It’s Time To Strengthen Our Anti-Discrimination Laws

This week we marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. It’s an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come on the road to equality for LGBTI people, but also to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.

Here in Australia we have much to be proud of. Community attitudes have changed considerably and LGBTI people are more visible than ever before. Yet despite this, the parliament continues to lag behind when it comes to eliminating discrimination under the law. Discrimination in the Marriage Act has been a hot-button political issue for many years in Australia. It is now no longer a matter of ‘if’ we will see marriage equality but ‘when.’ And hopefully we will get there without Turnbull’s $160 million plebiscite!

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Australia’s Civic Life Will Suffer If Major Parties Turn Universities Into Degree Factories

Australia’s universities are vital to our nation’s future. This is not only because they are fundamental to the growth of our economy but because they are an essential public good. Universities are more than just degree factories; they provide pathways for citizens to realise their dreams and to reach their potential. They provide opportunities to exchange ideas, reflect on our world and find solutions. They are vital to the civic life of our country.

That’s why the economic rationalist approach of Labor and the Liberal party is so damaging. By casting students simply as consumers who pay for a product (education) in order to secure a job, Australia is diminishing the inherent value of education. Education is not merely a means to an end, but rather an end in itself.

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Whitlam’s legacy belongs to all progressives

The passing of former prime minister Gough Whitlam yesterday saw the eruption of a rare period of multi-partisanship as figures from across the political spectrum paid tribute to the man who changed the nation.

Among them were the Greens who shared an image online celebrating Whitlam’s abolition of university fees in 1974. The image, accompanied with the text, ‘Whitlam’s legacy for a progressive Australia will be remembered – Vale Gough Whitlam’ and a Greens logo, was met with ire from some Labor MPs who accused the party of “body snatching” and “appropriating a leader’s death” for their own political ends.

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Voters give Green light to resurgent party

“It’s not easy being Green.” Or, at least that’s been the claim of pundits eager to write-off the environmental party after a challenging few years.

In 2012, the retirement of leader Bob Brown sparked speculation that the Greens were heading the way of the ill-fated Australian Democrats. Swings against the party at last year’s federal election and a string of state elections added fuel to the fire. The party has also lost its mantle as the “new kid on the block”, jostling for media space with the outspoken Clive Palmer in a much more crowded Senate.

But while Palmer might grab the headlines, it is the Greens who are making history. The re-election of Senator Scott Ludlam at Saturday’s election will deliver the party 10 federal senators from July (along with Adam Bandt in the lower house) smashing the minor party record it previously shared with the Democrats. Indeed, there is reason to believe the Senate election will mark the beginning of a Green resurgence and should leave no doubt that the party is a permanent fixture on the nation’s political landscape.

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Where to now for the Greens?

The 2013 election outcome could only be described as mixed for the Australian Greens. The party achieved something rare among minor parties – having not only won a lower house seat at the previous election, it also successfully defended it this time around. But the jubilation of Adam Bandt’s victory in the seat of Melbourne was offset by the realisation that the party’s nationwide share of the primary vote had declined significantly. In the House of the Representatives, the Greens hemorrhaged more than a quarter of their 2010 vote; in the Senate, around a third of voters opted to move their vote elsewhere.

The outcome sparked the usual speculation about the Greens’ longevity, and grist was added to the mill when six of Christine Milne’s senior members of staff quit within weeks of the election. Importantly, the result raised the question of whether the Greens might go the same way as the now (almost) defunct Australian Democrats.

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Dr Who? The Gillard Puzzle Too Tricky To Solve

Australians are hopelessly torn between an Opposition Leader who opposes everything and a Prime Minister who stands for nothing.

At least that appears to be the brutal assessment of many voters uncomfortable with Tony Abbott’s approach to politics, but struggling to understand the agenda of Gillard Labor.

Part of the problem rests with the Prime Minister herself.  Despite initially promising to move the nation forward, the Gillard prime ministership has been associated more with policy u-turns than forward motion.

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Risky Business – War on the Greens Will Hurt Labor

Moves by leading figures in the ALP to ‘declare war’ on the Australian Greens appear to be part of a strategy of political product differentiation that risks further undermining the former’s electoral appeal.

In recent days Labor politicians have derided the Greens as “extreme” and “immature” and some in the ALP have even advocated directing preferences to the Coalition and Family First ahead of the minor party at the next federal election.

This seems to be based on the belief that by attacking the Greens Labor can return some of its disillusioned base to the fold. While Labor’s Left faction may argue this represents an opportunity to break the minor party’s hold over left-wing politics in Australia, the political antidote they propose is in effect a shift to the right in the form of a Labor/Liberal pact to ‘lock-out’ the Greens.

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History Won’t Repeat

The Democrats may be dead but they continue to haunt national politics, with many commentators warning the Greens are doomed to the same fate without the charismatic leadership of Bob Brown.

Much of this is based on the assumption that Christine Milne will fail to unify her party or appeal to the public.

However, commentators are overlooking significant differences between the Democrats and the Greens and the ability of the latter to better manage this leadership transition, along with Milne’s own leadership credentials.

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Life after Brown for the Greens?

The shock resignation of the Greens’ popular leader and founder Bob Brown has left many questioning the long-term prospects of the party he leaves behind. Despite the temptation of some to compare the Greens’ fate with that of the Australian Democrats, it is too soon to eulogise the environmental party and the Greens are better placed to manage this leadership transition than their senate predecessors.

There is no doubt that Brown is an irreplaceable figure within the Greens and the parliament. The party he created has grown from to strength to strength during his 16 years in the senate and the Greens are the only party in the country to have achieved swings in their favour at every federal election of the last decade. He is a revered and galvanising figure within the Greens – instrumental in moderating the internal differences around policy and emphasis that are inevitable in any political party.

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