On August 29, 2019 the UQ Greens, alongside QLD Greens MP Michael Berkman hosted the forum ‘Jobs, Justice & a Liveable World: A Green New Deal for Australia’. Looking at the leadership being provided around the world on the issue, this panel asked the question what might a Green New Deal look like in Australia? With permission from the organisers Green Agenda is publishing the transcripts of the talks at this forum.
In this talk Emerald Moon talks about the role of electoral politics, and the Greens in particular, in campaigning for a Green New Deal.
Michael Berkman: Emerald Moon grew up in the New South Wales Northern Rivers and was involved with the Model UN, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and other climate movements throughout high school. She ran as the Greens candidate for Bowman in the 2019 federal election and currently works in my office. She’s also a certified Tik Tok expert. Please make Emerald feel welcome.
Emerald Moon: Yes, according to The Guardian, I am actually a Tik Tok expert, so that’s real.
Before I begin to I wanted to add my acknowledgement of country and that we’re standing on stolen land. This is the land of Jagera and Turrbal people and it is, to be honest, a bit embarrassing that we don’t have an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person speaking today. When we’re talking about a Green Deal that absolutely has to centre justice for First Nations people in ‘so-called Australia’. I’m glad Michael mentioned that, and named that, and I want to acknowledge that we need to do better at centering First Nations’ voices in these sorts of discussions.
My perspective is, I guess, in terms of electoral politics, by which I mean, running with the Greens, in particular, to get in to parliament as a way to actually build a movement and a way that we can effect change. Through that frame, I want to talk about how we can do the things that we’ve spoken about tonight. How we can make a Green New Deal in Australia a reality, what’s in our way, and how we get past it?
Is access to basic needs, is a job for everyone who wants it, is affordable housing, a crazy idea? No. But are the people who currently benefit from the system that we’re under now going to let us have those things very easily? Also, no.
One of the first things that will probably happen when we push for a Green New Deal is that big business, and in particular the fossil fuel industry, will try to scare us out of it. They’ll tell us that they’re going to take their business elsewhere and that they’re going to leave Australia’s economy high and dry. The first thing to note about that is that they’re probably bluffing because it’s incredibly expensive and difficult to move operations overseas. The other thing is that we, the workers, are essential to their ability to continue making money, which is what they want. But, the thing is that if they really want to leave, “oh no! Oh, suddenly we don’t have a bunch of big, evil coal CEOs exploiting us to make money for them”. We can start taking back some of the power that we actually deserve and doing things that benefit people and the planet.
The other thing that we can’t underestimate the threat of is News Corp and it’s growing influence on the LNP and also Labor. New Corp has enormous and a terrifying platform and increasingly it looks like both of the major parties take policy advice from Rupert Murdoch. We just saw last week Labor try and introduce anti-protest laws after a concerted and sustained attack from the Courier Mail on Extinction Rebellion climate justice protesters. That’s not a coincidence.
I think that, rather than doing what Labor’s doing, which is trying to please the Courier Mail when they’re never going to be their friend, we can’t make the same mistake. I think that we need to invest in alternative and community run media and we also need to just bypass the media altogether if we can and try to talk directly to people. One of the best ways that we can do that, in the Greens for example, is we do a lot of door knocking. I think that if you talk to anyone in this room who is involved with the party who might have volunteered on the election, they can attest to how powerful it actually is to just go to someone’s door and have a face to face conversation about things that are impacting their everyday life.
And the big one. Even though a lot of the things in the Green New Deal will actually save us money, we’re still going to be asked about money first and foremost. The first thing is to actually look at the question of whether this is even a problem and whether we actually do need to tighten our belt in Australia, because I think it’s a bit of a myth. The only limit is our resources, and our labour capacity. But, at the moment, we’re really just wasting a lot of our money. For example, a few things that we’re spending a shitload of money on that we don’t need to; income tax cuts, for example, could have well and truly covered the cost of a federal jobs guarantee and they were supported by both Labor and LNP. What the Green New Deal, or what that sort of frame of mind proposes, is just a better utilisation of our resources. For example, there is an entire work force that is wanting to work but isn’t being given the opportunity to, so a federal jobs guarantee is just spending our money better.
What’s more is that we actually can’t afford not to do this. So, the cost to government, the cost to all of us of food shortages and mass migration and more and worse, floods, fire, and drought are going to be huge. The last summer in Queensland alone where we had a spout of really serious and increased natural disasters, cost the Queensland government about 1.5 billion dollars to clean up. That is just going to get worse and worse. So the cost is going to be huge. It’s actually pretty easy to justify a really bold approach to climate justice.
Finally, there are multiple ways that we can pay for it. There are some specific things, like we can fund the Green New Deal via a public bank, or we could return our superannuation into public hands instead of using it to prop up private companies that then spend our money on polluting industries. Instead we can use that money to invest in the goals of a Green New Deal. We can also, I think this is a really big one that the Greens talk about a lot, make corporations and the super wealthy pay their fair share.
The Greens are also the only party that don’t take corporate political donations. We’ve been pushing to get them banned. Michael in parliament has been pushing really hard for that, whereas, the Labor and Liberal parties continue to take millions and millions of dollars from industries, in particular the fossil fuel industry. It’s no wonder then that you see them implementing policies that benefit those very same industries. There’s a development in my electorate for example where the developer had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Federal Liberal Party right before they made it a lot easier for the development to go ahead. And something like that makes so much sense when you put it side by side that there’s actually real appetite for reform in this area.
This is also perhaps the reason that the Labor and Liberal parties are reluctant to make those corporations pay their fair share, because they’re paying them so they don’t really care if they’re paying for things that benefit all of us. If we fixed our tax system, closed loopholes and made tax fairer, then we’d have a little bit more dosh to spend money on things that actually benefit all of us.
I suppose this is the big question that I’m most concerned with, is can we actually win this? I do think the answer is yes. A lot of the tone around climate at the moment is incredibly depressing and with good reason, because it’s fucking scary. When we look as well, at things Jeremy was telling us about, what’s it like to be unemployed, or what it’s like to be poor right now in this country, people are depressed, they’re disconnected, they’re demoralised. Only an exciting, and a big and positive vision that links politics with those problems that they’re facing can win and that is a Green New Deal, or something like it.
I’m not saying that the Greens did a perfect job of doing this during the election. It’s not like we won government. I think that when we look at our results, actually in Queensland in particular where historically we’ve struggled, it was actually pretty incredible. In the Senate we increased our vote by a record five percent swing. The highest lower house swing in the country was in Griffith, so South Brisbane area. There they ran an unashamedly bold, progressive, transformative campaign that centred workers, that centred people’s everyday lives and especially the lives of poor, marginalised and disconnected people.
So how do we do it? I think we recognise that yes, this is an emergency, yes this is a crisis, but it’s also an opportunity. When I was putting together these slides, I went to use the Chinese symbol for crisis because one of my lecturers once told me that it translated to dangerous opportunity. In doing that, I found out that’s a myth, which was really disappointing. It’s a popular mistranslation. However, it’s still a useful kind of idea, because we’re at a juncture where we need to do something now to avert a terrible crisis, but that means that it’s a perfect opportunity to make a change. The Green New Deal structure gives us goals and principals to guide policy, but it also give us a tool to rally people, to shift their thinking and to excite people. It allows us to build power and what we have to remember of course, is that once we have that power, once we have all that energy, we need somewhere to point it, which is why we’re so lucky that in Brisbane we’re building this incredible movement where we actually are talking to everyday people on the ground and we are actually making a lot of headway.
A couple of years ago, we didn’t have the representation that we do in powerful structures like parliament. Michael is the first Greens MP ever elected to parliament. Next year we have council and state elections, and it looks like we can get a bunch more people in there who are actually willing to fight for our future and make big changes and we’re asking you to be a part of that.
I think that, basically we have a framework, we have something like the Green New Deal. As Natalie was saying, these ideas aren’t new. We know what we can do. We also have the opportunity. We have an impending crisis. What we need is people, because that is exactly how we are going to win. So if you’re willing to be one of those people that helps us win, please please get on board. Talk to Greens folks if you haven’t before. Chat to a friend about how it’s easy for us to sometimes in these sorts of situations, we sit there and we go, “we need this movement, we need people to come together and do this”. In doing so, we forget that that’s us.
We’re those people. So I’m asking you to be part of this ongoing project that is a Green New Deal, whether it’s called that or not. But with that, I’ve probably spoken too long. Thank you.