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Christine Milne joins Insiders -

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BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: We'll go now to Launceston and the leader of the Greens, Senator Christine Milne.

Good morning, welcome.


BARRIE CASSIDY: On that people smuggler story, though, is it of concern that the people smugglers are in fact looking for new and more dangerous ways of bringing asylum seekers to Australia?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes, it is. I was horrified when I read that story because what it demonstrates is what the Greens have been saying all along, and that is that deterrence doesn't work. People will seek a way of getting to Australia, and now New Zealand, and they will believe people smugglers, as they have in the past.

And what sends absolute shivers down myr spine is exactly what David said. We're going to find shipping containers on wharfs in Australia or in New Zealand, and when they're opened we're going to find tragic scenes of a whole lot of people who have died. And this really has to stop.

This is what cruelty does, it doesn't matter how cruel you become, people become more and more desperate and the measures they take more extreme.

What is broken is Australia's response to people who are seeking asylum in our country. And it's time we thought about them as people like us, with parents and brothers and sisters and hopes for a new life, and actually started to address the issue. Around the world there are millions seeking asylum at the moment. You only have to look at what's going on in Syria, you have to see what happened in the Mediterranean as all those people died trying to get to Lampedusa. We have a global issue of people moving, seeking a new life because they're running from persecution, and it's time that we responded to that in a humane and decent way. And I think it's appalling to think that we will see people coming out of these shipping containers as a pile of corpses and that is going to be shocking.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But wouldn't they, no matter how desperate they are, wouldn't they instinctively know how dangerous an exercise that would be?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Instinctively I think yes, but people are desperate. They instinctively would know that the boats that they're getting on from Indonesia also have a chance of sinking and them drowning. But we've seen cases of these kinds of cases in the UK where people have been trafficked into the UK, and they've opened those containers and people have obviously suffocated and died in them. So I wouldn't say that people won't do it.

They will know it's dangerous but they will want to believe that they will only be in them until they're loaded on the ship and then they will be allowed out, and the fact is we know that they will die.

BARRIE CASSIDY: On the home insulation scheme inquiry now. Why do you think the Government is doing this?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Look, it's purely political. I'll look at the terms of reference. If the Government was really serious about the safety issues concerned, they would have taken up some of the recommendations from the coronial inquiries that have occurred. One of those is that we move to a much broader implementation of safety switches, for example, make those mandatory, and also that we put in place a broader education campaign for all the tradespeople involved and the companies involved. And that's clearly something we should be rolling out.

Having said that, you know, everybody knows Peter Garrett was the fall guy for the failure of the Prime Minister's office and refusal of the Prime Ministers's office to listen to the advice of the Department. It was clear in all the estimates hearings, when I asked heaps of questions about this, that people were being told to go ahead even though they were saying 'we simply can't roll it out at the scale and as fast as the Prime Minister's office is requiring.'

But we have had a number of inquiries. We'll look at the terms of reference. But let's get on with doing what the coronial inquiries have already recommended.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But having said that, though, isn't it possible that the families of the four young people who died would certainly welcome this?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes, and we'll have a look at it from that point of view, and we need to take into account absolutely what they want. I've read some of the remarks that they have made, and yes, they do deserve answers. But if you're really serious about making sure it doesn't happen again, let's go back and implement the things that will protect people now as well as getting to the basis of what has happened in the past.

But again, if governments were more transparent in the first place, and this is what did… they absolutely blocked this information coming out during Kevin Rudd's prime ministership, and as I said, Peter Garrett was forced to take the fall on it. We still don't know what role Mark Arbib had in it, so perhaps we will get to the bottom of that.

BARRIE CASSIDY: On bushfires now and climate change. When lives are lost and property is destroyed do we have to overlay the whole thing with a political argument?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I think that there have to be questions asked about what we're going to do to make sure that more people aren't put at risk, more properties lost because we're not acting on the underlying causes. And this is the big issue. There is no better time actually to be talking about how to save lives in the future and look at the consequences of failing to do that in the past. And that's what's gone on here.

Climate change itself is not political, it's real, it's happening right now, and it's how you respond to it that is political. I put into place a Senate Inquiry last year into Australia's preparedness for extreme weather events - like fires, like floods - that made a series of recommendations and again they get shelved. We need a national disaster resilience fund, we need to be putting money into mitigating against these things getting worse. But as long as you have the Coalition not wanting to talk about it, and as long as you try to derail it into whether climate science is real or not, you're not getting on with talking about how we can save lives and property into the future. And that is the challenge for Australia.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Sure, but Adam Bandt seemed to suggest that Tony Abbott was in some way responsible for the fires. We know what caused most of them. The Army was responsible in one case, child arsonists in another.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Look, what ignites a fire is going to be lightning or human induced arsonists or what happened with the Defence Force. But the issue is the circumstances underlying the ignition. And we know that south-eastern Australia is experiencing a drying trend. We've had the hottest year, the hottest winter; we had conditions which were leading to higher likelihood of bushfires, more extreme fire danger days, a higher probability of ignition chance at the upper end. And the scale of the fires. It's the intensity and scale of the fires and floods and cyclones that is going to be driven by global warming. And that's what we have to really respond to in Australia.

Will Steffen said this week. The Climate Council is out saying climate change is the underlying cause of this drying out effect, and as a result heatwave danger, higher levels of evaporation, therefore more fires, but let's get on and talk about what we're going to do about it. And that's where Adam Bandt was absolutely right to be saying what Tony Abbott is doing is tearing down the only policy that we've got in place which is reducing emissions, and we have a serious regime in place to address climate change. And Tony Abbott wants to tear that down and try to denigrate the science as hogwash, and then go and insult people like Christina Figueres, who is globally respected in the work she's doing for trying to negotiate towards a global treaty in 2015.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Was Adam Bandt also right in saying Tony Abbott putting on a firefighters uniform for the media is a con, given he's got a long history in doing this sort of thing and quite often away from the glare of the media?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I think Tony Abbott's work as a volunteer firefighter is to be respected, and I value that. But he's also the Prime Minister of Australia. And in that role he has a responsibility to lead the nation.

And the point that's being made here is: on the one hand fighting fires, but if you're not doing anything that actually prevents the situation being worse in the future and putting more people's lives at risk, then you're not doing what you've been elected to do. You've been elected to lead, and frankly the Coalition are not leading the nation when it comes to the biggest threat facing us, and that is climate change. We're the most vulnerable continent on earth.

We are already seeing lives lost and billions of dollars worth of damage. Look at Cyclone Yasi, look at the floods, now the fires in New South Wales. When are we going to decide that we accept the climate science and now we're going to not only adapt and work out a national resilience fund to be able to spend money, but also we're going to pull down emissions, we're actually going to seriously address the problem? And that's where Tony Abbott fails. He does the on the ground but not the leadership.

BARRIE CASSIDY: In the time left I want to ask you about Senate reform. As a minor party are you now going to go after the micro-parties. Do you want some sort of reform that makes it more difficult for them to be elected?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well we've had legislation in the Parliament since 2010, so well before this election, saying that it's time we had Senate reform. Bob Brown had a bill in the Parliament that was for optional preferential above the line to get rid of the party tickets. And I think it's the party tickets and those preference negotiations which people can't stand; they don't know the results, and that's what's delivered the outcome that we've got this time. So we certainly want to pursue electoral reform.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Will that do it on its own? Will that reform do it on its own and achieve the purpose that you want?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I think it's an important step towards it. The optional preferential above the line and also the Robson Rotation, which is where no one party has the poll position on every ballot paper. It is rotated. We've had that in Tasmania for a long time, and I think if we did that for the Senate voting system that would be good as well.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Thank you, Barrie.