“I’ve never felt so good about an election”, an upbeat Senator Bob Brown told a packed crowd at Leichhardt Town Hall on July 29. The Greens parliamentary leader urged people to help his party out in the August 21 election in which the Greens hope to win the balance of power in the Senate.
Having been excluded the previous week from the “great debate” featuring Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Coalition leader Tony Abbott, Brown used the opportunity to talk up policies that, had he been included, may have made it worth watching.
“The Greens are prodigious innovators for the distribution of social wealth”, Brown said. He talked up his party’s universal dental care policy, proposed changes to unfair workplace laws, penalties for big polluters, a compassionate asylum seeker policy and parliamentary accountability over any decision to commit to a war.
Brown spoke of the social implications of a universal dental scheme. “If you fix people’s teeth, you fix people’s health”, Brown said. “Not having good dental care can ruin a person’s ability to have a good life.”
The National Oral Health Alliance says more than 7 million people are unable to get dental care when they need it because of long waiting lists. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released a day earlier noted the cost of dental services increased by 4% over the last financial year.
The Greens’ proposal is that non-cosmetic dental services are incorporated into Medicare under a new universal dental health scheme, Denticare.
“It’s an outrage that one of the wealthiest countries in the world cannot deliver dental care to its citizens”, Brown said. He pointed out that Labor’s backdown on the super profits tax had cost the budget about $12 billion a year. The Greens have costed Denticare at $4.3 billion per annum.
Brown rounding on the ALP’s backdown on the super profits mining tax to rousing applause. “It was a tax on supper profits, not profits.”
As for the Greens record on supporting workplace rights, Brown pointed to Greens Senator Rachel Siewert’s work in negotiating flexible work hours for carers of disabled children. The Greens would like to extend this flexibility, Brown said, to include all carers.
Brown said the Greens had refused to support the ALP’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme because it “would have compensated polluters” and it “was a $22 billion ticket to failure”.
He said the Greens supported what he described as a “pollution tax” — an interim carbon tax, starting at $23 per tonne. The revenue raised would go to households and to help build renewable energy plants.
The major parties’ dog whistling against asylum seekers was condemned. Brown described the war in Afghanistan as “tragic”.
He condemned the lack of any parliamentary debate over the decision to go to deploy Australian troops in a war.
Greens NSW Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon, Greens candidate for Grayndler Sam Byrne and Greens candidate for Sydney Tony Hickey also spoke.
Rhiannon said the Greens were committed to use the balance of power “responsibly” in the Senate. She said they would not only seek to not only negotiate with the other parties, but would urge communities to make their voices heard.
[Pip Hinman is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Grayndler in NSW.]