Culture

Greens Senator To Tony Abbott: “We Want Our Country Back”

"Prime Minister, you are welcome to take your heartless, racist exploitation of people's fears and ram it as far from W.A. as your taxpayer-funded travel entitlements can take you."

[UPDATE: July 14 2017] Greens senator Scott Ludlam has just announced his resignation from federal parliament. In a statement the WA senator said it was “recently brought to my attention that I hold dual citizenship of Australia and New Zealand. Under Section 44 of the Australian Constitution I am therefore ineligible to hold elected office in the federal parliament”.

The story is developing now and most details are still up in the air, but it’s an announcement made all the most shocking by the impact the senator has had on Australian politics over the past few years. For many young people, his entrance to mainstream public consciousness came from this speech to then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott. We may now have a new Prime Minister, but many of the issues he talks about are still just as striking.

More details to come on the news here.

On the night of March 3, 2014, a few weeks out from the Western Australian Senate by-election, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam stood in front of a near-empty Parliament under the guise of inviting Prime Minister Tony Abbott to visit his state, and gave the Coalition one of the roundest shellackings you’re likely to be treated to.

Delivered flatly, calmly, just short of menacingly, his speech covers everything from environmental policy to penalty rates; from school funding to broadband; from the Trans-Pacific partnership to the shark cull. It includes so many incredible lines that it’s hard to pick the best one — but it’s probably the bit where he describes the Coalition’s leadership team as “blundering and technically illiterate”; the bit where he describes Abbott’s relationship with mining billionaires and media oligarchs as “awkward, and kind of revolting”; or the bit where he calls the current Government “a thin, greasy layer in the core sample of future political scientists”.

“Your thoughtless cancellation of half a billion dollars of Commonwealth funding for the Perth light-rail project has been noted,” he says at one point. “Your blank cheque for Colin Barnett’s bloody and unnecessary shark cull has been noted. Your attack on Medicare, on schools funding, on tertiary education; noted. The fact that your only proposal for environmental reforms thus far is to leave Minister Greg Hunt playing Solitaire for the next three years while you outsource his responsibilities to the same Premier who presides over the shark cull? That’s been noted too.”

He goes on to list the false assumptions that the Coalition has made about his state. “If your image of Western Australia is of some caricatured redneck backwater that is enjoying the murderous horror unfolding on Manus Island, you’re reading us wrong. Every time you refer to us as ‘the mining state’, as though the Western third of our ancient continent is just Gina Rinehart’s inheritance to be chopped, benched and blasted, you’re reading us wrong,” he says.

“Western Australians are a generous and welcoming lot, but if you arrive and start talking proudly about your attempts to bankrupt the renewable energy sector, or cripple the independence of the ABC and privatise SBS; if you show up waving your homophobia in people’s faces and start boasting about your ever-more insidious attacks on the trade union movement and all working people, you can expect a very different welcome.”

And it finishes as strongly as it starts. “Prime Minister, you are welcome to take your heartless, racist exploitation of people’s fears and ram it as far from Western Australia as your taxpayer-funded travel entitlements can take you,” he says, in a sentence which you can only imagine read very differently in the first draft. “We want our country back. Through chance, misadventure and, somewhere, a couple of boxes of misplaced ballot papers, we’ve been given the opportunity to take it back: just one seat, next April 5, and a whole lot more in 2016.

“Game on, Prime Minister. See you out West.”

Donate to Ludlam’s re-election campaign here. Compare him to pictures of Ben Wyatt here.

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