope the people of South Australia are hearing that loud and clear.

But the environment also demands our attention. It is the real world in which we all live and breathe. The Greens are a critical voice in the parliament because the old parties can’t be trusted to protect the environment or take seriously the critical challenge of global warming.

A vote for the Greens is a vote to protect the Great Barrier Reef, a vote to protect the Tarkine, the Leadbeater’s possum, James Price Point while a vote for Labor and the Coalition is a vote to destroy them. It is as simple as that.

They both – Labor and the Coalition – streamline, or in the case of Tony Abbott give up environmental protection powers to the states. And make no mistake, they will take us back decades by allowing shooting and logging in national parks. They will rush through, as Colin Barnett oversaw in Western Australia, corrupt and fast-tracked and shortsighted approval processes for destructive resource projects.

The Great Barrier Reef, right at this moment, is at risk of being declared World Heritage in Danger because the old parties treat it like a coal and gas shipping highway, they want to treat it like a rubbish tip for dredge spoil, they want to facilitate coal extraction from the Galilee and Bowen Basins.

They want to put in jeopardy not only the Reef itself, already suffering from bleaching and acidification, but they want to put in jeopardy the $6 billion the Reef adds to our economy every year through tourism and fisheries, and the more than 63,000 sustainable jobs if we look after the Reef.

The Tasmanian devil is at serious risk if the Tarkine is mined. The Leadbeater’s Possum heads to extinction if its habitat is logged.

September the 7th is Threatened Species Day. I call on all Australians to remember on Threatened Species Day all that we hold so dear to us in terms of our threatened species. Dare I say, I suspect that’s why the pandas chose Bob and the orang-utans chose me when asked for leadership in political environments.

But seriously, neither Labor nor Tony Abbott can be trusted to care for our clean air, our water and uncontaminated soil. The old parties fundamentally misunderstand the relationship between the environment, society and the economy. The future strength of our economy is intimately linked to protecting the environment, not destroying it.

Tony Abbott today described the Greens as “fringe-dwellers”. Well, in that case he’s describing the World Economic Forum as “fringe-dwellers”, because we both agree that meeting the challenges of this century requires decoupling economic growth from resource extraction and environmental impact. That is mainstream economics in this century.

Protecting the environment is not only good our economy but it’s also our health and wellbeing. Coal mining is not just driving global warming in the critical decade that we have to reduce emissions, but it is also destroying precious land and water and the health of regional communities.

As China’s environment minister said recently, ‘Drinking polluted water while driving BMW sedans is not the type of industrialisation we are looking forward to’. The very notion that we put the profits of multinational coal companies above our own health is wrong. It’s antithetical to a caring society.

The Greens are already standing with communities all over Australia to say no to coal seam gas, no to expanded coal mining, and yes to the health of our farmlands and our groundwater systems.

Today I announce the Greens will establish a Clean Air Act to lower pollution and improve our health by:

  • requiring the development of national standards and regulations for air quality, starting with better regulation of air quality from coal mines and coal-fired power stations,
  • requiring coal trains that pass through population centres to be covered; and
  • driving the installation of an air quality monitoring network capable of providing real-time data on pollution sources.

We can create the innovative knowledge and information based long-term job-creating economy we need. Instead of giving tens of billions in tax breaks to mining companies for cheap fuel, we can invest in the industries that will sustain our economy and jobs once the mining boom is over. The Greens have released policies to invest over $5 billion in our higher education sector, including opposing Labor’s uni cuts, and $2.5 billion in research and development and setting a goal of 3% of GDP by 2020 for research and development. That is the key to the future.

Our fully costed, comprehensive policy platform will create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the whole Australian economy. Manufacturing and construction jobs from our plans to address housing affordability, from expanding investment in clean energy projects like solar thermal plants and wind farms and also fast-tracking the assessment of high speed rail. We will also create jobs in education, childcare, aged care and health services with greater investments in these crucial areas of need. And unlike the old parties we won’t be looking to balance the budget by sacking hard-working public servants here in Canberra.

Following last week’s rallies around the country celebrating equal love, today around the country thousands are taking to the streets demanding a fairer go for single parents.

Last week, we assured Australia that only the Greens will vote every single MP and every time for marriage equality. Ending discrimination matters. It is not a fashion or a fad. It is human rights we are talking about.

And today we tell those single parents gathering around the country that Labor, in expanding on the Coalitions’s welfare to work law,s have condemned thousands of them to poverty on Newstart.

Only the Greens are going to this election with a costed plan to address the growing inequality in Australia and to lift people out of poverty, and we want to do that by increasing Newstart by $50 a week and giving additional financial support to single parents and those on Youth Allowance.

We do take seriously Gandhi’s statement that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

And we will pay for the cost of caring for those in need by fixing the flaws in the mining tax and requiring the record profit-making banks to pay a fair share of those profits to the community in recognition of the support the community gives them. The poorest in our community shouldn’t be shouldering the burden of the revenue crisis. Instead, the Greens will stand up to the billionaires, to the big mining corporations, to the big banks, to big business and demand that they pay a fairer share.

So while believing big business can afford to pay more, we also care for people who are behind small business, the real engine behind our economy. And my colleague Peter Whish-Wilson, our Senator from Tasmania, also up for re-election: he’s a small business owner himself, and he understands the pressure on small business and has been a strong advocate for our policies for that sector, including a more generous and a sooner to be provided 2% tax cut and stronger laws to help farmers and rural business to stand up to the bullying of the supermarket duopoly.

Talking to people all around the country about cost of living pressure, we know that you don’t ease the cost of living pressure by giving big business a tax break. The Greens’ plans to ease cost of living pressure include reducing electricity prices by investing $1.6 billion over four years to better manage demand at peak times, proposing a better targeted yet more generous paid parental leave scheme, investing more in childcare centres to relieve pressure on parents, and reducing out of pocket medical expenses by additional investment in Medicare and by bringing dental care in to Medicare.

We also have the only plan in this election to address housing affordability – when do we hear anything about housing?

Housing affordability for all Australians by investing $3.5 billion in building 122,000 affordable homes and doubling funding to homelessness services. And today I announce that, in addition, the Greens will extend the National Rental Housing Affordability Scheme to ensure a further 70,000 dwellings in the next ten years, 20,000 reserved for students.

Scott Ludlam, our Senator up for re-election in Western Australia, is demonstrating that with courage and conviction we can solve Australia’s housing affordability crisis, we can ensure the basic right to a roof over our heads and make sure that that basic right is extended to everyone. Yes – let’s give him a clap. And, of course, while I am speaking about Scott, what a great champion for big solar and digital rights he has been! Western Australia just can’t go past him, I’m sure.

At this election, if the poll trend is right, Tony Abbott will be the next Prime minister.

As I said at the start, this is a moment for soul searching across the nation about what that would actually mean.

The Greens are needed more than ever to stand up strongly in the House of Reps with Adam Bandt and in the Senate to stop the excesses of an Abbott government. So I ask Australians to look at the Greens record, consider our vision and vote for people who you can trust to stand up strongly for what really matters.

As Henry Thoreau said: “I do not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”

I ask Australians, not to go below now – not to go below to cruelty, to backward and legacy thinking – but instead to join the Greens, up there before the mast on the deck of the world. Vote for the Greens on September the 7thfor the party that can be trusted to care, to care the environment, and to care for people, to focus on the future, and to create the prosperous, healthy and happy society that we can be.

And I think that is a very strong offer to the Australian community: people who care, people who’ve got the courage of their convictions, people who see the trends coming at us in this century, and people who are saying we’re standing up for what matters.

Thank you very much.

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