I would like to wish you all the best for the holiday period and the New Year.
2017 will be a critical year in meeting the challenges of action on climate change, ending inequality and protecting our natural environment.
Although I am looking forward to winding down there is sobering news that I wanted to share with you. Right now, the temperature at the Artic is an extraordinary 20 degrees higher than the norm for this time of the year. As winter descends on the northern hemisphere the sea ice should be forming, but it is actually melting.
Germany has plans to shut down its last eight black coal underground mines by 2018, and Britain intends to close its existing coal fired power stations by 2025. Finland is considering banning the use of coal for energy by 2030. Meanwhile in Australia, Queensland Labor has agreed to the world’s biggest new coal mine, Adani. Prime Minister Turnbull is listening to his backbench rather than climate scientists, and has offered Adani a $1 billion public infrastructure subsidy.
2017 must be the year Australia turns out the biggest climate actions we have seen.
The parliamentary year ended with the Liberal-National government claiming victory over the passing of the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill. While amendments passed on the combined vote of Greens, Labor, Jacqui Lambie and Derryn Hinch mean much of the bill is unworkable, the bill still strips over 1 million workers of their civil and industrial rights.
It’s not just the ABCC – in so many ways, state and federal governments are stepping up their attacks on the right to protest and publicly oppose governments and corporations.
Earlier in the year, the NSW Baird government took the shocking action to threaten protesters engaging in non-violent direct action at no-CSG and no-mining protests with increased fines from $550 to $5500 and the possibility of seven year gaol terms. Similar extreme laws have been imposed in other states to stop forest protesters and people exercising their right to protest.
Despite these attacks people continue to find creative ways to highlight government abuses. The last day of parliament saw protestors abseil the front entrance and drop a banner that read "close the bloody camps now - #justice4refugees”. I found it inspiring to watch these protests. Closing the cruel refugee detention camps remains a top priority of the Greens.
The influence of corporate money on political parties is an enduring problem for Australian politics. The major parties continue to oppose setting up a National Anti-Corruption Commission and putting limits on the influence of private money. Recently we gave our Democracy for Sale project a major overhaul, and found the grand total of reported payments made to political parties since 1998 will reach $1 billion in the 2015-2016 year. In 2017 we will step up our work to achieve far-reaching political donation reforms.
This year I took on the Greens’ portfolios for housing and industry, and am continuing the work begun by Scott Ludlam and Adam Bandt in these areas.
Working with members and supporters has been a highlight of my work this year. I hope you have a restful break and I look forward to renewing our work together in the New Year.
Senator Lee Rhiannon