With an eye on the election, the Greens leader uses his National Press Club speech to tackle climate change, tax, the wealthy and the ‘old parties’ of the establishment
April 27, 2016 — It is “inconceivable” that the Greens would form a minority government with the Coalition if the election came to that, given their views on global warming, asylum seekers and renewable energy, says the party’s leader, Richard Di Natale.
But they may consider an agreement with Labor because that would provide an opportunity to pursue serious Greens initiatives at the federal level, he said.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Di Natale unofficially kicked off his party’s 2016 election campaign with a broad speech about the Greens’ vision for Australia.
He criticised the lack of courage shown by Coalition and Labor MPs, and attacked the political establishment – the “old parties” – for deserting progressive mainstream voters in recent years, saying the Greens have been the only innovative and disruptive party promoting new ideas.
“We announced our policies on negative gearing before anyone dared to go there,” he said. “We paved the way for Labor to announce their policy. We announced our policy on superannuation tax concessions, again, long before that issue was discussed in mainstream economic circles.”
The Greens’ priority in the next parliament would be to renew Australia’s energy system, legislate strong climate laws to protect the Great Barrier Reef and protect Australia’s forests, Di Natale said.
“It’s time to make the big polluters stop getting a free ride … We have to get back on track,” he said. “Too many years have been wasted.”
Di Natale also announced his plan to introduce a so-called Buffett Rule to force Australia’s wealthiest citizens to pay a legislated minimum amount of tax – 35% of their total income – to make it impossible for them to pay less tax than teachers, nurses or shop assistants.
By forcing the top 1% of earners to pay a minimum amount of tax – the rule would apply to people with income above $300,000 a year – it would raise $7.3bn in revenue for the commonwealth over four years, he said.
“Last year, 56 people who earned a collective $129m paid no tax, not a single cent, but spent $47m on tax advice,” he said.
“Meanwhile, Australians are being told to tighten their belts, while the government rips $80bn from our schools and hospitals.”
That policy is similar to an idea Labor has been considering since July last year.
Di Natale is the first leader of Australia’s major political parties to speak at the Press Club since the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced his plans to hold the election on 2 July.
The treasurer, Scott Morrison, will speak at the Press Club next Wednesday – the day after his highly anticipated first budget.
Di Natale criticised the Abbott-Turnbull government for preventing the country from transitioning to a new, post-mining economy.
He said it had neglected to invest heavily in infrastructure, clean energy, world-class communication and fast, efficient public transport.
“These are the fundamentals of the new economy and on each of them, the prime minister is failing,” he said.
Di Natale also criticised Labor and the Nationals for siding with the Liberal party in its support for the fossil fuel industry and the “sacred cow” of industry assistance: fossil fuel subsidies.
“It’s remarkable that [the Labor leader] Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull have remained tight-lipped about the billions of dollars each year gifted to the likes of Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, considering that abolishing fossil fuel tax credits returns $13.5bn to the budget over the forward estimates – that’s $13.5bn more for hospitals, for the NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme], for science and research,” he said.
Di Natale said the Greens also wanted to establish a $250m fund, called Renew Australia, to help workers move out of old dirty-energy jobs into new renewable ones, and the economy to modernise. He would like it to fund projects worth $1bn over the next 15 years.