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Brown hails 'exciting' new parliament -

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Greens Leader Bob Brown joins Lateline to give his take on the role the Greens will play in the new
minority Government.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Along with the independents in the House of Representatives, the Greens are
going to play a key role in this parliament.

One of their number is shoring up Labor's position in the Lower House, and in the Senate the Greens
will hold the balance of power from the middle of next year.

To discuss today's event and their implications, I was joined earlier by the Leader of the Greens,
Senator Bob Brown, from our Parliament House studio.

Senator Brown, thanks for coming in.


LEIGH SALES: I asked Tony Windsor about Rob Oakeshott's comment today that the Gillard Government
doesn't have a mandate. What do you think about that?

BOB BROWN: Well it's got - we got a proportional mandate, and it's got the biggest mandate amongst
the make-up of government, ah, and it's certainly now got a stronger mandate than the Coalition.

But it's a working mandate in collaboration with the independents and the Greens and we all bring
our own sectional mandate to what should be a very productive government.

LEIGH SALES: So, do you think Labor can claim a mandate for policies that it took to the election?

BOB BROWN: Well it's the same as the rest of us, but in a stronger position because it's got much
bigger numbers. It will bring into the Parliament its policies and have them tested in the
Parliament, and this is where I think it's very important for Tony Abbott to define himself as
leading a constructive Opposition, rather than a destructive Opposition, so that where it sees good
legislation, it will put it through.

Of course overriding that is the support that the independents and the Greens are giving to
guaranteeing supply. Those bills that come in that make the workings of government important, that
goes without saying there is a mandate to get those through.

LEIGH SALES: For the Gillard Government to get any of its legislative agenda through, it's going to
have come up with policies that satisfy the Greens as well as these country independents who are
former members of the National Party. Sorry, you go ...

BOB BROWN: Well maybe, but the majority of bills will go through with the support of the
Opposition; they always do; about 80 per cent of bills go through.

It's the other 20 per cent that become contentious that we see discussed in the media.

So, when it comes to those, yes, the Government is going to have to work to convince a majority in
both Houses that its legislation is right.

LEIGH SALES: And do you think there's going to be much common ground between the Greens and the
country independents who were former members of the National Party? That was what I was going to
get to.

BOB BROWN: Oh, a lot, a lot. I've met from time to time with Tony Windsor - in fact I went up to
meet the farmers blockading the coal miners, BHP and its coal mine up in the Namoi Valley a couple
of times, and yes, we are very - the Greens and Christine Milne and Rachel Siewert, for example,
have worked very hard over years now for food security to ensure that prime agricultural land is
not compromised.

And the managed investment schemes which have seen plantations, monocultures roll out over prime
potato growing and dairy and other land in recent years injected with funds by Wilson Tuckey and
the Howard Government - that's where it came from, and Eric Abetz, has been a huge mistake.

Those companies have fallen over, but there's been a loss of a lot of high-quality food-producing
land, and we do have a very close, similar pursuit of protection of that land in future with the
independents, the country independents.

LEIGH SALES: Julia Gillard said today that she'd offered a ministry to Rob Oakeshott and that he's
the only person to whom she's extended that invitation.

Are you bothered that offer hasn't been extended to a Green and do you foresee anything in the

BOB BROWN: No. I made it clear to both parties that the talent within the Greens - we've got a
wealth of talent there that could be well used in a cabinet, but the parties haven't taken up that
offer and nor was I going to make that conditional.

We have a big job. We're a Senate-based party with a fantastic member on the floor now of the
Parliament representing Melbourne in Adam Bandt, but we still have nine of our 10 members in the

And our job there is to ensure that we make Government, and indeed Opposition, accountable. So
we'll have our hands full. We're a very innovative parliament.

You've seen the list of - in the agreement with Julia Gillard of measures that we will be getting
through the Parliament, but of course we too have I think 63 measures we went to the public - to
the election with which are very, very good for this country and we'll test many of those in the

If we don't have the numbers, they won't go through. If we do have the numbers, then even without
the Government they may go through, or without the Opposition they may go through. That's what's so
exciting in this new parliament.

LEIGH SALES: On policy, if I can ask about Aboriginal affairs and some comments that the Aboriginal
leader Noel Pearson made in The Australian newspaper today.

He said that a Labor-Greens alliance will be bad for Indigenous well-being, saying, "We're going to
get done over by an active Greens agenda to stifle Indigenous aspirations, combined with a passive
indifference on the part of Labor." What's your response to that?

BOB BROWN: Well firstly you'd expect that on the front page of The Australian, which has been doing
its best to wreck this very government which has emerged through consensus today.

It's been very negative over the last few weeks. But that said, yes, I think that Indigenous
Australia has been left out too much. That's why I, and my colleagues, put in the proposal for
recognition of Indigenous Australians through a referendum in the Constitution, and that will now

When it comes to control over land, I was on the same side of the fence as Noel Pearson way back
when this Parliament decided that Indigenous people wouldn't have a veto over what happened on
their land.

I think we'd need to go back and look at that and really empower Indigenous people to have that
control which ought to have always been theirs.

LEIGH SALES: Is there this active Greens agenda to stifle Indigenous aspirations, as Mr Pearson

BOB BROWN: No, and Noel will also tell you that there are elders within the Indigenous community in
Cape York who don't agree with him. There is a very active debate within Indigenous Australia as
there is within the rest of Australians about the way that land should be looked after and
development should be afforded to and made open to Indigenous people on their own land.

That's one of the reasons why the Greens can have a difference of opinion with the West Australian
Government over the new gas developments in the Kimberley. We side with one side of the Indigenous
community there which says this is an absolute plunder and an overriding of the rights of
Indigenous people for a high-handed Liberal government to roll over and say, "We're going to
acquire you land regardless."

Now, there are Indigenous people who disagree with us on that, but we've taken one side, we think
it is the right side and we'll continue to put that point of view in the national Parliament.

LEIGH SALES: Before we're out of time, I just want to ask one question on climate change. As we
know, the Citizens' Assembly idea was roundly derided on both the left and the right. Do you accept
though that there is work to be done to persuade the public of the reality of human-induced climate
change before policy can be introduced?

BOB BROWN: No. That argument is over. There is a small section who will never be satisfied on that.
We're moving on to a carbon price. Julia Gillard went to the election on that; the Greens went to
the election on that. We have now a way forward for not only getting a carbon price, but giving
business the certainty it wants in an age of dangerous climate change.

LEIGH SALES: And how soon before you would anticipate seeing a carbon price?

BOB BROWN: Leigh, we're committed in that agreement to working on that this month and announcing
the details about how that committee will work and how - what the view is to report dates and so on
by the end of this month.

So that's a work in progress. But, you know, the sooner the better, no doubt about that, but it's
going to be very inclusive, including the best expertise in Australia, as well as cross-party

And I certainly hope that the Coalition will allow those who in the Coalition believe there should
be a carbon price to sit on that committee as well.

LEIGH SALES: Senator Bob Brown, thankyou very much.

BOB BROWN: Thanks, Leigh