I am pleased to be part of the launch of Stephanie’s candidacy for the seat of Macnamara. I am not, and have never been, a member of any political party. I am, however, a voting resident of this electorate and have lived in Albert Park as a local for nearly 30 years and very proud to live in such a beautiful and socially compassionate community.

My message today, and my reason for supporting Steph, is to encourage all those voting in this electorate – indeed all electorates throughout Australian- to take back our citizenship by voting for the policies of social justice, equality before the law and environmental sustainability.

Recent research conducted in Australia shows that left, right or centre, whatever the party affiliation, people agree on one thing: let us have factual, evidence-based policy-making through our elected parliamentary representatives.

In this post-truth era, I suggest that Federal Parliamentary democracy and our political representatives have let us down. It is time to assert a more personal citizenship, not voting necessarily along party lines but for the right policies that are in the community’s best interests; each candidate should be voted for on the basis of their reasoned polices and commitment to the communities they represent.

My reason for supporting Steph is because of her personal commitment to good policy and to the political values that have been important to me as a former President of the AHRC.

Before I explain these fundamental values, let me acknowledge the truism that “All politics is local”. What great fortune has enabled us to live by these beaches, parklands, excellent schools and community libraries and services, so close to jobs and shopping in the city. I live on the no 1 tram… a Melbourne treasure that seems to take me wherever I want to go.

This Christmas I was delighted when my son and his French family and my two grandchildren stayed with us in Albert Park. I had planned all sorts of outings: the Collingwood children zoo, the sports centre swimming pool, Jocks Ice cream shop and the Melbourne Museum. But the South Melbourne beach and the children’s playground with water games and swings was overwhelmingly the most popular. I looked at these facilities with refreshed eyes and realised how very fortunate we are here in McNamara.

Steph is committed to maintaining and improving these community facilities and my heart warmed to her immediately.

 

What are the values that should be supported by a candidate for political office?

  • First:  sound economic management that ensures fair access to work and equal pay. I suspect an important election issue will be on the familiar ground of the economy. The evidence demonstrates growing economic inequality in Australia, rising costs of living and stagnation of wages.
  • Of particular concern to me is the regressive position of women at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Women in the workforce are overwhelmingly part-time and casual, on short term contracts with inflexible work conditions and a lack of affordable child care and often subject to sexual harassment. The consequence has been that women find it difficult to build superannuation accounts, so that today women over 55 are the fastest growing group of homeless in our community.
  • As a old 1960’s feminist I am disappointed that while Australian women and girls are ranked no I globally by the WEF’s Global Gender Index for educational attainment, we are ranked no 39 generally against all other nations, slipping down the ranks 24s points since 2006 when we were ranked 15th. Australia is now ranked 103th for health, 46th for economic engagement and 49th for political engagement. We slipped yet again in the 2018 assessment because of the widening of the gender gap and the reversal of wage equality. Perhaps we should take note that Australia is ranked behind Serbia, Albania, Estonia, Costa Ria and Cuba… with apologies to those worthy advanced countries!
  • It is estimated that on current policies it will take Australia 202 and 107 years respectively to close the gap for women on political empowerment and engagement in the labour force.
  • These are distressing rankings made more urgent when it is understood that  1 woman a week is killed by her current or former partner and that intimate partner violence is the leading cause of illness, disability and death than any other factor for women 25-44.
  • We must work harder to ensure policies address these imbalances and we need committed women like Steph to lead the way.
  • Second: access to justice for all vulnerable people, In my role as Chair of Justice Connect, a NFP that ensures pro bono legal advice is available to vulnerable people, I have become aware of that so many in our community are denied basic legal support, whether it is a landlord tenant problem, centre link disputes, domestic violence or homelessness or the rising phenomenon of elder abuse. I have been shocked that simple legal issues, that can be resolved peacefully and collaboratively, are left to worsen, leaving a trail of damaged people.
  • I was at a Melbourne community health service a little while ago, where Justice Connect embeds lawyers along with medical and social welfare teams. Most  people, especially the vulnerable, will not walk down Collins St to a law firm to ask for advice or representation, but they will confide in doctor, nurse or social worker. I was told of one elderly women patient who told her nurse that she was at risk of being evicted from her flat. When asked why, she said that she had allowed two homeless young men to share her flat with her, until they found other housing. It turns out that they had stolen her pension check and her savings. The legal and medical team were able to help her with both her medical and legal problems, yet the federal government has attempted to defund community legal services, to close women’s refuges and to silence advocacy by civil society.
  • Third: for an effective democracy we need a vibrant opposition. All too often the main opposition party is in benign collaboration with the Government of the day on asylum seekers and refugees, climate change, in failing to deal effectively with violence against women, incarceration of indigenous peoples in unprecedented numbers, in approving disproportionate data retention laws and de-encryption laws.  The opposition has lacked the courage to challenge polices for fear of opening up a chink of light between it and the government of the day… I believe that to return to an effective democracy of fact -based opposition we now need to rely on individuals such as Steph to stand up for the policies we know to be right.
  • Fourth:  Evidence based policy-making

I have stressed fact-based policies.

  • Bravo to those who have attempted to dispel the myth that we must detain without charge or trial, refugees and asylum seekers offshore, 4 hours flight from Australia in order to secure our borders. We can both protect our national security with an armada of steel ships turning back people smugglers and at the same time treat with humanity and compassion those who seek our protection.
  • How ironic! the Government attempted to deny the Medivac Bill by saying we would be swamped by a 1000 people needing medical attention and worse the decision could be made by Dr Richard de Natale. What an admission! After 6 years detention on Manus and Nauru, the government has finally admitted that so many people need emergency medical care. What ae the facts? Only about 70 refugees on Manus and Nauru are under consideration for medical transfer. The 1000 is the number who could potentially apply for a transfer.
  • How ironic… that the Malcolm Turnbull assured President Trump that he should take the refugees on Manus and Nauru as they had been assessed, while now arguing they are criminals, rapists, murders and paedophiles! It seems there is no such convicted and sentenced criminals, and even if there were, the Minister has the power to veto any medivac assessment for transfer of such criminal by the medical experts and those appointed to the panel.
  • PM says thousands will now try to use people smugglers to get to Australia but the  facts are that It not an option; 13.000 refugees in Indonesia earning if they are lucky about $130 a month; the estimated $6000 fee for a smuggler is not realistic ” Witness says, “First off it is very risky. They arrive and either they will be turned back or be stuck on Manus, or Nauru or Christmas Island. So what’s the point?”
  • Many who are already registered as refugees by the UNHCR aren’t willing to try, knowing they will likely get caught and then have to start the lengthy resettlement process all over again. The belief is that after many years in Indonesia already, it is probably faster, and safer, to take the legal route.
  • The reopening of Christmas Island to send those assessed as needing medical care in Australia is a deeply misleading as CI has no capacity to provide the medical care needed for so many.
  • The PM continues to describe these refuges as ‘illegal’ arrivals. To denigrate people who have legally sought asylum in Australia is a denial of the values for which I believe most Australians stand.
  • Scientific evidence and Environmental sustainability: Environment in this most beautiful part of Melbourne: Climate change is a vital public issue of community concern. The evidence now shows that renewable sources of energy are increasingly cheaper than fossil fuels and that Australians have grasped the importance adopting alternative sources of energy faster than any other country. It seems clear that finally the economic case for renewables is being made and the community has rejected the climate change deniers as purveyors of false science.
  • Steph, as a member of the Greens is committed to the science of climate change and will represent community concerns to protect the planet and work for sustainable practices in Australia and globally to meet our Paris targets.

 

What are the solutions?

  • Compassion for those who seek our protection.  While I am a lawyer and stress the rule of law, I know that a fundamental value is compassion and kindness. What goes around comes around. Kindness to others will be returned and is the fuel for a civilized community.
  • Speak up: can be difficult, but get your facts and law right, hold your head high and speak up.
  • A legislated Charter of Human Rights at the Federal Level, along the lines of the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.
  • Elect those who acknowledge the importance of these problems and promise to legislate for and fund programmes to meet those challenges.

I have said I support Steph because of the policies she and the Greens advocate, but she is also a smart lawyer who can use her analytical skills to gather her facts and develop coherent policies under the rule of law. She is also a woman.  She came close to winning in the last election.

Would it not be truly wonderful to see her win in the coming federal election, because she is the kind of person we want in politics, someone who stands for the social and environmental policies that are important to this community here in Mcnamara.

I will certainly be out there supporting her election in May. I hope you do too.

Thank you.

 

– Professor Gillian Triggs, Sunday, February 17, 2019