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Christine Milne & Adam Bandt press conference - Labor leadership spill

Christine Milne 21 Mar 2013

Subjects: Labor leadership spill, Tony Abbott, media reforms

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well what a complete shambles we have seen today as the backroom boys in the Labor Party have managed to give Tony Abbott the biggest leg-up that he could have ever wished for. And they also did it on a day when the whole country was looking to this national parliament with the national apology to people who were impacted by forced adoption. We had a really dignified morning in the Great Hall today. People had travelled from all over the country and this was a highly significant moment in our political history and for the Labor backroom boys to pull on some of the shambles of the stunts they pulled on today just really demonstrates that it is the Greens who are the only party now who are united and committed to taking it up to Tony Abbott. I am sure that there are progressive voters right across the country tonight who are sitting in front of their televisions and thinking what on earth are they doing? How can they be jeopardising for example funding of public education across the country with the Gonski reforms, how can they be thinking of themselves and not actually getting on with it? There will be people sitting at home who are waiting for this year's budget expecting that there would be an increase in Newstart as we've been campaigning for and instead they are thinking all that will be lost if the Labor Party keeps focusing on itself, absolutely imploding, self-destructing and jeopardising the progressive reforms. In the last couple of days we've had whistleblower legislation finally come in, we have also got finally legislation to set up the asbestos agency to oversee the strategic plan, all of these things people have been campaigning for for a long time and the selfish backroom boys were going to jeopardise a whole lot of progressive reform.

Well the Greens are not going to see these progressive jeopardised, we are not going to put the one trick pony at the middle of the circus and that is Tony Abbott. What we are going to do is stick with delivering these reforms and call on progressive voters around the country to get behind the Greens because we are united, we are strong, we are ready to take it up to them and frankly we have got the resolve to do it.

QUESTION: Senator Milne, after today how can you convince the Australian public that the minority government has not failed and that it is capable of providing stable government?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well the minority government hasn't failed, Labor has failed, let me put that very strongly.  The Parliament has worked very well in delivering some fantastic reforms, it failed this morning in relation to media reform, that's true and that's down to Andrew Wilkie in particular and it's down to the fact that Rupert Murdoch had a big win over the Parliament with the decision of Andrew Wilkie not to support the reforms and that has meant they have not passed. But overwhelming minority government, shared power, has delivered a range of really positive outcomes. We've delivered the National Disability Insurance Scheme, more particularly we've delivered the clean energy package. There have been a lot of solid reforms. The people letting down the side in terms of a shared balance of power is in fact the backroom and factional politics of the Labor Party. No one can believe just how badly they are handling things within the party and people are going to be saying you are jeopardising so many good things for this country, just stop it.

JOURNALIST: Should they just go to an election now given all these events today, do you support a no-confidence motion?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Why would I want to put Tony Abbott into this Parliament and we don't have a fair funding model for Gonski for example, why would I want to put him there and see Newstart recipients not receive more money? Why would I want to advance Tony Abbott's cause when we don't have protection for whistleblowers, when we need the asbestos agency to be set up, we have been working for so many reforms, the Government has dragged its feet but we want these reforms through this Parliament, before the election and we are going to work to deliver them. I can't tell you right across the country everywhere I go people say when are we going to get the Gonski funding model through? We are desperate, we have been waiting for reform of public education funding for so long, when are we going to get it? Well I'm going to deliver it. I am not going to put Tony Abbott into the Parliament in order to prevent public school students across the country getting some more money. That would be wrong.

JOURNALIST: So you would still guarantee confidence and supply?

CHRISTINE MILNE: What we are going to do is put our shoulders to the wheel and encourage every other progressive voter around the country to get behind the Greens and deliver in the rest of this Parliament the progressive reforms that we know the country needs and that people want. That's what we're going to do, were not going to give a single moment of comfort to Tony Abbott. What we are going to do is deliver these reforms and we are calling on the Labor party, the backroom boys, for goodness sake get out of the way and let this Parliament deliver the good things that the country wants.

JOURNALIST: If you don't have faith in Labor why should the public?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I think what we've got around the country is a lot of people who are waiting for these reforms. You know, Labor got into power in 2007 and said they were going to address the inequitable funding model for education. Right now at the last gasp of this Parliament we still have an opportunity to deliver it and I intend to be part of delivering that. We have delivered on addressing climate change, we've brought $10 billion into renewable energy and that starts to roll out the door on 1 July. Do I want to jeopardise billions going into renewable energy? No I don't. Do I want to maintain the renewable energy target? Absolutely. I don't want to bring the wind industry to its knees, so this is actually about the ramifications of what happens if you race to put Tony Abbott into the Lodge, that's not what the Greens are going to do, we are going to  actually harness the support of progressive voters around the country to get these reforms through.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the election should still be September 14?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I am working towards a September 14 deadline, my particular focus is this budget. Because I want to see in this budget the money to put $50 a week into the pockets of those on Newstart. In this year's budget I want to see Labor deliver on Gonski. We have to actually move forward on these reforms, that is exactly what we said we would do and I want that delivered, that is my focus.

JOURNALIST: Julia Gillard said she can move on after her victory in the caucus today, do you believe her?

CHRISTINE MILNE: It's up to the Labor Party as to whether they can get their act together and get behind the leadership team that they have chosen. That's an internal matter for them, I just think that Labor actually ought to apologise today to all of the people who came to the Parliament, or who were watching around the country, for the apology to the forced adoptions, to the people impacted by forced adoptions. I have to say it was incredibly moving this morning, it was a day in which the whole Parliament should be proud and in fact people were proud as they sat and watched that and I think the backroom boys should be apologising to people who travelled a long way for whom this day meant a great deal and have now had it overshadowed and undermined by the games that Labor has played in the back rooms. It's unacceptable, progressive voters don't like it, don't want it, they will be really relieved that there is still a government in place that can deliver reform and I am saying that the Greens are here to absolutely deliver that reform.

JOURNALIST: Senator Milne, with respect though, you do have one vote on the crossbench, it now appears that disenchantment is growing on the crossbench. Are you worried that before the election that this government could collapse?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I think the crossbench vote today was on a suspension of standing orders rather than on a substantive motion. I think there is very clearly an opportunity for the rest of the crossbench to reflect on their own position. Where the Greens are coming from is to say we won't advance Tony Abbott one iota. We want to see the reforms that have long been promised actually come to pass. I worked with Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor and of course my colleague Adam Bandt to deliver $10 billion into renewable energy. We worked very hard to achieve those outcomes and I don't believe the other crossbenchers want to jeopardise any of that. But that's up to them, From the Greens' point of view we are saying to all those progressive voters around the country who are thinking tonight what would we lose if Tony Abbott were to get into the Lodge tomorrow, we're saying to those people get behind the Greens now because we intend to deliver. We want to work with the Government to actually get money into public schools, to get money into the pockets of people on Newstart, to make sure that the marine parks are delivered. There are so many things waiting to go through in the next couple of months and we want to shepherd them through.

QUESTION: Just on that, can you can you tell us why the Greens did vote to support to suspend standing orders?

ADAM BANDT: Generally in the Parliament we haven't given Tony Abbott any support in his political stunts. There are routine suspensions moved by Tony Abbott, and they had a couple of people out of the Chamber because there were paired. They were never going to get this motion up, it was a stunt and we're not going to do anything to advance Tony Abbott's cause, that's not why I'm in Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Christine can I just ask how you would sum up some of the events of we've seen this afternoon?

CHRISTINE MILNE: The events of today have been a complete shambles. In political history I've never known a day like it, I don't think many people who have covered politics or been involved in politics for a long time will have seen such a day. And that is really a reflection of the mess that the Labor Party is in in terms of its factional backrooms, the egomaniacs in the party who are trying to position themselves rather than thinking about what's good for the country. You only have to step back one step and go into schools and talk to teachers, go into communities and talk to people on Newstart, go there and talk to the campaigners who have been working on the marine parks around the country, and they're all saying how can these people jeopardise those reforms that we have all worked so hard to achieve. What do they think they are doing? And I hope that all those progressive voters will be getting onto those Labor Party backroom boys and say stop it, it's really time that you got down and actually delivered these reforms and I think today people will be looking at the Greens are saying at least the Greens are united, they are out there forcefully campaigning for these reforms and I am urging people to get behind us because we intend to deliver.

JOURNALIST: The progressive voters being hurt by events like today's, this is going to, if the polls are correct inevitably will have a Tony Abbott government come the next election, are you going to work with the Government to try and get good environmental results, positive results?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Look I work with whatever government of whatever persuasion is in power at the time to get good outcomes, that's our responsibility, we try to advance the Greens, get as many  Greens elected as possible and work with them. In the Tasmanian experience I was in balance of power with both a Labor minority government and Liberal minority government. With the Labor minority government I doubled the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area. With the Liberal minority government, we achieved gay law reform, gun law reform, the apology to the Stolen Generation. If there is a majority government we will use our position in the Senate to negotiate and it's absolutely critical that the Greens maintain the balance of power in the Senate. So that we can stand up and actually stop an Abbott government repealing the wonderful reform, particularly the clean energy package, it would be a disaster in addressing climate change in actually the way we are now progressing the transformation to the clean energy economy, it would be an absolute disaster if Tony Abbott managed to get a majority in both houses and be able to take us back to the past. We're about the future, we're about the new jobs, the new economy and we will be standing there in the Senate doing that and that's why I think people will recognise that the Greens in the Senate are an absolutely essential component to our democracy and Adam's work in the seat of Melbourne is widely recognised as having been the component that enabled us in this election to get so many outcomes after 2010. So I think our record stands for itself and progressive voters will be looking to Adam in the House of Reps and the Greens in the Senate to hold the line.

JOURNALIST: You're saying in your own words essentially that it's better to have a government that is in complete shambles with backroom people making deals who are egomaniacs, that kind of government is better than having an Abbott government?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I'm saying there are people in the Labor Party who are behaving very badly and creating a shambles and that they need to take a good look at themselves and it's going to be up to the Labor Party to pull those people into line. Because what I am saying is it is better to have a Government delivering reform than to put Tony Abbott in the Lodge and undermine reform. A Tony Abbott in the Lodge means no progressive reform, no money going into public schools, it means maintaining the unfair funding to schools that has gone for years. It also means we lose the whole progress on clean energy. Now that is not something that is not good for the country.

JOURNALIST: Could you talk to a Tony Abbott government? Could you have talked to Tony Abbott?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I talk to everyone. The role of people in a parliament is to talk to one another, to try to advance reform. And we do that all of the time. However I don't believe an Abbott government is a good thing for Australia because I want a progressive government, I want to see reforms rolled out in education, in progressive clean renewable energy, I want to see fairness in terms of increasing Newstart, in restoring money to single parents, they're the things I want to see happen and you're not going to get that with an Abbott Government. We didn't work hard to deliver Denticare to see it undermined, all of these things are major steps forward and we want to actually build on them.

JOURNALIST: There are differences obviously between an Abbott government and the current government in terms of policy; do you think an Abbott government would be as shambolic as the current one?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well if the Abbott opposition on climate change is any indication of what they will be like in government then they are totally shambolic, that you only have to look at Joe hockey and Tony Abbott contradicting one another, Greg Hunt and Tony Abbott contradicting one another, they don't have a policy position, they've got a series of slogans, not a single costed policy out there, waiving around a booklet in which there is not a PBO costing; waving around a two-year white paper process because they don't have a policy, that's just on one particular area. They are a shambles and they have been able to get away with it on a policy front because the Labor Party backroom boys have made it easy for them. The focus now should be for the Government to get some discipline so that the focus can go on to just what a policy mess and disaster an Abbott government would be.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of policy messes and disasters, Mr Bandt could you tell us what happened in the last 24-48 hours with the media reforms because it looks pretty shambolic from the outside, can you tell us in particular what the Prime Minister was offering or not in the negotiations?

ADAM BANDT: It's obvious that in the last 24 - 48 hours Rupert Murdoch and his henchmen came to town, bullied the Parliament and unfortunately seems to have won. A number of members of Parliament caved in to the pressure and the Australian people are the losers, the Greens worked hard to achieve some amendments to the Government proposals that would have preserved regional news and it would have strengthened the public interest test. We were prepared to support the package and unfortunately it seems that other members of the crossbench did not have the same courage or willingness to stand up to powerful media owners and as a result we don't have legislation put before Parliament.

Labor could have done a lot better. If you look at what happened in the United Kingdom you see what happens when people from across different political parties work together in goodwill and a lesson for Senator Conroy is perhaps that you don't beat the bullies by acting like one. To come and say it's my way or the highway, is counter-productive. But at the end of the day it was the power of the big media owners who ultimately pose a threat to democracy in this country if we do not maintain a free and diverse media who seem to get the better of a majority of members of Parliament and that was disappointing. It wasn't through want of trying on the Greens part. We participated in meetings with other members of the crossbench, we looked for ways to find a compromise to get the legislation through, unfortunately it didn't happen.

JOURNALIST: What did the Prime Minister say and do in these negotiations?

ADAM BANDT: Look I only spoke with the Prime Minister briefly myself. Our teams and our negotiators and our communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam met with the Prime Minister's office, and we worked to get some good outcomes and I actually think the intervention of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's office was helpful in achieving those outcomes. It progressed it in a way that was not happening with Senator Conroy was in charge so I think that that action helped. I think the Prime Minister understands that to achieve things in the Parliament where no one party has the majority, you actually are required to work together.


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