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Transcript: Christine Milne on the appointment of Gary Gray

Christine Milne 25 Mar 2013

Subjects: Appointment of Gary Gray as Minister for Resources and Energy

CHRISTINE MILNE: (inaudible) We've seen the stand-alone department of climate change now merged with another department. That's the Gillard Government taking on one of Tony Abbott's policies. We have got the department of climate change where the opportunity was to offer strategic direction right across the Government to make sure that all departments were acting in the same direction in addressing global warming. Instead of that we've had a downgrade and at the same time the appointment into the energy and resources portfolio of former Woodside executive Gary Gray.

More than that, in the mid-1990s Gary Gray described climate science as 'pop science'. He went on to say that global warming was a conspiracy made up by middle-class people to frighten schoolchildren. Later he was a founding member of the Lavoisier group, the biggest group of climate sceptics put together by Hugh Morgan to basically slow down addressing global warming. So the question for Gary Gray before he does anything in this portfolio is to come out and say whether or not he remains a climate sceptic. Does he take the science seriously? Does he believe we are on track for 4 to 6 degrees of warming and is that going to inform his decisions in that portfolio? What this demonstrates is that you have to have the Greens in the Federal Parliament, in balance of power, Adam Bandt in the House of Representatives, if global warming is going to be taken seriously into the future because we are seeing a retreat. Prime Minister Gillard has given the big green light to the fossil fuel sector and she's put the orange into red light on climate change.

JOURNALIST: Gary Gray wasn't made minister for climate change though, why should that influence his work as a resources minister?

CHRISTINE MILNE: It's absolutely imperative that the energy minister is acting in the same policy framework as the climate change minister. We didn't have that with Martin Ferguson, here you had on the one hand Greg Combet saying we had to reduce emissions and Martin Ferguson driving as hard as he could with expanded coalmining, coal seam gas, the whole shebang driven to accelerating global warming. Now we've got exactly the same and worst with a minister who has been a climate sceptic and the challenge for him is, Gary Gray are you still a climate sceptic, do you still think the Lavoisier group has valid point of view?

JOURNALIST: Do you think these changes would have occurred if the Greens hadn't have walked away from the agreement with the Government?

CHRISTINE MILNE: The reshuffle is as a result of the complete internal implosion of the Labor Party, the backroom boys jostling for positions, panicking about the outcome of the election. The instability in the Labor Party is totally their responsibility and now it's up to them to get their act together and it's critical that they do. Because we need to get through in this year's budget, we need to get through a fairer funding model for education. This is the overwhelming objective to get that past before we go to a federal election. So that with Greens in balance of power we can throw down the gauntlet to Tony Abbott and say we will not repeal it.

JOURNALIST: But now that you have walked away from this agreement, how does this inhibit your capacity to make this message that you're saying today, clearer and more effective to the Government?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well the Greens are out there very clearly on the record on global warming, it was because of the Greens that we got the clean energy package in this period of Government and it is because of the Greens that global warming will remain on the agenda in the Federal Parliament. The worry with today is that the Gillard Government has moved closer to Tony Abbott by abolishing its stand-alone climate change Department, merging it with another department and putting a fossil fuel advocate into the energy department.

JOURNALIST: Gary Gray has said that he has repented on those views in the Parliament previous to his announcement today though, can you be a born again believer in climate change?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well let's hear from Gary Gray that he rejects the climate scepticism and denialism that has been so much a part of his career to date. He has been a strong advocate of the Lavoisier group and all of the denialism of slowing down addressing global warming, he needs to come out and say a) he accepts the climate science, b) that we are on track for 4 to 6 degrees of warming and that in overseeing the energy policy he will make sure that he is driving the transition to renewable energy, not there as an advocate for more coal and more coal seam gas.

JOURNALIST: Did the Prime Minister get it right when she described the events of the last week for Labor, I think she said she was appalled?

CHRISTINE MILNE: The last week's events in the Federal Parliament were nothing but a complete and utter shambles, as some Labor ministers have described it as a fiasco. It was really egomania in the back rooms and it was madness. They have seriously further damaged the Labor brand around the country and what it has shown is that they were much more interested in trying to hang on to a few seats than to govern in the national interest. Now the opportunity is there to work with the Greens in this year's budget to get a $50 a week increase for Newstart, to put in place a new and fair funding model for schools, to restore a single parents' funding, there are so many things we need to do and get done before a federal election.

JOURNALIST: Not a lot of promotions for Tasmania's Labor senate team, are we lacking talent?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I think it's interesting that the Prime Minister has promoted Anthony Albanese who is from an inner-city electorate in Sydney to be the minister for regional development.

I think it would have been better had there been someone out there as a strong advocate for the regions. Tasmania is a region, we need to have talent in the portfolio but the other thing you could say about Anthony Albanese is certainly at the heart of Cabinet so it's a bit of a six to one half a dozen of the other.

JOURNALIST: What kind of approach do you think Anthony Albanese would bring to the forestry peace deal? Do you think he will shadow the kind of input that Simon Crean had?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well as a member of an inner city electorate who is always talking down at the Greens, it'll be interesting to see what Anthony Albanese does in terms of the forest agreement. But clearly the Gillard Government does want an outcome on the intergovernmental agreement and I have no doubt that the Minister will drive the Federal Government line.

JOURNALIST: Were Tasmanian federal MPs snubbed by the reshuffle today?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well that's up to the Prime Minister to justify to Tasmanians why she didn't see that there was anyone from Tasmania who deserved to be promoted. From the Greens' point of view we are getting on providing the leadership in the Federal Parliament that's necessary to get back on track on policy, to make sure we do get Newstart, $50 a week increase, we do get a fair funding model for education. These are critical issues, and single parents need to be given a good deal in this year's budget, and that's what we're in there to do.

JOURNALIST: But Tasmania has not had a Cabinet level minister for decades, we're getting a raw deal aren't we?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well the political parties in Tasmania need to look at the talent pool that they're putting forward into the federal parliament, it's as simple as that, it's up to the Prime Minister to justify what she has done but I can say that the Greens put forward an outstanding talent pool in our candidates both at a state and federal level.

JOURNALIST: Tony Burke has had the arts added to his portfolio, you're passionate about the arts, what do you think of this appointment?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I don't know where Tony Burke sits on the arts portfolio, it is reported that he has said he has a passion for the arts, well let's see it. I'm very pleased that Simon Crean delivered finally on the cultural policy. I was looking forward to working with him on delivering it. I would hope that Tony Burke is just as committed to the cultural policy. Simon Crean told me the money is there in this year's budget to deliver cultural policy so I hope that we are going to see that money delivered and the Greens will be absolutely there to deliver cultural policy. We'd like to see it go further. I'd like to see Tony Burke now commit to a 30% offset for the location of films, that would be a great added dimension if he could bring it to the portfolio.

JOURNALIST: Does that dilute the responsibilities of the environment minister if there's another portfolio added to the responsibilities of one minister?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well certainly some of these ministers are taking on more and more in terms of a diverse range of portfolios but let's see how they go.

JOURNALIST: Should that, as we've already seen climate change has merged with another department, should the Environment Minister be a stand-alone portfolio?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I would certainly like to see the Environment Minister actually put his mind to protecting the environment. What we've seen from Mr Burke is a complete sell out when it came to the Tarkine. We had the Minister for the environment reject protection of the Tarkine. Let's hope as Minister for the Arts that he can get behind the arts and we don't see a rejection of the arts in that portfolio as well.

 JOURNALIST: Do you think Julia Gilard has overloaded many of her ministers?

CHRISTINE MILNE: It's up to those ministers to show whether they are competent and able to take on the additional responsibilities. The key thing for the Labor Party is to get their act together and start governing again in the national interest and stop fighting amongst themselves. That's been the disaster. Everywhere around the country I go people just say they're sick of it. They're over it. Just stop the infighting and get on with delivering good policy. From the Greens' point of view we are there to make sure that we get a fair school funding model through the Parliament before the election. That is critical policy for every school child. Every parent, every teacher across the country is watching this and we can't afford any more shenanigans from the backroom boys of the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Simon Crean? He was certainly a supporter of the forest peace deals so what's your message to Anthony Albanese as he takes carriage of that at a federal level?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well Simon Crean was a big advocate for a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, we always strongly disagree with him on that. Now let's hear from Anthony Albanese, let's have him declare that there will be no pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. That would be an improvement in terms of Federal Labor's response to the intergovernmental agreement and the peace negotiations.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

CHRISTINE MILNE: I believe that the Gillard government wants an outcome and the issue here is the Legislative Council in Tasmania and whether they stand for the future of Tasmania or whether they want to leg rope Tasmania to the past, a past where the forest industry was collapsing around them, losing jobs and indebted.

JOURNALIST: And when it comes to Labor remaining united until the election, are you a believer or a sceptic?

CHRISTINE MILNE: It's up to the Prime Minister, she has now had the chance to reshuffle her cabinet, she is the one who is in charge of running the Labor Party, but from the Greens' point of view we do not want to see a fair outcome for Australia's schoolchildren and school communities compromised because the egos in the Labor Party can't get their act together. This is really the challenge.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think the climate change department has been moved (inaudible)

CHRISTINE MILNE: IT's very clear that the Prime Minister is in retreat on addressing climate change. She now sees climate change as an administrative responsibility now that the clean energy package has been brought in. She simply sees that it needs to be, we go through the motions of putting it into place. That is not the way to approach a world which is on a trajectory to 4-6 degrees of warming. Now is the opportunity for a much more strategic direction for the Department of Climate Change so I would say Prime Minister Gillard was there in 2010 telling the then-Prime Minister to dump climate change. Now we've got Prime Minister Gillard adopting the first of Tony Abbott's policies and that's to abandon a stand-alone department. That's why you need the Greens in Federal Parliament because we will stand there strongly advocating for real action on climate change and stopping an Abbott government repeal the action that has been taken.

JOURNALIST: Is this a harbinger of a change of policy, do you think in relation to climate change, to an emissions trading system already or other policies that are due to arrive in the next few years?

CHRISTINE MILNE: What we've got in the Federal Parliament now is a clean energy package recognised by the International Energy Agency as a template for other developed economies around the world and it is there because of the Greens. What we are now seeing is Federal Labor retreating and Tony Abbott having left the playing field altogether. That's why you need the Greens in the Federal Parliament standing up strongly in the face of accelerating global warming to take the right action on this and not allow the others to abandon the space.

JOURNALIST: Is this reshuffle going to be reflected in any changes in responsibilities for the Greens members of parliament?

CHRISTINE MILNE: No, the Greens are strong, united, ready to face an election, but keen to make sure that before we do we get that fair funding model for Australia's school students, that we get a $50 increase in Newstart and the Greens will be there to take it right up to Tony Abbott. We will be the strong voice in the Federal Parliament that people can trust on issues like climate change, on a fair go in Australia in terms of Newstart and single parents, and looking out for the environment.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think Anthony Albanese decided to step down as a minister after his involvement last week?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Anthony Albanese's decision not to step down, Mark Butler's decision not to step down, others deciding to do so: it's all part of the internal shenanigans in the Labor Party, they can explain why they have done what they have done. The Greens point of view, we want all of that to stop, to get on with delivering the things that people really want and I can tell you one of those things that people really want is a fair funding model for Australia's school kids and I'm intent on delivering it.

JOURNALIST: What will it take for you to renew your agreement, the Greens agreement with the Government?

CHRISTINE MILNE: There will be no renewing of any agreement with the Labor Government. We are heading to an election on September the 14th. It's very clear that Labor abandoned its agreement with the Greens to rush into the arms of the miners and the appointment of Gary Gray into the energy portfolio is symptomatic of that - climate sceptic, former Lavoisier group advocate, into that portfolio does not augur well for a  future of 100% renewable energy.


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