The Alan Missen Award – SENATOR RACHEL SIEWERT 2017
Senator Rachel Siewert has been a Greens Senator for Western Australia since July 2005. She was a committed, hardworking member of the 44th Commonwealth Parliament and, in particular, was a significant voice in the Parliament for vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians. She was the Australian Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Ageing and Disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Agriculture and Marine Issues.
Supporting the principles and practice of transparent and accountable government
She strongly supported an open Parliament, accessible to all Australians and sees her role as a parliamentarian to enable people from the community and not-for-profit organisations to be able to access Parliament House and meet politicians to discuss important issues. She raised transparent and accountable government issues in debates in the Senate, notably in her strong support for a National Integrity Commission. During the debate on the Green’s Bill she said:
“We (the Greens) believe that integrity, accountability and openness in politics are vital and critical to a healthy democracy”.
She also pursued openness in government bodies – for example advocating for greater transparency and accountability of the Foreign Investment Review Board.
Contributing effectively and constructively to parliamentary debate, committee deliberations and policy development in a way that promotes and supports good parliamentary practice and the institution of parliament
In the 44th Parliament, she was a very active member on several Committees including – Senate Standing: Selection of Bills; Procedure; Scrutiny of Bills: Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing: Community Affairs; Legislation (Deputy Chair); References (Chair); and Joint Standing: National Disability Insurance Scheme; Joint Select Committees: Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and Northern Australia.
In the previous Parliament, her private member’s bill, the Low Aromatic Fuel Bill 2012, was passed, one of the few private Senators’ Bills to do so. During the 44th Parliament, it was used by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to make the sale of regular unleaded petrol illegal on Palm Island and to ban the sale of regular unleaded fuel in communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia struggling with petrol sniffing.
Pursuing a change in government policy or practice whether generally or in response to a constituency issue or injustice
During the 44th Parliament, she initiated and Chaired Senate inquiries into out-of- home care, the extent of income inequality in Australia, violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings and the Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy tendering processes. The inquiries provided a platform for people to share their experiences, and for the Parliament to be better able to respond to such issues.
Protecting people’s political and civil rights
Senator Siewert was particularly concerned about the political and civil rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and spoke out on issues that affect them. She raised in the Parliament, and the media, the Cashless Welfare Card, which disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. She led the Greens’ support for Australia’s first peoples to be at the centre of the conversation on constitutional recognition, and sovereignty and treaties. She also opposed proposals to include investor-State dispute settlement provisions in Free Trade Agreements.
Senator Siewert demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the public interest in the performance of her role with honesty, civility, independence and political courage.