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Joint press conference on coal compensation and whistleblowers

Christine Milne 11 Oct 2012

Christine Milne and Adam Bandt addressed the press to discuss proposed ammendments to the EU carbon price linkage legislation and contracts for closures, as well as a motion before Parliament to protect whistleblowers. They responded to other questions of the day.



Subjects: ICAC, whistleblowers, contracts for closure, PBO, Parliamentary integrity, Newstart, single parents, carbon price linkage with the European scheme, CFMEU function


CHRISTINE MILNE: The Greens have been continuing to be a major force not only for stability but for increased innovation and new ideas. The Greens have campaigned strongly for a national ICAC, we think it is really important that we have an overview of the public service and the Parliament. The Government has not supported that nor has the Coalition and we have just moved to try to have the release of documents pertaining to public disclosure, that its whistleblowers.

I think all Australians would like to think that people in the public service who want to blow the whistle on corruption or maladministration ought to be enabled to do so but again we have had the Coalition and the Government move together to prevent the release of documents on why the Government is delaying moving on whistleblowers. They said in 2007 they would move to protect whistleblowers, they've been backing off it ever since and today we've got the absolute evidence that neither the Government nor the Coalition want to be able to protect whistleblowers and that is in spite of the big scandal we've got with Securancy and the Reserve Bank for example and of course the Tenix scandal to come as well, so we really need whistleblower legislation in this Parliament and today is a real line in the sand where the Greens have been trying to get continuous improvement in policies and in proper processes and the Parliament has voted against it. The Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition clearly do not want decent disclosure.

At the same time we have been moving for continuous improvement in relation to the clean energy package. As part of the multi-party climate committee the Greens worked very hard to get a balanced approach whereby we manage to drive investment in renewable energy with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, $10 billion going into that and we argued against masses of compensation for the dirtiest brown coal generators around the country. Unfortunately the Government persisted in insisting that billion dollars upfront, and many free permits were five and half billion in total would go to those very dirty polluting generators, and so as part of the package we also got the agreement then that up to 2,000 megawatts of the dirtiest brown coal would be bought out. That was the deal that was arrived at.

The Government made a decision to abandon contracts for closure, to abandon the idea of buying out those dirty coal-fired power stations and so we have moved to say, right, well it's time to look at the package again, if the dirtiest power stations didn't think it was worth their while to be bought out because the generosity of the compensation was so great, it's time to look at that. Perfectly reasonable to send for review the question of is the compensation for the coal-fired generators too generous? A reasonable thing to ask, a reasonable thing for the Productivity Commission to be asked but unfortunately both the Government and the Coalition don't want any real scrutiny of just how generous the community is being to supporting the dirtiest coal-fired power stations. This is a wrong move from the Government and the Coalition but it shows full well but when it comes to accelerating our efforts to address climate change, when push comes to shove neither the Government nor the Coalition will move on the generosity of their compensation to coal-fired generators.

ADAM BANDT: Labor made a clear commitment to people and to the planet that it was going to phase out some of the dirtiest, most polluting coal-fired power stations like Hazelwood in Victoria. It was on that basis that the Greens agreed to what we felt was a necessary but certainly overgenerous compensation to these coal-fired power stations. Labor then broke that commitment and it's only right that then the climate change package be rebalanced and that we have a look at why we are giving $275 for every woman, man and child in this country to dirty polluting power stations to stay open instead of replacing them with clean and renewable energy. We tried today in the House of Representatives to have the independent Productivity Commission review whether or not the assistance that's been given to these polluters is too generous and we believe it is however that is part of the reason that the generators said that they could stay open. We should be phasing out dirty coal-fired power stations and making way for clean and renewable energy, especially in Victoria. We weren't successful in the House of Representatives but we'll have another go at it when it comes to the Senate.

Also just briefly in the House of Representatives just a little while ago I'm very pleased that the Parliament has supported a Greens push for greater transparency and honesty in the policies that parties take to elections. One of the key conditions of the Greens supporting the Labor Party in the formation of Government was that we established an independent Parliamentary Budget Office which is going to cost parties' policies in the lead up to an election, so that people know how much a policy will cost and where the money will come from. The Greens have made a commitment that we will use that PBO that we helped establish in the lead up to the next election and now today Parliament has urged everyone else including the Coalition to do the same. We hear a lot of attacks from the Coalition about economic responsibility, well now the question will be as to whether or not the Coalition is prepared to submit its own election policies to the Parliamentary Budget Office in the lead up to the next election because the Greens will and you'll find that the Greens will be the most economically responsible party going into the next election because we will be the only ones who are explaining where the money will come from to fund the services and infrastructure that we need in this country and also how much these important initiatives will cost.

JOURNALIST: On that vote, wasn't the original motion to request the Greens release about 12 pages of its own costings, you have amended that to require all parties to put costings to the PBO, isn't that effectively blocking transparency, are you not refusing to release those costings?

ADAM BANDT: The creation of the PBO and the arrangement that we had to use Treasury and the Finance Department in the interim is based on a very clear principle and that is that parties should be able to go and get independent costings of their policies and then judge whether or not they're going to proceed with them and that's what, that's the principle underlining the arrangements that we've had up until now and the principle underlining the PBO. And I think that's good, I think that's what the Australian people would want, is that before you announce an idea you've tested it and worked out how much it will cost and if you decide that something's unaffordable then you might not proceed with it. In any event we have in fact released most of the policies that we've had costed by Treasury up to date, you've read about those in the newspapers.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about another matter, we've had a debate on integrity over the last week, do you believe there's an issue about parliamentary standards and if so do what would you propose to lift the standards  in Parliament at the moment?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well it doesn't matter how many codes of conduct that you have, it doesn't really, the frameworks are not what counts, what counts is the attitude of members of Parliament to the institution of the Parliament and to the institutions like the Speaker and the President. It really is incumbent on all members of Parliament now to recognise that the community has lost a degree of confidence in the Parliament of Australia because of the behaviour of some of the members and so I think what we can all learn from it is let's get on and let's restore the confidence of the community in the Parliament by doing what we've been elected to do and that is to go in and debate issues and debate them in a civilised and constructive manner and to that end I would particularly invite the Coalition to rethink its position. It came into this period of shared Parliament, shared power in the Parliament with a view of wrecking it, of driving the Parliament to instability to try to force another election. It hasn't happened, it hasn't happened and it won't happen, the Government will go full term. So now we have the opportunity, now have a new Speaker and Deputy Speaker, we've had this experience, we've all  got an opportunity to say, right, now we are going to offer stable government to the people of Australia and we're going to improve standards in debate and behaviour and it comes down to every individual member of Parliament doing that but I assure you that the Greens will continue to do what we have been doing throughout this period, and that is offer real leadership in terms of stable government. We have been the most stable part of this period of government and we will continue to be so and we will also continue to be constructive and respectful in the way we conduct ourselves in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns that the Government is turning its back on low-paid workers?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I have a real concern about what is clearly a hypocritical position for the Government. On the one hand they say that they represent Labor values and in the next breath they say that the surplus is so sacred that they are prepared to cut the entitlement for single parents, for example and that they refused to increase the Newstart allowance, they refuse to look at ways in which we can genuinely reduce poverty in Australia by actually driving people deeper into poverty and people who are in that position are less able to find work than otherwise. So let's have some genuine engagement. If the surplus is so sacred to the Government then it needs to work with the Greens to raise the money so that we can deliver for everyone and we can deliver dental care, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we can implement the Gonski review for example, but if the Government won't raise revenue and continues to reach a surplus on the back of the most vulnerable Australians then you have to say that Labor values don't count for much.

JOURNALIST: Can you comment please on the carbon price scheme that passed the House of Representatives a little while ago which means that the ETS will be linked to the price in Europe.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes I can. Part of the Greens' engagement with carbon pricing is to make sure that we try to improve the scheme and continuous improvement means we will be campaigning to lift the level of ambition in the face of the science which shows that global warming is acelerating but also we want to make sure that we deliver certainty to business by having a clear price curve for them to follow. When we saw that there was an opportunity to link with the European Union we thought that that was a really good opportunity to give business a forward price trajectory that they could go to a look at and it also means that come 2018 there will be no dislocation in Australia. From 2015 the price will be the European price and by 2018 I would expect that the European price will be greater than the floor price would have been so I think it's a good thing, it links the two trading scheme and it gets us into a good position with that experience to consider linking with other schemes as they develop over time and it's been great today to know there's been a briefing in the House on the Chinese pilot scheme which although a pilot scheme, is still a really huge contribution to learning experiences with emissions trading.

JOURNALIST: Were any of the Greens Parliamentarians at the union function last night where offensive comments were believed to have been made, and if so did those people leave?

ADAM BANDT: Which function?


ADAM BANDT: I was there up until the entrée, so I don't know what comments that you're referring to. What are the comments?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I think you were probably the only one there -

ADAM BANDT: I was the only one there up until the entrée so I don't think I heard anything.

CHRISTINE MILNE: As far as I know, I've only been told this morning so I don't think any one of my members was there, but essentially you would think given the experience over the last few days, the comments that have been made, the sexist and misogynist remarks, that it might have been appropriate for that to be taken into consideration, it's not appropriate where ever it is.


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