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Christine Milne press conference: Coalition's Direct Action shemozzle, Newspoll, mining tax

Christine Milne 26 Feb 2013

Subjects: Coalition's Direct Action plan, Newspoll, western Sydney, mining tax inquiry, asylum seekers


CHRISTINE MILNE: The Coalition is in a complete shemozzle over carbon pricing. Here we have Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott hurling a massive dose of uncertainty into the investment community and business community generally, and the wider community. Joe Hockey in Tasmania yesterday, telling Tasmanians that businesses would be compensated when the carbon price is removed because they know as well as the Greens know and the Government knows that the current Clean Energy Package is working, it's reducing emissions, but more importantly it is driving the transition in the Australian economy. When Joe Hockey got to Tasmania he saw for the first time that there are people who desperately want the carbon price to stay in place. It leads to $70 million plus a year going into the Tasmanian economy and Tony Abbott is going to rip that out. And so Hockey turns up in Tasmania and says, 'oh you will be compensated', gets back to the mainland and Tony Abbott says 'no you won't be'. Now the Coalition really has to start coming clean with the Australian people and some scrutiny has to go on their complete joke of a policy when it comes to climate change. Their Direct Action plan is the same plan they took to the election in 2010, they haven't changed a word virtually of the policy they had then. It did not stand up then and it doesn't stand up now. What you've got on the one hand is saying Tony Abbott wants to pay the polluters out of the pockets of the taxpayer.

Joe Hockey says they will not only pay the polluters but they will compensate people who have done the right thing and moved to renewable energy and now we will lose that competitive advantage. Neither of them will say where the money is coming from, neither of them will explain what their policy is. So it's about time, and I challenge Tony Abbott directly - come out and start to make some very clear speeches with detail as to precisely how you think you are going to unravel carbon pricing. How do you think you are going to get away with contracts that have been signed suddenly being breached? How do you justify telling the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to act in an illegal manner? They cannot get away with this absolute nonsense that 60 per cent of the emissions reductions is going to come from soil carbon. That was their position in 2010, three years later it is still their position and there is still no accreditation for that methodology. So I think it's about time that the real scrutiny came on to Tony Abbott and the claims he's making about carbon pricing and what he will do.

It is simply not good enough to say he's going to get rid of carbon pricing and then have a White Paper process that goes on for an indefinite period to come up with an alternative policy. Well Australian business has invested heavily in the transition. It is the law in this country to abide by carbon pricing, to reduce emissions and that is working. And we're glad it's working  because the whole country is beset with extreme weather events and as I speak Western Australia is facing yet another extreme weather event and we have got a situation where we need to face up to the fact that climate change is real and urgent, we need to reduce emissions, but we need to create competitive advantage and new jobs in the clean energy economy and that's what we are doing. Tony Abbott said he would tear it down, the Greens in the Senate will be a bulwark against repeal. But what Tony Abbott has to say to the business community is precisely where he stands. There are investor groups on climate change, there is massive investment in renewable energy, what about those companies? And it's about time too, as I said to the Press Club last week, that the business community started to really stand up to Tony Abbott and say what is your policy because you are creating uncertainty and you are not putting in place anything that makes sense. They are a mess; this is about fossil fools in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Senator Milne, you've seen a two point bounce in the Greens vote in today's Newspoll, are you claiming a tactical victory for your decision to terminate your alliance with Labor?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I'm not claiming any victories on anything - what I'm doing is focusing on the policy issues. I have been campaigning around the country for years to increase the level of action on climate change, to actually bring in an emissions trading scheme. We have now legislated one, we have got 10 billion going into renewables and I intend to keep campaigning for those and standing strongly in the Senate against the repeal of those and I will continue to campaign for them.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of campaigning the Prime Minister is relocating to Rooty Hill next week, will the Greens follow in their footsteps and spend some time in western Sydney to try to bolster your vote there and what do you make of the Prime Minister's decision to do this?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well the Greens will be campaigning right around the country and we will continue to campaign in western Sydney, we've been doing that at a local and state level as well as with our federal candidates and that will continue. I don't think a relocation to a place of accommodation in one place in the city or another is going to make a difference. What matters to people in western Sydney are the practical issues and I can say there that there are plenty of people in western Sydney who think that Newstart should be increased; there are single parents in western Sydney who are appalled that they have had their money taken out of their pockets while the mining industry walks away scot-free. Those of the kinds of issues, and particularly transport issues, getting decent transport into western Sydney is probably a much bigger issue for people there than whether the Prime Minister relocates to western Sydney for the purpose of trying to win votes, I don't think that's going to wash with people.

JOURNALIST: So do you think it's a stunt?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I just don't think it's going to wash with people, people expect the Prime Minister to have policies which are consistent and advantage the whole community. Moving in for six months I don't think is going to change the vote.

JOURNALIST: On the mining tax Senate inquiry Mathias Cormann has withdrawn support for that Senate inquiry, unless you remove in the terms of reference a referral to strengthening the mining tax, are you prepared to amend the terms of reference to get the Senate inquiry up?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I did hear news reports today suggesting that the Coalition wasn't supporting it. I'm currently in discussions with the Coalition, with Mathias Cormann in particular. We are keen as the Greens to get this mining tax inquiry up, I think it's important to all Australians that we see what's wrong with it so that we can fix it. I understand the Coalition wants to embrace the mining industry and not tax them but nevertheless it is in everybody's interest to see what has gone wrong so that from the Greens' perspective we can fix it so we're in ongoing discussions.

JOURNALIST: So you're prepared to tweak that wording?

CHRISTINE MILNE: The Coalition and the Greens have been in talks about amendments, contrary to what has been said about inflexibility, we are working on a compromise.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you'll reach an agreement today?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I'm hoping we would. Unfortunately Mathias Cormann isn't here today, he has got a pair so he can be in Western Australia for the election over there I presume. But we are talking on the phone, I'm hoping to get a resolution, if not I'll postpone it until tomorrow but I am keen to get an outcome.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about media reform - has there been any progress from your comments yesterday, have you had discussions with Senator Conroy or have you heard from the regulator and it's understood that this was not an issue that was discussed in Cabinet last night, is that a disappointment to you?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well there's no further progress on the matter since yesterday, it was expected it would go to Cabinet, it didn't, I don't know what that means from the point of view of the Labor Party, whether they still remain committed to media reform. The Greens certainly remain committed to it but I reiterate the concern I have - we only have a very short number of sitting weeks left and a lot to do. The Gonski funding model is really critical to get good outcomes. The question is whether the Government has the resolve to actually get on with this in the timeframe we've got left. I hope they do but let's see.

JOURNALIST: A Sri Lankan asylum seeker is currently assisting police with their inquiry following an alleged assault at Macquarie University - what are your thoughts on the debate that we've had over the last few days about this? The current program to house asylum seekers in Australia - is that something you still support?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I certainly support asylum seekers being in the community and not kept in detention centres. As to particular cases I understand that's a matter of police investigation and I'm not going to comment further on it.



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