20 Years of Greens in the ACT Legislative Assembly

I rise today to draw the Assembly’s attention to the fact that today, 18 February, is the 20th anniversary of the ACT Greens being elected to the Legislative Assembly of the ACT. For 20 years, since February 1995, the ACT Greens have had continual representation in the Assembly.

Over that period we have worked hard to represent the people of Canberra who want to ensure that human rights, environmental rights, animal rights, and a sustainable and democratic future are a key part of the ACT agenda.

We are a city full of people who work hard and think hard about the policy issues that face Australians and how best to solve the problems facing the most vulnerable and those who do not have a voice. As a result, we have a progressive town; we have a voting population who expect that their local government will not only stand up for their rights but also for what is right.

The Greens have been standing up, often as a lone voice, representing the community, calling for accountability and slowly changing the culture of the ACT government to be more open, more responsive, and more consultative. We have pushed the government of the day to understand the challenges to our earth’s future and the need to have a sustainable modus operandi within the bounds of our everyday lives. As a result, we are now the jurisdiction in Australia with the government best preparing our city for the future challenges that we face.

After 20 years of speaking up and representing the community’s calls, we can now proudly report that we have the strongest legislated greenhouse gas reduction target in the country, with an achievable plan to be carbon neutral. We have serious government investment in wetlands, improving water quality as well as providing amenity for local wildlife and residents. We are the only place in Australia to have allowed same-sex marriages and to have a ban on caged hens and sow stalls. We are also transitioning to a sustainable transport plan that services all people, no matter how they wish to get around.

There simply is not enough time for me to reel off the long list of things that have happened as a result of having Greens in the ACT Assembly, but I take the opportunity to acknowledge my predecessors and thank them for their work over the years: Kerrie Tucker from 1995 to 2004, Lucy Horodny from 1995 to 1998, Dr Deb Foskey from 2004 to 2008, and, of course, my former colleagues in the Seventh Assembly from 2008 to 2012, Meredith Hunter, Caroline Le Couteur, and Amanda Bresnan.

Former MLA Lucy Horodny reflected today that she thought one of the most significant things she achieved was:

 … more subtle but powerful things like changing the culture in the Assembly and we introduced language that had not been in use much before like ecologically sustainable and factoring in the real life cycle cost of products. Also climate change and the real cost and the real effects. It was our language that really shifted some thinking.

This has been echoed by former MLA Dr Deb Foskey, who worked hard to follow up Kerrie and Lucy’s work to introduce the concept of triple bottom line, not just as a topic but as a lens. This is now a standard process when evaluating major government decisions through the cabinet process. Dr Foskey said today she is particularly proud of the work she did for residents of the Narrabundah long-stay caravan park, ensuring that when the private owner sold the land the residents were not simply evicted but that the ACT government stepped in and did a land swap with the owner to preserve the homes of those residents, some of whom had lived there for over 20 years. That caravan park is still home to more than a hundred people today and is an important part of the affordable housing options available in the territory.

One piece of legislation passed during the term of Dr Foskey—during the period of ALP majority government—was the anti-SLAPP legislation—strategic lawsuits against public participation. I note that this is exactly the type of legislation they are rolling out in Tasmania right now. Those kinds of SLAPP suits are now possible in Tasmania, but we can be proud that we have upheld people’s rights to protest peacefully here in the ACT.

Madam Assistant Speaker, although I am currently the lone Greens member of the ACT Assembly, I stand here today to follow a long tradition of working to ensure that ecological sustainability, social justice, peace and non-violence and grassroots democracy are principles that are upheld here in the ACT.

(Adjournment speech given by Shane Rattenbury MLA in ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 18th February)