Greens leader Richard Di Natale recently spent some time in the Northern Territory to help kick off their next election campaign – and after what he saw there, he’s excited to imagine what we can accomplish together.
By Richard Di Natale
One of my favourite things about being the leader of the Australian Greens in the federal Parliament is the opportunity it gives me to travel across the country and meet with our amazing Greens members, volunteers and candidates.
I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about one of those trips – my most recent one – which once again reminded me of the strength of our movement.
I’ve always had a strong affinity with the Northern Territory, going back almost two decades to the 18 months I spent living and working as a doctor at an Aboriginal health service in Tennant Creek, where I found myself diagnosing preventable conditions that are common in developing countries but I didn’t know still existed in Australia. That experience radicalised me and was one of the reasons I decided to join the Greens and get active, so it’s always special for me personally when I get to the Territory.
Just days after taking part in the amazing climate strike in Melbourne, I took off for Darwin, where I spent much of the last week hearing firsthand about the fantastic grassroots campaigns we are running there and helped kick off the campaign for the Northern Territory election next year.
I don’t need to tell you all that now, more than ever, we need Greens in our state and federal parliaments to stand up to the old parties, to be a voice for the climate and the community.
From the unprecedented near winter bushfires in Queensland’s rainforest, to mass fish kills in a dying Murray-Darling Basin, we are facing a climate emergency. All that matters right now is stopping the climate collapse that we are seeing unfold around us.
We are witnessing today what scientists told us to expect in a few decades’ time, and young people have every right to be feeling anxious and frustrated right now by our government’s inability to take meaningful action to address the climate crisis.
While millions of people took to the streets last week to demand climate action, the UN Climate Action Summit’s science advisory group was warning that countries would need to roughly triple their emissions reductions targets just to keep warming to the 2°C goal. We don’t have time for 2050 net zero emissions. All that matters is taking action right now to turn things around by 2030.
The very first step to making sure our kids have a livable planet is to stop digging up, exporting and burning coal, oil and gas. There’s just no room for even one more mine or well, yet both Labor and Liberal want to open up the NT to fracking.
Sitting under the ground in the NT is a massive pool of shale gas in the McArthur Basin. The scale of it is off the charts. The Liberals boast of how it holds 400 years of gas supplies and the Labor party went to the election pledging $1.5 billion of public money to open it up.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to alert the media to the importance of this issue during the election campaign, it flew almost entirely under the radar. Somehow the Labor Party got away with pledging stronger action on climate change while pledging at the same time to set off a carbon bomb.
The fact is that the Beetaloo Basin and fracking the Territory stand alongside the Adani coal mine as the biggest risks to the future safety and security of this country.
The good news is that after the time I spent in Darwin, the campaign to stop fracking is growing and I reckon this campaign is going to be a great opportunity to put the issue of dangerous climate change front and centre of our national consciousness.
Both Labor and the Liberals right around the country receive millions of dollars in donations from the fossil fuel industry, so we shouldn’t be at all surprised when we see the two old parties acting more like the lobbying wing of that industry than acting like your elected representatives.
But while money and influence may well be on their side, we have something that they never will: people power.
They can solicit millions in donations, but we can bring millions into the streets. And that’s just one of the reasons that we are going to win.
This is a very exciting election for the Greens in the Territory. It is going to be hard – have no illusions about that. They don’t have an incumbent senator and they’ve never had an MP in Parliament, but there’s also never been a better opportunity than right now in pushing Labor and the Liberal-Nationals by running a strong anti-fracking, pro renewables climate campaign.
Everywhere I went, folks were fired up and asking what they could do to help elect the first Greens MP to the NT Parliament. We had a packed house for our campaign kick-off (and special thanks to the folks at local hotspot the Lucky Bat for hosting us and for the special green pizza!). And at one volunteer night, 20 people turned up to find out how they could get involved in the campaign; that’s a pretty good turnout for anywhere, not just the NT.
The people I met in Darwin and across the Territory – First Nations Elders, climate activists, Greens members and volunteers – are frustrated about the status quo and inspired by our fantastic Greens candidate Billie McGinley in Nightcliff, a powerful opponent of the toxic fracking industry with years of experience as a scientist and environmental justice advocate.
Billie is exactly the kind of candidate that we need if we want to turn things around in the NT and take it up to the old parties and their fossil fuel donors. She is actively involved within the community at a grassroots level on social and environmental justice projects, community gardens and supporting music and the arts.
She’s a mum who is focused on creating a safer climate for her daughter’s future, and the future of all our young people. If we elect Billie to the NT parliament, the seat of Nightcliff will have a strong, independent voice to look at the evidence, listen to the experts, and speak up for the community.
I was really excited to introduce Billie to all of the new and old faces who turned up for the campaign launch. I really believe that we can win this seat – a historic victory for the Greens, the people of the NT and everyone across the country who wants to send a message about climate justice – but we can only do it if we have your help.
The Greens, and particularly the Greens in the NT, don’t have the financial resources of the old parties. We have big hearts, but not deep pockets. Still, I have seen Greens like you do incredible things.
The NT team don’t have a campaign office or any staff, which they’ll need to make a serious run in August. So if you want to help them out, please contribute a few bucks or – even better – become a regular donor to give them a recurring donation to help them open an office early next year.
It’s so easy to get bogged down and disheartened by the grim political and climate news we’ve been seeing lately. Sometimes I know it can seem hopeless and like there’s nothing we can do against the vast forces against us.
That’s why I wanted to share this story with you, because trips like this, where I get to meet with dedicated, devoted people like you, are what gives me the hope and determination to keep on fighting. Working together, we can do at the NT election what would have seemed impossible a few years ago. After a successful federal election and overwhelming turnout at the climate strikes across the nation, I’m excited to imagine what we can accomplish together next.