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Australian Green Senator-elect Kerry Nettle Speech


31 May 2002

Speech by Australian Green Senator-elect Kerry Nettle
to New Zealand Green annual conference
Waipapa Marae, Auckland University

Kia ora

Thank you for the welcome to your country.

I acknowledge and pay my respects to the mana whenua of this area and I thank them for their hospitality.

Thank you to the NZ Greens for bringing me over the Tasman to share stories and experiences with you at your conference.

It is a great honour to be here + I have had a wonderful week travelling around your beautiful country and meeting so many inspiring Greens. It has been a very exciting week to be here with you all.

It is an amazing time to be Green no matter what part of the world you are in.

In Australia, The Greens are on a high. We just doubled our vote at the last federal election which psephologists have been telling us for years is not possible. We certainly won't be listening to them again when they tell us we can't blitz it at an election.

We have also just doubled our membership across the country. And we will double our representation in the Federal Parliament when I join Bob Brown in July.

This exciting series of events brings many challenges and opportunities.

We have much to learn from you about the greater political significance that comes from being in the balance of power experiences. This is a position we hope to be in soon in Australia. We are in the balance of power in the state of Western Australia and with you guys here it's just the states in between that we need to fill in.

Why did The Greens have the successes we had in our last Federal Election?

The two big issues on the agenda for the election were the rights of asylum seekers and the bombing of Afghanistan. The two major parties in Australia were standing shoulder to shoulder on these issues. Because of the sameness of the major parties, the media asked, What do The Greens think? And the bulk of Australians who have been under the perception that The Greens are just an environment party got to hear what The Greens have to say about immigration and peace.

For many Australians, Greens Senator Bob Brown was the voice of reason on these issues. So many people commented to me during the election campaign that he was saying the things that that wanted to have said both in the parliament and on the evening news.

The Greens brought compassion and humanity into the public debate and it was great to be able to contrast the Howard Government approach to asylum seekers with the New Zealand approach.

There are many ethnic communities in Australia that have traditionally voted en bloc for the Australian Labor Party. This election in particular they had been totally let down by the Labour Party who were supporting the bombing of Afghanistan and the locking up of refugees.

These communities were disillusioned and looking for somewhere else to place their vote. The Greens recognise our global responsibility to accept asylum seekers and the proactive role we can play in resolving international conflict peacefully. Our stance offered these communities hope, through the knowledge that there was a political party who represented their values.

We worked closely with the Arabic community and during the election campaign I visited the main mosque in Sydney and did many interviews with the Arabic press. We translated basic voting information into Arabic and handed it out at the mosque.

Probably the most rewarding experiences during the election campaign was watching the Australian Arabic community discovery what The Greens were about.

I find explaining The Greens vision to people continually rewarding and empowering.

To be able to explain that Green parties in over 80 countries around the world stand for sustainability, justice, democracy and peace is quite exhilarating.

These four principles show our broad and holistic agenda.

In Australia, The Greens came out of the Lake Pedder and Franklin Dam campaigns in Tasmania and continue to struggle on a range of ecological concerns, our pedigree in this area is established. We are now working on a range of issues; opposing mandatory sentencing and promoting public services such as education, health and transport.

Activists are joining The Greens because of our social justice policies. Many long time Green members joined because of our environment policies. We must always remember that our ecological and socio-economic aims are intrinsically linked.

Environmental protection without social justice is not sustainable.

If we continue with our current lifestyles, the outlook for the planet in an ecological sense is bleak. As is the outlook for many disadvantaged groups within our society.

A positive outcome for the future of the planet and the people on it, relies on humanity organising ourselves in such a way that we shows our care and respect the planet.

The only sustainable way for this societal organisation to happen is if it is based on fundamental principles of equity.

This is how our goals for the nurturing of the planet are inextricably linked to our goals for the nurturing of society.

We need an equitable social structure to ensure that the planets resources are not plundered for corporate profit.

The question of jobs versus forests is a dichotomy that we must always reject. We know that by saving forests we can create jobs and this is the message we bring to the debate.

To separate ecological and social justice is to fall into the trap created by the neo-liberal agenda. Because neo-liberalism seeks to compartmentalise our lives into environment issues, social issues, security issues and economic issues. All the better to then elevate economic concerns over all others.

The Greens reject this over simplification of our complex lives. Only when principles of justice, equality and sustainability regain their rightful place as the foundation for good government will democracy begin to rejuvenate.

Sadly, there is much work to be done. The increasing role of profit and its drivers, multinational corporations, in our governments and democracies over the last 30 years amounts to nothing less than a slow and creeping coup d'etat.

The rise of corporate globalisation is igniting the passions of an enormous diversity of communities around the world.

Young people in particular are responding to this call for community action. This is set to be the greatest area of action for community campaigners in the future. The young people who attend the anti-corporate globalisation demonstrations and drive these campaigns are the alternative voices of the future. They are the Greens MPs of the future.

This is certainly a movement that I have been recently been very involved in. And it is the movement that is attracting the largest number of young activists in Australia.

S11 at the 2001 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne that Nandor Tanczos, Sue Bradford and other NZ Greens attended, was a melting pot of social change activists. It brought together forest blockaders, GE campaigners, civil libertarians, anti-nuclear campaigners and trade unionists.

We know that this is because corporate globalisation is attacking our environment, our civil rights, our public services and workers rights and conditions.

In Australia, S11 and the campaign against corporate globalisation acted as a real impetus to bring together a range of groups. It broke down barriers that had previously existed between these groups. Through these campaigns, relationships have developed between these organisations that have created more opportunity for working together and supporting each others campaigns.

The Australian Greens work closely with teachers unions in their campaign to reduce class sizes and The Greens are widely recognised amongst public sector teachers and teacher unionists as leading the way in support of public education.

The Labor party in Australia has close links to the big end of town through their corporate campaign donations. Business can dine with State Labor Ministers for a mere $3,300 a head. And if you pay that again, you have special access to minister when you attend the Labor conference.

There are countless opportunities for The Greens to facilitate workers voices being heard in parliament.

Many unionists are now recognising that The Greens are the political party with the most progressive industrial relations policies.

We have had a recent uproar in NSW around workers compensation where the Labor Government brought in a range of reforms that took away the rights of injured workers. A phenomenal scene occurred where the parliament was surrounded by a big union picket and the Labour Government ordered the police to drive a wedge through the unionists for the Labor ministry to walk through on their way into parliament. It was a very visual and emotional display of Labor's betrayal of injured workers. It was left to the Greens to work with unions to have their workers voices heard on this legislation.

Like here, in Australia there exists a long and close historical relationship between the trade union movement and the Labor party. But more and more union officials and rank and file members are recognising that The Greens offer more support to workers than the Labor Party. One high profile union secretary in Victoria recently resigned from the Labor party and joined The Greens. Other union members are joining The Greens and offering their support in different and useful ways.

For the generation of young people who come out of the anti-corporate globalisation movement, they are used to working with trade unions.

These young people are the future of The Greens. In New Zealand, polling shows that almost 80% of The Greens vote comes from those under the age of forty. Young people vote Greens because they have an optimistic and principled outlook and which sees a Green future they want to be part of.

The great concern amongst young people for genetic engineering and environment issues I believe stems from a long term perspective.

Young people also bring a long term perspective to a broader understanding of where our society is heading. Seeing the increasing role played by corporations in our collective lives starts alarm bells ringing for the future.

A recognition that this is the activists challenge for the future is vital for organisations like the Greens if we are to stay relevant to the activist community.

Young people in their politics are radical and optimistic. The Greens have a responsibility to live up to the expectation that social change is possible and progressive ideology has a place in parliament and government.

There is a Green wave of success spreading around the world. For your upcoming election campaign, you will be riding this wave. It's fun and it offers a new perspective from which to view the world.

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