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Christine Milne on Meet the Press

Christine Milne 24 Mar 2013

Christine Milne was interviewed on Channel 10's Meet the Press about the Labor leadership spill, the carbon price, the mining tax, women in leadership positions and other issues of the week




KATHRYN ROBINSON, PRESENTER: Welcome back to Meet the Press. If you would like to join the conversation, we're at @meetthepress10 or use #mtp10. Well the week's events have certainly tested the Gillard Government's relationships with the crossbenchers. Key amongst them are of course the Greens' Adam Bandt, who stood by the PM, as the Opposition pushed for a vote of no-confidence in her Government. Joining us now from Hobart is Greens leader Senator Christine Milne. Good morning to you Senator. Thank you for your time this morning.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Good morning, Kathryn.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Are you concerned over Labor's poor vote and how that might impact adversely on preferences coming your way, and indeed your plight in the Senate?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I'm concerned that the backroom boys in the Labor Party have given such a leg-up to Tony Abbott this week. That is not good for the national interest, and it's certainly not good in terms of rolling out all of the reforms we need to through before the election. The most important of which, of course, is funding for education, for schools around the country. And what we want to see is at least an effort to get through these reforms before the election.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Are you - Scott Ludlam, your senator out of WA - if the polls are reflected in the federal election that were in the state election, he may lose his seat. What can you do to protect that?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, certainly it is going to be a tough race for the Greens in both Western Australia and South Australia. But I think when the community realises the choice is between the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate, and returning really competent good senators like Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson- Young, or alternatively giving Tony Abbott control of the Senate, I think they will recognise that they want to see a strong alternative voice in the Senate, standing up against the excesses of an Abbott Government.

TORY MAGUIRE: Senator, leaving aside all of the disunity this week, and the gameplaying that was all a disaster, there is no denying that one of the ongoing, really damaging things for Julia Gillard politically, has c- from the very beginning continued to be her back flip on the carbon tax. Are you starting to look now at the fact that you, the Greens pushed her so hard in 2010 to make that deal, when, really, it is going to be - end up being counter-productive, because she's going to get absolutely obliterated at the next election, and Tony Abbott has promised to, you know, overturn it. Has it actually blown up a bit, pushing her so hard in the first place?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well the key thing is that global warming is accelerating. We, as a nation, must face up to that and reduce our emissions. And the Greens did drive the clean energy package - there is no doubt about it. That is why we will have $10 billion going into renewable energy. It is why our emissions have started to come down. It was the price essentially of Labor getting government, and that is the choice that they made. The key thing, though, is it is the biggest reform in a decade in Australia. The biggest environmental, social and economic reform, and it is going to be the thing which generations will look back and say, was the best thing that happened in this period of government.

TORY MAGUIRE: There's no denying though that the way it has been brought in has been pretty shambolic. It was, you know - essentially, almost lead to the downfall of a minority government. Is it - was it too..? I'm not going to say it was too high a price to pay, but could it have been done in a more methodical manner?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, it was done in a very methodical manner. We set up a multi-party Climate Committee, we worked through it, and we came out with a policy position which the International Energy Agency has said is a template for developed economies. The only reason there was any idea or suggestion that it was shambolic is because Tony Abbott went around the country telling lies - it is as simple as that. He ran a very strong campaign, telling people in Whyalla that they would be wiped off the face of the map. Barnaby Joyce ran around saying that a leg of lamb would be $100. In fact, we have just had a Queensland meat-processing plant coming out saying that they were totally wrong, that they should not have said that it would be bad, and that in fact it has been good for their business. So the responsibility for the uncertainty and for the dislocation has all been with the Coalition, and with the shockjocks who were running the strong destabilisation of Gillard's campaign rather than looking at the merit of the case.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Senator Milne, on Thursday and Friday there was some cheering rather than crying over the demise of Martin Ferguson. You and your predecessor Bob Brown think it is a good opportunity for the Government to get real on the mining tax. But isn't the fact of the matter is that even the original mining tax was a super profits tax, and if the super profits aren't there, you can't get the revenue? It is still the case, and why would - why would the Government want to now revisit that?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, the reason that they would like to - or, I would like them to revisit it and fix the mining tax, is that we need the money. We have just passed the national disability insurance scheme, that's fantastic for the country-

PAUL BONGIORNO: Yes, but the money is not there. The money's not there.

CHRISTINE MILNE: No, I agree, Paul. And that is why we have argued strongly that we need to raise the money by fixing the mining tax, and while some of the mining tax-

PAUL BONGIORNO: No, my point is the money is-

CHRISTINE MILNE: -Goes to the issue of commodities.

PAUL BONGIORNO: -My point is the money is not there for the miners. They are not getting the super profits.

CHRISTINE MILNE: And what I'm trying to say, Paul, is that whilst commodity prices have come off a high, the structural problems, particularly the accelerated depreciation, for example, those provisions can be fixed, as can the fossil fuel subsidies.


CHRISTINE MILNE: There are a number of ways of raising the money.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just before we go-

CHRISTINE MILNE: And we need that for school funding.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just before we go, I was wondering if you would give a tick of approval to Gary Grey, a former mining executive, who everyone thinks will get Martin Ferguson's job. I doubt if he'd be more any more sympathetic than Martin Ferguson. Do you want to send a message today?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I would like to see Climate and Energy as one portfolio, so that you get internal consistency, because you can't have an Energy Minister running a completely counter-campaign to trying to reduce emissions. We need an Energy Minister who sees the value of the transition to a low-carbon economy and renewables. So I'd like to see those portfolios amalgamated, and I don't think it would be a good look to give Gary Grey the portfolio, having come straight out of an executive position of Woodside.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Ok, we need to take a short break right now, and then we'll be back with Greens leader Christine Milne.

KATHRYN ROBINSON, PRESENTER: You are watching Meet the Press. We return now to our guest, Greens leader Christine Milne. Now, Senator, with a noconfidence motion looming, all focus is returning to the crossbenchers. All bets are seemingly now off the table. Will that be the case for Greens Senator Adam Bandt?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, the Greens don't want to see Tony Abbott being able to dominate Budget Week. I think it is a big mistake to even give it the time of day. We want to make sure this Government goes full term, because we want to see the reforms that are in the pipeline - particularly fair funding for schools, particularly the national network of marine parks, for example - we want to see those environmental measures pushed through. We want all of these things to be done before an election, and it is a major distraction to the budget, where we are hoping to get the increase in Newstart, where we need to see the single parent's funding restored - those are the things that we should be debating in the lead-up to the Budget, not facilitating Tony Abbott's destabilisation agenda, or in fact taking people's eye off the ball of how would Tony Abbott fund education, national disability - what would he do in those circumstances.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, that's a very good question, but doesn't it also apply to your shopping list? Let's look at this. I mean, we have ditched the idea of a budget surplus this year. Do you think that Treasurer Swan should go for broke and fund your wish list? Into deficit?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, certainly the Greens were one of the first people to be calling for an end to the commitment to the surplus last year, together with a whole lot of economists. We were saying it wasn't practical in the current circumstances, or economically responsible. And so we said that they should ditch the surplus, but we have also said we should raise money as well. And that is why we have gone to saying, "Let's get rid of the fossil fuel subsidies, let's fix the mining tax, let's actually look at ways of raising revenue as well." And we have set up the Parliamentary Budget office, we are having our policies costed, and we're really saying, "Let's look at what Tony Abbott is actually saying he's going to do to fill his $70 billion black hole."

TORY MAGUIRE: Senator, I wanted to get your thoughts - Julia Gillard, again, this week, raised the M-word in Parliament - raised gender and misogyny. And it's a - whether it is a political strategy, or whether it is something that she genuinely... gets her goat, do you think it is a topic that really should be off the table now in the leadup to the election? Do you think it is going to change anybody's mind? Should she leave it alone?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, I think women across Australia, particularly, are a bit fed up with this constant attack and belittling of women in politics, and particularly the role of a female as a Prime Minister. We have got a fantastic example in this country now with the Governor-General and the Prime Minister being female leaders. You have also got the deputy leader of the Opposition. You've got the leader of the Greens. It is time, I think, that a lot of those derogatory remarks ceased, and people actually looked at this on their merit. And I think what we have seen - we had the apology for forced - for people who were victims of forced adoptions this week. That was driven by Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens senator from WA - it was a very dignified event. And it meant a lot to people across the country. And I'm really sorry that that moment was distracted by the backroom boys in the Labor Party. And so I would really like to see women in leadership being given the credit for the good things they are doing.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Senator, I know you have spoken of these backroom boys, and you want to hear the end of them, so that the party can move forward, and you can get your policies through, etc. But would you prefer to be dealing with a destabilised Gillard Government or a Tony Abbott Coalition that provides more stability?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, if you are asking me, do I want to be dealing with Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and Eric Abetz as the trio running the country - then you have to ask seriously what exactly you would be dealing with, with the meanness of spirit that is coming from there and the complete vacuum of any real policy positions or costings. Labor has got a responsibility to get its act together and lead the country. But the Greens provide a strong, committed, stable force that will stand up to the excesses of an Abbott Government, and will actually argue strongly with a Gillard Government to say, "Let's get caring back on to the agenda. Let's get caring for people, caring for the environment, let's actually focus on the fact that we have a thousand children in detention in Australia. Does anyone seriously want that?" Without the Greens in the Parliament, you are not going to have people talking about why we need to save James Price Point, about saving the Great Barrier Reef, saving the Tarkine. They are the sort of conversations that Australians want to have.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Ok. Well, Senator, before we leave this political segment, I would like to talk about this man next to me - Mr Paul Bongiorno, who is celebrating 25 years with Network Ten in the Canberra Press Gallery. Paul is one of - as many of you would know - one of the country's most respected and well-liked newsmen.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Oh, stop it, please!

KATHRYN ROBINSON: I'm going to keep going. And that was evident... oh, look at you there, back then, huh? And this was very evident in Canberra, on Wednesday night, where both sides of politics came together at a celebratory party to pay tribute to Bonge. I was there. There were some lovely comments made from both sides of government - Wayne Swan, the Treasurer, was there. Tony Abbott as well. And while we've got Senator Christine Milne with us, I think she'd like to say a few words as well. Her chance!

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, congratulations, Paul! 25 years in the Press Gallery, it's an amazing achievement. And it was obvious from the coming-together right across the Parliament, all political parties and other journalists saying not only what a fair and good journalist you have been, but what a great mentor to the next generation of journalists. So congratulations, enjoy the moment, we think you have been terrific.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much, Christine.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: So Bonge, while we have you on the couch - the last 25 years, you know, listening to you, you have seen it all. But did you - you said that on Wednesday night. Until, what happened on Thursday? What do you think has been the best moment for you in your career?

PAUL BONGIORNO: Ah, well, that's a very big question. But, as I first said this week, maybe because it is freshest in our memory, but I do think that the apology - the Kevin Rudd apology on behalf of the nation - he galvanised the nation, the opinion polls after that showed that 80% of the country was behind him. And I think it was a historic beginning to right the wrong, and it was something that moved me. But more than that, it moved the nation.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Well, it has been a pleasure working and learning from you Bonge.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you, Kath.

KATHRYN ROBINSON: Ok, and that is where we leave the segment. Thank you to both of you today, Tory and Paul. But we'll see you again soon, I'm sure. Well, after the break, the off-field dramas temporarily forgotten as the 2013 AFL season gets underway.


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