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The People's Forum - blogging live

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GreensMPs 21 Oct 2007

The audience is now arriving for the People's Forum, being handed the equipment for 'the worm' as they come in. Looks like it'll be a great turnout!
Thanks to all for the questions from the previous thread. We should get at least a couple of them asked tonight.
More soon...

6.05 pm
We're at capacity - around 300 people here.
Just found out that our technology may now allow us to stream parts of the evening live. Keep your eye on the website to hopefully see Bob's speech live.

6.10 pm

The panellists and senators have arrived. Audience now all seated. Thanks for the questions, folks, and I hope the moderators has time for as many of them as possible.

6.15 pm
Our moderator, Judy Tierney, former ABC journalist from Tasmania, opens proceedings. She's talking about balance of power - the likelihood of Greens holding 5 or 6 seats after the election and the mathematical unlikelihood that the ALP could control the Senate. Recalls Brian Harradine's time as a Tasmanian Senator holding the balance of power.
Judy introduces the panel of press gallery journalists - Maria Hawthorn from AAP, Chris Johnson from the West Australian, and Patricia Karvelas from the Australian.
Judy is now talking the audience through how to use 'the worm'.

6.20 pm
We're now streaming live!

6.20 pm
Bob takes the podium.
15-20% of the Australian people aren't invited to the official debate, because it is only Labor and Liberals invited.
If we do this again, if there is another debate, we will invite the other parties. This time only had the time to invite any guests.
Bob challenges the Government and Opposition to support major action on climate change, health and education instead of tax cuts. Tax cuts are about who will be in government after November 24. The Greens are looking at who will govern for our grandkids now.
Bob highlights a few elements of Greens policy - renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transport, stopping Gunns' pulp mill, proportional representation in the lower house.
Bob discusses the Greens' tax policy. We support raising the low income tax offset, but we don't believe in flat taxes. We don't believe that people on $37,000 should pay the same tax rate as those on $179,000.

6.25 pm
Bob introduces Christine Milne to talk about climate change and oil depletion.
Christine sets out Greens policy:
- moving forward with Kyoto, looking at a strong, binding framework after 2012.
- setting targets of at least 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Short term targets are vital to avoid 2C of warming. And they make it clear that nuclear and 'oxymoron' coal are not viable solutions.
- renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Bob introduces Kerry Nettle to talk about education. Kerry sets out that we need a multi-billion dollar investment in education to make sure that all Australians have the same opportunities for education.
Kerry raises the Greens policy to abolish HECS. This could be done for $2.5 billion a year. Which is best? Abolishing HECS or tax cuts?
Bob introduces Rachel Siewert.
Rachel talks about Australia's short-sighted attitude to water. According to respected scientists, without even taking climate change into account, we may not come out of this drought until 2014. When we factor in climate change, it is even worse. We cannot keep going with business as usual here, like the major parties are talking about.
We need to start buying back water allocations now, we need to install rainwater tanks and water efficient appliances. Building dams is not going to work if it won't rain.

6.35 pm
Patricia Karvelas asks:
'You have described the Greens as the 3rd force, and with the death of the democrats, this looks right. You have also been described as extremely left wing. Is it time for the Greens to move to the centre?'
Bob answers - 'left to me means compassionate. We Greens are long-sighted and compassionate. We are progressive. The extremists are those cuddling up to the exclusive brethren. As far as widening out goes, we are doing that. We offer a clear, whole, thought-out policy platform. Getting that platform out is the real challenge.'
Bob offers 'the most responsible, contructive opposition this parliament has ever had.'
Chris Johnson asks:
'A staff member of Senator Siewert's was arrested earlier this year at a protest. Does the issue around this mean that the party is still extreme?'
Bob notes that the protest did involve violence and the Greens oppose violence. Senator Siewert dealt with the issue maturely. Bob also notes that we are a broad party, with many elements.
Maria Hawthorn asks:
'Lyn Allison predicted that if the Greens achieve balance of power there would be a double dissolution very soon. How do you respond to that?'
Bob outlines the Greens' history in balance of power in Tasmania, WA, NSW and elsewhere. The Greens act responsibly in balance of power and will always do so.
Bob also notes that the Greens in balance of power could not block anything. It takes 2 parties to block in balance of power.
[Ed noting that the audience is very friendly...]
Patricia asks whether it is appropriate to personalise the debate in such a way as Bob has been doing with Peter Garrett recently.
Bob responds that his passion for the forests, the Tamar Valley, etc, mean that Peter Garrett's attitude is 'stretching the friendship'. He says he will have a good working relationship with Peter.
Chris Johnson asks about the potential to merge with the Democrats.
Bob says he would consider the option. He notes that the parties discussed it in 1991. Janet Powell as leader was looking at it, but when she was replaced, the moves stopped and the door was shut. Bob looks forward to a good working relationship with any other cross-benchers, but the path to a merger needs to come from them now.
Maria Hawthorn asks on climate change and Kyoto - what would be the immediate effect of a Labor Government ratifying Kyoto?
Bob responds that Australia would almost immediately become part of global negotiations at Bali in December. We would very soon become part of the global trading mechanisms under Kyoto. It is costing us tremendously not to be part of that.
Patricia asks whether the 'me-too-ism' at this election is helping the Greens?
Bob responds that he doesn't 'know', but that the feeling he gets while campaigning is that it is the case. People around Australia are saying that they expected more from Kevin Rudd.
But he notes that there is a fundamental problem for the Greens that most people don't realise that a preferential system allows people to get double value voting.
Chris Johnson asks about the drugs policy.
Bob says that Family First's attack on the Greens, accusing us of wanting to give drugs to kids, is an extreme tight-wing christian party breaking the ninth commandment and telling lies. We Greens want to see drug addiction treated as a medical problem - harm minimisation - and this is essentially the same attitude as the major parties'. The Greens' policy is the best, because it was written by the professionals.
Maria Hawthorn asks about the Greens' chances in QLD, and what are Pauline Hanson's chances?
Bob responds that he doesn't believe Pauline will make it in because she won't get the preferences. He suspects that Larissa Waters, the Greens candidate, has a better chance than Pauline.
Patricia asks whether the Greens have successfully recast themselves as a broader party?
Bob responds briefly that we are a broader party. We have an ecological basis, but we work across all the issues. He notes work choices as an example.

6.54 pm
Judy Tierney closes the journalist panel segment and opens the audience questions segment.
Q: Mr Howard consistently attacks EU emissions trading system. How do the greens see that?
A: Bob and Christine respond that the EU system made the mistake of issuing too many permits on the basis of industry deliberately inflating their emissions. The key lesson is that we must monitor this very closely.
Q: Do you think that PM Howard's tax cuts have been instrumental in his popularity?
A: Yes, the $100 billion over ten years have had a huge impact. Of course, they have made Australia a more divided community.
Bob notes that all the talkback and opinion polls show that people would prefer the money going to services - hospitals, climate change, etc.
Q: Housing affordability is at its lowest. What will the Greens do about it?
A: Bob and Rachel. We need to be very sure that, in a climate-changed world, we make sure we retrofit every house in Australia becomes as energy efficient as possible.
There is no simple answer to housing affordability, but the Greens are calling for a national strategy with a Minister in charge, spending money on public housing, etc.
Q: Great fallacy of PM's that you can have responsible government with unrestricted economic growth. Created a culture of consumerism in Australia, with the dominant value being how much I get. How do you turn around that cultural system that he has entrenched, and that responsible government requires sustainable growth?
A: This question goes right to the heart of everything. The major parties are ignoring it, while the Greens say that we need to deal with it or the planet gets it. Greens believe that government and the market should balance each other, with government holding the upper hand. However, both major parties see the market as supreme and are too close to the big end of town.
How do you turn it around? First step is vote for the Greens and help us use the power of Parliament to work for the good of all people.
Q: Both parties have come out saying they will pump billions of dollars even though they are fiscal conservatives. Can you line up people to say that the Greens are the real fiscal conservatives?
A: Bob notes a column in the Age by Kenneth Davidson earlier in the week saying just that, and he expects more throughout the campaign. We need money for infrastructure, not get the major parties re-elected.
Q: What is the focus on the surplus? Why aren't we investing in the future with that money?
A: Massive coal exports will overheat more than the economy. The idea of a surplus is a political configuration, a fad. We are in boom times and we need to squirrel things away for leaner times? That's about investing in the future with things like public transport, etc.
Q: Opposition to work choices. If a Rudd Govt were elected, would the greens push for more reforms than the ALP are suggesting?
A: Bob notes the efforts of Senator Siewert and ACT candidate Kerry Tucker on this. He says that we want back the right of workers to collectively bargain, and we have very clearly outlined our policies on this. The Greens want to go much further and propose more amendments. The job of the Greens would be to negotiate with a new government to get those amendments through, and Bob believes we will make a difference.
Q from the web: Would it be preferable to compromise on a position of principle or force a double dissolution.
A: The Greens will not compromise on principle, but have to face the fact that we will not be in government.
Q from the web: Why weren't the other parties invited?
A: It is simply a matter of time. We didn't have the capability - were stretched enough to get this off the ground. If there is another opportunity, we will do so.
Q: What is the Greens' position on terrorism?
A: We need a Marshall Plan for the world, not more wars and arms sales. Supplying people with food and water will do more to reduce the root causes of terrorism.
We also need a Bill of Rights to stop people using fear to take away people's rights.
Q from the web: Do the Greens have a policy to help document indigenous languages that are dying out?
A: yes!
Q: Given that this election is being fought on Greens issues, why is the vote not increasing?
A: A major issue is the fact that the media is ignoring us because they are fixated on the two party system. We can't dictate fair coverage, but we work on it. We are also doing everything we can to get out and meet people.

7.15 pm
Judy Tierney closes this section and invites people to take light refreshments and return with their worms for the main debate.

Bugger. Just been told the technology hasn't been working and nothing is up yet. Grrrr. Am just posting to YouTube.

7.30 pm
We are now starting to stream the debate to our audience, who are linked up with the worm! One cheeky audience member asks "where's the BS button?"
Our worm heads north with talk of child care and 'new direction'. Big spike on abolishing work choices and ratifying Kyoto, and exit strategy from Iraq.
Much hilarity at Mr Rudd almost saying "Mr Coward"!
I missed most of Mr Howard's opening address, because there was so much laughter in the room, whether at the PM's "My fellow Australians" or at watching the worm plunge southwards!
Some wag calls out "Mr Howard your time is up, when David Speers calls time."
What a forced smile from Peter Costello in that shot!
The worm turns north with Rudd's talk of 'realism' and global context. Some of what Mr Rudd is saying here is similar to what we've heard in our forum - investing in the future. But where are the policies to back that up for real?

NB: First section of the forum is here.
Our worm plunges to rock bottom at PM's spruiking of Alexander Downer! Obviously a big negative for them amongst our demographic.
FINALLY Rudd takes on Howard on his record as Treasurer! YES!
Oops. He shouldn't have mentioned that he speaks Chinese. That wasn't popular here...
PM says hasn't found too many unions voting Liberal, and several voices here call out "CFMEU in Tasmania"!
Is Howard sweating??? He's not looking comfortable. And that was before Speers' very very strong question on apologising to home buyers!
Paul Kelly going for the jugular on interest rates and tax cuts. Well well well. Catcall from our audience, though, of "how about climate change". Wonder when (if?) we'll have a strong question on climate change...
LOL. When Howard says "very high wage increases in the mining industry", a wag here calls out "and nowhere else".

Parts 2 and 3 of the forum now available on YouTube.
Howard's grumpiness with Rudd is going down very very badly here.
Interesting that Rudd isn't lifting the worm above the middle point here now. Was doing better before. Ahhh, talking Hawke and Keating has lifted it.
LOL: Howard says "we now have fewer strikes in Australia than ever before" and gets the rejoinder here of "coz they're illegal". Nice.
Applause here for Laurie's question reminding Howard he assured Australians that there were no plans for IR reform before the last election.

First section of audience questions now up here.
Applause for Peter Hartcher's question on climate! Thanks, Peter! And a great question on short term targets.
Hmmm. Pity that the answer is so weak. Of course...
Oh dear, he doesn't even know what the Kyoto target is. That looks very bad.
Calling for stabilising at 450-490 ppm. Firstly, that's too weak. Secondly, his plan won't get there.
Fascinating that Paul Kelly is arguing strongly for short term targets. I wasn't expecting that one at all!
Well, our worm has plunged as soon as Howard started talking about climate change. And it wasn't that high for Rudd.
Oooooh. A new announcement on climate from Howard!
After 2011. Fabbo.
But it is a good policy - something we've been calling for for a very long time.
Second question from Hartcher on climate. And on binding targets! Great hilarity in our audience at Howard's answer.
Whoops. Rudd was doing so well with our worm on climate and responsibility, then he stuffed it with 'clean coal'. Leapt up again with renewables... Right on point with 'don't believe him coz he hasn't done anything on it for 11 years.'
Great applause for Chris Uhlmann's question on terrorism.

Audience question part 2 up now. And Part 3.

Ah, Howard raises the "m" word. Muslim. How will that play?
Was that a nervous tic from the PM? Terrible look.
Rudd talking economic opportunities to reduce recruitment for terrorism. We had that discussed here earlier. I'd like to see the policies to do that. Is he going to increase Australia's OS Aid???
Very interesting line from Howard on Rudd's Iraq position. That's stopped the worm in its downward trajectory here. By far the best reaction Howard has had in this room all night. Whoops. He's lost it.

Senators' statements at the beginning of the forum now up.
Well, that's cleared it up. Thanks to Chris Uhlmann, we know that Mr Rudd doesn't really believe in anything. Nothing to see here. Our worm is approaching the centre...
Does Mr Howard look more confident on indigenous affairs than he has on pretty much anything else tonight? Fascinating. But the worm in this room has hit rock bottom. But according to LP's chatroom, the Channel 9 worm reacted well to Howard there.
Applause and a worm boost for Rudd on climate change in our room. How interesting that Howard chose to introduce the issue. Who advised him to do that? Sack the adviser! Without any redundancy payout ;-)
Ah, here we go. Mr Howard calling on Rudd to commit to reducing petrol prices. Family First environmentally destructive populism coming up. Will we see that in the coming weeks in Government policy? We'll have a field day, if it comes out.
Now for Rudd's response.
Ahh. That's the other one. All about collusion, now, is it?
Will someone mention peak oil??? Come on! Nothing will reduce the price of petrol until we massively reduce demand.
Howard talking about education, saying he wants to "bring back..." and a certain nameless senator says "the lash"!

9.05 pm Bob's closing remarks.
Rudd won the debate, quite obviously, but what is the country getting out of that? Where was the commitment to acting on climate change and peak oil? Where was the commitment to hospitals and the Murray Darling Basin? No mention of the Pulp Mill, no mention of pensioners or carers.
Both these parties have squandered more than $30 billion that should have gone to nation building.
Bob notes that the biggest drop Kevin Rudd suffered in our room all night was when he talked about 'clean coal'. Labor doesn't get it.
The Greens offer a "less tax cuts, more nation building option to the people of Australia."

9.10 pm
I'm buggered. Going home. Thanks for the lovely comments, guys.

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