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Byron Shire
July 13, 2024

The Greens stand with country people

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Jeremy Buckingham, Greens MLC, Bellingen

For some, Richard Di Natale’s strong showing in the recent regional leaders debate and the genuine possibility that the Greens might win in regional seats like Page and Richmond on the North Coast of NSW may come as a surprise, but this reflects a movement that has been slowly building over decades on the foundations of grassroots activism, good policy and shared values.

As a country Greens MP my passion has been travelling and working to build bridges between those people concerned about our environment and those people who have the responsibility for managing so much of it: regional communities and farmers.

Wherever I go, regional people are eager to talk to the Greens about ways we can work together. The discussions range over a multitude of topics: NBN, renewable energy, weed management, feral animal control, water use and of course the very serious threat posed by expanding mining and gas industries.

Farmers across the country are some of the most passionate voices calling for urgent action to limit climate change, as they are seeing first-hand the impacts of changing seasons, more unpredictable rain and increased fire risks. They are also fully aware of the massive opportunities for regional development, local jobs, and extra income that wind and solar power generation will deliver to their communities.

So often lazy clichés like ‘Greens are only inner city’ or ‘there are no progressives in the country’ dominate the debate.  These myths and generalisations ignore an important social and political change occurring in Australia. While it’s true The Greens have won new heartlands in city seats like Melbourne and Balmain in NSW, it has not been at the expense of support in the regions.

The Greens are built on the values of a love of country, a determination to leave it in better state than we found it, and a belief that we have the capacity and responsibility to develop and share the wealth of our abundant resources fairly.

Many Australians living in regional areas are equally appalled at the abysmal treatment of asylum seekers, not least because they see opportunity and welcome the contribution that refugees would make to their communities.

Since the Landcare revolution of the 1980s, conservationists and farmers have learnt from each other as they successfully tackled the great land management challenges of our country. More recently the spread of massive coal mining and polluting coal seam gas industries has forged the bond and created a working relationship that threatens the traditional support base of the National Party.

If you strip back the politics and look at the policies our federal government has on offer for country Australia, it is no wonder they are unimpressed and going Green. Superfast broadband is sidelined, the ABC – loved and trusted by regional Australia is being gutted or merged with SBS. At the same time as opportunities in renewables are being squandered, the Coalition and Labor are welcoming the industrialisation of our landscape by unconventional gas mining and new coal mines.

There is huge potential for regional areas to play a role in absorbing population growth, both for their benefit and to take the pressure off infrastructure and urban sprawl in our cities, but we have to get the policy settings right. Without investment in infrastructure like inland rail, improved telecommunications and educational opportunities, this potential will be squandered.

In Dalby, the Coonawarra, Narrabri, Casino, Coonamble, Broome, Ballina, Gippsland and Taree, Greens are standing with country people and welcoming country people to stand with them.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Jeremy,
    I would suggest that the change in the political vote is happening because of Climate Change, the erosion of the coastline and the destruction of one or our world’s greatest wonders the Great Barrier Reef through the warming of the ocean.
    The people are making the change themselves because they are alarmed about the nation’s future and their children’s future without any input from any politician.
    We are alarmed by Climate Change and Global Warming.

  2. You refer to as a cliché the comment ‘Greens are only inner city”. In Canberra where the Greens hold the balance of power and a Ministry, that has been exactly the way they have acted. The price of their support was heavy one – the implementation of a light rail that has been widely criticized by Canberra’s educated public as uneconomic, and recently by the Grattan Institute and by the ACT Auditor-general as being based on wildly inflated estimates of flow-on benefits. A much cheaper rapid bus system that would better serve all Canberrans, but particularly lower income people in the outer suburbs. All Canberrans will pay for the light rail, but there is no plan to capture the additional wealth that will accrue to homeowners who commute to high paid city jobs from their million dollar houses in the area the light rail will serve – the inner north suburbs. And guess where the Green’s voter base in the ACT is? They have also used their power to have some great cycling infrastructure built – in those inner suburbs of course. To be credible the Greens need to move away from trying to win trophy projects for their well-off supporters and develop policies that help all Australians live sustainably and economically, but particularly those who rent property and those who live in outer suburbs and regional areas.

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