Subjects: Mining tax, life-work balance, coal and coal seam gas mining
CHRISTINE MILNE: At last we have movement at the station on fixing the mining tax. The Greens have been arguing that we need to fix the loopholes in this mining tax for a very long time. We have been pushing the Government hard on it. Last week we forced the issuing of the revenue that is expected to be raised from the mining tax. That's precipitated a lot of discussion. Adam's had the bill in the House of Reps this week and now we have not only the crossbench supporting the idea that we must fix the mining tax, but now there are people in the Labor Party and the Labor backbench in particular out there saying it's a good thing to fix the mining tax. The fact of the matter is the Greens are speaking with the community, saying we need the money to be put into helping people get out of poverty on Newstart, helping people get money into Denticare, getting money into public education, we need to fix the mining tax. The Greens have been pushing this and at last we are getting to a point where there is real pressure on the Government. We intend to keep the pressure on the Prime Minister and on the Treasurer Wayne Swan. And the question to them both is - why won't you take on the mining industry, why won't you admit that the tax has not raised the money that you expected, why won't you now move as the community wants to take on the mining industry- because the Greens will. We are ready to do it, we have our legislation in, it's now over to the Government to really assess what it will do to support the Greens in blocking the loopholes in the mining tax, and going further, looking at issues like removing the accelerated depreciation provisions, looking at increasing the rate of the mining tax, looking at expanding what it covers to include gold for example, there are lots of ways we can raise money and the question is does Wayne Swan have the courage, does the Prime Minister have the courage to take on the mining industry in an election year and fix this mining tax and get the money for the community for the resources which the community owns. It's really a straight up question of the public interest versus the greed of the miners. And the Greens are here to say we are ready to act in the public interest for this nation and the good things that we want in Australia in education and health and disability, in dental care, we want that money for all the good things that the community wants, we're ready to act for it and we're calling on the Government and Wayne Swan to listen not just to the Greens but now to the crossbench and to even the Labor's backbench. Adam is about to take this further in the house of Reps.
ADAM BANDT: Support is growing for the Greens' push in the House of Representatives to close one of the big loopholes of the mining tax. What we know is that in the deal that was negotiated with the big miners where the big miners won hands down, the keys to the Commonwealth coffers were basically handed over to the state premiers. Every time the state premiers now raise royalties it's a hit to Commonwealth revenue. We are moving legislation that would close that loophole and bring in an extra $2.2 billion and that's money that would be available to fund public school reform now instead of waiting for another 10 years to get started on that project. I am very encouraged by reports today that the support amongst members of the crossbench is growing. I believe that if Labor got behind this bill, we could pass this bill through the Parliament before the budget. I will be bringing the bill on for debate in the next parliamentary sitting. It is crucial that we fix this loophole in the mining tax before the budget, otherwise there's going to be more cuts to people like single parent and we're going to see more putting out of spending on things like public schools out into the nether-nether. If we don't fix this problem before the budget, there will be an even bigger black hole in the budget and so it's a very simple equation - are we prepared to stand up to the mining industry and get a fair share of the proceeds that Australians own and raise some revenue or will Labor hit people like single parents harder, or will they cut back on the services that Australians expect. I am very pleased that we are much, much closer now to the Greens closing one of the loopholes in the mining tax.
If I can just add briefly on one other matter, work-life balance. As we know there was an announcement over the weekend to legislate to give people the right to have a conversation with their employer. The proposal that the Government put up was essentially window-dressing and it said that people can go and ask their employer for flexible working arrangements but if the employer says no there's nowhere to go, you have no ability to take it to Fair Work. I know that the Government has nailed their colours to the mast saying that this will be an unenforceable right but I do urge the Government as they're drafting this bill which we haven't yet seen to take the advice from the Greens, from the experts and from the unions, and give people a work-life balance right with teeth. The only way that we will give people a better work-life balance which is what the Greens want is if people have got an enforceable right where they can go to their employer and say they want flexible working arrangements, and if the employer says no it goes to an independent umpire who decides what is fair for that workplace. So we have not yet seen the bill from the Government, it's been a long time coming from something that was meant to be put through this week but I do hope that when it does surface that they listen to the Greens.
CHRISTINE MILNE: There's one other matter and that's the way in which the Government has backed the mining industry against the community and in terms of the national interest. Only last Friday we had Minister Burke sell out the Tarkine to the mining industry at the behest of Paul Howes and at the behest of the big miners. Now we've had it again with Minister Burke and the Prime Minister deciding that they would prefer to advance the interests of the coal seam gas industry and the miners rather than look after water resources in Australia, farmland and communities. There is real outrage across Australia that Minister Burke has given the go-ahead to expanded coal mining and coal seam gas when we know that these projects collectively are going to add 47 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the damage that they're going to do in terms of biodiversity in particular and loss and compromising water resources. This is completely anti the national interest. What we have got is a Minister and a Prime Minister, a whole Labor Cabinet prepared to sell out the environment at the behest of the miners. Is that really what Australians want into the future? And the point is that the Coalition would do it even faster. They are right there barracking, Tony Abbott is there barracking with Prime Minister Gillard to sell out communities to the coal seam gas industry and the miners and it is a disaster for the natural environment and once again it is the Greens standing up saying we are the other voice in Australia standing up for the environment against the greed of the mining industry.
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer says that they're looking into it, they want to wait for a review into the mining tax before they decide if there will be any changes to it. Do you think that that's the right thing to do at this point in time?
CHRISTINE MILNE: The Treasurer talking about delay is just making excuses. The fact of the matter is he recognised this was a problem with the tax last year, that's why he said let's wait to see what the GST review says, let's wait to look at infrastructure grants and so on. He's done nothing. What we really have to call the Treasurer's bluff on is he prepared to act in an election year to take on the miners to get them to pay their fair share. All this blustering and delay, he has known all along this is a problem, the question is what is he prepared to do about it?
JOURNALIST: On the projects approved by Minister Burke yesterday, the Government argues that they can put conditions on approvals that would make it satisfactory from an environmental perspective; are there any conditions which you believe the projects should have approved or should it be a no-go zone?
CHRISTINE MILNE: We are living in a period where we're on track for a four degrees in terms of global warming. What was approved is expand coal mining at the cost of critically endangered species in terms of the Whitehaven proposal in particular, and a massive increase in coal seam gas. The Government admitted yesterday they have no idea what the fugitive emissions in terms of methane going in the atmosphere are from these coal seam gas projects or any others around Australia. We have a Government who are careless about the increased 47 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. I don't believe these projects should be going ahead and I certainly don't believe that the Minister should have given the go-ahead without having gone into the false and misleading claims that Whitehaven is being accused of in terms of its off-sets, particularly for critically endangered vegetation species. But make no mistake, you're either serious about climate change, serious about the transition in the economy and serious about getting the huge opportunities that are there in renewable energy, in fantastic new solar power, in supporting communities as they put photovoltaic panels on their roofs, or you give in to the fossil fuel industry. You should not be starting a coal seam gas industry and massively driving it at the end of the fossil age, it makes no sense.