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Senator Janet Rice delivers her valedictory speech in parliament

Greens senator Janet Rice has delivered her final speech as she steps down from her position after ten years in the federal parliament.

Senator Rice reflect on a decade in parliament and said she remained hopeful for the future.

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“Ten years ago I came here with high hopes, enthusiasm and a commitment to do my best as a senator to make a difference in the world. I leave with a sense of achievement, particularly in passing marriage equality, establishing and completing the first national inquiry into poverty in 50 years and being one of the few in this place—along with my colleagues—to advocate for people and issues that are too often ignored by the powerful.

“I also leave with a more clear eyed view than when I arrived of the work and time and energy required to achieve change, to fight the vested interests and how the struggle for justice is ongoing. Working in this place certainly has its challenges, but after a decade here I still believe in our representative democracy.

“We just have to make it work for us.” Senator Rice said.

Signing off the senator urged her parliamentary colleagues to listen less to big mining companies and and business lobby groups, and give greater focus to the needs of Australian people.

“People want governments to properly fund public housing, to end homelessness and to stop skyrocketing rent. They want top-notch public education and health, including dental and mental into Medicare. They want people on income support to have a liveable income, but Labor and Liberal tell us that we can’t afford it. We can.” Senator Rice said.

Senator Rice’s final speech also reflected on the achievement of marriage equality, she described the committee process that interrogated Liberal senator Dean Smith’s private members bill as the best she’d been involved in. – a true undertaking to build consensus and agreement.

“It was focused on achieving an outcome we could all live with, a genuine consensus. We sat around the committee room, and we debated and negotiated that bill clause by clause. Dean, Louise Pratt and I were the key players in that room, and we trusted each other.

“David Fawcett did an excellent job chairing. We had different pressures on us and different constituencies, but we knew that the only way we were going to achieve marriage equality was to end up with a bill that we could all live with, which is what we achieved.”

The passage of the marriage equality bill also had a profound personal effect on the Greens senator.

“Marriage equality meant that I could stay married to my late wife, Penny, and she could change her birth certificate to say ‘female’ without us having to get divorced. Penny was such a star during the campaign for marriage equality.

“As a transwoman, she put herself out of her comfort zone to speak up, to say ‘love was love’ and that all we wanted was to stay married. Being married to a transwoman inspired me to be such a fierce defender of trans and gender-diverse people during the campaign and beyond. I feel so grateful for Penny’s love and support and for our lives together until her sad sudden passing four years ago.”

Senator Rice also announced another marriage is likely in her future.

“For me now, marriage equality means that my partner, Anne, and I, who have been together for the last two years, can get married. A news flash—we reckon we probably will! I love you, Anne.” Senator Rice shared.

Senator Rice shared her concern that there was still discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people, and noted that the upcoming debate over Religious Discrimination Laws would bring another round of discussion about the lives of LGBTIQA+ people.

“There’s still discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people baked into our laws and our society. Just last week we received a stark reminder of this, with the debate over the proposed religious discrimination legislation firing up again.” Senator Rice said.

Signing off the outgoing senator’s final words were encouragement for her colleagues to keep on fighting.

“At the end of my time here, I am acutely aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants and that my work is just part of a movement of billions of people around the world, including my amazing colleagues here and soon-to-be Senator Steph Hodgins-May, who I know will be awesome.

“My final words: stay hopeful that things can change and keep working determinedly towards that change. Just because we haven’t reached where we need to be yet doesn’t mean we can’t and we won’t. We have to keep at it because one thing is certain: if you don’t fight, you lose. So onwards and upwards!” Senator Rice said.

Graeme Watson 


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