Bandt warns ALP over unions, climate

He’s also called on politicians to stop fanning fears about refugees or risk creating an “isolationist and dark future”.

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But Mr Bandt’s central message on Thursday was a call for action on climate change.

“The scientists have spoken,” the new member for Melbourne said.

“It is now over to politics to craft solutions.”

The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union made a record $325,000 donation to the Greens’ 2010 election campaign.

Mr Bandt, a former industrial lawyer for Slater and Gordon, in his speech thanked the union’s state secretary Dean Mighell, saying “your strong support was so valuable”.

The Victorian ETU cut ties with Labor earlier this year over the government’s failure to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

“I think we are witnessing the development of unions being prepared to no longer automatically support one party but instead to assess parties and candidates on their merits and support the one that is best going to represent their members,” Mr Bandt said on Thursday.

“(It) is of great merit for Australian democracy and the cause of unionism and workers in general.”

Mr Bandt was the first crossbench MP to officially do a deal with Labor after the August 21 election delivered a hung parliament.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in the chamber for Mr Bandt’s speech while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was not.

Also watching were the five current Greens senators, including party leader Bob Brown.

Mr Bandt is the first Greens member elected to the House of Representatives at a general election.

Pollies play to the worst in use

On Thursday, he said most people had a positive story to share about someone who’d arrived in Australia as a refugee, yet politicians “play to the worst in us”.

“If fear and suspicion are the organising principles of our approach to our fellow human beings from other places, then we are condemning ourselves to revisiting this issue election after election and setting ourselves up for an isolationist and dark future,” Mr Bandt said.

But the member for Melbourne believes politics can have a more optimistic future. He wants to put compassion back on the agenda and promote another side of humanity.

“One that sees someone in trouble and extends a helping hand. One that says we need more love, not less.”

The Greens MP said the idea of full substantive equality had receded from public life.

Same-sex couples couldn’t get married. Human rights were suspended for indigenous Australians under the Northern Territory intervention and building workers were “worse off than accused criminals” under the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Climate change

But Mr Bandt was most passionate when taking about climate change.

“Our actions in heating the planet have led us to a very real climate emergency,” he said.

“Accepting the science means accepting the science, not what we’d like the science to say.

“Their consensus is a heart-rending cry for urgent action, imploring us to cut greenhouse gas emissions massively within a decade, after which it may be too late.”

Mr Bandt said Australia had to tackle head-on the brand of economics that prioritised endless growth over sustainability.