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Christine Milne addresses the National Press Club

News Item
Christine Milne 19 Feb 2013

Australian Democracy at the Crossroads:

The mining industry and the quarry past versus the people and the innovative future.


Parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests and friends.

Australian democracy is at the crossroads. Our future as a nation, our sense of who we are and what we want for our society and local community is now being determined by mining billionaires in boardrooms for themselves and their overseas shareholders, and what they want, is being delivered through our state and federal parliaments.

The mining industry has become so powerful that the lines between business and politics have become blurred to the detriment of people and the well being of our society.

No group of people is suffering more than our Indigenous people, the traditional owners of the land who are seeing their land, their country decimated and cultural sites like the archaeological treasury on the Burrup Peninsula and at James Price Point being sacrificed to Woodside's bottom line. In acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and in paying my respects to their elders past and present, I am proud to say that the Greens have driven for them the parliamentary process of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a result of our agreement with the Prime Minister.

But it is not enough.

With it must come respect for culture and country, by standing up to the mining boardroom greed that sees both as expendable. For Premier Colin Barnett to threaten indigenous communities with the compulsory acquisition of their land in the interests of Woodside is wrong and shameful.

The revelations of ICAC in NSW, with a former Labor minister accused of granting mining leases to mates for million dollar profits, the conflict of interest in the Environmental Protection Authority in the Barnett government in WA regarding James Price Point, the sanctioned release of polluted water from coal mines in the Bowen Basin into rivers and into the Great Barrier Reef, the refusal of the Federal Minister to take the advice of the Australian Heritage Council to protect the Tarkine handing it over to the mining industry instead, the trip to India to coal magnate Reddy's family wedding on Gina Rinehart's private jet by Deputy Leader of the Coalition Julie Bishop and the Nationals Barnaby Joyce are but a few examples of why the  faith of people in their parliaments has been replaced with disillusionment.

Trust has gone.

What we are seeing is the mining industry versus the community. The greed of billionaire miners versus the public interest. The ALP government and the Liberal and National Opposition lining up to protect the interests of the mining corporations against the interests of the Australian community. It is the Australian Greens who are standing with the people, for the environment and for a safe climate.

As Robert Kennedy Junior said recently,

"Wherever you see large-scale pollution, you will also see the subversion of democracy, you will see the compromise of public officials, the capture of the agencies they are supposed to protect; they become sock puppets of the industries they are supposed to regulate. You see that in the political system, the kowtowing of the politicians who become indentured servants in the US and in Canada."

This is exactly what has happened here in Australia.

I know farmers in the Felton Valley, Darling Downs and on the Liverpool Plains, farmers from Moree to Doubtful Creek, people in Gloucester, Maules creek and the Boggabri forest, Indigenous communities in the Kimberley, horse-breeders in the Upper Hunter, tourism operators in North West Tasmania are cheering because they know I am speaking the truth.

They know that in Australia today, it is the mining industry and its parliamentary indentured servants in both major parties versus the people and the Greens and today's decision on coal seam gas in NSW has put this up in lights.  

With an election on September 14th Australians will turn their minds to the state of the nation - where we are heading and whether or not, we are on the right path. 

The debate on the Minerals Resources Rent Tax is a microcosm of the choices before us in the clash of interests between the mining industry and the people.

We have a Labor government refusing to take on the mining industry, to work with the Greens, to fix the mining tax so the mining magnates pay their fair share and we have Tony Abbott's Opposition wanting to give the mining industry a free ride by having no tax at all.  

Labor refuses point blank to fix the loopholes in their dud of a mining tax that has only raised $126m of the supposed $2b it was to raise in its first year. It is foregoing the revenue needed for key reforms - including implementing Gonski and dramatically increasing funding to our public schools, fully implementing a National Disability Insurance Scheme, expanding Denticare or building high speed rail.

Labor is refusing to increase support to those on Newstart whilst taking more money out of the pockets of single parents than it has collected from the mining tax.  This is immoral. As Oscar Wilde said, "To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less."

The Coalition not only supports this but would go further. The Coalition has a $70 billion black hole and, to fill it, the axe will fall on community services, the public service and low income earners.

If the Gillard government is too scared to take on vested interests, then it is the people who can't afford ads in the paper on or television, who can't afford expensive lobbyists to walk the halls of parliament house, people who can least afford it - people like single mothers - who end up paying.

Well the Greens aren't afraid. We are standing with the people against the interests of the big miners. We recognise that Australia needs to raise more revenue and that it should not come from the poorest in our community but the wealthiest.

According to the Nielsen poll released yesterday, as Mark Kenny noted, many Australians agree with the Greens - the tax is a dud. But it can be fixed and a majority of Australians want a mining tax.

It is the loss of billions in revenue to the people of Australia that has driven the Greens to pursue the government on this issue. I have raised the flaws in the mining tax in public and in private with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer on numerous occasions and we have introduced a Bill to fix them. It is now clear that they, like Tony Abbott and Warren Truss are just not prepared to act in the national interest.

That's why I will be moving in the Senate next week for an inquiry into the Minerals Resource Rent Tax to get to the bottom of exactly how flawed this tax is and what needs to be done to fix it, how it was able to be developed in the interest of three of the biggest mining companies in the world, and what will be the impact of its failings on the budget and the future of the school and disability reforms if it is not fixed.

Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both addressed this room to launch this election year. Both of them spoke at length about how people around Australia are feeling under pressure.

And they are right. People I speak to right across the country tell me about the pressures in their lives, the sense that the world is becoming a harsher place, a less caring place. Different to the analysis of the major parties though, the Greens understand that these pressures are not just about money, but about time and a sense of losing connection to community and the environment.  Not just about finding work but about finding work-life balance. Not about building more roads, about spending less time on the roads. Not just about how to benefit from the boom but asking, is there a future after the boom.

Neither of major parties acknowledge the real source of those pressures and that is the disproportionate power of the mining industry and the damage the exercise of that power is doing to Australian governance, the Australian economy, jobs, the environment and communities right around the country.

Not standing up to the miners means we are creating a less caring society;  a society in which people  have citizenship, the right to vote but  feel they have no power vis a vis the rich and powerful. The young are beginning to give up on democracy. Is that a price Australia wants to pay?

The mining boom has led to the persistently high Australian dollar and has done major damage to our manufacturing, agricultural and tourist industries.

Manufacturing has lost 125 000 jobs over the last four years and once we again on the weekend we saw the government lack the courage to put genuine obligations for local content on the on-going multi-billion mining investment projects, let alone propose slowing down the boom to ease the structural adjustment pressures.

The boom ignores the rich job creating potential of keeping our natural landscapes intact and not having them dug up, cut down and shipped overseas. The tourism industry employs almost double the number of people than mining - 4.5% of Australians are employed in tourism compared to only 2.3% in mining.

Jobs is the mantra of the ALP and the Coalition. Listen with scepticism. How do we believe Tony Abbott when he says the Coalition values jobs when it is  prepared to put up to 20 000 public servants out of work and send the CSIRO and any number of remaining public servants north of the Tropic of Capricorn. That is why the people of the ACT need Simon Sheikh to take the Liberal Senate seat and stand up for the public service and Canberra's economy and families.

As well as the detrimental economic impacts just discussed, the mining industry is not so much creating jobs as taking them from other parts of the economy. The mining boom has been tearing local communities apart all over the nation as a result of the fly in fly out culture.

But the biggest opportunity cost of the mining industry in capturing the Labor party and the Liberal National Coalition is that they are all actively preventing the transition to the sustainable, secure, happy and prosperous society and the economic framework necessary to underpin it in a world on track for 4 degrees.

They still don't get the fact that we live in a society not an economy and that economic tools driving the fossil fuel age have to change because they are not delivering what society wants. Instead, they have delivered market failure and accelerating global warming. As IMF boss Christine Lagarde said recently, "Unless we take action on climate change future generations will be roasted, toasted fried and grilled."

A nation can either be serious about climate change, serious about the transition in the economy and serious about getting the huge opportunities that are there in 100% renewable energy, in new solar power, in supporting communities as they put photovoltaic panels on their roofs, or you give in to the fossil fuel industry 

As British Prime Minister David Cameron has recently said "it is the countries that prioritise green energy that will secure the biggest share of jobs and growth in a global low-carbon sector set to be worth $4 trillion by 2015."

But both the Coalition and the Labor Party are exposing the Australian economy to huge risk as the world moves to reduce emissions. Already the Chinese have capped coal at 4 billion tonnes by 2015 and the Indians are likely to leapfrog the age of centralised grids and large fossil fuel generators in favour of decentralised, localised energy. If Australia continues down the path of massive coal and coal port expansion, we risk stranded assets, jobs collapse, dislocation on a grand scale and super funds losing badly. Fossil fuel companies cannot burn all of their reserves if the world is to have any chance of reining in climate change.

And don't we know it in Australia. People have suffered from the extreme weather events of this summer - the horrific bushfires in my home state of Tasmania and NSW and Victoria and the devastating floods returning in Qld and the heat waves across the country. 

Refusing to acknowledge the link between the intensity of these extreme weather events and climate change; and the link between subsidising the mining and export of these fossil fuels and a four degree global temperature trajectory is studied ignorance.  To acknowledge these links would be to break them and the fossil fuel industry will do everything in its power to maintain the status quo.

Labor cannot have it both ways. They cannot argue that they take the climate science seriously and at the same time subsidise massive mining and export of fossil fuels to the tune of $10 billion knowing that they are condemning our children and their grandchildren to a world of conflict, scarcity and climate disaster. 

When Australia takes over the G20 presidency at the end of the year, its continued support of fossil fuel subsidies will be at embarrassing odds with the G20's commitment to phase them out.

But Tony Abbott and the Liberal National Coalition are right there beside the government backing these decisions and indicating they would go even further. Tony Abbott wants to deliver Gina Rinehart's wildest dreams of different tax zones to benefit her even more, undermine labour standards and conditions, bring in more 457 visa holders to exploit, dam the rivers, dig even bigger mines with even less environmental oversight.

Tony Abbott and the coalition are the party of the past. They are not equipped to deal with the Australia of the future. Mr Abbott has pledged to abandon emissions trading, abolish the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and other elements of the Clean Energy package including the biodiversity fund and compensation to low income earners.

It's time that the critical mass of Australian businesses which now depend on the transition to a low carbon future stand up and be counted. Get over denial and stop cowering because, just as the Abbott opposition is destroying business confidence now, an Abbott government will try to destroy your business, will wipe out the fastest growing innovative business and jobs growth sector. That is why the Greens must be in balance of power in the Senate.

Labor, Liberal and Nationals have made their choice. It is for the big miners and the green light to environmental destruction.

Minister Burke sold out the Tarkine to mining interests at the behest of NSW Right Paul Howes, and was applauded by Labor premier Lara Giddings and the Coalition. Only the Greens are standing up for the Tarkine, the largest tract of temperate rainforest left in Australia.

Three days after that decision, Minister Burke and the Prime Minister decided that they would prefer to advance the interests of the coal seam gas industry and coal miners rather than look after farmland and water resources in Australia, local communities and further putting at risk the survival of the koala in NSW. Coal mines and coal seam gas wells emitting 47 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of 8% of our national carbon emissions at Maules Creek, Gloucester, and Boggabri were granted approval with the flick of a pen. Now to garner votes in Western Sydney both Labor and the Coalition are suddenly worried about coal seam gas but even as they speak Paul Howes and the NSW right is driving for full on expansion. The farmers are left high and dry. You can't trust any of them to care for the environment.

How can PM Gillard or Tony Abbott pretend they care about food production and mouth support for the food bowl while destroying agricultural land and allocating vast quantities of ground water in the Murray Darling for coal seam gas?  

The Great Barrier Reef is not only on track under the federal ALP government and the Liberal National state Government to become a coal super highway, its very future being threatened by bleaching and acidification as well as pollution from dredging in Gladstone Harbour and run off from the polluted mine water. How will Australians feel if the Great Barrier Reef is put on the World Heritage In Danger list because the mining industry is deemed more important.

What we have got is the whole Labor cabinet and the entire Liberal and National parties prepared to ditch environmental regulation and hand it over to the states knowing full well that they cannot be trusted to look after the environment.  The plan to hand back power to the states has gone quiet but it hasn't gone away.

Without the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate Australia risks:

  • repeal of the mining tax, giving up on any chance of the Australian community receiving its fair share of the bounty of our mineral wealth.
  • Farmers being driven from their land by mining companies without any resistance from the Parliament and the loss of huge swathes of food producing land and contamination of water at a time when food security is confronting the whole world and a future in which food is the new gold and  land and water are the new oil.
  • a harsher, less caring society, with massive public sector job cuts, young people being thrown into poverty by an Liberal party prepared to cut their income support payments completely, and a conservative agenda antithetical to a diverse, multicultural, and respectful Australia.
  • and environmental protection being taken back 40 years.

In this term of minority government, the Greens have consistently provided stability, integrity and a caring and responsible approach in the public interest. We have worked with the government to improve and then pass the vast bulk of the legislative agenda as well as several of our own bills. We have been outspoken on issues many people care deeply about, whilst being cooperative wherever opportunity for agreement existed.

By contrast we have an Abbott led coalition with thought bubbles mired in the past running away from serious questioning and spreading lies about global warming and carbon pricing. 

The threat of an Abbott-controlled Senate is real.

That is why it is critical to support the Greens outstanding Senate team around the country as a bulwark against an Abbott government.

If the Coalition is to be dragged back to a more humane agenda and into the 21st century, we need strong voices like that of Sarah Hanson-Young fighting to maintain compassion, human decency and international law in relation to asylum seekers. In an Asian century, Australia's cruelty at this time will not be forgotten and The Greens will be remembered as the caring face of Australia in the region.

We need Scott Ludlam standing up for digital freedom and big solar and against nuclear, and Peter Whish-Wilson advocating for the new economy, including light rail in Hobart. We need Adam Bandt promoting high speed rail and stopping cuts to science and research funding. I am confident the people of Melbourne would prefer to keep that strong Green voice than abackbencher controlled by Labor's factional bosses.

We need the Greens to continue the fight for marriage equality in spite of both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott acting to maintain discrimination.

To avoid an Abbott controlled Senate, it is important for people who value public education, our civil society and respect for people from all walks of life, who care about our children and future generations, a smart economy based on innovation, who want to see poverty alleviated not entrenched in our society, who want to see the arts promoted and funded as an indispensable part of creative culture and life, to stand with the Greens.

Finally I want to comment on the current parliament.

The Greens have demonstrated our public policy credentials. We have driven and delivered the biggest environmental, economic and social reform for decades and the one for which history will judge this period of government kindly, namely the clean energy package of which we are immensely proud, and make no mistake would not have happened without Adam Bandt securing the balance of power in the House of Representatives together with Greens in balance of power in the Senate. That is why it is critical to re-elect Adam and make history in Melbourne again.

We also delivered the first plank of Denticare - and we will not stop until all Australians can access dental care through Medicare. Equally, after years of work, we are proud to have passed through the parliament Senator Siewert's bill to properly tackle the scourge of petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities.

The Greens also drove the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office - a new vital institution that will strengthen our democracy by not only costing election promises but in providing independent analysis of government budgets. And to make it clear the Greens will, unlike the Opposition, present a fully costed election platform this year and we have already started releasing policies with costings.

These achievements were part of our Agreement with the Prime Minister based on the key principles we agreed to. These were to work together to pursue:

  • transparent and accountable government
  • improved process and integrity of parliament
  • policies which promote the public interest and
  • policies which address climate change.

I spelled out earlier the ways in which the nation's future has been put second to the interests of the big miners. The Tarkine decision, the attacks on single parents and the unwillingness to act on the mining tax, CSG and fossil fuel subsidies send a clear message that Labor's priorities lie with powerful interests not with the people and the Greens.

What has become manifestly clear is that Labor by its actions has walked away from its agreement with the Greens and into the arms of the big miners.

Let's call a spade a spade.

By choosing the big miners, the Labor government is making it clear to all that it no longer has the courage or the will to work with the Greens on a shared agenda in the national interest.

By choosing the big miners, the Labor government is no longer honouring our agreement to work together to promote transparent and accountable government and the public interest or to address climate change.

Labor has effectively ended its agreement with the Greens. So be it. But, we will not allow Labor's failure to uphold the spirit of our agreement to advance the interest of Tony Abbott.

We will not walk away from the undertakings we gave to the government in the Agreement and the people of Australia to deliver confidence and supply until the Parliament rises. We will see this parliament through to its full term.

The Greens will not add to the instability that Labor creates for itself every day. We are moving beyond the agreement as the key debates and outcomes left in this 43rd parliament fall outside it. We will continue to vigorously pursue the rapid transition to a clean green and clever country, reforms to the mining tax, a $50 a week increase to Newstart, increased funding to public schools through the Gonski reforms, implementation of the NDIS, and protection of Australia's precious environment.

We Greens understand what matters to people - the place they live in, the health of their family, the air they breathe, work-life balance, a safe global climate not plagued by worse and worse extreme weather. Caring for each other and we will campaign for them every day between now and September 14th .

The founder of the Greens world-wide, Dr Richard Jones, stood before the United Tasmania Group 40 years ago and said, "We do not believe that our time is the best time ever, but it is our time and we owe it our prime duty and affection." We Greens intend to do just that right up to polling day and beyond. 



Thank you, Senator Milne. Now, time for questions from our media members. The first one is me because I have the clipboard. If your agreement with the Government is effectively at an end why do you not do what the Western Australian National Party did in WA in making the Royalties for Regions program a condition of the support for the WA Libs to form Government and make change to the mining tax a condition of your support on any other piece of legislation the Government wants to get through Parliament?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, the Greens recognise that the Labor Party has walked away from its agreement, but we gave an undertaking for - to deliver confidence and supply and we gave that undertaking not only to the Prime Minister, but to the people of Australia. And the fact of the matter is our signature means something. And so we are going to stick to that. An election has been announced, but we will be working to try to deliver these outcomes.

We are going to work on delivering, fixing the mining tax. We've got legislation in the Parliament to do just that and it really relies on finding others to support it. And the question is, is it really only the Greens that want to raise the revenue from the miners? Is it true that the rest of the Parliament simply wants to take it out of the pockets of the most vulnerable?

That is a pretty stark choice. In terms of - we are not going to facilitate Tony Abbott or the Coalition in generating instability in the Parliament. That is in nobody's interests. We have an election date. We will work for that date.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The next question is from Lauren Wilson.

LAUREN WILSON: Lauren Wilson from The Australian, Senator. You've spoken a lot about the threats from the vested interests of the mining industry as well as the threat of climate change. If an Abbott Government is elected in September this year and puts bills to the Senate for the repeal of both the carbon tax and the mining tax are the Greens committed to voting those bills down twice and giving Mr Abbott a double dissolution trigger and won't that increase the chances then of an Abbott-controlled Senate?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, the Greens are absolutely committed to opposing the repeal, as I said, of history-making legislation which has set us up to actually address climate change, to deliver on the $10 billion into clean energy. I can't wait for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation on 2 July or thereabouts to start announcing the big solar projects that the Greens will have enabled. And I've got no intention whatsoever - and I know I can speak absolutely for my colleagues - in allowing the Abbott Government to turn its back on the future and actually undermine the Australian economy.

Tonight in Europe there is a big decision happening in relation to the European Emissions Trading Scheme. What Tony Abbott would do is try and isolate Australia from the big global push to produce emissions. We're not going to allow that, nor are we going to allow him to abandon raising money from the mining industry. We will stand there and we will oppose that quite clearly.

And let me tell you, the Australian business community needs to stand up on this and that will be part of the decision as to whether an Abbott-led Government would dare go to a double dissolution because, as I said, there is now a critical mass of business around the country who want certainty, who want to roll out these technologies and who are seriously unimpressed by the fact that it is Tony Abbott who is driving uncertainty in the state of the economy right now.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The next question is from Paul Bongiorno.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Paul Bongiorno, Ten News, Senator. In saying that Labor is no longer honouring our agreement you have certainly given up on Labor. Although I must say that it seems to have substantiated your case that Labor has, in fact, reneged on its agreement with you. But let me go on from there to say that have you, therefore, lost any confidence that Labor under Julia Gillard could win the next election? The tenor of your speech is that Tony Abbott has it in the bag and you are preparing to sandbag him. Do you think that if Labor ditched Julia Gillard that it would, in fact, improve its chances?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, I'm not going to speculate on what the chances of the Labor Party might be or what they will do in terms of their leadership. That's for them to decide. But, certainly, in terms of the Greens what I've said is that I can read the public sentiment and the polls as well as anybody else and it seems apparent that the Australian community is saying that they will support an Abbott Government.

That is the fact of the matter. That is not what I think is the best thing for the country quite clearly. In fact, I think it would be a disaster for the country, but if that is what people do the Greens are absolutely essential as the bulwark in the Senate against the extremes of an Abbott Government.


SIMON GROSE: Simon Grose from Science Media. I've got a question about mining, movies and policy consistency. You're very opposed to the tax breaks provided to the mining industry. You're very in favour of the tax breaks to the movie industry. And you are very much for taxing super-profits - what you call super-profits of the mining industry, but you don't talk about the super-profits from the movie industry.

Consider the movie Australia. It came out in 2008 starring our Nicole and our Hugh. It was directed by our Baz and funded by Rupert. It cost 130 million. They got a producer's offset benefit of 50 million, so the taxpayers subsidised that movie to the extent of about 40 per cent. The figures I've pulled out, in the first year it grossed 211 million worldwide and the box office sold about $30 million worth of DVDs, so it made about 250 million in the first year.

And that's super-profits from an $80 million - that is three times what they spent. Why is it cool to not - to subsidise these rich people when they make these super-profits and to not to actually tax their super-profits?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, first of all, he might be your Rupert but he's certainly not mine. In terms of the mining - the film industry, I mentioned in my speech that I would love to see a major investment in the arts in Australia. I think it's a big gap in the public conversation that we're not talking about the indispensable nature of arts and culture to our way of life, but I can tell you about jobs.

If you go onto the set of one of these major films you find that up to 1000 people were involved in the making of Wolverine, for example, and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is expected to possibly employ 2000 people. When I went on to the set and talked to them these are people who are everything from architects, engineers, carpenters, set designers, 300 people in computer graphics and so on. What these industries are doing is creating a space in Australia for the arts and culture industry and in my own State of Tasmania I cannot tell you what a fantastic difference Mona has made to Tasmanian life and, indeed, the economy and the number of people coming to the State and the benefits are enormous.

So I think it is totally appropriate for a government to facilitate the industries of the future and create the job pathways for young people into the knowledge, information and service-based economy. But it is not appropriate to be subsidising with fossil fuel subsidies and subsidising the big miners to the destruction of the environment and the planet. It's as simple as that.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But do you accept that to some extent the major studios do try and game the system to go where they can get the biggest tax break?

CHRISTINE MILNE: They certainly do and most of them are overseas-owned. And in the case of Wolverine, for example, they were basically asked to price the film in four cities around the world and it was going to be the bottom line of which one of those governments came up with the cash as where they went and that is why the Greens support the 30 per cent tax offset for films, because I think it is great for our culture and our jobs and it's great for Australia in terms of showcasing who we are and what we do.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The next question is from Colin Brinsden.

COLIN BRINSDEN: Colin Brinsden AAP. Senator Milne, why did your party support the MRRT in the first place? Under Bob Brown it already had reservations and was there added other commodities like gold to the impost? Why didn't you just reject the MRRT like you did the CPRS when you saw that was inadequate?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, there is an absolutely fundamental difference. We supported the super-profits tax. We actually supported what Ken Henry and the Treasury wanted to do to raise serious dollars from mining industry profits. However, when the mining industry ran their $20 million advertising campaign which effectively bought the Parliament that's what happened. It bought the Parliament. It ended - it brought down a Prime Minister and it succeeded in having the miners write their own tax to the point where they got a tax they didn't have to pay and Prime Minister Gillard and Wayne Swan got an outcome of a negotiation which now has come home to bite them. We supported it because we think the mining industry should pay the tax and that was the best we could do at the time, but we moved amendments at the time recognising the flaws in the tax, including the one in relation to royalties. So it's not as if we haven't been there. And I can tell you myself that Bob Brown sat opposite Wayne Swan and I looked at him at that time and said: These are the flaws in this tax and they must be fixed. And he refused to fix them. And they refused to fix them because they said they had done the deal with the mining industry and they weren't at liberty to make any changes.

And that is the extent to which the mining industry owns the Parliament, for goodness sake. So that's why we supported it, because some dollars are better than no dollars, but we want it fixed so that we get a genuine return. In terms of the comparison with the carbon pollution reduction scheme the difference there is that something was not better than nothing. What that did was effectively cap the level of ambition with which you could reduce emissions.

And what we have now is far superior, because not only do we have a foundation which you can build on to increase the level of ambition, but we've got 10 billion into renewable energy. We've got energy efficiency. We've got the Carbon Farming Initiative, the Biodiversity Fund and the Climate Change Authority. The Climate Change Authority is a single great new institution in Australia and it is going to bring rigor and integrity to the debate on emissions. And the rather delicious thing which people may not have taken note of is that it's going to put out its discussion paper a month after the Federal election. Whoever wins is going to be campaigning in the context of the Climate Authority asking people and considering what is the level of emissions' reduction that Australia ought to bear as a fair share of our global burden?

LYNDAL CURTIS: The next question is from Sophie Morris.

SOPHIE MORRIS: Sophie Morris from The Australian Financial Review. Senator Milne, you've said that the Australian business community needs to get involved in the discussion and resist the repeal of the carbon tax. This echoes a call you made when you became leader for the business community to be more outspoken on these issues. Are you implying there - are you disappointed that there hasn't been a response to that rallying call that you put out to business to take a different view to some of the representative groups and are you implying that the business community in Australia has been coward? It is also owned by the mining industry as you said the Parliament is.

CHRISTINE MILNE: I'm certainly very disappointed. You're right on that score. I simply cannot understand why industries whose very existence and future business plan depend on emissions trading, depend on increasing levels of ambition, depend on leveraging private sector finance with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, why they would not stand up and say so. And when I've spoken to them the fact of the matter is they are afraid. They are afraid if they stand up that they will somehow lose access under a Coalition Government. And I say to them: The Coalition is already undermining confidence. It is already doing that. Can you imagine what it will do if it gets in? So it's time to stand up and that's really the challenge. The Greens can only do so much and we will stand as a bulwark against Tony Abbott. But it's really over to those businesses to determine whether they want this going on at all.

The fact that you had Andrew Robb write to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ask them to break the law ought to have been a rallying call for business in Australia. How outrageous is that? What does that say about business management? And yet it just passed by as if it was a reasonable thing to do. So, yes, I want the business community to stand up and I suggest that they are afraid to because they believe that the Coalition will be in government and they are frightened of access. And I think they think that if they keep their heads in the sand and go quiet it might not happen.


MARK KENNY: Senator Milne, Mark Kenny from The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. Yes, why do you believe that Julia Gillard erred by appearing with the Greens when she announced the decision to go to a carbon price? I would like your judgment about that. Do you accept that that was a tactical error by her and would you object to moving more quickly to an emissions trading scheme, as some have suggested that Kevin Rudd would do were he returned to the Labor leadership? And if I could just add one further question...

CHRISTINE MILNE: [Interrupts] Yep.

MARK KENNY: said some very negative things about the resources boom. Can I just sort of clarify that. Are you saying it is all bad? Is there anything good about the resources boom?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Okay. So just to answer some of those questions, on the resources boom, of course. The resources boom has created jobs in some parts of Australia, but it's also created the fly in, fly out culture which has led to many people in remote communities and isolated communities actually having to leave because they can no longer afford the rent.

So what I'm saying is it has created some benefit to the country, but what we should have done is captured that benefit with a sovereign wealth fund, for example, so that you can use - genuinely use the benefits of the boom to make the transition.

But what has happened is we have allowed those mining companies to break the social contract, if you like, or dominate the parliamentary and public discourse to the detriment of the community, and that has been the problem.

In terms of was it a mistake for the Prime Minister to stand with the Greens, not at all.

The problem was that I don't think the press gallery or the community either, for that matter, actually understands what a shared Parliament looks like or what minority government looks like. It's much more common in the states.

You would not see the same kind of comment being made if it happened in Tasmania, for example, where we've got two Greens in cabinet. You wouldn't see it in other parts of the country, but because it's the first time you've had a minority government scenario in the federal government in living memory, then you have that kind of outrage.

But it's entirely appropriate. We have a carbon price in Australia because of the Greens. Make no mistake. If it had been Liberal on its own or Labour on its own as a majority, we would not have acted on climate change. We would have no carbon price. We would not have set Australia up for the future, and I can tell you the history books are going to record this as a great thing Australia did, and the International Energy Agency has already said, "Congratulations to Australia. This is template legislation." And it's...

QUESTION: And just on the emissions trading scheme [indistinct].

CHRISTINE MILNE: Okay. On the emissions trading scheme, the reason that we went to a fixed price period going into flexible pricing is because Labour and the Greens could not agree on the level of ambition, the level of the cuts that you would need which is why we set up the Climate Change Authority, which is why they're required to report at the beginning of next year on the emissions budget, and then we can go to flexible trading.

You really can't go to flexible trading sooner than that because the budget is predicated on the compensation payments that are being made in - particularly in relation to the tax-free threshold.

So if you want to go earlier, there are going to be really significant budget ramifications. But you couldn't go earlier than the Climate Change Authority's capacity to recommend to the Parliament what the target should be.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The next question is from Katharine Murphy.

QUESTION: Senator Milne, Katharine Murphy from the Age. You've said in your - in this address today that you won't break your agreement, your written agreement, with Labour, but you've called upon the government to, in effect, break their written agreement with the mining industry, so just as a point of principle, why is it okay for the Labour party to break agreements with people but not the Greens?

In terms of a - you've also argued in this speech something quite significant, which is that business, in effect, has captured the Parliament, and that's, if true, diabolical for democracy. So I'll circle you back round to Lyndal's question. Then, shouldn't you push this mining tax issue to the nth degree? Isn't it a moral imperative and not something that you should stand behind a written agreement to prevent yourselves from having to do?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Okay. So just as I have said before, in relation to this mining tax, we will move to fix it. We will use our position in the Parliament to fix it, and the question that will answer your second question, to the extent to which the Parliament is already captured by the mining industry as to whether we can get a majority.

As to whether the Greens should stand by an agreement with the government and they shouldn't stand by an agreement with the mining industry, what is going on when a Prime Minister and a treasurer get in a back room with three mining companies and stitch up a deal and take it to the Parliament and say that the elected representatives of that country amend that deal because it is a private deal in a backroom with a treasurer and a Prime Minister and three mining companies, and even treasury have now said they didn't know what was stitched up in that room?

If ever there was answer to your last question which is the extent to which the Parliament is owned by the mining industry, that's it.

LYNDAL CURTIS: David Speers.

QUESTION: David Speers from Sky News. I just want to go to this issue of ending, effectively, the agreement with the government. How have they broken the deal? Is it by, as you suggest there, dudding or duping the Parliament on the details of the mining tax? I mean you did ultimately vote for it. Are you saying that you were duped about what it involved?

And more importantly, what does this now mean, ending the agreement? You've said supply in confidence will continue until the election. What does it mean in practice, though, if the agreement has ended? Does it affect meetings that you may or may not have with the Prime Minister, treasury costings in Greens' policies, and did you inform Julia Gillard of this?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Okay. So what does it - well, first of all, how have they broken the agreement?

As I said, there were four principles on which the agreement was based. There was the principle of transparent and open government. There was the principle of the national interest, and there was the principle of working together to address climate change. They were three that I'm referring to.

And in all cases, they've broken those. On transparency, we had to force them to release the figures on the mining tax. They would not do that without having been forced in the Parliament.

In terms of the public interest, they are not acting in the public interest in terms of the mining tax and are determined not to do so, but nor are they acting in the public interest when it comes to the Tarkine decision, when it comes to coal seam gas, when it comes to handing over environmental regulation to the states. They have unilaterally decided to act on their own against the public interest. And thirdly, on climate change, they are engaged in pushing a huge expansion in coal exports, coal seam gas, massive increase of greenhouse gases to atmosphere.

How can you say you are working together to address climate change when you are going to send offshore three times the level of Australia's emissions? That is clearly in breach.

In terms of the fact did I tell the Prime Minister just before I came to speak with you today, I spoke with the Prime Minister on the phone and let her know that I would be telling people today that the government had walked away from its agreement with the Greens, that the government had broken its agreement with the Greens.

So I felt I owed her the courtesy to do that. That is in a respectful relationship, but they have ended it. We haven't ended it. They have walked away, made that very clear in that context.

In terms of what it means, well, there's no point in having meetings if the meetings are only there to be told what the Labour party has already decided to do. I can read that in the paper or get it by letter.

What I would like, though, is to let everybody know and the Prime Minister included is that my door is open and so is the door of every one of my colleagues to negotiate on pieces of legislation.

As I indicated in this moving beyond that agreement period, we will work with the government, with the Parliament, with whoever we can to fix the mining tax, to deliver the money, to implement public education. We'll work for that, and my door is open to genuine negotiation.

But there is no point in trying to pretend that something is working when it's not. Let's just be upfront, and I think people are going to be actually really happy with that because the community are now clear. We've got a clear run to the election. There will be no antics that the Greens support from the - that the Coalition may perpetrate.

We offer confidence in supply because that's in our agreement, and we are not walking away from our signatures on that agreement, but we are acknowledging that Labour has walked away from our agreement. Well, so be it. But it's now a full-on election campaign from everyone, and it's really the Greens versus the rest in terms of the public interest.


QUESTION: Senator Milne, Steve Lewis from News Limited. Could I ask you a question about the Greens' election strategy, if you like.

A couple of weeks ago Graeme Wood announced that he would not be providing the - I think it was $1.6 million donation from 2010...

CHRISTINE MILNE: [Interrupts] Yep.

QUESTION: ...for this election campaign. Can you first of all confirm that is the case. Number 2, what sort of a hole is that likely to put in your election campaign, and further to that, can you just confirm that your plan at this stage, the party's plan, is to run candidates in each of the lower house seats in the federal campaign, and where do you think the Greens have a realistic chance of winning any further lower house seats [indistinct]?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Okay. Well, I heard the same interview. I haven't spoken with Graeme Wood personally, but, yes, I understand that he isn't going to offer us - and what a generous donation that was. And effectively, that donation helped the Greens to get a record vote last time and enabled us to deliver that groundbreaking legislation. So that's great.

And thanks for the opportunity for allowing me to fundraise at the Press Club.

It's certainly true that 1.6 million not flowing into the Greens' coffers means that we need to fundraise around the country, and so we are keen for people to work with us on fundraising. And anybody who would like to donate to us, within the rules, we'd be delighted to receive those - that funding, and, yes, we will be contesting every seat around the country and indeed putting up a very strong senate team around the country as well.

We will be focussing, of course, on the re-election of Adam Bandt in Melbourne, and what an exciting time that's going to be, and I'm pretty confident, as I said, that the people of Melbourne are going to return a strong Adam voice for Melbourne compared with what they would get with just a factional person from the Labour party, a backbencher.

So I'm pretty confident that's going to happen, and we'll be running strong lower house seats as campaigns around the country, but our predominant effort is going to be to return our sitting members and focus on the inner city seats around the country where we think we can improve our vote.


QUESTION: Senator, Ken Randall from Media Monitors. Could I just take you back to the - to an earlier question and ask what you think about this rather bizarre concept of after Julia Gillard announced here on 30 January that she intended to call an election on 14 September, that it was a caretaker period beginning then and that the opposition needed to be consulted about major appointments, major decisions, and as you pointed out earlier, even decisions of new statutory authorities? What's the Greens' position on all of those issues?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Okay. Well, it's total hogwash for the - it's just a simple answer to that. It's not a caretaker period. That is utter nonsense. We know when the election is. We know that the date that it is to be called and we go into a caretaker period at that time.

Up until then, it's normal government business, and I say again, it's utterly disgraceful, economically irresponsible, for the Coalition to be asking statutory authorities to break the law.

And people who when they tick the box in polls saying that they think the Coalition would be responsible economic managers need to think about what sort of economic managers would want to build 100 dams across the north, would want to send the CSIRO to Karratha, want to sent 20,000 public servants onto the streets and the rest to the north of Australia.

It is just madness. And as for their direct action on climate change, that is, you know, the joke of the century in terms of climate circles, so I think that it was the biggest try-on, and it relied on assuming that the community didn't actually get it, but they did, and it made the Coalition look pretty silly.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And I'll ask one final question I think to follow up something David Speers asked. Will you still look at getting policies costed by treasury?

The other question was given there is some internal criticism in the Labour party and from some of Labour's own base about its closeness to the Greens, do you think there will be some in the Labour party who don't mind at all if there's a bit of distance between the two parties?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, I've got no doubt that Paul Howes and others have been fully behind this walking away from the Greens and from the agreement.

They've been driving that for some time to the detriment of the public interest, and it's the old factional bosses, and it's the old deals that have been done in backrooms. Well, over to them.

But I think the community is really pleased that the Greens have stood by our agreement throughout and will continue to offer our confidence in supply, and frankly, Labour's internal fights would exhaust you if you even tried to absorb half the horror that goes on there, so I just ignore that and just see it for what it is.

It is a party riven with internal dissention, and we're not going to allow their - all their fights - internal fights - to distract us from getting on with delivering good outcomes for people and caring for the environment of Australia as people want.

LYNDAL CURTIS: That's where we'll have to leave it. Could you please all thank Senator Christine Milne.

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