Subjects: COAG, environmental protection, electricity market reform, inquiry into insecure work
CHRISTINE MILNE: For an example of who is actually driving the agenda in Canberra, you just have to look at the COAG meeting that's going to take place on Friday. The Business Council of Australia went to the Prime Minister and said, we want to get those minerals out of the ground faster than we can at the moment, we need to rid of environmental protection. The Prime Minister said fine and is now going to COAG to actually hand over to the states environmental protection in Australia. Commonwealth environmental powers abandoned to people like Campbell Newman - would you trust Campbell Newman to look after the Great Barrier Reef? Would you trust Colin Barnett in Western Australia to look after James Price point? And in Tasmania Lara Giddings has already said she doesn't want the Tarkine protected at all because she wants to make sure there are as many mines as possible destroying it. So there you have it, we have Prime Minister Gillard turning up with the state premiers saying I'm handing over to you the power to control the environment, to look after the environment, because we know that the states will facilitate all kinds of destructive activities and not protect the environment.
We're calling on the Prime Minister today to abandon this ridiculous plan, it comes straight from the Business Council of Australia, straight from the mining barons, it says get the environment out of the way, hand it over to the states and all will be well. Look what happened in New South Wales - absolute corruption under a Labor Government in New South Wales facilitating all kinds of mining leases, why would you trust state governments to have the final say on environment, why would you hand over Commonwealth assessment powers to the states, only to facilitate big business? It's the wrong way for the Prime Minister to be going, she should reverse direction, she should now abandon this plan.
All the discussion about COAG to date has been about power bills, and I absolutely agree, we have to bring down power bills and the best way of doing that is to implement a national energy efficiency target, that's where we need to go. What she has on the table is a good idea but it doesn't go far enough, a national energy efficiency target. But let's not be distracted, that is not the biggest story at COAG, the bigger story at COAG is the sell-out of the environment by Labor. It's Julia Gillard trashing Bob Hawke's legacy on the environment, abandoning 30 years of work on environmental protection and handing it back over to the states. It can't be allowed, she must change it.
JOURNALIST: So what could be the implications of this?
CHRISTINE MILNE: The implications of this are very clear, just look at Colin Barnett, says get out of the way Commonwealth, I can take over in Western Australia, that means there will be fast tracking of developments from one end of Western Australia to the other. In Tasmania we have already had it when the pulp mill proposal was on the table here in Tasmania, the then-premier with Lara Giddings right beside him took the whole project out of the proper planning process in order to facilitate Gunns, that's what we'd have in Queensland - can you imagine Campbell Newman? He would love just being able to give the big tick to get on with those big coal ports right up and down the Barrier Reef which are already destroying the Reef. We would have the Great Barrier Reef listed as World Heritage in danger in five minutes if Campbell Newman was actually running the show on the environment. This is Julia Gillard selling out on the environment. Make no mistake Tony Abbott is right there beside her, shoulder to shoulder, and the Business Council of Australia. It's really only the Greens and the environment groups and local communities around the country who are saying hey, let's step back from this, this is a very bad idea.
JOURNALIST: So it's unwise to give premiers more power you believe?
CHRISTINE MILNE: It is absolutely foolish for the Prime Minister to hand over to the States more powers in terms of the environment. We have seen state governments completely clean out their environment departments. They don't have the capacity to do this, even if you trusted them to do it, they simply don't have the people any more. But frankly the state premiers cannot be trusted on the environment, the Commonwealth learnt that over the Franklin case many years ago, we would now have oil rigs all through the Barrier Reef if it had been up to the Queensland Government and as you know in Tasmania we would be having mines throughout the area that is now World Heritage if it had been left purely up the Tasmanian Government. We can't allow this kind of irresponsible behaviour from state Governments, we have to change this, the Prime Minister has to stop taking her instructions from big business. A better way of approaching it is to listen to the communities and to recognise we have a biodiversity crisis, we're losing species at a great rate and from Doha the news on the climate is shocking. We have news overnight we're on track for 4 to 6 degrees of warming, that's an unliveable planet. Instead of handing over environment powers to the states, what the Prime Minister should be doing is lifting the level of ambition with Australia's target. Saying that we're only going to reduce emissions by half a per cent on 1990 levels is really so offensive in terms of what the science demands. We need to be lifting our level of effort to address global warming before it's too late, and we've got a situation with the Murray Darling where the Prime Minister and Tony Abbott absolutely in lockstep there, approving a plan which doesn't take climate change into account. You simply can't trust them on the environment. The world is headed for an absolute crash in terms of the climate, extreme weather events are already occurring, we have to do a lot better, not abandon environmental protection to the states.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister will take note though?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I'm calling on Prime Minister Gillard to really listen to the scientists, to environmentalists, think about the Hawke legacy, for 30 years we've had the Commonwealth recognising it has got to come in over the top of the states in order to protect our precious places, now she is abandoning that, she's abandoning the Coorong, she's abandoning James Price point, she's abandoning the Tarkine and species like the Koala, the Leadbeater's Possum, the community doesn't want that Prime Minister, please stop listening to the Business Council and big business around Australia trying to destroy the environment and instead retain the powers, that is essential.
JOURNALIST: In terms of power prices which way do the Greens think we should be heading?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well the Greens have been campaigning for a national energy efficiency target for a long time, we've been saying we have to change the rules to the national electricity market so that people who produce renewable energy can actually get onto the grid quickly and in an efficient way, we also have been saying you have to maximise the energy efficiency opportunities and the best way of doing that is to drive it with a target. The only reason we've got the rollout of renewable energy is because we've got a renewable energy target. If you want energy efficiency you need a national energy efficiency target. Of course it's a good idea to give more money to the regulator, but the regulator can only act within the rules, we need changes to the national electricity market, we need to go a lot further than what the Commonwealth is proposing. Adam wanted to make some comments on another matter.
ADAM BANDT: As we head towards Christmas, it's a time for quite a few people to relax and start winding down and perhaps overindulge, but for many, many people around this country it will be a time of great stress as they wait to work out whether or not their casual work is being rostered on, to find out whether their contract is going to be renewed. We're now at the stage in this country where one in four workers has no paid leave entitlements and when there are hundreds of thousands of people, especially working in education, waiting to find out whether their contract that goes from month-to-month or year-to-year is going to be renewed. Australia is a particularly bad offender in this, only Spain has more casual or temporary workers than we do. And it's damaging people's lives, it's making it difficult to get a mortgage, it's making it difficult to plan a family, it's getting in the way of people's health, stress is rising and we can do something about it. I'm very pleased that today the Prime Minister has acknowledged the problem of insecure work in Australia. There's now the opportunity for Labor to get on board with the Greens and support us. I'm pleased to announce that we're going to have the first national inquiry into the big problem of insecure work in Australia. As a Parliamentary Committee inquires into the Greens' bill that would give people more security in their work, and not have them living month-to-month or year-to-year, not having people coming into work sick simply because they know that if they did not do that they wouldn't get paid. It's time to tackle this problem. We have heard lots of noises from the Government but now it's time for action. So the Greens' bill would give people greater security in their working lives, greater control over their working arrangements and reduce a lot of the stress that a lot of people would be feeling at Christmas time.
JOURNALIST: Christmas would probably be quite a busy time though is that one good thing from this?
ADAM BANDT: There might be a lot of people who might get a bit of extra work at Christmas and that's good, then they might find themselves going without in January of February and there are a lot of teachers, and a lot of people who work in universities who find that their contract runs out in November when the school term's over or the teaching term's over and then they don't get another contract until January or February of next year which means they go all of Christmas without any holiday pay. Now as an advanced first world country Australia should be able to look after its workers better than that. It's a growing problem, it's causing people stress, and it's time now for the Prime Minister to back the Greens' initiative to make sure people have more secure lives.