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Thursday, 24 June 1999
Page: 6399

Senator MARGETTS (10:22 PM) —I usually have no trouble speaking, but tonight I have butterflies in my stomach and sweaty palms. That is very unusual for me in this place. Senator Faulkner mentioned that they have discovered that I have a sense of humour. I did always have a sense of humour; it just was not very obvious.

Senator Hill —Not much to laugh about here.

Senator MARGETTS —In this place. That is right. I have actually been walking around with a smile on my face a lot more often most recently, and I guess that is because there is a great deal of personal relief in the pressure that has lifted as a result of the end of my term—even though I did not choose the end of my term. I cannot deny the disappointment of losing the seat. I tried to find the extra 5,000 votes. I kept looking and looking, and my partner would let you know that in the middle of the night I thought, `They've got to be somewhere!' but they were not. There they were, hanging on the end of the third candidate for the Labor Party, but they just did not come across. However, there are a range of reasons.

For me, the greatest sadness is losing that Green connection for Western Australia that started, of course, with Jo Valentine in 1984—for whom I handed out how to vote cards in the little town of Bridgetown. And that, of course, was followed on so ably by my colleague Senator Christabel Chamarette, who is warmly remembered by so many people in this chamber. So yes, there is grief; but it is tempered by personal relief. As I say, I will not deny that I tried to find an extra 2½ thousand votes—somewhere, anywhere—but it was not to be. From the Greens' point of view, we say that is the cosmos—because, if one door closes, another will open.

I tried to think about what I set out to do and whether I have achieved it. Essentially, no, because what I wanted to be was redundant. I wanted to be in a party/movement that became so obvious to people in terms of its approach that it became the mainstream and commonsense. Some things that we have done have done that, but I just wish I was redundant. Unfortunately, we are still going to need Green politicians for long time yet.

There is, of course, no end—to the Green politician—of political representation. I refer, of course, to my colleague Senator Bob Brown and his team. The Greens all work with teams: Marg, Ben, Geoff, Jo, Steven and all the people who contribute to your office. I want to say how much I have admired your contribution. For those people who always like to pick out differences, can I tell you that the Greens value and celebrate diversity. There is always more than one way to represent a green electorate.

I remember back to Jo Valentine, who was never, and was never likely to be, in the position of holding the balance of power. But she was the most-known senator in Australia. I believe that polls showed that people knew of her and the work she did. That is because she was visible, as is Bob Brown.

Senator Boswell —She certainly was: she was in the slammer.

Senator MARGETTS —She had courage, yes. And I tell you what: it takes a lot of courage to stand up in that way. It is not easy. I have immense admiration for what Jo has achieved.

I have said that I have not achieved what I set out to do. I looked back at my first speech and the issues which I put on the record. It was, I think, one of the parliament's shortest first speeches, being about 7½ minutes. I was in a hurry and I wanted to get going.

I talked about globalisation. I talked about my desire to have people understand some of the issues. I would like to think that, over time, some of the things I have said have actually made it into mainstream debate because they have been mentioned at the political level, but I cannot say that I have succeeded in that area.

I also talked about the fact that, at the time, I wanted to see that the issues of ecological sustainability could be seen as interacting with the economy. I have worked so hard to integrate those issues. I have always recognised that it is not in the areas of environment and social issues legislation that we get the major changes and policy changes; that generally it is in issues of trade, economic policy and sometimes corporate policy that we actually get most of the changes involved with the environment, social policy and social justice. `It is about the economy, Stupid,' I guess is the kind of response that we see happening when we want to actually change things and get people working in a different direction.

How did people greet us when we got here, certainly when we found that the numbers were such that we shared the balance of power? I guess derision was probably one of the first things I would say. The term `fruit loops' did pop up, and the `Gumnut Twins'. We appropriated that—yea! Even the friendly commentators, who thought they were being chummy, wrote stories of the `Pooh Bear goes to Canberra' variety—assuming two things. One was that we would simply follow a major party and vote always with that major party—because, of course, being little Greens and women, we would not know any different. And don't you all wish we did! However, the other assumption was that, if we did not do that—

Senator Boswell —You haven't voted with us yet.

Senator MARGETTS —That is true. The other was that, if we did not do that, we would simply fall on our face, because hey: how would we understand those big issues to do with money and the economy? Well, we did not do either. There are stages, as former Senator Chamarette used to say, of cognitive dissonance. Basically, first you are ignored and nobody knows you are there. Secondly, there is derision. Thirdly, there is anger, once they work out that they cannot shift you that easily. Finally, if what you are saying reaches enough people, then those ideas become mainstream: you find them three years later actually in government policy or in legislation.

At no stage, unfortunately, do we ever get the credit for those ideas, if they were originally on the cutting edge of the political debate. Of course, in many instances, if they are outside the general debate of the major parties, they do not get coverage at all, because they are not recognised as issues of importance, even if they are representative of issues involving many people.

I want to move on quickly because I want my staff to have a direct say in this debate. I want to thank the little voices in the community who every now and then, and not infrequently, reminded us of what we were here for—yes, community participation and decision making is very important to us. Just moving back to the Fruit Loop packet; we did keep the Fruit Loop packet which someone very kindly sent us in our office window for a time until we finally binned them because I did not actually like the taste of them. I have kept the Fruit Loop earrings. I have kept that symbolism because they represent to me the connection between growth in world trade and environmental damage.

I confess embarrassment at my own election slogan, which relates to `hardest working', because I know in reality that it means, technically, I just spoke more often than everybody else. In fact, and it is like the duck going along on the river, the people working with me were certainly some of the hardest-working people I have seen. Anything I have achieved is because of the people around me, the team and the network. The whole has always been much greater than the parts.

I would now like to use the words of my own staff. When I asked my staff to give their contribution here they reminded me that it is what Christabel did as well. So if you will bear with me. Carole Perry, my wonderful office manager from Perth, whom many people have spoken to over the phone, said:

As I close the doors to Dee's office for the very last time on the evening of 30 June 1999 my heart will be heavy with sadness.

For six years I have waited for this House to produce a vision. Alas, I have waited in vain.

Acid rains, global warming, ozone depletion and inappropriate farming and mining practices are clearly showing us the catastrophe threatening life on earth.

To quote the European Greens, "only a new solidarity can save this planet for future generations".

Species are vanishing a thousand times faster than the natural extinction rate.

Industrialised agriculture and aquaculture and forestry based on the destruction of our ancient trees are destroying our planet forever.

I am sad because the people of Australia recognise these problems. We want to stop this dangerous trend. We want our children and our children's children to inherit the Earth we were privileged to know so long ago.

But I am also angry, very angry, that you—the Members of this House, who represent the people of Australia—will not listen to us.

Instead, you make the laws easier so that we can be locked up or heavily fined when we protest about the need for justice and the need to save what remains of this beautiful country.

You pass legislation that is responsible for the poor to become poorer. You allow health facilities, education and employment to be almost beyond our reach.

And you smother our voices and our avenues of protest.

Please reconsider your actions and think again.

Stuart Reid, our most recent electorate officer and very hard worker, says:

With only a minute I'll leave out silverchair's Anthem for the 21st Century and instead reflect on two popular culture references from my generation which vividly contrast alternate visions of our possible futures.

On the one hand—from Led Zeppelin—a vision of a future in which people and communities take control of their lives and participate fully in the political life of their society:

It's whispered that soon

If we all call the tune,

Then the piper will lead us to reason.

And a new day will dawn

For those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter.

And on the other hand—from King Crimson—a future in which more and more people are disenfranchised and alienated from the political process, where the distance between the haves and have nots becomes ever more stark:

Blood racked barbed wire

Politicians' funeral pyre

Innocents raped with napalm fire

Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seeds blind mans' greed

Poets' starving children bleed

Nothing he's got, he really needs

Twenty first century schizoid man

I am very much afraid that the latter is where we are headed. . . , but, in the long run, there is still time to change the road you're on.

Many people will know Amanda Bohnen and the work she has done for us in managing our office and her quiet professionalism—and I am very proud of the confidence that she has shown in the work which she has done. Amanda says:

If there's one thing I've learned whilst working for Dee it is this:

If Australians knew the tireless, devoted hours Senators put into their work, they would be much slower to criticise.

If Australians appreciated the ever-increasing complexity of a Senator's workload, they would be far less demanding.

And if Australians recognised that Senators are not despots, but people entrusted with a special responsibility that they're trying devotedly, for the most part, to fulfil, they might show greater understanding.

An ounce of patience and encouragement and forgiveness can and does go a long way in this political hothouse. I've seen it, on brief occasions, do remarkable things and I want to thank all those people who have shown these qualities towards Dee.

I would like to think that Australians will rise to the occasion and show a bit more of these qualities to those who come to follow. In the long run it will be for the benefit of us all.

Many people will know the wonderful work that Liz Peak has done as my economics adviser. Liz started as a parliamentary intern and I spent years working out a spot where Liz could join us as a permanent staff member and she has been fantastic. Liz says:

Initially, I wanted to leave a message for parliamentarians—a message to listen to the community, and care what they think, and imagine what the impacts of decisions might be, and realise how privileged you are to be here.

I also wanted to leave a message of idealism that expressed my passion for equity, justice, the environment and community participation.

But as I am lucky enough to be able to express these idealisms every day in my job—I want to say how thankful I am to be able to be involved in politics and not walking away totally despondent and disillusioned.

Despite passage of many horrific bills and cynical deals, I have been lucky enough to work with so many people of utmost integrity and principle—everyone in our office and all the wonderful and energetic and inspiring greens, activists, and community groups. These people have left me with a strong hope that in the future we will see principles and people prevailing over politics and profits. Our groovy poster in the office says it all: the future is green!!!

Far from least, I thank Alan Carter, who I think everybody in Parliament House knows. I think most people recognise what a fantastic personal assistant he has been for the work that we have had to do. (Extension of time granted) This is a poem by Adele Coombs:

How tempting it is

to want a piece of this country—

to `own' some of its space,

make our dreams come true,

build our heart's desire,

be it haven or empire,

and call it `our place'.

But the land never belongs to us.

It's only lent with awesome freedom

to create and replenish,

or waste and strip bare.

What legacy will we leave

alongside our footprints?

What will be left to share?

Though it endures title-deed holders

the land is never ours to keep.

Long after the proud `owners' have gone,

merely campers moving on,

will the land still be here

to sustain our children?

Or will its fragile beauty be gone?

Mr Acting Deputy President, I also must give special recognition to my partner, Nic, who has always been there at the end of the phone and at the end of a long parliamentary session. I certainly do not know whether I would have been able to do what I did without him.

I also want to thank the many, many volunteers—and those others who have been with us on the journey. They include Anne, Shane, Andrew, Ben, Heather, Michelle, our legal adviser Gary Corr and many others. I also want to give special recognition to Kirsten, Dhanu and Matt. Few people will forget the work that Matt did through native title. Few people will forget Dhanu's colourful, ardent personality, and few people will forget the work that Kirsten has done here in this parliament and with Amnesty International. Where to from here? Well, certainly not to a television career. I have decided that is not for me after my Good News Week performance, but I guess I am surprised that after six years of our hard work in so many areas the media should have taken such an interest in my bodily functions.

Before I finish though, I would like to mention my friend Margaret Reynolds. I do not often say that about other party members because I realise that often a Greens parliamentarian calling someone a friend is a kiss of death politically. But, in this case, Margaret is safe. You're getting a life too, and I wish you the very best. We worked on uranium issues, on the uranium committee, on Aboriginal issues, on environmental issues, on nuclear issues and on women's issues, and I echo all those wonderful statements that people have made about you.

I wish all other departing senators well and hope that the time after the Senate is a new life, a new beginning. I would also like to say how thrilled I am that one of the new senators coming into this place is Aden Ridgway, and that we will have again an Aboriginal voice in the Senate. I think that is just fantastic.

Finally, I would like to thank the staff, the clerks, the research staff, the parliamentary house staff, the committee staff and all those people who we have worked with and who make this place work. I think we should value the independence, the professionalism and the work that these people do, and guard it and defend it for all its worth. Democracy and justice is worth defending.