Long before the dawn of time, I trained as a graphic artist and illustrator, and worked for eight years in a variety of small studios across Perth, Western Australia.
Inspired by the powerful leadership of Mirrarr Traditional Owners in their opposition to the Jabiluka uranium mine, in 1998 I joined Australia’s tenacious anti-nuclear movement and found my political home in the Australian Greens.
I worked four years in state politics for Robin Chapple MLC and two years for Western Australian Senator Rachel Siewert before throwing my hat over the wall in 2007 to jag a place as the fifth Greens Senator to represent Western Australia. At the time, I sketched out the reasons I'd run and what I'd hope to achieve while in there.
That election we launched a campaign to bring a light rail network back to the streets of Perth, which evolved into nine years of fruitful work with local government, industry, engineers and urban planners to create a bold plan to transform our community through the WA 2.0 project. In 2014, this work won the Planning Institute of Australia’s (PIA) National Planning Champion award, which recognises innovation and excellence in Australia’s urban landscape.
A centrepiece of this plan was formed around the national housing affordability initiatives we launched between 2013 and 2015, catching everything from emergency shelters to negative gearing reform and a massive social housing build. We were able to get the housing affordability debate moving at long last.
As communications spokesperson between 2008 and 2017, I accidentally wound up in the middle of a campaign against the Federal Government's doomed attempt to introduce a mandatory net filter, followed by a six year campaign against mandatory data retention. We won amendments to better secure public ownership of the National Broadband Network and my time in Parliament hammered home the importance of a diverse, accessible communications sector that doesn’t involve commercial predation and real-time surveillance of users. We also helped put the long-neglected but utterly awesome Australian Games developer community on the Parliamentary radar.
It was a real honour to be able to pursue anti-nuclear campaigns on the national stage. We supported the Muckaty mob in their fight to protect their land from the Howard/Rudd/Gillard/Abbott government’s appalling nuclear dump proposal and we campaigned successfully for compensation for atomic veterans and desert mobs exposed to British nuclear weapons tests. I travelled through the Fukushima evacuation area in 2012 and am pretty done with the dwindling number of nuclear power cheerleaders. Right before finishing up in the Senate, I was honoured to be at the United Nations for the final-stage negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban.
My first act in Parliament was to re-introduce a bill requiring parliamentary approval for sending Australian troops to war. Like many other Australians, I’ve had enough of successive Governments following and enabling one US foreign policy catastrophe after another. As someone who was privileged to travel to Afghanistan in 2012 I believe it’s time for Australia to take its place in the world as an independent, compassionate and creative middle power.
In 2014 I made some comments welcoming then Prime Minister Tony Abbott to WA for the unprecedented Senate by-election, which seemed to strike a nerve amongst many people repelled by the hard-line approach of the Abbott Government. Things haven’t improved much have they: some of the faces and slogans have changed, but the underlying machinery requires the same creative resistance and advocacy as it always did.
In July 2017, I was made aware of a stunning act of carelessness dating all the way back to 2006 when I signed up for this gig: even if you haven’t lived there since you were three, being New Zealand-born confers lifetime citizenship entitlements. Section 44(i) of the Australian Constitution is pretty clear about things like that, and it was immediately obvious that I'd have to resign. In the weeks following, our own Prime Minister appears to have downgraded the Constitution to a set of optional guidelines, but we’ll see what the High Court thinks.
Working with the talented, motivated and incredibly dedicated Australian Greens team was a once in a lifetime experience which I’ll deeply miss and never forget. To everyone who made it possible: you know who you are. Thankyou. A record of this stage of life is here.
Fortunately, there are other ways to make trouble.