HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [2.02 pm]: Thank you, Mr Deputy President.
I want to begin my valedictory by paying my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, the Whadjuk Noongar people. I reflect on the positive decision that was made in this place during this term to ensure that this acknowledgement of country is automatically included every day when we open our proceedings. It was a change that was not made before time, and it is a sombre reflection, I think, that in 2021 we have so very far to go in achieving justice and reconciliation for the First Nations people of this land.
I want to share my gratitude with those First Nations people who over the two terms I have been in this place have worked with and guided me in trying to address so many of those issues that continue to remain unaddressed for our Aboriginal people, the failure of which too often results in tragic consequences; the record number of incarcerations, including our First Nations children in our prisons and the shocking number of resultant deaths in custody; the fact that we still have a horrendous gap in life expectancy for First Nations people compared with other Australians; disproportionate levels of homelessness, of poverty and of children taken into care; the number of Aboriginal people still denied appropriate disability supports; the lack of mental health services so desperately needed to address the effects of intergenerational trauma; and the devastatingly high rates of First Nations suicides. It is my fervent hope that I will see these injustices addressed in my lifetime and that we will finally achieve treaty.
It would have been my preference not to be giving a valedictory speech at this time. It had been my hope that I would be able to give it in four years’ time, although as a Green, I have always gone into every election with my eyes open to the fact that electoral success is in no way guaranteed. On that note, it is simultaneously galling, yet strangely gratifying, to find specifically the loss of my seat, the Green in North Metro, being held out in the media and even by this government as an example of our broken electoral system. Of course it is broken, a fact from which I have never resiled. There are indeed people in this chamber who will continue their term but who achieved far fewer votes than I, and people will enter this chamber with embarrassingly low primaries. I am pleased that I achieved the highest Green vote. But this is the system we have, a system I have attempted to address, albeit unsuccessfully, but more on that in a moment. The one thing I can confirm is that no Green worth their salt enters this Parliament with the idea that they will be carving out a permanent career as a politician, partly because I do not think it is something positive for any Green to aspire to, partly because of the vicariousness of the electoral system as I have just said, but also because of the nature of it being a progressive party. By definition, to be a progressive party means to be consistently at the forefront of pushing for necessary change.
The Greens are not a middle-of-the-road party. We do not sit comfortably with the centrist status quo. Parties of the status quo are the parties that become the party of government. Instead, the Greens are a party that is always seeking to do things better—to seek progress to make the world a better place—because we recognise that it needs to be. It means that at any given time we find ourselves challenging majority views, whether it be recognising the science of climate change when the majority remained in denial; pushing for equal marriage, when the majority claimed that the very fabric of society would collapse if we allowed people who love each other to enter into lifelong union; or currently calling for the banning of greyhound racing, which will eventually happen, by the way—we just do not know how many dogs will suffer and die until it does—just to mention three very diverse examples. Every time the Greens push for progressive, albeit necessary, reform, we find ourselves derided, dismissed and even ridiculed, yet without fail, whether it be five, 10 or 15 years later, the majority end up adopting our positions, even claiming them as their own in a convenient reinvention of history.
I could choose to be frustrated by that or I could choose to feel how I do, which is pleased that the work I do makes a difference—a positive difference—even if at the time I may not see the immediate rewards or even get the recognition for having done the hard yards. My favourite saying is that the arc of history is long but it leans towards justice. That is how I view the work that I have done and I will continue to do over the decades of my life—this one very precious life that I get. I feel that I am on the right side of history and the Greens is the party that is leading that. It means that at any given time, the Greens will not receive the majority vote, even when the majority do end up agreeing with us years later. So as a Greens MP, I have been committed to making the most of the precious and limited time I get in Parliament.
Members, I believe I have made the most of my time here; one of only 36 people in Western Australia at any given time to get a chance to use the forum that is the Legislative Council. I have had the hefty workload to match this intent. In my first term and as the member for the East Metropolitan Region, I was the Greens spokesperson for water, urban bushland, mental health, disability, children and youth, women, the public service, the community sector, electoral affairs, veterans’ affairs, volunteering, education and training. I sat on the Standing Committee on Legislation. In conjunction with the Australian Labor Party and the Nationals WA, we killed off the proposed stop-and-search laws. I note that the ALP is toying with the idea of reintroducing something similar now that it is in government.
In my second term, I was the Greens spokesperson for alcohol and other drugs, animal welfare, child protection, community services, consumer protection, corrective services, disability, education, electoral affairs, family and domestic violence, gambling, health, homelessness, industrial relations and worker safety, integrity of government, law and order, mental health, multicultural affairs, public sector, seniors and ageing, sexuality and gender diversity, suicide prevention, training and workforce development, veterans’ affairs, volunteering, women and youth.
As people know, I also took on the role of the parliamentary leader, more akin to a Whip as we practise facilitative not directive leadership—it is a good model—and I sat on the Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission, which oversights the Corruption and Crime Commission, a role I took on absolutely in good faith but it is not a role for the faint-hearted. I was periodically co-opted onto the Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges; I was deputy chair of the Select Committee into Elder Abuse, which produced an excellent report; I sat on the Joint Select Committee on Palliative Care in Western Australia; and, of greatest importance to me, I chaired the Select Committee into Alternate Approaches to Reducing Illicit Drug Use and its Effects on the Community. I am very proud of the final report that that committee produced, and I again extend my thanks to those most excellent of committee members. Mark my words: that work is going to stand the test of time, and I urge members who are continuing in this place to ensure that that resource is utilised. We purport to follow the public health advice when dealing with a pandemic, so let us do the same to reduce the harm of illicit drug use to the community, to individuals and to their families.
In the last term of government I was also pleased to co-chair some parliamentary friends’ groups, including the Parliamentary Friends for Children, which I co-chaired with Hon Donna Faragher; Lisa Baker, the member for Maylands; and the now Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, Mia Davies. I was particularly pleased to co-chair the Parliamentary Friends of Refugees with the former member for Mirrabooka, Janine Freeman, bringing the lived experience of refugees and asylum seekers directly into this place. I had been looking forward to establishing a parliamentary friends of the senses with Hon Martin Pritchard, combining his interest in working with the deaf community with my passion for working with the blind and vision impaired. I had also been looking forward to establishing the parliamentary friends of research into rare diseases with Hon Matthew Swinbourn for whom, like me, the issue is deeply personal. I am disappointed that I will not be able to proceed with that.
It has been fun hosting events here in Parliament and helping to turn it, very practically, into the people’s house. Pride at Parliament is always a big deal and a great joy, although hosting the guide dogs here and giving Guide Dogs WA the opportunity to corner the Premier and present its proposed business case was also a distinct highlight. Knowing that I could assist numerous groups—Aboriginal groups, mental health groups, disability groups, justice reform groups and environmental groups—to access Parliament and to meet with interested members of Parliament on issues of importance always felt like a distinct privilege and opportunity.
I have been a member in this place for eight years, but in that time I have introduced several private members’ bills and motions and delivered countless speeches, as members are well aware, and for which I make absolutely no apology. I have scrutinised countless bills, amended many, and have asked literally thousands of questions. A simple perusal of Hansard demonstrates that I have done more work than many in this place, even those who have been here for far longer than I have. I know that the Labor government has found me to be a thorn in its side, but I remind it that the previous Liberal–National government felt the same way when I attempted to hold it to account as well. The Greens are not beholden to either side of Parliament. We have our own important agenda to pursue. We have stakeholders to represent and a future to fight for.
As I say, over the course of eight years, I have introduced many bills. I inherited two bills from Greens predecessors. There was the Perth Hills Planning Bill 2010, which I inherited from Hon Giz Watson. That bill sought to establish a planning regime over our unique Perth Hills and would have protected precious ecosystems. I worked on that in conjunction with the group Save Perth Hills for four years. I note that, a decade later, the residents of Perth hills are still fighting to save the Perth hills from inappropriate developments and overdevelopment. I also inherited the Water Services Licensing (Water Conservation Target) Amendment Bill 2008 from Hon Paul Llewellyn, which would have ensured that targets for water conservation would be enshrined in statute. As climate change becomes more entrenched, who knows how helpful that bill would have proven to be?
I introduced the Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Bill 2010, which sought to introduce tougher penalties and responses to OSH breaches. It was this bill that also introduced the offence of industrial manslaughter. I note that at the time I was ridiculed and condemned by members from both sides of the chamber, as well as by industry bodies that felt it would be too great a burden to not have the flexibility to kill their workers. I was told that industrial manslaughter laws were a gross overreaction to workplace deaths. Nevertheless, when I was re-elected, I reintroduced the industrial manslaughter provisions in the form of the Criminal Code Amendment (Industrial Manslaughter) Bill 2017. I knew that harsh penalties for those willing to put profit above workers’ lives was no overreaction, and I am pleased that this time the response was different. This time, the issue received the support it was due, and the government introduced its own bill. Too many people had died in the time since I had introduced the first bill, but at least it finally had its day. I put that down as a victory for progressive politics. On a personal level, it felt like important closure for me as a former union official who had been scarred by seeing the fallout for families devastated by completely avoidable workplace deaths, with no justice forthcoming.
The issue of the gender pay gap, on which Western Australia is consistently one of the worst performers in Australia, has burdened women for years. In response to this, in 2011, I introduced the Industrial Relations (Equal Remuneration) Amendment Bill 2011, which would have enabled pay equity cases to be heard by the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Once again, with the issue still very much unresolved, I reintroduced the bill in 2018. To date, pay equity cases still cannot be heard, although undertakings have been given that a future bill to amend the Industrial Relations Act will finally include such provision. These are small victories, and I hope it happens.
The Criminal Code Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011 sought to introduce a defence to mandatory sentencing for assault on a public officer in situations in which it could be demonstrated that a person was floridly psychotic at the time of committing an offence—in other words, too mentally unwell to even know what they were doing. Clearly, prison is not the appropriate place for such unwell people. My bill was not supported, but in response, prosecutorial guidelines were introduced, ostensibly to avoid such an unjust scenario. It is sad to continue to hear that, despite undertakings to the contrary, these guidelines periodically continue to be ignored and that we continue to simply lock up people who need medical help, not prison. My bill would have been a better solution to the problem.
The Equal Opportunity (LGBTIQ Anti-Discrimination) Amendment Bill 2018 sought to finally remove a number of religious exemptions from the act—exemptions that still allow teachers to be sacked, and children to be expelled, for being LGBTIQ. Other states have already undertaken these reforms—in some instances, more than two decades ago—but we here in WA have not had the political gumption to address this. Once again, I know that history will be on my side, but I am sad for those within our community whose rights will continue to be trammelled until we get there. I thank those many churches who indicated their support for such changes; by no means do all churches want these laws retained.
I am particularly adamant about the need for reforms along the lines of my Electoral Amendment (Access to Ministers) Bill, first introduced in 2012 and then again in 2017. Paying for access to ministers simply should not be allowed, and I only hope that one day it will become illegal. The average punter finds it unbelievable that such practices can legally continue.
I have wryly observed the fallout following this election and the outrage about the need to reform ticket voting. Well, people, this is where I remind the government that the Electoral Amendment (Ticket Voting and Associated Reforms) Bill 2019 had been sitting there for 18 months. It could have been passed at any time before the election. It looks like it might actually come to pass now. I am wondering: do I chalk that up as another win? It is too late for those who lost their seats due to the ticket rorting, but maybe post-2025 it will finally be addressed.
Finally, I want to mention a bill I drafted in my first term and that I attempted to garner support for from the Barnett government of the day, but that ended up not being introduced: my party status bill. It had long been a source of disquiet that a political party could receive party status only if it had a minimum of five elected members in the Legislative Assembly. This has historically been a problem for the Greens who, whilst having had representation in the Assembly in the past, have historically achieved the minimum five representatives primarily through our representation in the Council—such is the nature of parties whose support is spread throughout Western Australia rather than limited to smaller location-based populations. We are, still, the third largest party by overall vote. I garnered in-principle support from the Leader of the National Party at the time, but it never progressed beyond the Premier, who was uninterested.
I reflect now on the challenges that both the Liberal and National Parties have faced following this election, whereby the arbitrary focus on the Assembly as opposed to entire state representation has posed such a challenge in gaining party status. My point is that the evidence from Western democracies around the world shows that elections are becoming more volatile, not less, and that electoral success comes in swings and roundabouts. The Greens have always understood this. I hope that this ALP government also has the humility to keep this in mind, because electoral tsunamis have the potential to go both ways.
In my first term, amongst my many portfolios I held the water portfolio. This constituted a huge amount of my work, with endless work in what was happening in the Gnangara mound, pushing for improved licensing and the monitoring of sustainable extraction regimes. The health of the Swan River was a big focus, including our drainage systems, nutrient loads and dolphin health, and what was then the emerging industry of fracking within WA. My office became ground zero for the campaign to try to get the detail around what was being proposed and the woefully inadequate regulations surrounding the industry. I moved a motion calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas extraction, which was opposed by both sides. Again, the Greens led the charge and I copped the flack at the time, and I got a fair bit of it. I also moved motions that called for better regulation of the insidious uranium industry and genuine protection of our Bush Forever sites.
There is no question that one of my principal passions remained around the need for improved mental health and suicide prevention services. I have been very public about my personal history, and that of my family, and the life-defining, tragic impact that my father’s decision to take his life has had on us. We all bring our personal experiences to some degree to this place and to our work, and I am glad that out of something truly terrible, hopefully my lived experience helped bring a voice to this chamber for so many others. I have always wondered whether my dad would have been proud that I became a member of Parliament; I will never know.
Early on, I called for the establishment of a mental health court, which we now have. I have consistently called for regulation of the mental health sector for counsellors, psychotherapists and social workers. People should simply not be allowed to hold themselves out as mental health professionals without oversight and regulation. I went down the rabbit hole of calling for reform of the way that we deal with those vulnerable people who are mentally impaired accused. The case of Marlon Noble was instrumental in leading me there and from that I continued to meet more and more families who had loved ones with various cognitive and intellectual impairments who were continually failed by the justice system. I note that over the course of the past term, even members in this place, from other parties and including government members, would refer these families through to my office for assistance. I have to say that this was not inappropriate; after all, my office was well across the complexities of the issues these families faced and we had a clear systemic view of the range of issues. But I note that there are no votes in this sort of work. We did it because it remains a huge human rights issue that needs to be addressed. I remain deeply disappointed that I never got to see the desperately needed reform of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act. On a related issue, I remain a huge supporter of the establishment of the Disability Justice Centre. I condemn those who ran fear campaigns against its establishment, and I want to be on the record saying that entirely the wrong people are currently running it. I have seen for myself the chasm in reporting between the clinical professionals working with the residents of the centre and the management reports that ultimately end up with the minister. The reports are like chalk and cheese. Simply, it will never succeed as intended until the right people are running the show. But I digress.
I have been consistent in my call for an increase in funding of community-based mental health services, supporting people in the community before they get to a crisis point, ensuring that we are funding our suicide prevention services and that they are also fit for purpose. Members know how much work I have done in this space, as does the sector. I do not think it is any coincidence that after I lost my seat in 2013 I was asked to be president of the Western Australian Association for Mental Health and the inaugural co-lead for the Department of Health’s statewide Mental Health Network. I remind members that the 10-year Western Australian mental health, alcohol and other drug services plan 2015–2025 was borne out of that time. It is devastating that the necessary investment in prevention, early intervention and community-based mental health services that was so carefully quantified has not been realised. The result is the crisis that we now see in our hospitals and emergency departments, which was completely foreseeable. How many lives have been unnecessarily lost in this time? Where is the desperately needed investment in our forensic mental health services as prescribed in the plan, or specialised services for identified population groups such as the culturally and linguistically diverse community, or specialised services for those living with personality disorders, or sufficient funding for eating disorders, or consultant liaison psychiatrists—or pretty much most of the plan?
Being appointed to the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention was an enormous privilege and, amongst so many things, enabled me to finally have established the Australian-first suicide postvention program for children bereaved by suicide, based on the research that I was able to provide and that I had carefully collated over 20 years. I note that independent evaluations of this service have proven it to be highly successful. As I have said before in this place, it needs to be expanded. It currently has waiting lists. It needs to be available for regional Western Australians. It needs to be tailored to Aboriginal communities and developed with those communities. Make sure it keeps getting funded, members. You will be hearing from me if there are any attempts to downgrade this critical and lifesaving service.
I want to acknowledge those brave but heartbroken families who have reached out to me for support, whether it be desperately seeking help for loved ones in crisis, or, after the worst has happened, desperately seeking answers about how their lives have been irreversibly shattered through the suicide of someone who never should have died: people who have battled our health, child protection and education systems; returned veterans who never received the assistance they needed; and elderly people who have given up hope. I have also worked closely with families who have loved ones in prison; sometimes loved ones who have died in prison. I have called for reform of the Coroner’s Court and of course we need a massive overhaul of our prison system. Corrective Services has no place trying to deliver health, mental health, or alcohol and other drugs services. I think it is a travesty that this government abandoned the justice health project that began under the previous government, as it was such necessary reform. We need to address the social determinants that lead people to end up in our justice system in the first place. Social reinvestment is a real and demonstrated solution. Yes, I know that it flies in the face of populist and cynical politics, but it transforms communities and individual lives and it is the future approach that we need to address offending behaviours.
One of the extraordinary experiences of being in this role has been the exposure to so many people’s complex lives and personal histories. Working with David Templeman, the member for Mandurah, who coordinated the Assembly response while I coordinated the Council response to formally apologise to those women who were forced to adopt their children, was one of the most powerful times of my life—working with people who tried to navigate the gutted Redress WA scheme and the resultant fallout, and working with our forgotten Australians in their quest for justice and closure. In June 2012, through a motion on notice, I formally called for a royal commission into alleged abuse in state institutions. I note that at the time I was accused of overreacting, yet some months later the federal government finally called a royal commission of its own, and the rest is history.
The early days of the call for the National Disability Insurance Scheme were powerful, and by my second term the issue had become whether to join the federal scheme, and then how successful or otherwise the transition would be. I had not known of course just how personal that issue would become, and unfortunately as a parent who has had to navigate the system, I can personally testify about how problematic it has become for so many people, despite being such a hard-fought-for reform. One could almost be left to believe that it has been deliberately set up to deny people the supports they so desperately need. My husband and I are both lawyers. I am a member of Parliament and a spokesperson for disability. In the early days, I was involved in trying to ensure the appropriate incorporation of psychosocial disability support into the system. I have been helping others for years to get outcomes with the NDIS. In short, it is hard to see someone I believe who would be better placed to navigate that system, yet despite having a child with a definitive diagnosis and a serious prognosis, I struggled to make sure my son got the supports that he needs. If that was what it was like for me, I ask members: how must it be for everybody else? We have to fix that. It is not good enough! While we are at it, independent assessments need to be immediately abandoned.
Homelessness has always remained chronically unaddressed, but never more so than now. I have taken a particular interest in addressing the social determinants that are more likely to lead to homelessness—mental health, disability, and family and domestic violence. I am devastated at the unhelpful role that Child Protection too often plays in the process, but at the end of the day we need places for people to live. The fact that there is less social housing than we had four years ago is a disgrace. Housing is a fundamental human right. The need for shelter is not optional; we must do better. Certainly, I have tried to play my part in shining a spotlight on the problem.
I remain an ardent and passionate supporter for a fully funded and free education and training system. I know that for many people private school can feel like the only option when faced with an underfunded and crowded public system. That, members, does not represent real choice, but it means that not all of our children are getting what they need. In particular, I note the needs of students at educational risk, particularly those with autism and students living with mental distress whose needs are so often left unmet. Having said that, I want to acknowledge the hardworking teachers who are doing their absolute best and I want to specifically note the School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory, which does such a terrific job in caring for its students.
I have also, over my two terms, continued to raise issues of animal welfare. If people think we have to choose between advocating for people or advocating for animals, they simply lack ambition. I have most certainly felt capable of doing both. Whether it be calling for essential changes to our farming practices, such as banning sow stalls, ending live animal exports, or banning cruel so-called “entertainment” industries such as greyhound racing, I am happy to be at the forefront of calling for reforms for these sentient creatures. Again, this is an area that I have been very active in for a very long time, starting as a 15-year-old when I first got involved in the anti-vivisection movement, then considered a radical movement, but now completely mainstream. I will never understand how people can turn a blind eye to, yet alone perpetuate, animal cruelty.
Of course underpinning my work throughout this whole time has been the need to address the existential threat that is climate change. It has always been an issue out there. When I first joined the Greens over three decades ago, it was referred to as global warming, and I endured years of being scoffed at and ridiculed, and people telling me that it was not real and just conspiracy thinking. Then in 2007, it apparently became the moral issue of our time— that was correct, by the way—and here we are now, in 2021, when only the most foolish would deny its existence, and yet Australia still has no clear plan to fully address it. We see some progress, such as the expansion of clean energies, albeit far too slowly, but we continue to knock down our forests, our carbon sinks, at record rates, we continue to render entire species extinct, and our emissions continue to skyrocket as we point the finger at anyone other than ourselves to find the solutions.
I am really glad that at least I am in a party that has never asked me to resile from the fight to address climate change. Indeed, it was only a few years ago that my children came to me to thank me for the work the Greens have done to try to address climate change. I had not realised that they had not realised that their mum was on the right side of history on this. It turns out that they had no idea what I did for a job. Although it is personally gratifying to have my work appreciated by my kids, I am devastated that I could not do more to safeguard their futures. I think this is something that the community is now going to take up, and, believe me, it will. Corporate Australia cannot run the show forever.
I am pleased at the work I did in calling for electoral donations reform. My office did much work trying to chase the dollars: the discrepancies between state and federal reporting regimes, thresholds that enable moneys to be hidden, third-party donations and the use of shelf companies to obfuscate trails of donations. It is all there, and it is worthy of a Corruption and Crime Commission–level investigation, but I will not be holding my breath that that will be a priority. The call for the banning of corporate donations will continue. Fossil fuel and mining interests already enjoy disproportionately too much power in this state, as does the gambling industry, and as do developers. At a minimum, we need to follow the lead of other states and ban developer donations. If they can do it, we can do it, too. When I think of the sort of electoral work, as opposed to portfolio work, that dominated much of my time in representing the community, I note that at times there was significant overlap.
The Greens support well-planned density in our suburbs, density which respects green spaces and existing mature trees, heritage, and people’s sense of community. We believe it is possible for density to be done well and done in ways that ensure that not only everyone has a place in which to live, but people can age in place and communities can flourish. But with increasing regularity, we see development applications being approved that are wildly out of kilter with this good planning. I note that the new COVID planning laws seem to have exacerbated this flurry, as has the inexplicable and intractable position of Western Australia in being the only state that refuses to have third-party right of appeal laws in our planning system.
Much of my work during my two terms has been attempting to ensure the preservation of our Bush Forever sites. I have dealt with not only the Urban Bushland Council at a systemic level, but also numerous individual Friends groups, those people who spend their weekends weeding, planting and preserving these precious ecosystems that remain on the Swan coastal plain. I want to thank those people for their tireless efforts.
Finally, my work in this place has had a significant focus on the importance of maintaining the rule of law, the need for the separation of powers, access to justice, and challenging the abuse of power. The rule of law, the separation of powers and procedural fairness is, dangerously, being increasingly treated as an obstacle to a short-term, often politicised outcome, rather than what it is—a cornerstone of our democratic system of government and a critical safeguard to address the potential tyranny of power. Mandatory sentencing is an abomination, and removing the capacity for judicial discretion is something that should be vehemently resisted. The possibility of receiving judgement without the capacity for justice should terrify everyone. People should always have the right to a fair trial, the right to have an impartial decision-maker, the right to be heard, the right to know the allegations against them, and the right to be able to respond. The punishment, if any, should be proportionate. Those who are not legally responsible for their actions, through mental, cognitive or intellectual impairment, or senility, should be treated with their human rights upheld. Access to justice should not be reserved for only the wealthy. We need to fund Legal Aid and our community legal centres appropriately. We need to expand our diversionary courts. We need model litigant guidelines so that the state cannot inappropriately wield the extraordinary power and endless resources that it holds in order to crush the average citizen and deny them justice.
We need structures that can speak to the abuse of extraordinary powers. Ensuring the centuries-long tradition of the separation of powers must be vigorously upheld, yet recent events have demonstrated how deeply under threat these safeguards are. We need to ensure that the CCC is subject to fearless and apolitical oversight, and that centuries-old principles such as parliamentary privilege, which has ensured that individual citizens can take their concerns to the Parliament without fear of retribution, can be maintained. We need to ensure that our police are both supported when they are doing the right thing, and oversighted and held to account when they are not.
I have no interest in living in a state of fear. I want to live in a state in which I know that when I do the right thing, and when I behave honestly—and I do—I will not be subject to the victimisation of the state and to political retribution, be unfairly maligned, and be denied justice and the right to a peaceful life and personal privacy. When our systems are devoid of the rule of law, and the protections of procedural fairness and the separation of powers are dismantled, it is no longer possible to take comfort in the adage that “As long as you don’t do anything wrong, you will have nothing to fear.” I am an honest citizen, and I live my life with integrity.
I also maintain the right to undertake nonviolent protests and to speak out against wrongdoing when I see it, a right that every citizen should have. I have the right to do that with so many fellow travellers by my side as we continue to call for the progressive change that is needed in this world to ensure our planet and its ecosystems are protected, that our governments are accountable, and that those in our community who are the most vulnerable are protected and supported.
It is with enormous gratitude that I acknowledge and thank the thousands of Greens who have stood with me to achieve those exact outcomes. As I said, I joined the Greens in 1990 as a very young woman. In my time in the party, I have held many of the most senior roles, including being national convenor of the Australian Greens and state co-convenor of the Greens WA, and have run statewide election campaigns—all for free, all without expectation of payment, and all for the cause.
I have not been alone, with volunteers who have built the party and kept it running—building membership, fundraising and undertaking community campaigns, and, of course, the all-critical election activity. It is our culture of volunteerism that has been the backbone of our party, and I count many Greens members as being amongst my dearest friends. I thank those Greens members who put their names forward to assist me personally in the campaigns in East Metropolitan Region and then North Metropolitan Region and who put their lives on hold completely unpaid.
In terms of the most recent election, I want to thank those who put themselves out there publicly: Benedict, Louis, Elizabeth, Nicholas, Mark, Theresa, Katrina, Greg, Angelo, Isabella, Tamara, Francesca, SP, Matt, Daniel and Sarah as part of “Team North Metro”, and an enormous thankyou for the tireless efforts of Laurel and Steve, who never rested, even when they were stuck in quarantine. You all put your lives on hold and worked your butts off for nothing more than your belief in the party and the hope that we would retain North Metro.
I thank the literally hundreds, if not thousands, of members who have handed out how-to-vote cards, including on the interminable pre-poll, and leafleted, doorknocked, phone-banked, organised forums and staffed stalls. We are very lucky to be such a large party of volunteers. To be clear, a broken electoral system may have denied us our rightful representation, but the party is as strong as ever.
I want to acknowledge my colleagues Hon Robin Chapple, Hon Tim Clifford and Hon Diane Evers. There are only four of us but we well and truly punch above our weight. I want to acknowledge the decades of inspiration and support that I have received from former Senator Jo Vallentine, the practical support I received on being inducted into this place from Hon Giz Watson, and the ongoing friendship and camaraderie I enjoy with my colleague Senator Rachel Siewert. Special thanks to my comrades Hon Tammy Franks in South Australia and Hon David Shoebridge in New South Wales for always being there.
A shout-out to my friend Dr Brad Pettitt, who will have the unenviable job of being the only Greens representative in the forty-first Parliament. Brad and I have known each other since we met as young activists in Friends of East Timor back in 1993. Over the years, we have continued to cross over in numerous campaigns and community groups. Brad was even on the ticket as a support candidate in my successful tilt for Murdoch University guild president over two decades ago! I am sorry that we will not get to be in the chamber together, Brad, but as you know, I am always here to support you.
Like so many others here, I want to pay tribute to my staff, the loyalty, friendship and sheer competence of which is beyond compare. I have been fortunate to have a number of wonderful staff over the years, noting in particular my current electoral staff of Kirsten, Jocasta, Piper and Arran. But I also want to acknowledge Raveen, Tom and especially the lovely Leigh for their work this term. An enormous thankyou also to Tonia, my whips clerk, for her diligence and intelligence, who has kept the long and unfriendly hours of this place along with the parliamentary team as well as having to track the daily shenanigans of the other place. I particularly need to single out Kirsten and Jocasta who first joined me on 22 May 2009 as my electorate and research officers respectively. They are two people whom I trust completely and totally, a special and so essential part of being able to do this role effectively. I was honoured when, after having lost their jobs when I lost my seat in 2013, both left permanent employment to come back and work with me again when I was re-elected to Parliament in 2017. Jocasta left a permanent public sector job that she was extremely good at. Kirsten, who had moved to NSW and also had a permanent job in the public service, packed up and came back to WA to work with me again. I feel incredibly honoured to be the recipient of such loyalty from two of the finest and most astute minds in the business. Words cannot convey my gratitude to you both for the way that you have both supported and protected me. Thank you.
Over the years, my office has also had an enormous contribution from volunteers, numerous interns and people who have come in to do the hard yards and undertake forensic research into things like donations and mining licences. But a special acknowledgement must be made of the stalwart of our volunteer team Margo Beilby, who many of you will know, and who, even this week, just as she did from the very beginning of the thirty-eighth Parliament, continued to volunteer in my office. Thank you, Mabo—yes, I mean Mabo.
Madam President, I want to acknowledge the courage and integrity that you have demonstrated as the President of this chamber and the deep respect I hold you in. Very simply, you are an excellent President and history will treat you kindly. Thank you for the outstanding job you have undertaken in the face of extraordinarily difficult and trying circumstances. Thank you to the Clerk, Nigel Pratt, and the rest of the team in the chamber for valiantly trying to uphold the important traditions of this place and for all your support. These traditions were originally designed to ensure members of Parliament could best represent their constituencies, and you have been tireless in trying to ensure they are upheld. Thank you to Hansard who have had their work cut out for them in terms of the sheer volume of contributions that I have made in this place—no regrets! Thank you to all the parliamentary staff who do such a superb job and a particular shout-out to Rob Hunter and Tony Paterson. Thank you to the committee staff who frankly, we know, are always the smartest people in the room.
I want to thank those of you here, from across the chamber and the political divide, whom I count as friends—not all of you, I might add, but certainly many of you. Although we may come to this place with different world views, aspirations and experiences, I have been grateful for the considered and thoughtful way in which so many of you have been prepared to engage in genuine debate, to give me a hearing and to allow me to change your mind on a matter, and vice versa; such has been the strength of this chamber to date. I thank those of you who assisted me during some challenging times and empathised with me when I shared some of my personal sadness-es. Most of us work long hours and we are away from our loved ones. It makes a difference when you work alongside people you respect even when we may disagree.
I want to thank my dearest of friends Ali, Taryn and Ramona and those friends who help keep it real—Amanda, Sarah and Heather. I want to thank the Social.Justice.Church crew: Geoff, Alex, Mark, Nathaniel, Kate, Reuben and Daniel. I am eternally grateful for the ongoing love and support I receive from my many friends in the Uniting Church, specifically those from the Uniting Church in the City congregation. I have always been deeply respectful of the Greens as a secular organisation, and I also respect Parliament as a secular institution. But my personal faith and the support that I receive from my church has been a significant source of my personal strength and the conviction to do my work. Caring for creation, challenging corrupt and abusive power structures, caring for those who are deemed lesser or are marginalised and othered is important lifelong work to which I am committed until the day I die.
Thanks to my Mum, Uncle Brian and Aunty Nada for all your love. I also want to thank my gorgeous children. As members of Parliament we work long hours and we work every day. We have evening and weekend functions. Breakfast meetings suck and I try to avoid them, but sometimes we have to do them as well. We are public figures and this can impact on our children. But my gorgeous daughter, Miette, and my beautiful sons, Jackson and Blake, are the absolute lights of my life. It has not been easy juggling motherhood and this job, but they have adapted to the demands amazingly. Blake, my youngest, was only three years of age when I first got elected. All three children have only ever known me being politically active in one way or another. They are fine human beings and I am so proud of them.
Finally, the most enormous thankyou, the biggest thankyou, goes to my husband Luke Edmonds, who is always by my side, has my back, is full of advice—most of it good—and is both emotionally as well as very practically supportive. This is a difficult job to do when you have kids if you do not have a supportive partner. Luke has been politically active by my side since we first met in student politics, a true fellow traveller in progressive politics and my best friend in the whole wide world. Luke, I love you with all my heart, and it must be true because I am saying it in Parliament and I am not allowed to mislead the chamber.
Thank you everyone for what has been an extraordinary experience. I have no intention of coming back but hopefully I made the most of it while I was here and I hope that the world is just that little bit better for my contribution. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT: Hon Alison Xamon, on behalf of the chamber, we wish you, Luke and your children a wonderful time ahead of you. You have certainly contributed to this chamber and we will miss your regular evening contribution to members’ statements. We look forward to finding out who will step up to the plate to replace you for that activity. Good luck to you and thank you very much.