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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 3 December 2020 2020) . . Page.. 148 ..


I do not come from a line of prophets and doomsayers; I come from lawyers and artists. My dad, Peter Clay, was a really good lawyer and a very kind man. He helped a lot of people by quietly getting on with the job. My uncle on one side and my aunt on the other were artists. I can think of no greater joy than making something just because you want to.

So I went to uni and I studied law and creative arts. I had a lot of fun and then I had a career. I worked on legislation and policy—it was a good way to make money—but I came to doubt each role, no matter how rewarding it was. “What is the point?” I thought. “This does not deal with the problem.”

I have taken a lot of gap years in my life. My first was at 17 and I worked in an English boarding school. I travelled about with a very good friend who is here today, and I have been addicted to wandering ever since. I have lived in several countries and I have done a lot of snowboarding and diving and some really fun, silly stuff. I have lived two entirely perfect days, which is two more than most people get. “But I am flying away from the problem,” I thought, as I tore off the lid on another airline meal and listened to the jet engines, “and I am making it worse.”

I like to create things. I have made stories and books and films and I have mucked about with art. I have won some awards and I have had a book published. But that nagging voice continued. I realised that everything that I made was about apocalypse. There is a reason that our TV screens are full of end of the world fiction—ecological disaster and social collapse, and armies of zombies mindlessly consuming the world. Our artists cannot imagine any other future. For many, it is already here.

That is the first half of my speech and the first half of my life. Now let us get on to the hard bit. Why am I here in the Assembly? Because we are in a climate emergency. Change is no longer a choice; change is already happening. The EV did not ruin the weekend and the Greenies did not cancel Christmas; the bushfires did that. Green tape did not kill business; smoke-pocalypse did. The hippies are not coming for your steak; the cows died in the drought.

It is 2020, the year of the mask, and now we are living through another disaster. This one is not caused by climate change. Coronavirus has disrupted everything about how we work and play and make our money and spend our time. 1.5 million people have died around the world. Everyone is affected. There is a lot of suffering but there is also hope. For the first time in my life, global emissions have dropped. Coronavirus hit the pause button. So what are we going to do?

I have learned a lot since accepting that I am part of the problem. I have learned far more working on solutions than I ever did running away from them. For a start, I learned the word no. I have been in the environmental movement my whole life but that mostly involved signing petitions, writing emails, donating money and agreeing that everything was awful. I stood up for real after having a baby. Like many new parents, I looked at my daughter and I looked out the window at the world she was inheriting, and I said no. I joined the protest movement.


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