2019 Governor’s Speech- Address-in-Reply

21 Feb 2019

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In giving my address-in-reply can I first say a big thankyou to the people of Prahran for re-electing me as the local member of Parliament. I love our community; I love living in our community. It is a great place, and it is an absolute privilege to be able to represent our community in state Parliament. During the election we ran the most positive and the biggest people-powered campaign ever in Prahran. I want to thank the over 100 volunteers who worked so hard, with over 30 000 doors knocked and calls made, data entered, placards put up and everything that goes into a campaign in support of our positive plan to keep Prahran livable. That will involve upgrading our overcrowded tram network, with safer stops, new trams and traffic priority; upgrading public housing and providing new public housing—these are people’s homes and this is something I am going to be fighting for for the next four years—and providing new bike lanes, particularly that separated bike lane along St Kilda Road through the city.

We need construction to start now, not that it be completed by 2025. We need upgrades to South Yarra station. We have got to start and we need that connection with Melbourne Metro. We also need support for our Greens vision of creating a future for all of us: better public transport, 100 per cent renewable energy, protecting our native forests from logging and building more public housing—not selling it off—to end homelessness. Particular thanks go to my campaign manager, Polly Morgan, my campaign organiser, Gaby Perdomo, and all members of my campaign team. I would also like to thank all my electoral office staff from the last four years, including my current staff members Claire Van Herpan, Mary Mustapha and James Cooper, and my transport advisers, Guillermo Gomez and Thomas Souness, for all your work as well. Congratulations to the government on its election win. Congratulations to all members who got elected. Well done to the candidates who ran in Prahran, particularly Katie Allen and Neil Pharoah for their very strong campaigns.

I am really pleased to be here with two other Greens MPs, the member for Melbourne and the member for Brunswick. At three, that is the most Greens ever elected in the lower house in a general election in Victoria. But I am sad and I am disappointed that a number of our Greens MPs were not re-elected. There was Lidia Thorpe, the former member for Northcote, who was, as everyone knows, a powerful Indigenous voice in this place; also, from the other place, Sue Pennicuik, who was a voice of reason on so many issues, particularly on justice and of course protecting our animals; Nina Springle, who stood up for social justice, for reducing waste; Samantha Dunn, who fought so hard to protect our forests and to fight against the north-east link tearing through her community; and Huong Truong, who was a voice for a multicultural Victoria and for the west—all hardworking MPs. It is a loss not just to the Greens not to have them in Parliament but a loss for the state of Victoria.

But I do want to focus my speech on responding to the Governor’s speech. This speech, written by the government, laid out the government’s agenda for the next four years. The government listed its priorities, stating, ‘Over the next four years the government will focus on: education; jobs; transport; health; and fairness’. All this is good, but does else anyone else notice what is missing? It seems utterly incredible that any government, let alone a self-described progressive government in the most progressive state—at this point in history; at this point in time, when our ecosystems are on the brink, when the IPCC has stated we have got around a decade to limit global warming to 1.5 per cent and prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change; at a time when more and more communities, more people, particularly young people, are speaking out, are demanding our government take action; at a time when we are already experiencing the effects of climate change, deadly heatwaves, drought, bushfires and extreme weather—could put forward a program for governing that does not put protecting our natural environment at its heart and that does not even mention the words climate change.

That is why the Greens are taking the rare but necessary step to move an amendment to the address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech. In the address-in-reply we are debating the motion put forward by the member for Nepean, which states: Governor: We, the Legislative Assembly of Victoria assembled in Parliament, wish to express our loyalty to our Sovereign and to thank you for the speech which you have made to the Parliament. So in response to the motion moved by the member for Nepean, I move: That the following words be added at the end of the motion: ‘but respectfully regret that the speech fails to outline effective measures to protect Victoria’s natural environment and endangered plants and animals nor address the urgent water, climate and extinction crises that affect all Victorians’. A government without a plan to protect our environment is a government without a plan for Victoria’s future. This government’s failure to put protecting our environment at the heart of its program shows it is not just failing to act or that it could do more but that its policies in government are actively destroying the environment.

Just look at our native forests in Victoria—home to endangered species like the Leadbeater’s possum and greater glider, and giant mountain ash trees; the source of our drinking water; a massive carbon store that has to be protected to avoid catastrophic climate change—being logged to the point where ecosystems will collapse beyond recovery. This government has not just continued logging our native forests in its time in government. It bought a bloody sawmill to keep it going, and they have not added a single inch of national park in their time in government, the worst record on national park creation of any government in the last 60 years in Victoria. Now, the only reference to the environment in the Governor’s speech was in relation to the Solar Homes program, which the Greens support, but Victoria’s four coal-fired power stations make up over half of Victoria’s emissions. There is no time, no plan, no urgency from this government to transition out of coal. We need urgent action. But we just do not know how long this government wants to keep burning brown coal.

It has extended coalmining licences beyond 2050—beyond 2060—and the only indication is what we have had from a Labor MP who stated in this place that it was his guess that Loy Yang A and Loy Yang B would continue to operate in 2050. The government’s commitment to coal does not stop there. Their own statement on the future uses of brown coal adopts an ‘open for business’ approach to new coal projects. This government in failing to plan to phase out coal is planning to use coal well beyond the time it needs to be kept in the ground. This is unacceptable. Coal needs to stay in the ground. This government legislated against gas fracking and announced it will put it in the Constitution, which is terrific, but they have gone all-in for conventional gas. It is currently exploring for conventional onshore gas deposits to use that will put our environment and our agricultural land at risk. It is opening up the Otway Basin in western Victoria for offshore oil and gas exploration. In the Mornington Peninsula, where I grew up, the government is supporting AGL to turn Western Port Bay into a giant dirty gas import terminal. It is not just damaging our environment, not just putting it at risk of a disaster, but creating yet another source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainable, livable cities are essential to protecting our environment and the fight against climate change. But our recycling system is at the point of collapse. Waterways are choking with rubbish. Recycling is being sent to landfill. Materials are stacking up in dangerous conditions across the city. Residents are demanding action; the government is missing in action. The government agreed to a ban on single-use plastic bags, but that was two years ago. They have refused to implement a container deposit scheme, and organic waste, which of course releases the most dangerous of greenhouse gas emissions, continues to be sent to landfill. We are being choked by polluting traffic. At a time when carbon pollution from transport rises and rises, and due to rise another 10 per cent over the next four years, the government is spending billions upon billions on mega toll roads, tearing through some of our most sensitive urban green spaces, creating more traffic and pollution, and pouring thousands of cars into the inner city.

Across Victoria people are rising up, communities are speaking out and students are striking in protest against the government’s inaction on climate change. Communities in the Latrobe Valley are calling for a just transition out of coal, in Central Highlands to create the great forest national park, in Gippsland to create the Emerald Link, on the Mornington Peninsula to stop the gas terminal and in Melbourne for sustainable transport instead of toll roads and for new train lines. We are standing with these people, with these communities, with our positive vision, where native forests are protected, where the great forest national park is on Melbourne’s doorstep, where Victoria is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, where our cities are sustainable, where the waste industry is transformed, where there is world-class sustainable transport, where there are clean energy projects across the state, where Victoria leads the way in transitioning our economy and where local economies are thriving. All of this is achievable. New Zealand has banned offshore oil and gas exploration. Germany is phasing out coal-fired power. Other mainland states have a container deposit scheme. Cities around the world are building new tram systems and bike networks, not mega toll roads that funnel traffic into the inner city.

This government, in not putting our environment at the heart of its program and in not even mentioning the words ‘climate change’, has left us no choice but to move this amendment. I would urge all members, regardless of their party, to support this amendment. To make it clear, the constitution is clear: supporting this amendment has no impact on this house’s confidence in the government. Everyone in this place has to think of our young people, our children that will live on this earth beyond us. My children most likely will be alive in the next century. The decisions we make now on our environment will have effects not just for this time and this term of Parliament but for all time. So I would ask members, in considering this amendment, to ask the students and the young people that they speak with in schools and across their electorates would they support a government that puts protecting our natural environment at the heart of their plan for our state? If the answer is yes, then their answer in voting on this amendment also has to be yes.

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