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Transcript of Christine Milne on Meet the Press

MEET THE PRESS

6 NOVEMBER 2011

INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE MILNE AND IAN HANKE.

DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE CARBON TAX BILLS, THE MINING TAX, COAL SEAM GAS, THE CHOICES OF ALAN JOYCE, THE FAIR WORK ACT, THE COALITION AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, AND UNFAIR DISMISSALS.

PAUL BONGIORNO, PRESENTER: Hello and welcome to ‘Meet the Press'. There's hardly a day Parliament sits when the Opposition doesn't call for an immediate election but the fact Is, it doesn't have the numbers to force one. That will be very clear this week. On Tuesday, the Senate will finally vote on the Clean Energy Bill, aka the Carbon Tax. Thanks to the Greens' numbers, it will rocket through the Parliament. The Coalition is powerless and hates it.

SENATOR ERIC ABETZ, OPPOSITION SENATE LEADER (THURSDAY): If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas. The Australian Labor Party have deliberately got together with the Greens and have a flea-infested policy.

SEANTOR CHRISTINE MILNE, GREENS DEPUTY LEADER (WEDNESDAY):
They have no respect for anyone. They have no respect for science, no respect for economists, no respect for international lawyers.

SENATOR SCOTT LUDLAM, GREENS SENATOR (TUESDAY): This package is a credit to Christine Milne who bought great appreciation of the policy imperatives and seized a moment of opportunity last August for Australia to change course.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Also now in play in the Parliament, the Mining Tax - its fate not so certain.

MARTIN FERGUSON, RESOURCES MINISTER (WEDNESDAY): The community has actually come around in support of the Government. The only people out of step at the moment are the Coalition led by Tony Abbott.

TONY WINDSOR, INDEPENDENT MP (WEDNESDAY): If they want my vote, they have to be prepared to talk turkey.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Tapping in to farm anger, Tony Windsor's demanding $400 million a year for scientific assessments of coal seam gas projects.

TONY WINDSOR, INDEPENDENT MP (WEDNESDAY): It's not an ambush. I've said, well, okay, if you're not going to do it the slow way, let's do it the fast way.

SENATOR LARISSA WATERS, GREENS SENATOR (TUESDAY): We're very pleased that Tony Windsor has come up with this good and consistent suggestion which backs what the Greens have been calling for, which is of course, a moratorium.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The Greens' Deputy Leader, Christine Milne, is a guest. And later, a tough assessment of the Qantas shutdown from the H.R. Nicholls Society - Ian Hanke will join us. But first, Melinda Nucifora has what's making news this Sunday, November 6.

MELINDA NUCIFORA, REPORTING: Thanks Paul. Here are the major stories this morning. Qantas has finally put its money where its mouth is, promising to give away $20 million in free tickets to the thousands of passengers stranded last weekend when the airline grounded its fleet. CEO Alan Joyce told ‘The Sunday Telegraph' it was Qantas's way of saying, "We're sorry." Greece is in political chaos with Prime Minister George Papandreou trying to form a national unity government to pass a bailout package to keep the economy afloat. But the opposition says the PM must resign and hold early elections. Occupy Sydney protesters are pledging to remain occupiers against corporate greed after clashes with police which saw several demonstrators dragged away. Police had moved in to remove the protesters' tents at Hyde Park. Six people were arrested. And ‘The Sun Herald' reports that dozens of Indonesian boys acting as crew for asylum seeker boats have been jailed as adults in maximum security Australian prisons based on alleged unreliable age determination tests. This, as the parents of the 14-year-old boy being held in Bali on drugs charges have reportedly sold his story to ‘60 Minutes' for as much as $300,000. Those are the headlines this morning. Back to you, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thanks Melinda and welcome to the program, Christine Milne. Good morning Senator.

SENATOR CHRISTINE MILNE, GREENS DEPUTY LEADER: Good morning.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, the Carbon Tax, we know will get through on Tuesday. There's a resolution of the Senate which if anyone had any doubts, knows the numbers are there. But d o you believe Julia Gillard would have introduced a Carbon Tax in this Parliament had the Greens not pushed her to it?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, I certainly think a minority Government was the conduit if you like, to this absolutely important environmental, social and economic reform. I think when the Prime Minister said she wouldn't introduce a Carbon Tax, she was quite genuine at that time but circumstances changed when nobody won a majority. It was part of the agreement with the Greens. And it also needs to be said that Tony Abbott made it fairly clear right around the Parliament that he would have done anything to be Prime Minister. And I think the interesting thing is that Tony Abbott is causing a very big problem for himself by making such an issue of the Prime Minister's change of mind because he is the one advancing this great big new lie that he will repeal the bills if he got into Government when it's clear he won't. Already, we've seen him back off the Carbon Farming Initiative. He's not repealing that. He's now announced he won't repeal the Australian Renewable Energy Agency legislation. Just this morning, he's been saying that they will no longer repeal the superannuation increases. So every day we see Tony Abbott out there at the head with the big blast of the trumpet, the blood oath, he's going to repeal everything. And then there's the cowardly retreat and quietly behind the scenes, "Oh no, we're backing off that." It's a big problem for him.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, as we've seen from the polls in regard to Julia Gillard and her broken promise, you do pay a big political price and of course, that will play out. You're predicting it will play out differently for Tony Abbott. But there is no doubt is there, that the broken promise has tainted this Carbon Tax?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes, I think that's been a problem for it. Those who oppose Julia Gillard and oppose a Labor Government have used this major reform and have confused the two issues. Having said that, it is not a Carbon Tax that is being introduced. It's an Emissions Trading Scheme which will have a fixed price for three years and then go to flexible trading. But nevertheless it has been the opportunity for the Coalition to campaign against Labor, rather than actually mount the argument around the climate action.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Is it what the Greens wanted?

CHRISTINE MILNE: The actual carbon price mechanism?

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, what we're seeing, what will be voted for on Tuesday - is it what the Greens wanted?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Certainly, we've had a big hand in the package. We wanted an Emissions Trading Scheme. We wanted a much higher target and now we have a 2050 target of 80% reduction, which is a big improvement. We do have the Independent Climate Authority. We have a pillar that delivers on renewable energy. Another pillar on energy efficiency. And a very big contribution in terms of carbon in the landscape and biodiversity. So yes, but the really important thing that we achieved was right across all these pillars there's room for upward mobility. Greater ambition. Because whilst this is a very important reform, if we are to have physical reality meet political reality, we have to do a lot more.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, the Opposition insists the carbon price suite of measures will do nothing for the global environment. Here's Eric Abetz on Thursday.

SENATOR ERIC ABETZ, OPPOSITION SENATE LEADER (THURSDAY): So we are going to ship out the coal from Australia, give everybody else the advantage of our high-quality, cheap coal without a tax, but tax Australians who want to use Australian coal?

PAUL BONGIORNO: And the other point that Senator Abetz, Liberal Leader in the Senate, made was that in fact Australian carbon emissions will increase under this scheme?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, Australia's emissions are going up. And what this will do, will constrain them against business as usual. As to Senator Abetz's argument about Australia shipping coal overseas, absolutely. The Greens have made this point time and time again, that massively increasing coal exports is against the best interests of climate action and that in fact we need to get rid of all of the subsidies for fossil fuels. And the G20 has just come out with a reaffirmation of that policy, so I'm looking forward to Senator Abetz actually addressing the issue he's raised here and actually supporting us in getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Now when you say things like that, it sets the alarm bells ringing that you're against the coal industry which is integral to Australia's wealth?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, it's very interesting because I think the minerals boom is almost a veil, if you like, against the real problems in the Australian economy. We are increasingly becoming the quarry of Asia. We have a primitive export mix in terms of over 50% of our exports are minerals. We need to massively invest in education and training, diversify the Australian economy, get more sophistication, rebuild manufacturing, and moving to address climate change does all those things because we start to actually invest in commercialising the technologies here and getting a rollout of more jobs in that green field. So what we'll see is actually addressing these real vulnerabilities in the Australian economy by moving strongly on climate change.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for a break. When we return with the panel, do the Greens see the nation's miners as the enemy? And our weekly award goes to the confusion corner inhabited by the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce, as he tried to prove the Greens' voting record made them a Government faction.

SENATOR BARNABY JOYCE, NATIONALS SENATE LEADER (WEDNESDAY): In seriatim, this is how we voted "No, yes. No, no, then the Government didn't support it either. Yes, no, yes, no. No, yes. No, yes. Yes, no. Yes. No. No, yes. No. Yes. Yes. No. No." And I won't bore you, but you get the idea, you get the idea - we don't generally agree!"

PLAYOFF TO BREAK

SEGMENT TWO:

PAUL BONGIORNO, PRESENTER: You're on ‘Meet the Press' with the Greens's Deputy Leader, Christine Milne and welcome to the panel, Jessica Wright, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald' and Steve Lewis, News Limited. Good morning.

PANEL: Good morning, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The Greens believe the Mining Tax and the super profits of three biggest miners needs to be higher than proposed. And making it even harder for Julia Gillard, three of the key Independents have their own ideas as well. The Coalition resolutely against this Mining Tax.

ANDREW ROBB, SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER (THURSDAY): This Government is imposing in the middle of a mining boom, two new taxes. It's ignorance, it's envy but most importantly of all, it is dangerous. It is dangerous in terms of the lost job opportunities, the lost investment opportunities.

JESSICA WRIGHT, ‘THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD': Good morning, Senator. The Greens say the miners should be paying much, much more but the amendments you want have no hope of passing. Can you tell us now will you support the Mining Tax as it stands?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, the Greens have always said we seek to improve the Mining Tax but ultimately we would support it. And we've made that very clear. We're seeking amendments in the House of Representatives to include gold in the Tax. We've said all along we would like to see a Sovereign Wealth Fund, so that we actually have the profits of the boom there to help us invest in the changes we need to make in the economy. We have -we are very pleased to see there's now been a separation of the corporate tax cut. And the Greens have said all along we'd like to see a corporate tax cut for small business in particular. So there are a number of areas of negotiation around the Mining Tax.

JESSICA WRIGHT: Well, do you support the Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott - their ransom demand if you like -- to claw backup up to $400 million of this revenue to be spent on research for the coal seam gas in exchange for their votes?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, I certainly support the action they're taking on coal seam gas. As Tony Windsor said, this is something that should have been required of the companies concerned as a result of environmental impact assessment anyway. We ought to know what the bio-regional consequences are.

JESSICA WRIGHT: Is it blackmail?

CHRISTINE MILNE: No, it's negotiation. That's what balance of power politics is. When you are in the balance of power, you're in a position to negotiate. And it was the Greens' agreement with the Government that led to us getting the outcomes on the carbon price. Tony Windsor has made it very clear as the Greens have done, that we're very concerned about the impacts on the Great Artesian Basin. We're very concerned about the impacts on agricultural production from coal seam gas. So having money spent on bioregional assessment makes sense.

STEVE LEWIS: OK, so that's going to be one of the bottom-line negotiation points. Do you expect there will be a raft of amendments to the Mining Tax before it gets through Parliament?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Oh, I think there will be a lot of negotiation. The extent to which that ends up in successful amendments remains to be seen. We clearly have an amendment in the House of Representatives on gold and then there will be further negotiations in the Senate.

STEVE LEWIS: If you can't get either of those up, will the Greens still support the Mining Tax?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I've said, we want to improve the Mining Tax. We'd like to see what Ken Henry and Treasury had advanced previously, actually get up because we think that when companies are making super profits, it is the people's resource and we should be taking that for the future. However, we will be working with the Government to make sure that we secure some of this money. And I think the key question now is how is Tony Abbott going to fund the superannuation, the 9% to 12%, if he's not supporting the Mining Tax? How is he going to fund his carbon reductions as well? Where is the money coming from?

STEVE LEWIS: On coal seam gas, there's been this extraordinary alliance, if you like, between the Greens in support and people like Alan Jones who've been spruiking or advocating the concerns. Do you find that strange that you've got this sort of a grouping? Do you talk to Alan Jones about these sorts of issues?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I haven't talked to Alan Jones about this issue -

STEVE LEWIS: Why not?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, we haven't had that occasion but that's not to say that I wouldn't. My entry into politics, first of all, was working with the farming community, the fishing community, environmentalists. I'm prepared to work with anyone across the board and that's the advantage of the Greens. We can actually go out and talk to people right across politics because we're interested in outcomes on a principled approach.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Senator, the Greens believe the Fair Work Act needs to be fortified against opportunistic employers but Tony Abbott says there's no need.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER (THURSDAY): The Prime Minister had all the laws that she needed at her disposal on Saturday afternoon to end the dispute. The problem was not a lack of policy, the problem was lack of will on the part of the Prime Minister to use her own laws effectively to stop the dispute.

STEVE LEWIS: Senator Milne, Tony Abbott blames the Prime Minister but do the Greens believe the Fair Work Act does need to be changed in the wake - particularly in the wake - of the Qantas dispute? And if so, will you be pushing for changes through a private members' bill or other means?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes, we do think changes need to be made and Adam Bandt has already given notice of a private members' bill requiring the bosses, if you like, to give the same notice that the unions are required to do if they take action of the kind that Qantas took. And I think that is only fair because we had a situation where Qantas was able to force the issue - to the huge detriment of the travelling public and the nation - without having to do what would have been required of the unions.

STEVE LEWIS: But do you have any sympathy for Alan Joyce? He said the unions were basically slowly killing off Qantas. It was costing tens of millions of dollars through those series of stoppages. Did he really have any other choice?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well, I think he did have another choice. And that should have been to actually come out and negotiate with the unions. And they have said quite clearly, that they were in the process of those negotiations. But nevertheless, I think we need to get those rules in play so we don't debate the matter afterwards that the rules are very clear and people know what the timeframes are for notice into the future.

JESSICA WRIGHT: Speaking of disputes, hardly a day goes by in Parliament House without leadership either making headlines or being a question. But one leadership question we never hear about is the Greens. Do you have designs on the top spot when Senator Brown retires?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Oh look, it's interesting, everyone wants to speculate about leadership. We are very happy the way we are in the Greens. And I think if you see us operating in the Parliament, you'll see we're one of the most united teams there and that's because we share the same philosophical view. And this week, you'll see us working to see the carbon legislation passed and you'll see a very, very pleased team.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well Senator Milne, if you were Kevin Rudd, we'd say, "dodged the question." Thank you very much for being with us this morning.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Thank you, Paul.

 

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