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First Speech to Parliament

First Speech to Parliament

1 December, 2020

I start by acknowledging the custodial owners of the land that we meet on today, the Jagera, Yuggera and Turrbal people, and pay respects to elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded and I acknowledge the struggles for land and sovereignty by the Ugarapul and Yuggera people at Deebing Creek and the Wangan and Jagalingou people in Central Western Queensland—struggles that I commit to supporting in my role inside and outside of parliament.

I have to first thank the people of South Brisbane. I look forward to fighting for you and alongside you for the next four years and beyond. South Brisbane is a rich, diverse and mobilised community and I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to represent you; to put your interests first; to fight for you before big business; to fight for our local schools, public transport, green space and push back against overdevelopment. My pledge to the people of South Brisbane is that I will be fighting for you and fighting to ensure that every Queenslander, regardless of background or ability, gets access to the things that we need to lead a good life—homes, education, health care and community—and I look forward to what we can achieve together over the next few years, so thank you.

I want to thank my family—Sally and Phil; my siblings, Sophie, Ben and Campbell; and my surviving grandparents, Anne and Norm. With their support, I am the proud recipient of a state education and a lifetime of support for the fights and struggles that I have committed my life to, including my time in Bangladesh where my experience working with women farmers facing climate change changed my life.

I particularly want to acknowledge the ongoing inspiration of my late, great-grandmother, Ruth Miller, whose work has been acknowledged in this chamber before. In 1971 Tom Aikens, the then member for Townsville South, who was kicked out of the Labor Party for being a socialist, recognised Ruth Miller’s work running a mobile clinic in Mount Isa with a particular focus on remote Aboriginal communities. Ruth was a committed republican and turned down a Queen’s birthday award in the 1980s. She protested the demolition of the Bellevue Hotel by the Deen brothers just around the corner from here. I, my siblings and my cousins carry her spirit and her commitment to justice and transformative change.

I also want to acknowledge my mother, Sally Miller. Sally joins us today in the gallery. She is one of the most kind, creative and loving people that I know. The setback of a stroke in 2012 transformed our family fundamentally and the experience has highlighted for us the woeful gaps that still exist in our healthcare system, our transport system and our disability and support services. Even accessing this building is a reminder of the structural barriers that face people with disabilities. Not only these barriers but also my mother’s determination have had a huge impact on my politics and have reconfirmed my commitment to a Queensland where our state’s immense wealth is used for the benefit of everyday Queenslanders for access, for education, for health care, for housing, for mental health care and for publicly owned essential services that are free for everyone.

The presence of the member for Maiwar and me here is thanks to a growing movement of everyday people who are fed up with a political system that is no longer capable of meeting some of our most basic needs, a movement of everyday people who believe that, when we work together, when we connect on the issues that matter to us, we are powerful. We are more powerful than big money, we are more powerful than the big corporations and we are more powerful than the major parties. 

I want to thank a team of staff and volunteers who have been driving our movement: my campaign manager, Liam, who joins us here today, and my campaign team of Elena, Eva, Sally, Declan, Csilla, Luisa and Kristin and a wide support team including Max, Nicole, Kitty, Ammar, Kirsten Lovejoy, Katinka Winston-Allom, Larissa Waters, Jonathan Sri and many more who are joining us here today.

Most importantly, thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who make up our movement and who have spent the last eight months having tens of thousands of conversations with people at the doors and on the phones delivering our powerful message of hope, and this is the message: Queensland is a wealthy state. We are rich with beautiful beaches, sunshine, farmland, rainforests. We have a rich culture and history going back at least 60,000 years and achievements in sports, science and the arts.

Of course, we are rich in mineral resources, but, unlike our beaches and sunshine, this is a wealth enjoyed only by the few at the expense of the many. In the five financial years between 2013 and 2018, 10 of the biggest mining corporations operating in Queensland made over $128 billion in revenue and paid less than one per cent in tax, with eight of those companies paying zero dollars in tax. We have suffered a lost decade of mining revenue.

Between 2010 and 2020, mining corporations exported over $480 billion worth of coal, minerals and LNG and only paid seven per cent royalties on that. There are mining CEOs like Mark Cutifani of Anglo American who take home $21 million salaries but cry poor that their companies cannot afford to pay more in royalties. It is not just mining corporations. Bank misconduct has cost Australians over $200 billion in the last five years. In Queensland that is $38 billion that has been ripped out of the pockets of everyday Queenslanders.  Meanwhile,  in  South  Brisbane  property  developers  have  been  allowed  to  make  millions  of  dollars  of  profit  off  our  neighbourhoods  with  a  planning  system  geared  towards developers rather than investment in crucial public infrastructure.

In a state as wealthy as Queensland one  would  expect  that  we  would  have  the  best  funded  schools, the best public transport system; one would think no child would go hungry, that no-one would be worried about having a roof over their head, that every family could afford uniforms and club sports for  their  kids,  and  that  we  would  be  a  leader  in  climate  action.  From  the  tens  of  thousands  of  conversations we have had with everyday people right across Queensland we know that is just not the case.

Queensland is a wealthy state, but I think about the elderly woman from Dutton Park I spoke to a few months ago over the phone who wanted to move to a social housing dwelling with fewer stairs and  was  told  there  were  no  other  housing  options  for  her.  Our  social  housing  waiting  list  is  now  at  40,000 people, growing at a rate of 20 per cent every year.

Queensland  is  a  wealthy  state,  but  right  now  local  schools  and  P&Cs  that  I  have  visited  are  fundraising  for  basic  things  like  classroom  resources,  air  conditioning  or  building  maintenance.  Our state  schools  are  the  most  underfunded  in  the  country.  In  South  Brisbane  our  state  schools  are  underfunded  by  $12 million  every  year.  Queensland  is  a  wealthy  state,  but  I  think  about  the  young  people I have spoken to who have been out of work over the COVID period competing with at least 15 other people for every job advertised. Child poverty in Queensland is at 18 per cent, nearly the highest in the country, and the COVID crisis has exacerbated the depth of inequality in Queensland.

Queensland is a wealthy state, but we have an epidemic of mental illness. I think about the young woman in Woolloongabba who said she was looking for work and in the meantime she could not afford even  the  subsidised  mental  health  sessions.  She  was  navigating  an  expensive,  hostile  system  that  often passes off sadness as a personal imbalance rather than a reflection of a society that too often aligns our worth with our ability to generate profit. Queensland is a wealthy state, but there are 120 men in indefinite detention in Kangaroo Point, held in lockdown with the support of the Queensland Police Service. They are coming up to eight years of their lives being lost to a barbaric system supported by both of the major parties. Queensland is a wealthy state, but after people lost their homes in bushfires this year, fossil fuel companies have continued to have coalmines approved by both of the major parties. 

These  issues  are  not  natural,  inevitable  or  insurmountable.  Poverty,  inequality,  deprivation,  racism and climate change are structural outcomes of a system that puts the profits of the few ahead of  the  needs  of  the  many,  a  system  facilitated  by  politicians  who  have  so often  become  deeply  disconnected from everyday people. These are failings created by policies and decisions about who gets what and who makes profits; decisions about the quality of our air, our water, our climate; decisions about  who  gets  an  education,  who  gets  a  roof  over  their  head  and  who  can  get  home  safely  at  night-time. 

We  in  this  chamber,  together  with  our  communities,  social  movements,  unions,  community  groups and protest groups, have the capacity and responsibility to change that. Queensland is a wealthy state. We in this chamber have the responsibility to ensure that everyone can enjoy that wealth, the responsibility to make decisions that make sure that every Queenslander gets housing, schools, healthcare,  food,  water,  clean  air,  time  with  their  family  and  friends,  and  time  to  enjoy  our  beaches  and  rainforests.  The  Greens  have  been  told  that  we  are  crazy  for  saying  this  is  even  possible—even  by  people in this chamber—but it is actually pretty simple. 

It is time to take the power and wealth off the billionaires and multinational companies and give it to everyday Queenslanders. If we did that, if we made mining companies, the banks and the property developers  pay  their  fair  share,  we  could  deliver  free  school  breakfasts  and  lunches for  every  Queensland  child;  we  could  build  100,000  public homes  across  Queensland,  creating  thousands  of  jobs;  we  could  build  200  new  free  GP  clinics  across  Queensland;  we  could  tackle  overdevelopment  with  a  planning  scheme  that  puts  people  and essential  infrastructure  first;  and  we  could  revive  manufacturing  to  build  the  solar  panels,  wind  turbines  and  green  steel  right  here  in  Queensland,  creating thousands of jobs and achieving 100 per cent publicly owned clean energy; we could roll out a COVID economic recovery plan that puts people first.

We could do all this and more. Queensland is a wealthy state. I ask anyone in this chamber to go out and ask a regular Queenslander what they think of the idea of making big corporations finally pay their fair share of Queensland’s immense wealth, if they think that is common sense, and I would bet the answer would almost certainly be ‘bloody oath it is!’ The question then is if this parliament is supposed to represent the people, why are we not seeing mining royalties raised so we can fund school lunches? Why are we not making the big banks pay a modest levy to fund free public transport? Why is it that Mark Cutifani can continue to make $21 million a year while our schools cannot afford basic amenities? It is common sense to most people. 

My colleague Tom O’Grady, who joins us in the gallery and who ran as the Greens’ candidate in Townsville, shared with me a story about a chef who was not planning on voting because he did not think anyone running actually cared about working people. All he wanted was support with the cost of living so he could do more for his kids. After talking through the Greens’ platform, he committed to voting Greens. I think about the young nurse in East Brisbane, whom I spoke to at length about our healthcare system, who felt that free hospital parking, paid for by a bank levy, would be transformative for her colleagues and her patients.

The fact of the matter is that this parliament represents Mark Cutifani of Anglo American more than it does that young nurse in East Brisbane. Queensland is a wealthy state, but our political system funnels wealth into multinational mining corporations, and for everyday people nothing is trickling down. Both major parties take millions of dollars in big corporate donations, have secretive cash-for-access meetings and jump back and forth between roles in government and lobbying firms. Queensland is a wealthy state, but our political system is rigged.

The reality is that if we want all Queenslanders to have access to the basics that we need to live a good life we need to turn this parliament inside out. We have to make it represent everyday people again, not big corporations. That is what I am here to do. For the first time ever, Queensland has two Greens MPs who are not beholden to big corporations; two Greens MPs ready to stick up for everyday Queenslanders; two Greens MPs backed up by a movement of everyday people that is only growing. 

I say to the people outside of this parliament, do not leave it up to the people in this chamber alone to make this change. The scale of change we need in Queensland to tackle poverty, inequality, climate change and the housing crisis is going to take all of us. Taking on those big corporations is going to take all of us. To make parliament represent everyday people again is going to take all of us. 

To take back Queensland’s immense wealth for the benefit of everyday people will take all of us. To the people of South Brisbane, to the member for Maiwar, to my colleagues in the gallery and the many people who make up this movement: from the bottom of my heart I have so much gratitude for the opportunity for the next four years to be fighting for everyday people and making these changes. Thank you.

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