Subjects: National Commission against Corruption, Tasmanian Greens State Conference, Tarkine, supertrawler, environmental protection, Tony Abbott, Tasmanian Liberals State Conference
JOURNALIST: The anti-corruption watchdog you're pushing for, how much power would you like to see such a body have?
CHRISTINE MILNE: All the concerns earlier this year about Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper could have been dealt with if we had had an integrity commissioner at the federal level overseeing not just parliamentary entitlements, but in a broader context an anti-corruption commissioner looks over the public service as well. We've been campaigning for this for years, we've got legislation in the Parliament to do it, and now there's very clear indication of the Reserve Bank and the connections with its subsidiary show that we need not just a judicial inquiry into that one event, but actually we need to put in place a systemic framework that protects the public interest.
JOURNALIST: What makes you think you can win support for this idea?
CHRISTINE MILNE: It's very difficult to see how the Prime Minister or the leader of the Opposition can say Australia doesn't need an anti-corruption body when you look at what's happened with the Reserve Bank and its subsidiary, Securency.
We've got a global treaty against corruption and yet here we have millions of dollars being paid in bribes, contrary to that whole idea of anti-corruption and anti-bribery.
So we need this, we need it to help parliamentarians in terms of overseeing their entitlements; we also need it to oversee government agencies. We don't have that. We have it for the federal police but we don't have it for the federal public service or the federal parliament. We need it.
JOURNALIST: Could it send people to jail?
CHRISTINE MILNE: What it could do is refer people to the appropriate authorities. So what it would actually have the power to do is call for papers and people to give evidence and so on and then a decision would be made as to what further action needs to be taken in terms of referrals.
So on the one hand you've got the ombudsman looking at maladministration if you like, this would be looking at fraud and corruption, and then people would be referred in the appropriate way.
JOURNALIST: You said in there corruption is costing developing countries billions of dollars, have you an Australian example?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Corruption and bribery is costing developing countries trillions of dollars, trillions of dollars. We've just seen it in relation to loopholes in Papua New Guinea, and what's happening there with the forestry industry in particular. We've seen it in Africa with mining companies and with gas licences and the like. We are now going to see it no doubt as we look at the reduced emissions from deforestation and so on, you're going to find the same thing. We need to crack down on it, and Australia has to stop turning a blind eye to facilitation fees. I think the AWB scandal and now the Reserve Bank scandal clearly says to Australians, there is no difference between a facilitation fee and a bribe, the only difference is the quantum of cash that changes hands. We need to get integrity back into the system, and that's why we need a national anti-corruption body and an integrity commissioner.
JOURNALIST: This is the first time you've addressed the state conference as leader, bit of a different feeling up there?
CHRISTINE MILNE: I'm really excited about how the Tasmanian Greens are going, we've got a whole lot of young people joining the party, there's a huge amount of commitment, and really keen to see the Party grow and continue to elect more people in Tasmania, and over time we are making a massive difference.
JOURNALIST: Will there be talk inside about the way the campaign should be run in the lead up to the next election?
CHRISTINE MILNE: In the next 12 months you're going to see the lead up to the federal election and then the state election not long after. There will be a big campaign from the old parties to try and say majority government is everything, just vote for a majority. That's like saying take us back to our comfort zones, don't try to actually address the problems that we need to address. All the dynamism that comes from Government at the federal level, whether it's been in the clean energy package in dealing with global warming, to here in Tasmania, the dynamism coming out of having Greens in the Ministry, all being driven by the Greens. No ideas coming from the old parties.
JOURNALIST: What happens after the speeches at the State Conference?
CHRISTINE MILNE: The State Conference will be looking at a number of campaigns. One of those campaigns will be looking at the Tarkine. We have been campaigning for a very long time to have the Tarkine National Park. We are making clear signals to the Federal Minister that we do not want to see death by a thousand cuts for the Tarkine particularly when it comes to mining. We're very disappointed with Minister Burke having already given approval. What we want him to do is to see the Tarkine as a whole. There is an opportunity coming out of the inter-governmental agreement on forests to protect the forests in the Tarkine, but we actually need to protect the integrity of it, as devil habitat, because it's got fantastic heritage, particularly indigenous heritage.
JOURNALIST: Is it the members' choice to not allow the media in before and after the speeches?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes, the members of the party are always asked whether they would be happy to have the media in the conference or not, and frequently they say no, they want to be able to address things in a relaxed way because they don't feel that they can do that with the media there. We elected representatives are used to it. Membership of political parties makes it people feel a bit nervous if the media are around.
JOURNALIST: Are you happy with that?
CHRISTINE MILNE: I'd like to see conferences open, I think it would be a good idea, but I respect the views of members.
JOURNALIST: Was a vote taken before the speech was given?
CHRISTINE MILNE: There's always a vote on media access at conferences both state and federal
JOURNALIST: Today's conference, there's also one up the road in Launceston, Tony Abbott gave a speech there, no major announcements, what he didn't rule out was supporting a per capita, distributing the GST on a per capita basis, he's saying that he's waiting for the review to come out, is that a cop out?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Tony Abbott is copping out all over the place at the moment. Even if the review on the GST funding was out, there's no guarantee he'd actually read it before he decided that the whole problem was associated with the carbon price.
The fact of the matter is he's losing credibility by the minute. He needed to come to Tasmania and tell Tasmanians that he would not see an appropriate thing to distribute the GST money on a per capita basis. That's the answer Tasmanians want and he's ducking that question.
No doubt he will also duck the question on the supertrawler. He has the Liberals in Tasmania saying they don't want it, and the Liberals in Canberra totally supporting it. There was Eric Abetz and Senator Colbeck this week totally supporting the supertrawler. So where does Tony Abbott stand on this? He wants to get rid of environmental protections, not actually look at proper assessment of what is appropriate in terms of local depletion.
JOURNALIST: Are you surprised that he's stepping back from it and basically letting The state Liberals have to deal with the issue (inaudible).
CHRISTINE MILNE: All around Australia people are concerned about what is going to happen with GST funding. The States of course are particularly vulnerable to any decisions that are made, and Tasmania perhaps more so than any other. Tony Abbott's threat to Tasmania that he's going to distribute GST income on a per capita basis is a straight attack on the Tasmanian budget and the ability of the Tasmanian government to deliver services. He needed to come to Tasmania today and be truthful with people, tell them straight what it is he intends to do. He hasn't done that, and as he leaves people are going to have a great big question mark on his back, because he says that you can't actually take what he says as fact, he has to write it down. Now we know that he doesn't read reports that are put in front of him, what we are increasingly seeing he is the master of a fear campaigns, of the one liner, but when it comes to the detail, people ought to be very concerned.
JOURNALIST: From reading what's gone on there, he did say that he's putting together a working group of Tasmanian Liberal senators to find out ways to grow the economy. Is he a bit late for the game there?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Tony Abbott is very late to the game on anything about economic policy. His whole strategy was try to achieve an early federal election by trying to get rid of addressing global warming, and the whole carbon pricing regime. He has failed. That's why I said from the first of July, every day after that is a day closer to Tony Abbott not leading the Liberals into the next election. They have to change their policies, they've got a $70 billion black hole, where are they going to get the money to pay the polluters - which is their policy, rather than having the polluters pay. So every day his credibility is going out the window. Every day is a challenge to him to put some detail behind his policy framework.
JOURNALIST does it concern you that the federal liberal party debating on penalties for people who protest (inaudible) stopping work?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, Tony Abbott has said that he's going to get rid of virtually all Commonwealth powers in relation to environmental protection and devolve them to states. In the next breath they're there supporting much larger penalties for people who protest, and we've already seen through Campbell Newman and through what's happening in New South Wales, the shooting in national parks, in Victoria trying to push for alpine grazing, in Western Australia a failure to look at the impact on whales in the Kimberley and the Browse gas development, look at that and see Tony Abbott. Whenever you see a state premier tearing away environmental protection, you see Tony Abbott. So it is a very big problem.
JOURNALIST: Can Government up penalties for people who are protesting?
CHRISTINE MILNE: The extra ordinary thing about the Liberal party, they're so bereft of ideas, they're recycling an idea that Ray Groom had in the early '90s. He thought it would be a great idea if he made these really draconian forest laws and Labor couldn't wait to support him in doing it. The only problem was that they then had to repeal them, because they infringed national laws because they made the policies so ridiculous here that the loggers in the other States complained that they were being disadvantaged by how badly Tasmania had behaved. So all they're doing is recycling an idea that failed last time and it'll fail this time.