The party leader goes into the election with ambitious plans, having shown his willingness to negotiate with the Coalition
May 5, 2016 — Here’s a quote from Margaret Thatcher warning about climate change. In the 1980s.
“For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world’s systems and atmosphere stable.
“But it is possible that with all these enormous changes (population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels) concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.”
The leader of the federal Greens, Richard Di Natale, celebrates his first anniversary as the party’s leader on Friday. In an interview for the occasion, he referred to Thatcher’s groundbreaking global warming speeches approvingly.
“She was saying global warming’s a huge problem, that we’ve got to transition our economy,” he said.
By pushing hard for 90% renewable energy in Australia by 2030, the Greens were acknowledging that the world had failed to impose a price on the pollution Thatcher was so concerned about, he said.
A Greens leader quoting Thatcher?
“Well, I’m as much a Thatcherite as I am a Tory for supporting Senate voting reform,” he said. “[But] occasionally a broken clock gets it right every now and then.”
Under Di Natale’s leadership, the Greens have been building a more pragmatic reputation in Canberra. He is not afraid to do things that could raise leftwing eyebrows – he is certainly more willing to negotiate with the Coalition.
Asked to recall some of his achievements from the past 12 months, Di Natale listed some controversial ones – his support for Senate voting reform (passed), which some voters feared would make parliament less democratic; his support for laws on multinational tax avoidance (passed), after a deal struck with the Coalition; and the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund, which also required a deal with the Coalition.
But he made it clear it would be “inconceivable” for the Greens to form government with the Coalition if the election produced a hung parliament.
He wants the Greens to retain, at the very least, their 10 federal senators and one lower house MP in the election on 2 July.
He has targeted the lower house seats of the Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer in Melbourne and Labor’s Anthony Albanese in Sydney among possible gains for the Greens, with hopes of winning another eight seats over the next two elections.
Di Natale said the Greens’ membership had risen by a third in the past year, though the party did not release the numbers.
On Sunday he will attend his first environmental protest since becoming leader. Organised by the climate action group 350.org under the banner Break Free from Fossil Fuels, protesters are planning to disrupt coal exports from Newcastle with a mass flotilla in the harbour.
Di Natale, who will be there with his wife, Lucy, and their children said he felt very strongly about the danger posed by coal. “Here we are at the start of an election campaign and no one’s talking about one of the key issues, and that’s dangerous global warming, and our contribution to it, through exporting of coal to the rest of the world,” he said.
“I’m confident that, a bit like marriage equality was something you couldn’t talk about a decade ago and now it’s a mainstream issue, in time we’re going to say that continuing to open up new coalmines is just madness.”
He said the Greens’ priority in the next parliament would be to renew Australia’s energy system, to pass strong climate laws to protect the Great Barrier Reef and to protect Australia’s forests.
Policies already released include a five-year support package for 1.2m homes and 30,000 businesses, to encourage the take-up of solar storage.
He said he was looking forward to debating the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, in Goulburn this month.
“It’s time to make the big polluters stop getting a free ride … We have to get back on track,” he said in his Press Club speech last month. “Too many years have been wasted.”