Environment restoration rorts to be referred to Auditor General

The Greens will refer the Environment Restoration Fund and the Communities Environment Program to the Auditor General for investigation, after The Saturday Paper reported today the $100m grants were used by the Coalition for pork-barrelling.

Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the Government’s use of the funding looks and stinks like ‘sports rorts’.

“A $100m grants program for environment restoration projects has reportedly been restricted to 25 preselected projects, most of them in key seats for the Coalition,” she said.

“Much like with sports rorts there’s been no transparency, no criteria to meet and surprise funding for grantees who didn’t even apply for a grant.

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck – or in this case, a rort.

“This is why I’m referring the Environment Restoration Fund and the Communities Environment program to the Auditor General for investigation.

“We need the same scrutiny from the Auditor General on this program, as he gave to the billions of taxpayer dollars handed out under the Community Sport Infrastructure grants program, exposing the rorting and bringing down a Government Minister.

“We need to hold this government accountable for their rorting of taxpayer money to keep themselves in power, but we also need to stand up for our environment which also bears the brunt of the Coalition’s incompetency.

“More money is desperately needed for environmental restoration but it needs to be going to projects that need it the most, not where the LNP is trying to hold seats at election time.”

Holden Cuts Demand Manufacturing Renaissance, Green New Deal: Greens

Australian Greens Industry Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, has reacted to news that General Motors will axe the Holden brand and 600 workers with it.

Senator Faruqi said:

“This should be a wakeup call to the Morrison Government. We need to urgently deliver a coherent, forward-looking clean and green industry policy, where value-adding in manufacturing takes centre stage. Hundreds of workers are set to lose their jobs within weeks.

“Workers deserve decent jobs and a just transition from old industries to the work of the future. Without well-planned support and investment from Government workers will continue to be left high and dry by corporations.

“We must foster a manufacturing renaissance in Australia with big investment from the government in green and renewable industries of the future.

“Now is the time to ensure Australia is on the path to be a renewables powerhouse, that we have a just transition from polluting fossil fuels to long term, sustainable and life-making work. A resurgence of Australian industry and manufacturing is fundamental to this new future.

“As we face the twin crises of climate emergency and economic inequality, a Green New Deal can transform our society and build a more just future for all.”

Response to Federal Court dismissal of ABC case – Govt must rule out charging journalists

Greens Spokesperson for Media and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Press Freedoms Senator Sarah Hanson-Young responded to the Federal Court’s dismissal of the ABC’s legal challenge against the validity of police warrants used to raid its Ultimo headquarters last year:

“Today’s court ruling over the ABC raids shows our press freedom laws are broken. We need proper protection for whistleblowers and journalists so the public know what’s really happening in our names and with our taxes. We have a right to know what the Government is up to.

“The Government should come out today and rule out charging the ABC journalists, and the News Corp journalists involved in other raids. The Attorney-General should stop playing games and tell the public what’s going on and explain why they are spending taxpayers money chasing whistleblowers who simply tell the truth.

“From the Afghan Files to the Sports Rorts, it’s clear the Morrison Government is more worried about their own embarrassment than they are about our security.

“Journalism is not a crime. And speaking up when the Government is engaged in covering up wrongdoing should not make whistleblowers criminals.

“If the law won’t protect journalists then we must have legislated safeguards to guarantee the freedom of the press and whistleblower protections. These protections must be independent of the government.”

Adam Bandt opens the National Climate Emergency Summit

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners and elders past, present and emerging. I want to acknowledge that this is stolen land, that sovereignty was never ceded and that it’s time for treaties with our First Nations communities. Around the world, First Nations communities are at the front line of climate impacts and crucial to solving the climate emergency.

And I want to say welcome to those of you who are visiting my electorate of Melbourne.

I also want to acknowledge and thank our emergency services and community volunteers who have been working so hard to protect us in the past months as we faced the unprecedented coal-fuelled bushfire crisis.

And finally can I thank all of you.

If our global civilization can survive the environmental and climate emergency, the history books will record that on this day and in this place you came together to find a pathway to a safe climate.

And you will all be considered heroes.

I have just spent the last two weeks in Parliament.

It is hard to describe the level of continued denial and spin that is constantly on display in Canberra.

We have had people whose houses burned over the summer come to Canberra with what was left of their homes in wheelbarrows and buckets.

They have spoken powerfully and eloquently about the impacts of the climate emergency on their lives.

I was humbled to meet with some of them.

But for most of the Parliament it is like they were invisible.

It is like being in the twilight zone.

From Barnaby and his band of Nationals wanting to build coal fired power stations, to the Prime Minister’s contortions over climate and the bushfire crisis and the shameless deceptions as though everything is under control while their inaction is driving us to a 3 to 4-degree-warmer  world that will completely overrule our economy and society.

And unfortunately the Labor opposition persistently defends the continued role of coal in our economy both for energy and export and they have dropped their 2030 targets.

So it is good to be here among friends who accept the truth of the crisis and want, as Greta Thunberg says, to “listen to the scientists” and act accordingly.

As you may know last week I also became leader of the Australian Greens.

In my first media conference after becoming Greens Leader, I said we should refuse a future where children need to wear gas masks because their cities are full of smoke.

I also spoke about people I meet and talk to who are angry and anxious and desperately looking for leadership.

So now is the time to tell it like it is. Now is the time to face up to the reality of the powers we face if we are to save the planet and save the future.

We’re in a climate emergency because of politicians and power brokers trying to preserve a status quo that sees the coal, oil and gas barons get rich, and then funnel off a tiny bit of that wealth to political parties when they’re in power then give those politicians cushy jobs in their organisations when they leave office.

This is what has taken us past 1 degree of global warming, which has given us towering infernos, flooding, record heat waves, toxic air pollution and so much more.

The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the air was at least 2.6 million years, before humans existed.

Back then, temperatures were more than 3C warmer, there were trees in Antarctica, and sea levels were 25 metres higher.

If we keep polluting at our current rate, we could be at 1,000 ppm by the end of the century. Last time that happened, dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Like them, we face an existential crisis brought on by a rapid shift in the climate system.

The warming-track of up to 4 degrees we are currently on is a world full of death, destruction and hopelessness.

It will be a world that may be capable of supporting only a billion people, perhaps less.

This is horrible to contemplate but it is real.

Even if there was a 1% chance of this occurring, the potential outcome is so bad we should mobilise the entire machinery of government and society towards avoiding this possibility.

When the Allies won World War 2 it wasn’t just because the US and other governments put their resources into winning it.

The war was won because the government, industry and communities worked together to meet an unprecedented threat. In 1942 America a spark plug factory started producing machine guns. A merry-go-round factory made gun mounts, a pinball machine plant made armor-piercing shells and a toy company started making compasses.

By working together, the government, industry and the American people met and triumphed over an existential, unprecedented threat.

Now we don’t need to militarise, we need to decarbonise, but fast forward 80 years to today and nothing like that is happening in Australia. We have some parts of industry, including people in this room who are starting to transform our energy sector. And the economics are in your favour, that we know. But we also have other parts of industry trying desperately to hold back this tide–and we have a government that is joining them.

We had the beginnings of something in the 2010 shared power government, where Greens, Labor and Independents teamed up to implement the Clean Energy Package, but later we became the first nation ever to rescind a carbon price.

I have an unwavering belief that nothing will stop the clean energy revolution.

Nothing will stop scientists and engineers from solving these problems.

We will get there eventually.

The problem is that we don’t have until eventually. We need to act super fast. If we only reach net-zero by 2050, 2060 or 2070, we will still confront disaster.

That is why the government and the whole of society must recognise we are in an emergency and take action at emergency speed, devoting all the resources we need to stop a threat that simply may become overwhelming.

Now I know there are some who get nervous when we talk about an emergency. They see it as reinforcing the potential for a suspension of rights.

But there’s also a way of thinking about emergency that is not about police and military, but about rescue.

Ambulances under lights and sirens take emergency action, and no-one thinks they’re taking away your rights.

Firefighters take emergency action and they do it to save life.

We all now need to be the firefighters of politics.

And over the next two years the Greens will continue to pursue a declaration of an environmental and climate emergency by the Australian Parliament.

Next fortnight I will introduce to the Commonwealth Parliament the Climate Emergency Declaration Bill.

The bill will declare a climate emergency, require every government department to be guided by the declaration and mandate the establishment of a what in the past was called a ‘war cabinet’ to guide the country through a rapid society- and economy-wide mobilisation to decarbonise the economy.

This bill reflects the scale of the crisis we face and represents the scale of action that is needed.

Winston Churchill was a flawed man and flawed Prime Minister, but in his greatest hours he reached across the aisle during WWII and formed a grand coalition, with the Labour party and others.

I know it seems incomprehensible that in today’s political context this could happen, but it’s what should happen and what we need to keep fighting for.

The time for appeasement is over.

It’s time for a Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal is a government-led plan of investment and action to build a clean economy and a caring society.

A plan where we can fight the climate crisis and fight inequality at the same time.

I want to create a manufacturing renaissance in this country.

I want to make Australia the renewable energy superpower where people bring their businesses from overseas for cheap, clean electricity as we urgently phase out coal.

Let’s export renewable energy while processing our minerals and making the things the world needs here in Australia, as Ross Garnaut proposes.

I want Australia to make things again and with a Green New Deal we can.

Over the coming months and years I will be traveling the country hosting town hall meetings, community gatherings and kitchen table conversations explaining how a Green New Deal can provide the hope and the action we need to solve the climate crisis.

Because just shouting ‘fire’ at someone doesn’t help them find the exit.

We need to provide a pathway to safety.

That’s what a Green New Deal, a plan for a whole of society mobilisation, provides.

By showing that emergency action on climate can make people’s lives better, protecting their lives and their children’s lives, we will mobilise a powerful movement that can change our country and help save the future.

Friends, our country is on fire and our planet is heading the same way.

We have no choice but to tell the truth about the crisis we face and what is needed.

The time for half measures is over. Because time is running out.

So please use the next two days together to generate the energy and ideas that will make our movement stronger and more powerful.

Good luck.

Thank you.

Adam Bandt

‘Climate Trigger’ laws introduced to Senate to stop making climate crisis worse

New laws that would require climate impacts and carbon emissions to be assessed before large-scale projects are given environmental approval have been introduced into the Senate today.

The ‘Climate Trigger’ Bill would ensure mining, drilling and large-scale land clearing projects would need to be assessed on whether they make climate change worse.

Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who introduced the Bill said a federal climate trigger was long overdue.

“We know a lot needs to be done to reduce pollution and put Australia and the globe on a transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy,” she said.

“While we work to reduce carbon emissions, we must stop making pollution worse.

“The PM and Energy Minister keep claiming Australia will meet its emissions targets ‘in a canter’, but the reality is this Government is burying its head in the sand by ignoring the clear link between burning fossil fuels, carbon emissions, and worsening climate change.

“We are in fact galloping towards environmental collapse and climate change is at the heart of it – the bushfires, the flooding rains, and other catastrophic weather events.

“There is no time to waste if we are going to prevent further global warming. Assessing the emissions of fossil fuel projects and tree-destroying developments is one of the easiest steps this Parliament could take to save the planet.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2020, Explanatory Memorandum and Second Reading speech can be found here.

NSW moratorium on floodplain harvesting must be reinstated

The NSW Government is again putting the Murray-Darling river system in jeopardy by lifting the moratorium on floodplain harvesting before water from recent rains has made it down the river, and they should urgently reinstate it, the Greens say.

“When parts of the Darling are still dry, it defies logic that corporate upstream irrigators would be permitted to pump water and harvest floodplains, preventing precious flows from making it downstream,” Greens Water Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“There are towns still without drinking water, dry catchments and storages, and there are fish facing species collapse being pulled out of the river to save their DNA, yet corporate irrigators are being allowed to cash in on the recent rainfall.

“The River belongs to all of us. We cannot have upstream Basin states making decisions that only benefit them and their corporate mates, at the expense of everyone else who relies on a healthy river system.

“Just last week we had NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey criticising Qld for allowing irrigators north of the border to access flows – it seems what’s good for the goose is good for the gander but only when it suits them.

“The moratorium on floodplain harvesting should be reinstated and if the states won’t do it themselves then the Federal Water Minister needs to.

“At a time when the river is on the verge of collapse, family farms, river communities and the environment need leadership in government, not another National Party fizzer doing the bidding of the big corporates.”

Welfare dependence in Australia continues to fall

The proportion of working-age Australians receiving welfare benefits has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years.

Department of Social Services analysis of recently released Australian Bureau of Statistics population data shows 13.5 per cent of the working-age population was receiving working-age income support payments at June 2019.

This is a drop from the previous year’s level of 14.3 per cent and marks a significant reduction over the past decade when in 2009 the proportion of working-age Australians relying on welfare was 17.2 per cent.

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said these figures show that the Morrison Government’s plan to provide pathways from welfare to employment was working.

“We are focussed on growing the economy, getting more people into work, and delivering well-targeted social security funded through a strong budget,” Minister Ruston said.

“More than 1.5 million jobs have been created since the Coalition was elected. As more people find employment we are seeing a fall in the number of working-age Australians on welfare.”

In 2019-20 the Government is forecast to spend $180 billion on social security and welfare – about one in every three dollars of taxpayer money spent.

“The safety net our social security system provides is vital to support the most vulnerable among us is which is why it is crucial that the system remains sustainable,” Minister Ruston said.

We Don’t Need No Hanson Education Bill: Faruqi

Greens Education Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, has responded to Senator Pauline Hanson’s announcement of “The Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children Bill” which, absurdly, would rewrite the curriculum to require teaching of climate denialism and dangerous conservative ideas of gender and sexuality.

Senator Faruqi said:

“Senator Hanson’s attempt to gag teachers and stuff the curriculum full of right-wing conspiracy theories would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying.

“The curriculum should be based on evidence and expertise not Pauline Hanson’s latest bigoted thought bubble.

“There is no place for this kind of censorship of teachers in our democracy and our schools.

“This bill belongs nowhere but in the bin. Hanson’s spurious claims that human-caused climate change is ‘unsubstantiated’ and schools ‘teach gender fluidity and realignment to infants’ can go with it.

“It’s vital every child learns the realities of the climate crisis, the truth of Australia’s settler-colonial past and how to have respectful relationships in the context of a comprehensive sex education.

“Teachers, working with educational experts, do a great job supporting students, often working without the resources they need. They certainly don’t need One Nation’s meddling.”

Senate pressures Govt to bring on vote for Greens Federal ICAC

The Australian Senate has sent a message to the Morrison Government that it wants a federal corruption watchdog with teeth, voting for the Government to bring on the Greens’ National Integrity Commission Bill in the House of Representatives for a vote in the February 2020 sittings.

The Greens bill passed the Senate in September 2019.

Greens leader in the Senate Larissa Waters said,  “The Senate has today sent a clear message that it won’t stand for the weak Government model for a Federal ICAC which is already long delayed and ineffective.

“It was very telling that it was only the Government Senators who voted against the House being compelled to bring on the Greens ICAC bill for a vote. They are plagued by integrity scandals and you’ve got to wonder if they have even more to hide.

“The Greens have been pushing for 10 years for a corruption watchdog and we urgently need action to restore community confidence following #SportsRorts and rolling integrity sagas.

“This is now a test for Prime Minister Scott Morrison – will he hear the strong message for the Senate and clean up this sideshow of scandals or continue to delay and whitewash his weak body which won’t stop corruption?

“It will also be the first indication of whether Llew O’Brien or the Nationals follow through on their threat and cross the floor to support integrity.

“Australians deserve to have their voice and values represented in parliament, a place intended to give voice to people, not the vested interests of big donors.”

Download a copy of the Greens’ National Integrity Commission Bill here:

Senate Motion passed 33:29:

Senator Waters:
To move—
(1) That the Senate notes that:
(a) the Senate passed the Australian Greens’ National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 (No. 2) on 9 September 2019 to establish a federal corruption watchdog with broad remit to investigate allegations of corruption and misconduct, and to ensure strong, independent oversight of the actions of parliamentarians; and
(b) public consultation on the Commonwealth Integrity Commission model proposed by the Government ended more than one year ago, but the Government has yet to introduce legislation to establish an integrity commission,

(2) That the Senate calls on the Federal Government to bring on the Australian Greens’ National Integrity Commission Bill 2019 in the House of Representatives for a vote in the February 2020 sittings.

(3) That this resolution be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

With QLD Gov Support, Greens renew calls for National Horse Register

Greens Spokesperson for Animal Welfare, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, has welcomed the Queensland Government’s support for a National Horse Register following the release of the independent inquiry into the management of retired racehorses.

Senator Faruqi’s 2019 Senate inquiry into establishing a National Horse Traceability Register called for the establishment of a national working group to work towards implementing a Register in December.

Senator Faruqi said:

“I welcome the Queensland Government’s support for a national horse register.

“Australians were outraged by the horrific slaughter of racehorses exposed by 730. We need to track horses throughout their lives so the industry has no more excuses for not ensuring every horse has a dignified retirement.

“The independent inquiry is right to identify this as a national problem that requires national leadership and solutions.

“That’s why I’m calling on the Minister Littleproud to work urgently to establish a register.

“I have long said that when animals and gambling mix, animals always suffer. At the end of the day, no racehorse should end up in a slaughterhouse. We need strong enforcement and strong animal welfare laws as well. The Greens have long advocated for an independent office for animal welfare which can do this.”