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With new role comes greater responsibility

Yesterday was a great day for the Greens. Our team in the Federal Parliament went from six to 10 with Governor-General Quentin Bryce presiding over the swearing-in of 12 senators from around the country who were elected in August last year.

Among them were my Greens colleagues Penny Wright (South Australia), Lee Rhiannon (NSW), Larissa Waters (QLD) and Richard di Natale (VIC). There are now nine Greens senators in the upper house - the most in our history - giving us the balance of power 21 years since the election of Jo Vallentine for the Western Australian Greens in 1990.

On Sunday night, former and current Greens federal MPs gathered at a restaurant in Canberra to celebrate our success and look forward to the future. We could not have achieved what we have without our former federal MPs, their staff, campaigners, supporters and voters. As our leader, Bob Brown, told us, it's an exciting time to be part of a global movement of environmentally-conscious people who are in the box seat to confront global challenges such as climate change and a growing income disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

The Greens have been chosen to represent more than 1.6 million Australian voters because we're different to the major parties. Voters want us to achieve results. They want to see action on problems including climate change.  My colleagues, led by Senator Milne, are working hard to finalise a deal on putting a price on pollution to help transition the economy away from tired-old dirty energy sources to the cleaner, more sustainable power of the future.  Australians have also looked to the Greens to achieve the goal of marriage equality for same-sex couples, to speak up for a more humane and compassionate approach to refugees and asylum seekers, and create a universal dental care scheme.

With this new position in the political landscape and our new seats on the Senate benches comes even greater responsibility to deliver achievements for the community and stability for the Parliament. We will work hard to improve legislation and to keep presenting innovative ideas to be adopted by government and opposition. But, just as importantly, we must make sure we deliver more constructive than destructive solutions to the topics which land on our desks. Working to secure our nation's future prosperity requires more leadership than just saying "No".

While the old parties continue to carry on like squabbling children in the school yard, teasing each other and shouting he-said-she-said slogans, the Greens will be doing our best to reform how the Parliament works so outcomes are not dominated by who shouts the loudest, but rather which ideas will achieve results.  Although Senate standing orders can moderate the rabble inside the chamber, debate outside continues to be a free-for-all.

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce has already come out firing over the weekend after attending an anti-carbon price rally alongside broadcaster Alan Jones. Senator Joyce argued the world was going to end now the Greens have more seats in Parliament.  He continued his line on Sunday morning television claiming the Greens want Australians to scrounge around on forest floors for food to eat, and likened pricing pollution with killing household pets. It's impossible to debate irrationality, which is why the Greens are getting on with the hard work of fulfilling our promises, bringing stability to the government and expanding our representation in the Parliament.

First pubished in The National Times on July 5, 2011 

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