Pic of PM Gillard and Nova Peris: 3AW

Wednesday 23 January 2013. Press conference Transcript. Subjects: carbon price, carbon emissions, national security, Nova Peris

CHRISTINE MILNE:  Good news today on the carbon emission front - we have seen an 8.6 percent reduction in carbon pollution, we have seen an increase in the amount of renewable energy going into the system. This is exactly what we had hoped for when the Greens negotiated the emissions trading scheme in Australia. We need to make this transition away from coal-fired power to renewables as quickly as possible and what we’ve shown is that far from Tony Abbott’s threats of $100 roasts or Whyalla being wiped off the map, we have brought in a scheme in an orderly way that is significantly reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that at the same time both the Government and the Coalition are supporting an expansion in coal mining.

Greenpeace has brought out a report that shows that the Galilee basin mine in Queensland, if it was its own country would be projected to be the world’s seventh largest polluter. We cannot continue to talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ignore the expansion of coal mines for export. What we need to do is get Prime Minister Gillard and the leader of the Coalition Tony Abbott to commit to reducing coal exports, to not going ahead with this coal expansion, otherwise Australia will be one of the largest drivers of increases in emissions globally and we will be really significantly contributing to a failure to achieve the less than two degrees of warming which all the scientists agree is what we should be aiming for.

So good news, and, Tony Abbott, you have now been shown to be overwhelmingly wrong on carbon pollution and emissions trading. Time now for the Coalition to abandon their opposition, time for them to abandon their threat to do away with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and rather get on board with what all Australians want and that is a safe climate for their children and their children’s children, and all the species that depend on maintaining our habitats and ecosystems around the country. And for Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, yes we’re delighted that we’ve not got a Clean Energy Package, we’ve got emissions trading and we’ve got carbon emissions coming down. But Prime Minister, you can’t be serious about climate change and support the expansion of coal mining. Time for that to be out there full and centre, we need a discussion in Australia about how we are going to get away from the expansion of coal mining and coal exports.

JOURNALIST: There’s been some discussion before about big companies getting some sort of subsidies with the mining tax so is that how they can still be exporting such high amounts?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well Australia has a resource-based economy and the Greens have been saying we need to transition as quickly as possible to a low carbon and then a zero carbon economy. That would bring with it huge advantages because that’s new jobs, new infrastructure. I’ve just come back from Spain where I’ve seen the Gemasolar power plant, Abengoa solar, what we are seeing there is molten salt storage, means concentrated solar power is not something of the future it’s actually happening now -producing energy after the sun goes down. So many opportunities for Australia, innovation, new jobs, new support in rural communities. That’s the conversation we need to be having, but we also need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies. Because how can you be serious about the climate if you are continuing to subsidise extraction of coal and coal-fired generation. That doesn’t make sense, we need to get off fossil fuel subsidies and move much faster towards 100 percent renewable energy.

One other matter I just wanted to comment on, the Prime Minister has made a speech today on national security. I welcome the fact that she has said we need to be focusing very much on our own region in the global context of security in this decade, but the one thing that she mentioned in passing but not as central to our national security into the future is global warming. All the scientists and the Pentagon as well are saying if you’re serious about global security, you have to address global warming. Because what we’re going to see is displacement of large amounts of people around the world that are going to cause then regional conflicts and we really have to get across global warming. So it’s another reason why the Prime Minister needs to recognise that as long as Australia’s pushing expanded fossil fuels, pushing what would be the seventh largest polluter in the world, the Galilee basin, rather than that what we need to be doing is looking at doing what we can to capacity build around the world so people can stay where they are instead of being displaced by extreme weather events that we know will occur, as has been occurring in Australia over this summer.

JOURNALIST: On national security are you concerned about how that could be balanced against the Greens’ policy of speech online?

CHRISTINE MILNE: My colleague Scott Ludlam will be doing a major press conference this afternoon on the issue of cyber terrorism and on line, but I have to say that in the decade following 9/11 a lot of corners were cut in terms of thinking about proper processes and international law and the reason for that was national security, we must move quickly. Now we need to think carefully about the online environment and the Greens’ perspective is the more open it is, the more public access there is, the more common platforms there are, then the less problems you’ve got from a cyber terrorism environment, but Scott Ludlam will be commenting further on that later in the day.

JOURNALIST: Senator Milne I wonder what your views are with regard to the announcement about Nova Peris being the candidate for the Senate and the Prime Minister’s decision there. Broadly, obviously totally different party, but broadly speaking as someone who’s been in the Senate for a long time now what are your thoughts on what she can bring to the Senate?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I’ve met Nova on a few occasions and I think she is a terrific person, she’s been a great sportsperson, a great I think role model for indigenous communities around the country and for all Australians. I think the real issue here is not what a terrific person Nova is, the real issue is once again the powerbrokers and the back room in the Labor Party has trampled Labor Party processes, normal Labor Party membership input in order to catapult someone into the Parliament. I think what that says is a lot more about the Labor Party than it does about Nova Peris.

JOURNALIST: Do you think they’re trying to capitalise on the fact that she is a well-known figure in sport and things like that?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Look it’s certainly clear that the Labor Party was panicked by the number of Coalition members that were elected after the Northern Territory election and I think part of that would be that Labor is trying to make way in the context of the 2013 federal election. But having said that it is the backroom boys in the Labor Party again driving the strategy against the proper processes of the Labor Party. Now that’s something that Labor has to deal with but it’s one of the reasons why their membership becomes increasingly disillusioned.

JOURNALIST: Could this issue also impact on the Greens in any way?

CHRISTINE MILNE: I don’t think so. We’ll be running very strong candidates around the country and particularly on indigenous issues the Greens are right out in front, we’re the ones who have stood up for indigenous people, for the rights of indigenous people, we’re the ones who got indigenous recognition in the constitution absolutely on the agenda, we’ve stood up against the Northern Territory intervention, and will continue to stand up for indigenous communities and people in those communities know that. Nevertheless I think Nova’s a terrific person, but it’s really not about Nova it’s about the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST:  Back on national security, are you comfortable with the relationship the Australian Government is proposing with other nations in the region including military exercises with China, do you think the Government is getting the balance right?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I think the Prime Minister when she said that national sovereignty means that we make our own decisions in our own interests, and yet her actions don’t actually deliver on that because what we have seen is the Prime Minister agree to what is effective an American military base in Australia, talking about further collaboration with the Americans out of ports in Western Australia. I think what Australians want is an independent foreign policy. And that is something that the Greens have stood for for a long time. Of course the Americans are our friends and allies but we have to look after our own interests and that means we have to recognise that we are living in the Asian century and we need to engage with China but we need to respect that, not actually get behind the United States in trying to wedge China, that’s my concern.