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Transcript of press conference: Hobart: 24 January 2013: fossil fuel subsidies; MRRT; Bob Katter's party's homophobia and Tasmanian forest negotiations.

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Christine Milne Australian Greens Leader

Thursday 24 January 2013

Press conference


Subjects: Fossil fuel subsidies, MRRT, Bob Katter’s party’s homophobia

CHRISTINE MILNE: We’ve been saying for some time if you’re serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if you’re serious about converting to a low carbon, zero carbon economy, then one of the first things you should do is get rid of fossil fuel subsidies. Kevin Rudd undertook to do that when he was Prime Minister in the G20 context and the G20 will be coming to Australia in 2014. So this is an ideal opportunity for the Government to recognise it has made no money from its MRRT mining tax, that the big miners have made a fool of the Government and made the people of Australia very, very cross because they feel that they have been betrayed. The mining industry spent $20 million in the campaign against the super profits tax, it led to Prime Minister Rudd being overthrown, it led to a much watered-down tax and it’s led to the miners making mega profits.

In fact we’ve calculated that the $20 million they spent has actually cost the Australian taxpayer $26 billion over the four years of the forward estimates. That is what the mining industry has withheld from the Australian community. The Greens want to see money spent on implementing the Gonski review into education, we want to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme brought in, we want to see the money put into Denticare. There are so many things that the community needs and if you’re genuine about spreading the benefits of the boom and you failed entirely on the MRRT as the Government has, then this is an excellent option. And what’s interesting is that people in Queensland feel very strongly that the $2 billion that the miners get in subsidies for the fossil fuel subsidies is wrong and that the Queenslanders deserve to have a better deal from the mining industry. So I’m calling on Prime Minister Gillard and of course the leader of the Coalition to recognise that if you say climate change is real and urgent then you should not be subsidising the fossil fuels that are making it worse. So this is a win-win, it’s a win for the community and it’s a win for the climate. Let’s get rid of that $2 billion worth of fossil fuel subsidies to the big miners and let’s invest it in the community.

Another issue, it’s been very alarming to see comments from Bob Katter’s candidates around the country which are extremely homophobic. Now there is no place in modern Australia for homophobia and for discrimination. We ought to be removing all forms of discrimination and we


should be pursuing marriage equality in Australia. The last thing that people in rural and regional Australia deserve is a political party out there demeaning and abusing and undermining people who are gay. That is completely unacceptable. For a long time people have thought of Bob Katter as some kind of joke, the man with the hat. Well it’s no joke.

I was in Toowoomba earlier this year for a television program and a young person in the audience got up and said how hard it was to be a gay person in rural Queensland and Bob Katter make that worse by his comments and so he needs to come out and say, what does the Party stands for? Does Bob Katter endorse the remarks of his candidates, in which case the Katter party has no place in Australian politics espousing discrimination and espousing homophobia. And if he doesn’t endorse the remarks then he should dis-endorse the candidates. But we can’t leave this notional view out there that there will be a political party running in the election actually hurting, particularly young gay Australians in rural and regional areas. It’s unacceptable. We’ve been through it here in Tasmania, we fought for a very long time for gay law reform and then the gradual improvements, the end to discrimination, and what a great thing it’s been for Tasmania. And we don’t want to see other rural communities really undermined and divided by this kind of last century, very age-old thinking.

JOURNALIST: Can we firstly ask you about the mining tax - has the Prime Minister responded to the letter you wrote last week?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I have had no response to date from the Prime Minister. She will be speaking at the Press Club next week which is before the January 31 deadline. She indicated in a previous letter to the then-leader Bob Brown that there would be a full review released before 31 January so let’s see what the Prime Minister comes up with at the Press Club. But I think it’s very clear that if this mining tax had been generating millions or billions for Australians that the Government would have had no problem releasing it. The only reason they’re in the position they’re in is because it hasn’t raised any money and it’s an embarrassment to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer Mr Swan. They don’t want to admit to Australians that when they caved in to the big miners, They were done over, it’s as simple as that. The miners won, the miners spent $20 million, the miners have kept the $26 billion that could have been in the Australian coffers to help us fund education, child care, dental care, all of the good thing is that the community wants.

JOURNALIST: would you be hoping that this is immediately turned around if it is decided that it’s not benefiting Australia, that that money is automatically stopped and sent into other areas?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well what I would like to see is a recognition from the Government that you can’t expand coal mining in Australia, you can’t expand coal seam gas in Australia, you can’t subsidise the mining industry, coal especially, and then turn around and say you are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That is a completely hypocritical position. You can’t go along to the G20 and say Australia will get rid of fossil fuel subsidies and then maintain them. So really it now is a question for the Government of two things: first work with the Greens to block the loopholes in the mining tax, we’ve already got legislation to do that, get behind us and let’s actually secure some money from the mining tax, but secondly let’s get rid of the fossil fuel subsidies to the big miners. $2 billion - they’ve already kept their $26 billion, let’s get actually $2 billion back from what the taxpayer is already paying them.


JOURNALIST: In terms of the forest agreement, the Liberals have a theory that it is bit of Greens Labor preference deal, is there any truth in this?

CHRISTINE MILNE: There’s absolutely no truth in it, and I think it’s time that the Liberal party put their names to it. What we’ve seen over the last week is an anonymous document circulating in Tasmania alleging that there’s some preference negotiation around the forest I can say it’s completely, utterly, absolutely untrue. There is no negotiation over preferences and forests, there is certainly very strong support from the Greens to get the intergovernmental agreement through the Legislative Council, to get our forests into a World Heritage nomination, to be put in by the Federal Government by the first of February, we have been working really hard to secure that outcome.

I began campaigning for those forests back in the 1980s, we have been through this with the original boundaries for the Tasmanian wilderness World Heritage area, I would love to see that eastern boundary forest, those beautiful high conservation value forests in World Heritage and that’s what I’m working for but there is no discussion around preferences and I think it’s incumbent upon the Liberals to actually come out and put a face to this rumour that they are circulating. What it does show though is that the Liberal party in Tasmania has finally recognised that actually they can’t win Government unless they’re prepared to negotiate with another party and I think they’re starting to panic. That’s where this is coming from but let’s put a face to the rumour.

JOURNALIST: And have any deals been made in regard to conservation?

CHRISTINE MILNE: No there have been no discussions at all on issues. I can tell you that in terms of preferences we are now in 2013 federal election year and all the political parties site in Little election mode now that means that preference discussions have started between all political parties at the federal level but none of that is issues based so I can tell you absolutely the forest issue is not part of any preference negotiation and it’s up to the Liberals to stop spreading silly rumours.