Local member’s first speech in state parliament

THE most local of the recently-elected members of the expanded seat of Lyons in state parliament, Derwent Valley resident Tabatha Badger, made her inaugural address in the House of Assembly on Tuesday of this week. Ms Badger’s speech follows. An invitation has also been extended to another of the new members, Jane Howlett, to publish her address which was also delivered on Tuesday, but a response has not yet been received. A similar offer will be made to Andrew Jenner when he makes his first speech.

“I begin by acknowledging that we are on Aboriginal land, stolen land of the muwinnina people. I pay my deepest respects to the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, elders past and present. Lutruwita/ Tasmania’s traditional owners, the Palawa have over 60,000 years of immeasurable connection with land, sea and sky country. Their heritage is living and I express my sorrow for the ongoing harm caused by European invasion. May this government, in the spirit of restoration, prioritise reconciliation and empowerment for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. It is time for healing, time for meaningful action, justice, truth-telling, treaty, and land returns. 

“Tasmania is facing myriad crises – our health system has failed, housing is unattainable, the cost of living is pushing people to breaking point and our environment is precariously close to ecological collapse. Each of these crises was created by poor political decision-making, so they can each be overcome by good political decisions. To each of you elected, trusted to make those good decisions, congratulations, and no pressure but future generations will be judging you. It is an extraordinary privilege to be elected to this House. Thank you to my community in the vast electorate of Lyons for entrusting me with this position, particularly in this pivotal time for Tasmania. I am looking
forward to our forthcoming hearty debates, our inevitable but civil disagreements and collaboratively shaping a better future for our state. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, there is more that binds us, than divides us. Beyond any political division or discourse we face, together we still share an endearing passion for Tasmania, one of the finest places on this planet.

Tabatha Badger, centre, on her first day at parliament as the new Greens member for Lyons, pictured with the two previous Lyons Green MPs, Tim Morris, left, and Christine Milne, right.

“Coming into this unexpected chapter of my life as a Member of Parliament, the most important role I believe this parliament can play is ensuring Tasmania remains extraordinary for future generations. A view best articulated by the words of Tasmanian visionary and wilderness photographer, Olegas Truchanas: ‘Is there any reason why Tasmania should not be more beautiful on the day we leave it, than on the day we came? If we can revise our attitudes towards the land under our feet; if we can accept a role of steward and depart from the role of the conqueror, if we can accept that man and nature are inseparable parts of the unified whole, then Tasmania can be a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world.’

“I stand here today as the youngest member of this 51st parliament. I am part of a generation inheriting the climate and inequality crises. For decades, governments have been warned these two interlinked crises are the greatest threats to modern society. Yet there has been overwhelming inaction. Denial of the fact these crises exist, has transcended into delaying finding solutions. It is causing widespread disillusion with young people who are very anxious about their future – and is it any wonder? In my lifetime alone, I have seen accelerated shoreline erosion of the North-West Coast beaches where I grew up. As children, my sister and I would spend countless hours each day after school at Boat Harbour Beach. It’s once painfully freezing water is now at least tolerable to swim in, as water temperatures are rising at record levels. Prior to the [coronavirus] pandemic, I lived at Freycinet. First working in land management, then running a tourism business.

“Along the East Coast fish migrations are changing with the warming waters, and new species are traveling further south. But the cold water species don’t have much further south to go, and giant kelp forests that once entangled your arms and legs while snorkeling, have thinned to such extremes, most are now non-existent. As a bushwalker, I trek off track routes that were once laden with waist high mud that have now become so dry that I might take up wearing white shoes! What once seemed like perpetually snow-capped mountains are now a rare mid winter treat.  I’ve had the privilege to climb peaks around the world. Some I even made it to the top of!  In remote Himalayan villages I have been accepted into homes and shared evening meals with people who I couldn’t speak their language with but could communicate with by sharing in the wonder of the world around us. I’ve come to learn that the world’s kindest people are those who have the least. These isolated places and people are disproportionately suffering due to climate change. Well-trodden routes are now safety hazards for melting glaciers. Increasing avalanche falls frequently cut off food supply, power and tourism income. 

“In the short time since being elected I have been approached by farmers, who state they’re not Green, but… But their water sources are frequently running dry, their crop rotation and productivity is changing with the increasingly unpredictable seasons. They know the time for climate action is yesterday, and the Greens are fighting for it. People in the southern beaches are struggling to keep up with the Landcare work required to stabilise their coastal land banks succumbing to erosion, which will only exacerbate with sea level rise. They’re one of an increasing number of communities, on the ground trying to find nature based defenses for what’s to come.  

“Nowhere else on Earth except this island does the Tasmanian devil live, nor the Miena cider gum, Tasmanian masked owl, Huon pine, or Maugean skate. Yet we are continually witnessing a stream of informed, therefore conscious, decisions to destroy the habitat of these amazing creatures, sending them to the brink of extinction.  We don’t have to continue on this trajectory of destruction. With our remaining intact, functioning environs, Tasmania can and should be leading the world in protecting biodiversity, preventing invasives, and reducing emissions. We can lead the charge in Australia’s commitment to the 2022 Global Biodiversity Pact, to end extinctions and expand protected areas. To not only conserve nature, but to restore it.

“But we are running out of time to turn the ship around. 2030 has long been bookmarked as the deadline for decarbonisation and halting environmental destruction. Meaning the decisions made during this term of government are crucial.  Wildlife champion Greg Irons reminded me a few weeks ago that people in this House like to state the fair percentage of this state that is ‘locked up’ – that being the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and our national parks. Indeed much of Tasmania is protected and that is because so much of this island is irreplaceably special. Our wild places are of outstanding universal value and amid the climate-biodiversity crises, we here today have a duty to ensure the proper protection of all important landscapes. 

“Places like the mystical Spero-Wanderer Wilderness, which is presently under protected as the South-West Conservation Area, should be part of the TWWHA. I have walked this country, and pack rafted the rivers. There is nothing else like it in Tasmania, from the rivers traipsed in giant, ancient Huon pines to the wild West Coast shoreline that houses geological features on steroids! Protecting the cool-temperate rainforests of Takyana is long standing unfinished business. These forests are constantly under threat – right now a road is being forging to facilitate logging of ancient native trees by the Frankland River. 

“When will we stop robbing our own children’s carbon bank and understand these forests are invaluable, if left standing and protected.  Beyond traditional land tenors, our dark skies, sky country, also needs protection. Around 80% of people on Earth can not see the stars because of light pollution. But here in south-west Tasmania we have some of the darkest skies left and it is a place of cultural significance. How many living cultures can still sit under the state and tell the ways of their old people. In Tasmania’s South-West, the Palawa still can. 

“The statement I began with by Olegas Truchanas was made in 1971, during the fight to save Lake Pedder. It’s thanks to the enduring work and infectious hope from the original Pedder people, that today a new generation has been inspired to take action to restore this extraordinary place. Despite being too young to have known it personally. I want to acknowledge two of the Pedder women, who we have recently lost: Melva Truchanas and Hilary Bennell. Respectively, Melva and Hilary were two of the state’s leading adventurers and they paved the way for Tasmanian women in environmental conservation. Melva and Hilary would have taken great heart in being here today and in the present composition of this parliament. 

“Lake Pedder’s day is coming. Its restoration is inevitable. The question is merely will we be the ones to right this past environmental mistake, or will nature take her course and do it for us. The flooding of Pedder initiated a global conservation movement, its restoration amid the climate-biodiversity crises will have even more profound effects. Including making Tasmania a global leader in restoration and creating a new industry, well paid meaningful work – a fact recognised in Australia’s otherwise damning 2021 state of the environment report.  Protecting and restoring nature are but two of the many spaces requiring action in Tasmania. 

“Pedder of course leads the necessary nuanced debate on the future of renewable energy in this state. We are in both a climate and biodiversity crisis. Renewables are one part of the solution yes, but if they cannot coexist with Tasmania’s endemic biodiversity, then they’re counter-productive to the cause. Let’s strive for island appropriate scale projects. Like an uptake of rooftop solar on energy efficient homes,  suburb by suburb. with community batteries and EV tech grid trading ability. Yackandandah, a Victorian town in the foothills of the Australian alps is leading the charge on localised electrification, so the blueprint exists and Tasmanian towns can follow. As new renewable tech comes down the cost curve, let’s be ready for wave power and floating solar, to create a variety of renewable sources for greater resilience in the Tasmanian grid.  In order to electrify we require skilled Tasmanian workers – which is why I am proud to be the the Green opposition spokesperson for skill and training and during the election campaign we launched the Greens future jobs plan to ensure Tasmanians are readily positioned to take up well-paid careers in the industries of the future.

“Inequality, the other crisis of our time, is well versed in this House. Be it low education literacy and retention rates, poor access to healthcare services, and unaffordable housing with decreasing availability – we are not seeing improvements at the pace required to lift the quality of life in Tasmania to align with the rest of the country.  During the first week of parliament, many members raised the issue of the number of young people leaving the state – the equivalent of a plane load every four days, departing in pursuit of further education, a greater diversity of employment opportunities, and well paying jobs. 

“Generally speaking, we absolutely should be encouraging Tasmania’s young people to leave, to go and see the world, to experience new cultures, to garner skills and expertise. But we must create an island home for people to return to, as many inevitably will – a future Tasmania where young people can share their newly created tapestry of abilities and perspectives. Where they can return home to be with their family, or to raise their own, without compromising on a livable income or stable job. In a comparatively privileged, peaceful state like Tasmania, there is no reason why we cannot have equitable opportunities right here. 

“The online era is here and computer and internet literacy is as critical for employment and education, as reading and writing. Steps must be made to bridge the digital divide. We cannot see Tasmania slip behind on the digital front, as we have with literacy. Ensuring Tasmania has greater digital connectivity is a necessity to secure our state’s future prosperity in this digital world. It will ensure regional school students can connect and that tourism centers like Cradle Mountain and Port Arthur can offer state-of-the-art VR experiences. It opens doors to innovate, to transform our agricultural sector and the health system will  benefit from tele health services being rolled out in rural towns. It’s time for Tasmania to be clean, green and connected. 
 
“We must also further equality and not exclusively, in our democracy.  So I commend the decision of Premier Jeremy Rockliff to strengthen Tasmania’s democracy by finally restoring the numbers in the House of Assembly. A resolution the Greens have championed since the 1998 reduction to remove the Greens – what a failure it was. Overworked staff and ministers suffered, carrying the extra load of 10 members, and the Greens remain – now with a record six members: five in this House of Assembly and one in the Upper House. 

Tabatha Badger and supporters on the day of her inaugural speech in parliament this week.

“I want to thank both the Greens staff and all the parliamentary staff for their tremendous, thoughtful work accommodating the additional, and new members, into the Parliament. As well finding the physical, seating, offices and all of the sundry that is associated with this increase. You’ve all handled the change with the utmost professionalism and made our journey much smoother.  Off the back of the restored numbers in the House, in the spirit of bolstering our democracy. I’m proud that the first bill tabled by the Greens is for stronger donation disclosure legislation – yet another space in which Tasmania should be leading the country. Tasmanians deserve to know who is funding the politicians elected to make decisions on their behalf. We have minor parties and independents in this house who are capable of publicly naming their political donors – the highly-resourced major parties need to be doing the same. 

“Fundamental to a healthy democracy is peaceful protest – Tasmania’s draconian anti-protest laws must be repealed. A healthy government would be embracing and consulting with passionate protestors participating in this state’s democracy – not locking them up under the present disproportionate legislation which is not working, and it will never work. Tasmanians have proven time and again that bad legislation, or hefty legal action, will not deter them from taking a stand to protect our most precious places. We saw this on the Franklin River, and stopping the pulp mill, and we will see it again to save our native forests.

 “What a time to be Green. For climate action, equality, and a stronger democracy, the Greens are here for Tasmanians, proudly standing by our party’s pillars of social justice, ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy and peace and non-violence. There are now six of us across in this parliament. We are here representing a groundswell community movement of people rising up for a fairer, more peaceful society, on an inhabitable healthy planet. Thanks to Greens in the past we have seen the TWWHA declared with subsequent boundary extensions, the Douglas Apsley National Park protected, FOI legislation and gun law reform. And won’t it be wonderful when we soon add to the list of Green achievements legislation on ecocide, rewilding and restoration, and a human rights act. 

“It has been a decade, 10 years too long, since the Greens have had a representative elected in Lyons. And I’m proud to stand here as the third Green to represent this stunning electorate. Tim Morris was our last representative. He was proudly the first Green to be in the deputy speaker’s role and a lynchpin for our election campaign. Our first member for Lyons left a political legacy of a generation – Christine Milne is one of the most intelligent, relentless and selfless individuals to ever walk the halls of this parliament. She was the first female leader of a Tasmanian political party and went on to be elected to the Australian Senate and become leader of the Australian Greens. Somehow, between her innumerable campaigns, Christine made time to help campaign during the election. Without both Christine and Tim we would not have a Green here today. 

“As any member of Lyons, past and present, can appreciate, the logistics of covering this grand electorate are an equally exciting and daunting challenge. Thanks to the groundswell of volunteers and caring people right across the state we managed.  Kudos to our core Lyons members who have been stalwarts of our Green community over the past few years when we didn’t have a member of parliament. It was their work behind the scenes that ensured we were ready for an election, long before this one was even called: Gary, Glenn, Helen, Niel, Heather, Elizabeth, Paul, Hannah, Tobias, Jill, Craig, and our honorary Lyons members and our friends, Paul Thomas and Bob Brown – thank you. 
 
“It is to my family that I owe the greatest debt – they have been a source of unwavering love, support and often unsolicited advice. From childhood they showed me the enrichment that comes with community engagement and the fulfillment of volunteering. Perhaps, most importantly, they shaped my lens of appreciation for the natural world, through photography and bushwalking.  It’s a long way from growing up in a humble, hard working family around Table Cape, to the Tasmanian Parliament, although an increasing number of folks are doing it. Fay and Dennis and the entire Hulme clan – thank you for supporting me in following my beliefs, even if they challenged your own.  To my Mum, Lorraine who is here today, and is the hardest working person I’ve ever known – please take a holiday. Thank you for your enduring support through whatever journey I’ve embarked upon – especially those sketchy adventures I didn’t tell you about until I’d returned home safely. 

My friends, who are also family, are here wondering where it all went so wrong. How did we go from teenagers undertaking Automotive at TAFE, spending every weekend kart and car racing with aspirations of a career in motorsport – to becoming a Green MP?  It was not for the novelty of having clean fingernails. But honestly I am enjoying it and it is far less embarrassing doing media without grease smeared on my face.  Indeed I never aspired to become a politician or to be a Green. After all, I’ve always had a job and worn shoes. 

“I’ve also always been curious about every day how things work – a view that started with cars and engines, soon spread to the creation of geomorphological formations of the mountains I climbed and the ecological composition of the wilderness I photographed. As I went on to study environmental science and land management, soon began a new worklife in conservation. I found the complex and extraordinary relationships of the natural world astounding. For simplicity, it’s best summarized by John Muir: ‘When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.’

“With increasing guilt over carbon emissions and now a growing informed awareness of our impacts on the natural world, I was increasingly motivated to join community campaigns, to protect Tasmania’s greatest, intergenerational assets, to ensure our public parks and lands remain equitably accessible and free from exclusive development.  In 2019, after I’d spoken at a town hall campaign event, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson put to me that the cause and solution of all the issues we were fighting for, was politics, and that perhaps after a few years of advocating on committees and in campaigns, it was time to put my hand up and to be accountable – to uphold a voice for wild places and people within the parliament.

“I want to thank Peter for seeing in me a confidence and contribution that took some time for me to see in myself. In the coming 12 months, COVID closed my tourism dependent business, as it did so many others. I returned to university and completed a masters in tourism while setting up a new business in the sadly growing industry of restoration and land management. It had been a year since bushfires ravaged parts of the South-West. Ecosystems that simply shouldn’t have burnt how they did that summer were incinerated and were not rehabilitating how they should. That year I saw the planet collapsing around me.  So, I joined the Greens.  I joined the Greens because we cannot continue with an infinite growth agenda, on this precious finite planet. And because if the trees could vote, the world would be a far wealthier place. 

“I joined the Greens because if we are to leave Tasmania more beautiful on the day we leave it, than on the day we came – we need bold political decision making that genuinely considers the well being of future generations not the short term profits of an elite few. And that is what the Greens are here to do. The climate and inequality crises I’ve spoken about today, the greatest threats to our modern society, cannot be resolved exclusively by myself, nor the Greens or indeed this Tasmanian parliament. Each requires action from all levels of government, industry and organisations. But we as elected representatives do have an intergenerational obligation to do all in our power to mitigate both crises. And I can personally commit to doing so with passion, humility and hope.  Thank you.”

See more Derwent Valley and Central Highlands news online and read our print edition every second Friday.

One Comment

  1. I watched this speech live. Super impressed Tabatha is representing us in Lyons. Intelligence and empathy are qualities I want in those representing us backed up with education. Looking forward to what she will bring to Lyons. Thank you Tabatha.

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