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Sky News Australian Agenda Christine Milne 1 July 2012

Interview with Christine Milne, Greens Leader Australian Agenda program, 1 July 2012 Peter van Onselen: Welcome back. You're watching Australian Agenda, where I'm joined by Matthew Franklin, Simon Benson and Paul Kelly, and we're speaking now with Greens Leader Christine Milne, whos joining us out of Hobart. Senator, thanks very much for your company. Christine Milne: Thank you. Peter van Onselen: Can I just start by asking you about the political rhetoric. Whether its on Twitter or in some of the commentary through the media, the Government are acting, frankly, quite smugly about the fact that the carbon price is here and the sky isn't falling in. Now, at a personal level, I can understand their reaction to the over-the-top rhetoric from the Opposition, but do you really think that this is helping things? At the end of the day, I'm not sure Australians want their Treasurer, for example, who is bringing in a new tax, to be sort of flippantly acting in that sort of political way? Christine Milne: Well, I think it would be much better to be out on the front foot saying that this is the day that Australia seriously starts tackling global warming and actually out selling the merits of a broad-based policy which includes the carbon farming initiative, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for renewable energy, as well as the polluter pays principle and energy efficiency. So I think it would be good to be out selling the merits of actually getting on and doing something.
Australian Agenda 1/7/2012 Christine Milne

But, having said that, the Coalition has made such a welter of extreme claims for so long, it's hardly surprising people are going to be in Whyalla today saying the place hasn't been wiped off the face of the earth. Paul Kelly: Senator, when you look back on the last couple of years, given that today is the first day of carbon pricing, how much ownership do the Greens claim of this scheme? Christine Milne: Well, a great deal, because this was a central plank of our agreement to provide confidence and supply to the Gillard Government right there, number one, to introduce a price on pollution in Australia and to do it in this form of Government and to form a multiparty climate committee to deliver it, and that's precisely what has happened. And we worked really hard in that committee to make sure we got as good a policy as we possibly could. So I feel very pleased today that Australia is going to be addressing climate change and that the Greens have been central to getting that outcome. Paul Kelly: Well, just to follow up, and just to clarify with a bit more precision on the answer you just gave, are you saying that it was the Greens in fact that delivered the Labor Party to the scheme? Christine Milne: I think that's probably one way of putting it. If we go back to what happened in the 2010 election, both the Coalition and the Labor Party went in to that election saying they wouldn't be pricing carbon in this period of government, that's absolutely true, and I think if a majority government had been elected, we would still just have a lot of talk and not real action. So it has been because we have a powersharing arrangement in Australia with the Greens in balance of power that we actually achieved this outcome. Simon Benson: Senator, there's a lot of politics around this, as you know, therell be a lot more this week. But you've studied these matters, what do you think people will notice about the effect of the carbon tax on them in
Australian Agenda 1/7/2012 Christine Milne

the coming few months and do you think that, by the end of it, people will wonder what all the fuss was about? Christine Milne: I think that is the outcome. I think people will be getting their compensation payments. They're not really sure what they're for, because they weren't linked to carbon pricing in the literature that went out. But nevertheless, I think people will shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh, what was all that about?, and people will start to get angry with the Coalition for having made all the claims they've made. And theyll look at the fact that Tony Abbott's just done a major backflip on the NBN and say, "Well, that's exactly what's going to happen with carbon pricing. If you recall, he said he was going to demolish the NBN and tear it down, and he hasn't. He was going to oppose the carbon farming initiative, and now he isn't. The reality is where's the Coalition going to get the money from to deliver any kind of action on climate change, because they're going to have to take it out of people's wallets, because they're saying they won't actually go and charge polluters for their pollution. Peter van Onselen: Senator, you can't seriously think that Tony Abbott wouldn't unwind the carbon price, can you? Like, at the end of the day, whether you agree or disagree with him doing it, however difficult and fractured it might be to do it, he has staked his absolute entire political career on doing so. How can you possibly think that he won't do it, even if it's damaging to try? Christine Milne: Well, he said he would tear down the NBN as well, and then, just in a limp statement, suddenly that's reversed, and when people are quite accustomed to carbon pricing --.

Peter van Onselen: But it is different, though, senator, its very different politically, surely. I mean, he's put so much more emphasis on the carbon tax than he ever did on unwinding the NBN. Christine Milne:
Australian Agenda 1/7/2012 Christine Milne

Well, I think that's true, and that's why I've said all along that I think, as this progresses, the question will be whether he leads the Coalition into the next election. I don't think they can go into the election saying that they'll repeal carbon pricing, that the polluter pays principle, and so how they sought that is for them to decide. Simon Benson: Senator, putting aside the practical effect on people's lives, which you say people wonder what the fuss is about, isn't the political effect on Julia Gillard death in the polls, if you look at the polls? The coalition is running hard on this broken promise before the election. Do you think Julia Gillard can recover from that? Christine Milne: Well, that remains to be seen, but certainly I think that the polls will turn around in relation to addressing climate change and taking real action. It was always a case of a separate issue on what the issue of carbon pricing was relative to the issue of a politician saying something before the election and doing something afterwards. So it remains to be seen how the Prime Minister's able to recover from that. But on the issue of carbon pricing, I've got no doubt that will turn around, particularly as all the opportunities open up for investment in the new economy, because that's where the future is. All of those jobs in renewables, in efficiency, in new city design - there's just so much excitement around moving to a low-carbon economy. That's where the opportunity is to really turn the tables in people's thinking.

Simon Benson: Senator, could I take you to the other issue that dominated parliament last week, and that's the one of asylum seekers. It was clear that there was a majority in Parliament that were in favour of returning to offshore processing in some form or other. Do you really believe that the Greens have a right to take on the role of executive government on an issue so important and go against the majority will of the Parliament on this issue?

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Christine Milne: Well, the Greens have only a limited number of votes in the Parliament, and so the majority determine any outcome. But on this particular issue, the Greens have had a long-standing position that we want to prioritise looking after asylum seekers, actually saving lives, and what the Parliament was doing this week was looking for a quick fix and a pretend solution that would make people think something had happened when in fact what was on the table from the Government was actually another leaky boat in a different form. Simon Benson: With respect, though, you used the phrase "quick fix", and last week you used the phrase "knee-jerk reaction", but surely people dying at sea requires a quick fix, an immediate fix, and then a long-term solution? Christine Milne: Certainly that's the case, and that's why the Greens have said we have always supported a regional outcome, and that's why we've said we want to see onshore processing in the context of a regional solution. And in terms of the immediate situation, the Greens actually put a practical plan on the table. Number one, let's actually look at safety of lives at sea policy and give a directive right across the rescue, from intelligence through to people on the ground, to actually rescue people before they're in the water, not after they're in the water. Secondly, we've said let's put money into the UNHCR in Indonesia so that they can do the processing quicker, but also we asked the Prime Minister to take 1,000 people immediately from Indonesia, 4,000 from Malaysia, straightaway as well as increasing our overall intake. What that would have done is send a message immediately that this regional assessment could be done quickly, get people here and take the pressure off people feeling so desperate that they feel like the only option they've got is to get on a boat. Simon Benson: Senator, I'm not sure whether you heard, but just before on this program Greg Hunt said that this was an example of how minority Government had failed. What's your response to that? Christine Milne:
Australian Agenda 1/7/2012 Christine Milne

Well, when nobody has all the power, everybody has got some, and so every party has to work together and try and work out ways of dealing with complex issues. It was not helpful this week to rush legislation that was so flawed, was in fact a leaky boat - rush that into the Parliament to make it look as if we were doing something. It would have been much better to proceed with a negotiation process amongst all parliamentarians. But, again, it has to be in the context of maintaining the law. We've got a law in Australia, and as parliamentarians, surely our obligation is to actually uphold our international responsibilities as well as our own legislation to provide human rights to people. Paul Kelly: Senator, I'd like to go back to the climate change issue. The carbon policy is involving a target of a 5% emissions reduction by 2020. We don't hear a lot these days about a more ambitious target. I'd therefore like to ask you are you completely satisfied with the 5% target or would the Greens like to see a more ambitious target for 2020, and how would you prosecute that? Christine Milne: Well, there isn't a 5% target. That's one of the good things that came out of this scheme. We've got an 80% reduction by 2050 at least, and we've set up a new institution, the Climate Change Authority, which will be charged with actually establishing how quickly we can achieve that emissions reduction, and they will report in the first half of 2014. So the good thing about this whole system is that now we've got a process for setting appropriate levels of emissions reduction and the 5% has gone. The Coalition are the ones who are committed only to 5%. We now have a parliament committed to at least an 80% reduction by 2050 and a Climate Change Authority charged with helping us to get there. Paul Kelly: Okay. Well, just following up on that point, then, what sort of goal would you like to see achieved by 2020? Christine Milne:

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Well, let's see what the Climate Change Authority had to say, but the Greens made it fairly clear that, from our point of view, we thought Australia should commit to the Bali process, which was that developed countries cut emissions somewhere between 25% and 40% by 2020. But the way we're doing it now is to look at carbon budget to 2050 and work out how quickly we can actually make the reductions we need in that context. Simon Benson: Senator, you seem to have benefited quite well out of this arrangement with the Labor Party on the coalition, as it's called. You've got your way on carbon tax, you've got your way for the moment on border protection. What benefit is there for the Labor Party to still keep an arrangement with you on this? There seems to be little political benefit for them. They can't get policy through the Parliament that they want because of you. I mean, what would be the implications if Labor decided to turn around and tear up that agreement with you? What would be the implications for Government and the Greens? Christine Milne: Well, we have an arrangement with the Labor Party because it is a minority government - that's what the people of Australia returned after the last election - and the Prime Minister is governing, and the result is that we're getting a lot of legislation through the parliament. And, contrary to the views people have, we're negotiating all the time on good outcomes. For example, this week on the withholding tax I managed to negotiate a concessional rate for investment in green buildings in Australia. So every week we're negotiating to get better outcomes, and this is actually a parliament in which everybody can get outcomes, including the Coalition. It's just they choose not to. If you want to negotiate, you can get good outcomes. Peter van Onselen: And just finally, Senator, can I ask you how are the Greens going in the wake of Bob Brown's departure? He was such an august figure for the movement. You've now taken over the leadership. There was various commentary about what impact that might have. What has the reaction been like in the last weeks internally? Christine Milne:

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Oh, the reaction to the change of leadership has been very positive. People love Bob and are really pleased that hes now got a chance to do other things in his life, including take on other causes. In terms of the party, since the change of leadership, theres quite a lot of renewal. We've even had an increased membership across the country. The Greens, like everyone else, are really troubled by what's happening to asylum seekers and Greens have been passionate on this issue and working on it around the country for a very long time, so, naturally, they've been keen to see that we're exploring all options. But I can tell you every Green out there wants to see our humanitarian intake increased, wants to see lives at sea prioritised, wants to make sure we do the best we can for the human rights of desperate people seeking a new and better life in our country. Peter van Onselen: All right. Greens Leader Christine Milne joining us out of Hobart, we appreciate your company on this edition of Australian Agenda. Thanks very much. Christine Milne: Thank you.

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Christine Milne