2023 End of Year Wrap
As we near the end of 2023 here's a look back at just some of what we've managed to achieve together for our forests, climate and democracy.
In March, after 12 years of Coalition rule we saw Labor just scrape in the numbers to form a minority Government. For many of us on the front lines of environmental justice we held hope that this change would usher in a new era for the state of environment, justice and democracy in NSW.
Almost immediately, that hope turned to disappointment as Labor failed to step up time and time again.
Importantly, the lack of vision and progress from the Minns’ Labor Government has been matched twofold with incredible wins for the people and by the people.
Climate Action Protest outside Parliament House.
So it’s you that I would like to thank as we review the year that was—those tireless and passionate advocates amongst us, the resilient and dedicated communities without whom 2023 might have been a much bleaker picture.
While Labor disappointed, we rallied.
Sue with activists on Gumbaynggirr Country in the heart of the promised Great Koala National Park.
We were promised a Great Koala National Park, only to learn that, in the midst of an extinction crisis, the Minns’ Labor Government unbelievably intended to log it first.
Brave folk took to the forest front lines to demand an end to the destruction, and it was through combined pressure that the Government soon announced the Koala Hubs within the Great Koala National Park would not be logged.
More good news came on the forest front as together we kept up enormous pressure to get results. The brave and tireless frontline activists and their citizen science efforts successfully secured Stop Work Orders in Tallaganda and Flat Rock State Forests and then destruction was stopped in Styx River State Forest after logging was discovered dangerously close to unprotected Great Glider den trees.
We know it is only a matter of time until public native forest logging ends and we are holding hope that the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is successful in its Federal Court challenge, the judgement of which will be handed down early next year.
Sue chairing the Parliamentary Inquiry.
This year was a huge one for climate action.
With enormous pressure from the public behind us and a Parliamentary Inquiry that I Chaired, we were able to successfully amend damaging laws proposed by Labor that were sure to lock in climate disaster and at least 2 degrees of global heating.
Instead, we worked tirelessly inside parliament as communities campaigned alongside to amend Labor’s woeful climate bill and secured unprecedented wins to safeguard our future. Under our pressure Labor agreed to an interim emissions reduction target of 70% by 2035, a ratchet mechanism so targets are genuinely a floor, not a ceiling, gave power to the Net Zero Commission to review and advise on coal and gas projects, and secured a legally binding Net Zero target on government.
We have more work to do to end coal and gas as soon as we can, but we now have a framework for action.
The Blue Mountains' Great Glider.
This year also saw the Ken Henry review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act tabled and it’s a beauty. It says everything we know - that the former Coalition Government’s laws are contributing to the extinction crisis. Then more real news came just this week with IPARTs review of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme finding that the Biodiversity Offsets Fund needs to be shut down.
Next on our agenda, I also secured a parliamentary inquiry into our planning system and how it interacts with the biodiversity and climate crises. This work will seriously take flight in the new year.
PROTEST AND JUSTICE
The Knitting Nanna's outside the Supreme Court.
While the state of our policing system continues to be plagued by misconduct, corruption and the over-policing of minority groups, vulnerable individuals and front-line climate activists, there were still wins worth celebrating.
After over two-decades the racist Suspect Targeting Management Plan, which emboldened the NSW Police to racially target and over-police First Nations people and communities of colour, were finally scrapped for use on people under 18.
There is still much work to be done to reform biassed and violent policing policies that disproportionately harm communities of colour, though this was a welcome step, alongside our calls for an urgent redress scheme for those who have been most affected.
From the Supreme Court came further victories with massive wins being handed down in multiple hearings. First the Knitting Nannas made huge steps for our democracy and the right to protest - taking on the state and winning. Just this month the Supreme Court ruled that draconian anti-protest laws, backed by Labor and brought in during the Coalition’s term, were unconstitutional. Unsurprisingly, the Minns’ Government has made no moves to repeal in full these laws, and it’s something we’ll have our eyes set on for 2024.
In the same week, we celebrated alongside Kathleen Folbigg and her family, as her charges were finally quashed. Because of our continued pressure, we saw an earlier release much sooner than what was intended. Kathleen’s case has shown in the clearest certain terms that the post conviction review system is archaic and in desperate need of overhaul. There is no greater injustice than wrongful conviction.
Protestors at a VoteYes rally.
This year Australia experienced a huge loss with the disappointment of the Voice to Parliament, and it would be remiss not to mention the harm many First Nations’ communities have experienced due to the result of this referendum.
Outside of this, our work on treaty with elders and communities has well and truly commenced, and we look forward to continuing this important work in 2024 and beyond.
It’s been a huge year at Parliament, and I am happy to say I’m back at the farm for a short respite before we get to work on the massive, yet exciting challenges 2024 will bring. Farming is a labour of love and risk. Thanks to the rains we received in the past week here in South Gundurimba the risk is feeling well worth it and the rice is looking fantastic! But more updates on that in the New Year.
Sue and her partner at their farm in South Gundurimba.
I am wishing you all a restful break, and I want to acknowledge that for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank, Christmas has been cancelled as the war continues to rage. I stand in solidarity with their struggle for freedom, and will continue doing all I can to call for a ceasefire now.