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Senator Brown NPC 29 June 2011

Senator Brown NPC 29 June 2011

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Published by: Latika M Bourke on Jun 29, 2011
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06/29/2011

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Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Australian GreensNational Press Club speech, 29 June 2011
Ladies and GentlemenI acknowledge the traditional owners of the Canberra region and all the Indigenouspeople of Australia.This Friday, 1 July, is the 28
th
anniversary of the High Court judgement whichstopped the Franklin Dam. But in the preceding week of 1983, Tasmania recordedthe lowest temperatures in history. It snowed heavily to sea level. The bulldozers inthe Franklin and Gordon Valley were stopped. So, Mother Nature got into the actahead of the High Court!These events were a reminder to us all that, in the end, nature rules, not us. Earthdoes not need us but we are nothing without it.Yet, back down at the Gordon River dam site after the High Court decision, came anact of senseless vandalism which has echoes in Australian politics today. Aroused byengineers of the Hydro Electric Commission and the government of Premier RobinGray, dam workers took chainsaws, drills and a container of diesel oil to destroy thethree thousand year old Huon Pine tree called the Lea Tree. Smoke rose from thefuneral pyre lit by the gang, as Premier Gray helicoptered in and out of the adjacentworks area.That great tree became
collateral damage of Premier Gray’s power plans.
 
As with Tasmania’s Lea Tree, so with Afghanistan’s Buddhist statues of Bamayan or,this year, Britain’s
Glastonbury Thorn. Human beings can be so oblivious, uncaringor downright destructive. Such is life on Earth.Three thousand years ago when the Lea Tree was a sapling, Egyptians were buildingpyramids. There were 50 million people on Earth. 99 percent of the planet was anatural ecosystem.Two thousand years ago, when the Lea tree was in robust, fecund maturity, Rome became the first city of one million people and most of the Earth was still wild.
 
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One thousand years ago, as the Lea Tree became late middle aged, there were 310million people on Earth, Westminster Abbey was on the drawing boards, Londonhad around 18,000 people and China got gunpowder.Nowadays, seven billion humans are using up Earth's renewable organic resourcesat an unprecedented rate. Inequality abounds: the richest 10 percent of us owns 85
per cent of the world’s assets
while, last year, world food stores ran down and thenumber of our fellow Tellurians who are hungry rose from 800 million to above one billion. For each person on the planet when the Lea Tree first sprouted, there arenow 140.A century back, the world had amassed one billion people, but Australia had thehighest standard of living in the world. Melbourne was laying out its tramlines.Soon it rivalled Chicago with multistorey buildings. Melbourne was helpingdiscover antibiotics, leading the world in the campaign for the eight hour day andmaking the world's first feature length movie. A little later Sydney was building thecolossal Harbour Bridge, and inventing the rotating clothes line and lawn mower.We had the world's leading soprano, the world's fastest swimmers and, down thecoast, Lawrence Hargraves had helped pioneer global aviation. Positive pizzazz wasa national phenomenon.I
n 2011, we’re still doing very well by world stand
ards. But where is the vision,optimism and drive to lead the world
in this nation’s political or corporate
leadership?How is it that 80 percent of Australians want laws for euthanasia (the
individual’s
 right to accept death with dignity) and for equal marriage, yet the Labor Party andCoalition are blocking both? Why is it left to the third political party to advocate
Australia’s
legal and moral responsibility to quickly process asylum seekers comingto these wealthy shores? What happened to the
motto of ‘a fair go!’?
 
Ladies and gentlemen, every year’s delay on tackling climate change threatens tocost us the Earth. The United Nations estimates that each year’s delay will cost
onetrillion dollars. Climate change threatens the Great Barrier Reef with death withinfour decades; extinction of our fellow species is at a rate not seen since an asteroid
smashed into this planet 65 million years ago; 70 percent of Earth’s fisheries are in
collapse. On a visit to Papua New Guinea last month I discovered that a Sino-
 
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Australian consortium is ready to have robot bulldozers dig up the ocean floor,thousands of metres down, for minerals off New Ireland. The tailings will bedumped straight back into the marine ecosystem.
Meanwhile, Australia’s uranium is turning up as deadly radioa
ctive materials in Japanese fish and lettuce. Approximately 80,000 people have been evacuated fromthe Fukushima-Australia uranium contamination zone. Back here, Martin Ferguson,who is being challenged all the way by Scott Ludlam, is pushing the same dangerousstuff to much less sophisticated markets than Japan. And in the midst of the mining boom, Treasurer Swan has cut the budgets of great national cultural institutions like
the National Gallery, the National Library and the National Museum. There’s no
money for a dedicated footpath from Civic, the living centre of Canberra, toParliament House.No matter what positive ideas are put forward for Australia, Tony Abbott and
Barnaby Joyce are out there saying ‘No!’, and the polls are saying ‘yes’ to ‘no’.
 The Howard government backed George W Bush's invasions of Iraq andAfghanistan in the cause of democracy. So why
shouldn’t
we now join vigorous
moves in Europe and at the United Nations for a global people’s assembly based on
one person, one vote, one value? Such a global parliament - it could be right here inAustralia - would tackle international questions like nuclear proliferation, currencyspeculation, marine ecosystem destruction and those billion people who could be fedand literate if only a tenth of global military spending was sent to their assistance.Why should Australia not catch up with Norway, less than half our size, and have asovereign wealth fund, mandated female representation on corporate boards,determined global outreach for peace in such horror conflicts as the Sri Lankan civilwar, and funding for the
protection of large swathes of the world’
s besieged tropicalrainforests?As the Dalai Lama pointed out in Canberra a fortnight ago, being rich in the pocketgives no certainty to being rich in the spirit. Feeling good about who we are andwhat we are achieving - having a vision for a safer, happier future - is the real key tonational pride and fulfilment.

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