9 June 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:13): I move:
That this council—
1. Supports a Green New Deal for South Australia.
2. Notes that 2020 was an incredibly difficult time for South Australians, starting with drought and bushfires, and followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. Further notes that increasing unemployment due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as climate change and rising economic inequality, are key challenges facing South Australians into the future.
4. Calls on the Marshall Government to adopt an innovative jobs growth plan through investing in:
(a) publicly owned renewable energy and storage projects to address climate change;
(b) social housing to help end homelessness;
(c) employing more educators, healthcare workers, nurses and social support workers to ensure all South Australians have access to the care they need;
(d) the expansion of the public transport network to reduce congestion and decrease emissions;
(e) reviving our CBD precinct to support local businesses;
(f) creative industries and the arts; and
(g) care for country and culture.
This motion is calling on this council to support a Green New Deal for South Australia and calling on the Marshall government to adopt an innovative jobs growth plan through investing in a range of measures that would help fight the climate crisis and rising inequality in our state. South Australia should be leading the way with a Green New Deal to change our state for the better. People are angry and anxious because the government has no plan for the big problems that are facing our state. We need to see ambitious and innovative ideas from our leaders and the Green New Deal will do just that.
Many in this place will be familiar with the term 'a Green New Deal'. It was first coined by US Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and essentially creates a bold agenda calling for government action on climate change along with the other social aims of job creation and reducing economic inequality.
What would a Green New Deal mean for South Australia? What would it look like? Many different groups have started to consider how we could harness a green recovery to address some of the biggest issues facing our state and our nation. To put it simply, a Green New Deal is a plan of investment and action to build a clean green economy.
The last 18 months have seen South Australia's economy take a significant hit. From the devastating bushfires that have ravaged parts of our state and the continued impact of the global pandemic to the highest unemployment levels in the country and the ever-present threat posed by the climate crisis, it is clear that now is the time for bold innovative new plans for our great state.
With the state budget just weeks away, and the last one before the 2022 election, I am calling on the government and this parliament to seize the opportunity to rethink our economy and to spend big on new projects and programs that would create green jobs and address the important challenges of our age.
I talked about the fact that this motion is calling on the Marshall government to adopt an innovative jobs growth plan for investing in a range of different measures. One of those, of course, must be publicly owned renewables in South Australia. South Australia's abundant wind and solar resources mean that we are ideally suited to lead the nation and the world with 100 per cent renewable energy, and we should do that by 2025. A renewable-led recovery will create the jobs we need, it will tackle climate change and reduce energy prices.
The Greens' vision for South Australia is one that will make the most of our state's skills in manufacturing and create new jobs for the future, and we know that as we transition away from coal and carbon we can create new jobs in green innovation and renewable energy. We should harness the skills of our state's manufacturing industry for the development of new technologies, things like cutting-edge renewables, light rail and electric cars, and we should be making those things in South Australia.
It is regrettable, of course, that we saw the previous federal Liberal government, led by Tony Abbott, totally deprioritise the support for the automotive industry in South Australia, and really we should be trying to kickstart that industry with new investment so that it can start manufacturing electric cars in a significant way.
We also need a Green New Deal so that we can tackle homelessness and the housing crisis. One of the most pressing issues in this state at the moment is homelessness and housing affordability. We need a housing system that is about people, not profit. Homelessness is not inevitable. We can solve it. Everybody has a right to a roof over their head and a place to call home. It is not acceptable to simply say it is inevitable for people to sleep on the street or that people are going to be sleeping in tents. We need to see leadership from government to ensure that we invest in the housing that we need.
We have seen some wonderful strategies recommended by the Adelaide Zero Project, but we need more of an investment from the government. This is not a quick fix, but we need a long-term housing strategy that will end homelessness in our state. Housing, after all, is a human right. To end homelessness, we need to provide homes for tens of thousands of people on the waiting list, and we can do this by building housing, creating jobs and ensuring that nobody is discharged into homelessness.
As part of a Green New Deal, we need to also consider what we can do to make our society a caring society. The implementation of a Green New Deal is not just about green jobs and the green economy. It is also about investing in other types of work, particularly those types of industries that are traditionally female dominated.
Through the pandemic, we have seen just how essential our caring professions are for our communities, from our healthcare professionals who continue to work on the frontline, to our educators who adapted with flexible teaching arrangements to the pandemic, to our community service workers who continue to support the most vulnerable people in our society. We need to ensure that they are remunerated properly, and we need to ensure that they are supported with more funding so that they can employ more workers.
We also need as part of a Green New Deal to deal with expanding our public transport network. Bigger roads are not the answer to traffic congestion. We in the Greens have a different vision. We need a well-funded and well-functioning public transport system that gets people where they need to go quickly, reliably, safely and cheaply. We need greater investment in bikes and walking infrastructure that will give South Australians the freedom to choose riding or walking as a safe, easy option and to leave their cars at home.
A few weeks ago, I introduced a bill to establish a walking and cycling commissioner to encourage walking and cycling as modes of transport in our state, to promote the health, environmental, social and economic benefits of this, and to prepare and to promote strategies to make walking and cycling inclusive for everybody in South Australia. It is really regrettable, I think, that we have not seen the investment in cycling infrastructure that we need in South Australia, in particular, in the City of Adelaide.
Sadly, the City of Adelaide has spent over $400,000 on planning the east-west bikeway only to knock it on the head under the leadership of Alex Hyde from the conservative wing of the Liberal Party that dominates town hall. I think that is really regrettable because South Australians, in particular people in the City of Adelaide, are desperate for cycling infrastructure to be rolled out. A Green New Deal would not only fund more bike lanes in the CBD area, it would also encourage greater use of public transport through free or subsidised tickets. This would not only help reduce congestion in the city, it would also encourage more people to come back into our CBD, which would be a positive knock-on effect for local businesses that are currently struggling.
We know that our CBD has been hard hit by this pandemic. Many businesses have been forced to close their doors, and many city-based employees are still working from home. A Green New Deal would ensure that we prioritise a plan that continues to enliven the city, extending the free wi-fi network, supporting entrepreneurs, growing small bars and live music, and setting some clear renewable energy targets for the city.
I know that a number of small businesses in the CBD are struggling and will be very alarmed by the Marshall government's plans to deregulate shop trading hours. They will be very alarmed that they are not going to be able to compete with Coles and Woolies and the big players, and that that is going to punish them and damage their business. The Greens certainly stand with them in that struggle.
As part of a Green New Deal, we need to look at creative industries. Creative industries are the engine room of our economy, and yet they were the first industry directly hit by the impacts of the pandemic. In the last 18 months, we have seen our cultural and creative sectors suffer enormous damage due to restrictions on public gatherings and performances and exhibitions that were cancelled in the interests of public health. Of course, I make no criticism of the government for doing that—it was necessary in terms of a public health response—but we do need to ensure that our arts sector is now supported in the days ahead because that has had a significant impact.
The knock-on effect of this has been substantial for our broader South Australian community, and for our economy, not least the many thousands of people who are employed in related industries that are driven so strongly by the arts here in our state. Those industries include tourism, hospitality, regional affairs and community businesses—all these things rely on a thriving, creative industry.
While South Australia has fared fairly well, and we can consider the success of things like the Adelaide Fringe Festival earlier this year, we must not lose sight of the fact that the disappearance of the Australian creative sector will have a major social, economic and cultural impact on our state both in the short and the long term. We know that the arts community have not been eligible for federal government support through JobKeeper, so that means they have been really hard hit by this pandemic.
Finally, a Green New Deal would also look at how we can care for country and culture. When I talk about caring for country, I am talking about First Nations people's approaches to land and water management. For First Nations people, it is increasingly documented that caring for country is linked to maintaining cultural life, identity, autonomy and health. The diverse environmental activities to which First Nations people contribute have positive outcomes for climate mitigation, biodiversity monitoring, the protection of endangered species, landscape health and more. It is for exactly that reason that a Green New Deal is really important because it would ensure that this knowledge and experience is at the forefront of policy and decision-making.
This is our chance to start thinking about how we can reshape our state, how we can create a fairer and more sustainable South Australia, how we can become a productive leader and how we can be a state that actually tackles the climate crisis and ensures that everybody has what they need to live a happy and healthy life.
We need to think differently. That has been one of the lessons of the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. We need to think differently and now is the time for us to do that. Now is the time for us to commit to a Green New Deal. South Australia can create a cleaner, fairer future for all of us, and I urge all members of this council to support the motion.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.G.E. Hood.