Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, newly elected Greens MLC Justin Field explained to a packed house why it is crucial to go back to first principles in addressing environmental and social concerns.
There are some things that really do only happen once in a lifetime and making an Inaugural speech is one of them. When newly elected Greens MLC, Justin Field stepped up to the speakers table in NSW Parliament House on Tuesday evening it was to a House full of Greens members, family, friends and old campaigning comrades.
These moments are important because in the hustle and bustle of Parliament they illuminate, however briefly, the direction a person’s political life is taking and where they have come from. Justin’s speech did just that.
It was of course a bitter-sweet moment, as Justin said: “This is not how I wanted to come into parliament. Dr John Kaye was a force in this place and within the Greens. He was an intellectual heavyweight and tireless campaigner for justice, the environment and working people in NSW. I had hoped to be making this speech alongside John as my colleague in this place, but that was not to be.”
Justin began by acknowledging the powerful report, Reparations for the Stolen Generations in NSW, chaired by his friend and colleague, Jan Barham and noted that the business of Parliament is not only rightly saying sorry for harms done and being willing to make redress for that harm, it is also to avoid future mistakes that are clearly avoidable. Mistakes like catastrophic climate change.
To quote a little of Justin’s speech: “I like how David Suzuki puts it. He says, ‘If you don't have air for three minutes you die. If you have to breathe contaminated air you're sick, so could you agree that the absolute highest priority we have is clear air?' If we can't start at the basics - Suzuki says - then I'm not interested."
“My environmentalism, like the rest of my politics is grounded in first principles. At the end of the day, protecting the natural environment that sustains us all must come first - not much happens on a dead planet.
“But as the Greens we are proposing we do more than arrest climate change and protect the natural environment. We are also demanding this happen as we reduce inequality, as we create inclusive, resilient communities - communities that have access to quality education, the best health care, that we have communities that celebrate and respect differences of race, gender, sexual preference, religion and no religion. As we debate the upcoming federal plebiscite we should all reflect on the importance of celebrating diversity.”
Among his portfolios that include Marine and Fisheries, Gambling and Gaming, Trade and Fair Trade, Urban Water, is also Finance and Treasury. So it was important to make clear that as a Greens MLC, the economy is something that should serve community and the environment.
Justin said: “I reject the notion that we must decide between the environment and community. Protection of the environment and a commitment to the common good are inextricably and logically linked. Let’s go back to first principles. Surely no one in this house can object to preserving our clean air and clean water and protecting the stability of the climate that makes our earth home.”
He concluded with a clear warning to those across the floor, saying:
“I won’t pretend that I am going to be able to come into this place and convince all honourable members that this is our most critical job and should be the highest priority. But it is and I will. If I don’t succeed in convincing you here, I am going to spend every day working in the community until they force you to take this seriously or until there are enough people in this place who do.”