Yesterday, Co-Deputy Leader of the Greens Larissa Waters resigned from the Senate after discovering her dual-citizenship with Canada rendered her ineligible for a seat in Federal Parliament.
In her resignation, the uppermost house of the Australian government lost a powerful and visionary voice. It also lost a woman’s voice – one of only 30 in a house of 76.
Waters’ background is in environmental law and – upon entering parliament in 2010 – she said: “If I leave this place having contributed in some small way to improving our environmental laws with better community rights, the lawyer in me will be delighted.”
In her time in parliament, Waters has fought to protect the Great Barrier Reef, in 2014 launching a Senate Inquiry into the dumping of dredge spoil into nearby waters. She’s stood up against coal mining and she’s campaigned for Australia take a proactive stance in undoing the damage of climate change.
All this hasn’t been without controversy.
In June 2015, Waters asked the Liberal Senator for Queensland George Brandis to look to his religion for guidance in policy-making.
“I refer to the teaching letter, or encyclical, from Pope Francis, which calls for an urgent moral response to the scientific reality of global warming,” Waters said. They were discussing the price on carbon emissions and the nation’s clean energy target.
“Forty-two per cent of the Abbott cabinet is Catholic, including the prime minister himself who once trained to be a Catholic priest. The PM has failed to listen to scientists,” Waters said. “Will now he listen to the leader of his own church and abandon his reckless attack on clean energy?”
It was a baller move and one that attracted huge backlash. Brandis, the then Minister for the Arts, called it “disgusting” but Waters didn’t back down.
“Rising seas and more extreme drought will hit the world’s poorest hardest. Does the government still believe that ‘coal is good for humanity’?” she responded.