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The Last Resident of Acland

The Last Resident of Acland
Senator Bob Brown at the National Press Club, 18 August 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, Saturday is crunch time for Australia. In the Senate it will either be a vote for the Greens in bigger numbers, providing accountability, or a return to Coalition domination. I will come back to these options, but first I want to talk about the campaign.

Three messages have been repeated to me from people in the streets of Australian cities and towns these last weeks as I travelled from Darwin to Melbourne, from Mackay to Cygnet, from Orange to Gunghalin, from Adelaide to Perth.

First, elections are bad for business. People stop spending. Whether it's at the newsagent or the petrol pump, receipts are down. Sunday can't come too soon for small businesses across Australia.

Second, a pox on both their houses. There is enormous disappointment and frustration with both the bigger parties; at their in-fighting and failure to lay out a vision for Australia.

Third, there has been a very warm-hearted response I've had from people in the streets - ‘I'm voting for the Greens this time', ‘Good on you Bob', ‘I hope the Greens go well', ‘at least you stand for something!'

This country wants leadership and it is the Greens who are delivering leadership.

Last week, I went back to Toowoomba on Queensland's Darling Downs and, for my first time, to the nearby village of Acland. However, when I got there, Acland was missing.

This was a town of 250 people in the rich Darling Downs agricultural area, which won the title of 'Queensland's Tidiest Town' in 1989. But Acland has been demolished. Only one house remains.

Acland is where all that is wrong with Labor and Coalition politics comes together with an astonishing result which pulls the rug from under the notion that this wide brown land's beautiful plains are sacrosanct, the idea that farmlands are needed to feed future generations. No, the Acland farmlands are going. They are being converted into an open-cut coalmine. That pit will be seven kilometres across.

A few weeks ago, in the Oxygen Café in Toowoomba I met the last resident of Acland - Mr Glenn Beautel. Like a good many other bush folk I've met in my time, he's pretty quiet. But he also has that quintessential Australian stubbornness against letting the wrong thing happen. Despite the coal company's entreaties, Glenn has refused to move. His is the last house in Acland.

He is also committed to saving the Anzac Memorial Park, just down the road. His late mother and father worked for years to establish the park. He doesn't want the coalmines to destroy their Memorial Park too.

Glenn gave me a recent photo of a koala getting through the back fence. He has more photos of koalas in the deserted town's main street. The coal company is not just displacing humans and farmland; it will destroy the habitat of these koalas, our national icon. Well, where are you, Greg Hunt and Peter Garrett? When I moved in the Senate, recently, for an inquiry into the koala's fraught future, the big parties derided the move. It was voted down.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, every day we wake up to a world with more mouths to feed and less land to feed them. As I speak, climate change-fuelled drought and fires are decimating the crops of Germany and Russia. And a massive flood is moving down the fertile Indus Valley, Pakistan's food bowl.

In Australia, as in pretty well all others, top grade land for growing wheat, potatoes and fruit is being permanently taken out of production by rapidly spreading suburbs, highways, monoculture plantations and, worst of all, climate change.

The Garnaut Report to the Rudd government predicted that 90 percent of the productivity of Australia's own greatest food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin, could be lost due to climate change-induced drought, heat and pests, later this century. Neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott has ever acknowledged or mentioned this fact.

Acland on the Darling Downs, at the top end of the Murray-Darling Basin, would be, you'd think, premium safe land in the hands of our political strategists, in this age of mounting global food insecurity.

But not so! Instead of saving Acland, a coal company, which in a masterstroke of greenwash is called ‘New Hope', is getting the nod from the Labor politicians in Brisbane and Canberra, as well as the Coalition.

The coal will be burnt, loading the atmosphere with more carbon, hastening global warming and, perversely, accelerating the destruction of the productivity of what's left of the Murray-Darling Basin.

This coal madness - the NASA Institute's James Hansen, who alerted Congress to the threat of climate change back in 1988, calls it ‘criminal' - will rip 6-20 percent off the gross domestic product off our grandchildren according to Sir Nicholas Stern.

Sir Nick spoke at this very podium 3 years ago, but as far as the Coalition and Labor are concerned, he may as well have been talking on Macquarie Island. He is coming to Australia again soon and I hope the next Prime Minister will listen to him.

The tragedy of Acland underscores the planning irresponsibility of Labor and the Coalition - and their economic irresponsibility in committing to never having a carbon price. I was astonished, on Monday, when Julia Gillard followed Tony Abbott's commitment to never allow a carbon tax. Her reversion on the mining tax to the big miners a month ago, was little less alarming.

The Prime Minister's backdown to the big coal and iron-ore mining corporations will cost future budgets, after 2013 -14, some 9 billion dollars per annum. Worse, Tony Abbott, Leader of the Coalition - spell that C-O-A-L-ition - says he won't collect a dollar out of the mining super profits. His total surrender to the miners will rip some $20 billion off Australia's future budgets. That's $20 billion ordinary Australians will pay in tax, starting with small business. Or else it's $20 billion not available for nation-building: for high-speed rail between our cities; or for modern, fast, clean, efficient, cheap light rail within our cities.

Just twenty percent of that $20 billion could fund a national dental system to help the 500,000 Australians now on waiting lists to get dental care. This reasonable tax income will also enable the Greens, unlike Labor or the Coalition, to put $2 billion extra into Australia's education system. Let me quote to you from Professor Richard Teese from the University of Melbourne's opinion piece in the Age on Monday:

"It is a failed vision of public schooling that subjects the Labor Party to the indignity of scavenging on the scrapheap of failed educational reform. The Greens, by contrast, start from the premise that public schooling is intrinsically valuable and the best vehicle to engage all children. They want a public system that is "recognised as among the best in the world". Can either of the big parties say this or mean it? Is either prepared to draw out the consequences - setting high standards for all public schools, adopting the funding priorities that this requires, and making durable improvements in the quality of the teaching force?"

Australia ranks 18 out of 30 in a comparison of OECD for funding to public education (excluding tertiary) as a percentage of GDP. Based on the most recent available figures, for Australia to be a leader in OECD, spending around 4% GDP, would require an additional $5.2 billion.

As you know, the Greens support the Mining Super Profits tax as originally proposed by Wayne Swan and Treasury which would raise that 20 billion. However as a first step in the new parliament, the Greens will negotiate an adjustment to the mining tax so that it raises an additional $2 billion that will boost the public school system to fund a range of important areas.

We would check all Indigenous children to ensure they don't lose their hearing to otitis media (middle ear infection) at a cost of just $3.5 million. Hundreds of children in northern Australia are suffering from hearing loss in this wealthy nation of ours, in some places more than 10% of children have suffered hearing loss and the Greens would put an end to it.

We will also invest $320m over four years in a Commonwealth Teaching Scholarship Program. This will provide 3000 teaching scholarships worth $5000 a year each for up to 5 years. Scholarship recipients will be required to work in a public school of high need for 3 years. The program will cost an estimated $17m for the first year and up to $80m a year on-going, and it will help address teacher shortages which are predicated to grow with increased retirements.

Our Teacher mentoring and support initiative would cost $600m over four years. It will support early career teachers who are at high risk of leaving the profession within 3-5 years, and fund trial schools up to $70 000 to employ an additional teacher, to reduce workloads of first year and mentor teachers, as well as $5 million for establishing and running the mentor training. The total cost per year will be around $150m.

The Greens will also bring back the Restoring Asian language literacy in schools program, costing $94 million over 4 years. Under-funding for the Asian language program over the past decade has resulted in a significant decline in the study and completion rate of this hugely important program.

Additional funding will be invested in the development of Australia's teaching workforce, as well as addressing the shortage of maths and science teachers. We will also use this nation's mineral wealth to better fund Australia's universities and TAFE community.

Ladies and gentlemen, the high speed rail saga showed the real value of the Greens in Australian politics. When I moved for a national study into high speed rail in the Senate, a few months back, Labor and the Coalition voted ‘no!' The Coalition branded the study a waste of people's money.

We Greens persisted. Now, in the middle of this campaign, Labor, seeing how popular the project is, has switched to ‘yes!' Remarkably, the Coalition alo switched to 'yes'. Australia will get high speed rail, carrying millions of people between our big cities, years earlier because we Greens are in the parliament.

But, with no Sovereign Fund from a 40 percent super profits tax on mining, who will fund High Speed Rail? Labor and the Coalition back the study. But won't they then complain there is no money for the connection between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne - or between Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane, let alone linking Adelaide and Perth?

And while public transport languishes, both major parties will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into new rail track and port facilities to export more coal, for an industry 75 percent owned overseas. Labor and the Coalition are putting coal before people, and selling out Australia's future in terms of not only public transport, but climate change and its looming potential to severely damage the nation's economy.

Whether we get High Speed Rail rather than more coal trains depends on whether people vote Green for the Senate next Saturday. I will come back to the double peril involving the Senate in a minute.

First, I want to remind you, Ladies and Gentlemen, of some of the other policies the Greens are putting before the Australian people. You may have missed them for very good reason - too much of the news pages have been too full of piffle to cover them.

  • The Greens will end discrimination in the marriage laws of Australia: this issue rankles out there. Young Australia is in revolt over it.
  • The Greens will accord with international law and give asylum seekers the respect and compassion they deserve in Australia, in an election where the dire prediction of a tsunami of boat people has proven false.
  • The Greens will roll out the remainder of the $16 billion schools building program. We got that through the Senate as part of the Rudd-Swan $43 billion stimulus package. The Coalition opposed this package which saved Australia from recession. Tony Abbott now threatens this school funding program, if voted into office next week. That threatens projects in both the private and public schools of Australia. For the Senate on Saturday, I hope voters will remember it was the Greens, against Tony Abbott's opposition, who ensured those thousands of Australia's public schools, as well as independent schools which benefited from the schools building program and more, which, if the Coalition is elected, face being cut out immediately.
  • We will work with the next government for a triple referendum: to recognize Indigenous Australians in the Constitution; to acknowledge Local Government in the Constitution; and for a new vote on Australia becoming a republic, for an Australian as our Head of State.
  • The Greens propose a Murray-Darling management commission with teeth: able to make sure those urgent measures to save the nation's greatest river system will be implemented.
  • We advocate a National Register of the foreign ownership of farmlands and water rights.
  • We will legislate for truth in political advertising.
  • Our policy is to extend the nation's marine reserve system, including the Coral Sea, to guarantee the future of Australia's fisheries and marine ecosystems.
  • We will meet the aspiration of over 80% of Australian voters to end the needless destruction of Australia's remaining wild forests and woodlands and their biodiversity.
  • Christine Milne has announced our $5 billion national loans guarantee fund for 'first of kind' renewable energy projects like base-load solar, wind, geothermal and ocean power.
  • We would also extend Rachel Siewert's amendment to the workplace laws, which entitles parents of pre-school children and children with a disability to have flexible working hours. The Greens will work for flexible work hours for all carers. Carers deserve such a break - after all they contribute $30 billion to Australia's economy each year.
  • One topic is not up for debate with the old parties - Afghanistan. Australians may be divided on the deployment of our troops, though most Australians want the troops brought safely home. But all Australians support and honour the courage and commitment of the brave 1600 who are in Afghanistan. We should honour them further by debating their deployment in the Parliament. The parliament of The Netherlands did, to the extent of forcing an election, and so the Dutch contingent is now on its way home. I will pursue a debate on Afghanistan in our parliament - so that every elected MP contributes for once - when parliament sittings resume after this election. We politicians owe that debate to our Defence Force Personnel and to the nation.
  • The Greens back Labor's National Broadband Network which can deliver dedicated broadband speeds of one thousand megabits per second to 93% of the population. Whereas the Coalition can only promise that same 93% that their broadband speeds will be no worse than a peak speed of 12 megabits per second. I put on the record here that the Greens will also move to prevent the future privatisation of the NBN without an act of Parliament.
  • The Greens will call on the next government to commit to an international ban on the mining and manufacture of asbestos. Asbestos continues to be used in developing countries - with over 2 million tonnes produced in 2008. There are an estimated 125 million people around the world still exposed to asbestos in their home and work environment. Australia, with its own terrible experience of asbestosis, can lead in helping the World Health Organisation and International Labor Organisation to achieve a comprehensive ban on asbestos.
  • The Greens will also move to establish a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), which will provide economic and budgetary advice to Parliament, similar to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in the United States. This PBO would provide alternative costings for budget and policy, removing the reliance on government departments. It would put an end to the squabbling over debates on the economy and the costing of policies between the major parties which has dominated this election campaign and many before it. A Parliamentary Budget Office will make our democracy better informed and more accountable to the people.

Which takes me to the next Parliament. Let no one undervalue the rolled-gold contribution to the House of Representatives there will be if the people of Melbourne - or of Denison or Grayndler or Sydney or Brisbane or Adelaide or Fremantle - vote a Green MP onto the floor of the House of Representatives.

Adam Bandt, if elected for Melbourne, can take into the House the program I am outlining here today. He will not be just another backbencher. He will be there to advocate and campaign, over the next 3 years, for the Greens' platform of innovation. He will be able to introduce legislation to end marriage discrimination. He will back the rights of refugees. He will move to abolish the dubious Australian Building Construction Commission, and he will advocate better funding for schools in need. A Labor or Liberal member for Melbourne will do none of these things.

In the Senate, the Coalition is one seat short of control, especially in the 11 months until newly elected senators from the six states take up their seats in July next year. However, if the Australian Capital Territory Greens' Lin Hatfield Dodds displaces Liberal Senator Humphries - he who also voted against the schools building program - she will immediately take up her seat and so ward off that domination of the Senate. She will be a Greens front bencher replacing a Liberal backbencher.

In the ACT, voters are very aware that the Abbott team is committed to cutting 12,000 positions from the Commonwealth Public Service in 2010. One study indicates that, with flow-ons, this could cost 30,000 jobs.

So the prospect of a Coalition dominated Senate looms large. Labor can't win a Senate majority. But if a Gillard Labor government is elected this Saturday, a Coalition dominated Senate will spell parliamentary deadlock. If an Abbott government is elected, and also controls the Senate, that will leave Parliament every bit as debilitated as it was in the Howard years. Remember how between 2004-07 the hugely unpopular WorkChoices laws were rammed through both houses, and Telstra was sold out of public ownership? That's why a vote for the Greens in the Senate is so important.

The ACT will save the day if it votes for Senator Hatfield-Dodds. But the Greens bonus is within the reach of every other Australian voter too. In Queensland, the Senate option is Greens candidate Larissa Waters, in NSW it's Lee Rhiannon, in Victoria it's Richard Di Natale, in South Australia it's Penny Wright, and in the Northern Territory it's Warren H Williams. And of course, Tasmanian and Western Australians can ensure the return of two of contemporary Australia's most outstanding parliamentarians, Christine Milne and Rachel Siewert.

The Greens are on twelve to fourteen percent in the polls. Yet we have injected most of the nation-building ideas into this campaign. Where the Coalition and Labor are failing the hopes of Australian, we offer stability, experience in leadership and a real vision for voters to latch on to.

We will give Australians the accountability they deserve in the Senate. We will be the people's watchdog, whichever party wins office next Saturday. That is my commitment to all Australians.

I do have a vision for Australia. And I won't be consulting the telephone book to refine it, and I won't be asking you to suspend belief unless it is written down. The Greens are the smaller party with the big ideas for Australia, up against the bigger parties with the small ideas.

That's why, next Saturday, Australians who seek an assured, secure and exciting future, should go to the ballot box with a new purpose in mind and vote Greens!

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Time to dismantle neoliberalism?

The problem is, Abbott has put his foot in it over costings, again.

Petulant and disruptive, he makes it hard for the indies or Greens not to prefer Gillard, who at least has the virtue of a few manners.

 There is no rush to get Abbott in before the Greens have bop in a year, his presence exerts pressure on others to perform tho, not least the three indies, who as insiders, will know where the bodies are buried on all sides.

 And don't dare tell me I'm going to choose  Abbott over Gillard in  Abbott's current state of mind, either. They can't get cooperation from him in the current situation, yet expect it when he's got the whip hand?

 I hope that labor gets a year to move forward, but by  focussing back on a job they did well enough for a couple of years; also for labor people to blast the lazy bastards doing state government out of the way, before they do any more harm to the ALP cause and cause an Abbott landslide.



Why doesn't Bob Brown just bugger off and leave the important work of running the country to those of us who know what we are doing (and do it with our own money)?



As a non-member of the club, may I ask who are the we who know what we are doing, and how numerous, exactly or approximately, we are?

Bob would like to work tith Conservatives

MBD, I heard him speak at our pub, must be eight years back, on how Green/Conservative coalitions got a lot done.  I can understand this.  But if he gives power (and in spinte of the Independant grantdstanding that's the call) he'll be quite happy to assist an Abbott  Government if the correct winds prevail.

Marriage Act does discriminate

When an Act says only a man or a woman can marry and ignores the wants and desires of same sex couples it is in breach of the Discrimination Act of Australia.

Nothing remotely ambiguous about that.

This speech and the actual intelligent and respectful questions afterwards by the gallery was a joy to hear after all the spin and hype and bullshit by the two majors who are more and more alike every year.

Having said that, as much as I think Joolya needs to come a cropper, the notion of Tony Abbott as PM is appalling.

the prude brigade

I shoud think some ought to have more imaginative things to do with their time, then running around poking their noses through bedroom windows into what goes on in the privacy of people's homes and lives.

btw, I  thought Alan Curran's comment on homosexuals was as insensitive as it was ignorant.

Brighten up,  Alan! 

Fiona: You should see the ones that haven't been published, Paul.

What the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul Walter ,Where did I  comment on homosexuals?.

Brighten up,  Alan! , what as in gay.

The gay election

If either Labor or Liberal had proposed what The Greens have done regarding tax they would have been laughed out of the game.

Their tax policy, for instance, prefers less tax from the GST and more from income taxes.It demands company tax rise from 30 per cent to 33 per cent. How many jobs will that cost ?.

Asylum seekers will be processed on shore, I am sure the electorate will love that.

Bob Brown wants us to think they are the only honest party but what about this, A NSW Greens MP who used taxpayer-funded facilities in her Senate campaign has been urged by leader Bob Brown to step down from her current post.

High-profile Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon has been under fire for using publicly-funded facilities for her federal campaign.

Bob Brown would have us believe that people on the street have been saying "‘Good on you Bob', ‘I hope the Greens go well',note they have not been saying we hope you will WIN.

I wonder how many people who saw the picture of Brown and his partner hugging have decided not to vote Green.

A real tax revolution

Alan, I thought you might just like to see what a real tax revolution would look like.

The Australian Greens will:

22. reduce inequities in the current personal tax system by:

• reducing tax breaks for high income earners;

• removing Fringe Benefits Tax concessions which promote increased use of motor vehicles;

• removing the concessional arrangements for Capital Gains Tax;

• only allowing losses from an investment to be offset against income from the same investment;

• abolishing the 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate in order to increase funding for public hospitals;

• taxing family trusts in the same way as companies;

• eliminating high rates of effective marginal taxation for those on welfare benefits; and

• introduce a new top marginal tax rate of 50 per cent on incomes of $1 million or over.

23. introduce an estate tax with full provisions to protect the family farm, the family home and small business with a threshold of $5 million as indexed from the year 2010.

24. conduct an inquiry with a view to implementing changes to the tax system that address the negative impacts of the GST on:

• income distribution;

• environmental sustainability; and

• business administration costs.

25. oppose any increase or extension to the GST.

26. implement a gradual and long term shift in the tax system from work based taxes to taxes on natural resources and pollution including:

• a carbon tax levied on generators of mains-supplied electricity or gas;

• a national carbon trading scheme; and

• other ecological taxes and charges at a level sufficient enough that their prices reflect the full environmental cost of their production, use or disposal.

27. introduce a system of minimum personal and corporate tax legislation to reduce the opportunities for individuals and companies to use loopholes to minimise their tax obligations.

28. conduct a full review of the superannuation system with the aim of reducing its complexity and establishing progressive rates of superannuation taxation.

29. return the company tax rate to 33% and broaden the company tax base by reducing tax concessions.

30. limit tax deductibility for salaries & salary-related expenses for any individual employee to $1million per year.

31. end subsidies and tax concessions to environmentally harmful industries.

Now regards men hugging, I would much rather see men hugging than shooting at each other.

The Greens are also the only major party to promise to withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Same Sex Tax breaks???????????????

John Pratt , I have never heard Bob Brown or any of his part-time politicians talking about their Tax Revolution, Brown had a chance on Q&A but waffled on about Climate Change and Same Sex Marriages.

Somebody should explain to Barmy Bob that he is in the lunatic fringe when it comes to Same Sex Marriages. Perhaps he could try the alternate life style you never know he might like it.

I can understand why he is pushing for things like "introduce a new top marginal tax rate of 50 per cent on incomes of $1 million or over"and  reducing tax breaks for high income earners. "

There are a lot of votes in appealing to people who prefer to chain themselves to bulldozers than get a proper job.

John, have you any idea what he means by "income distribution".

Then we have this fairy tale stuff "Support the rights of the Palestinian people to statehood through the creation of a viable state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, based on the pre 1967 borders"

I assume he is going to explain to Hamas what they have to do to achieve this.

You had better hope that the Greens do not hold the balance of power after the weekend, they are all fruitcakes.

I asked our local Green candidate how he proposes to power the Very Fast Train, his answer was "alternate clean power generation" when I asked him what that was he could not answer.

Sustainable populations

The debate on immigration is missing the point about sustainability. The population of Sydney may be unsustainable. But the population of Acland wasn't sustainable either.

We keep thinking that the problem in the bush is that there aren't enough doctors. The real problem is that there aren't enough patients to sustain the doctors. 

Green relates to the real world

It is my hope that we get Greens representation in the lower house also, Then we will see if the big parties collude to defeat the science, as they did in Tasmania in the late nineties.


Policy Number One (of a long list in the middle of our Bob's piece):

The Greens will end discrimination in the marriage laws of Australia: this issue rankles out there. Young Australia is in revolt over it.

It is ambiguous, he doesn't explain, but it may relate to homosexuality.

As a homosexual he gives pride of place in his policy list for the Greens to some matter, not clearly described, but maybe that the benefits now described as widows pensions and suchlike would flow automatically to cohabiting men, or the survivor of a pair of such.

Looks like a somewhat sectional interest to me.  Why does it get pride of place in that long list of policies?

Oh, but, "this issue rankles out there".  Er... out where?

And "young Australia is in revolt over it".  Hang on, let me do a Web search.  If "young Australia is in revolt" I'll only get a chance to type "discrim" into Google and "discrimination in marriage laws" will drop down.

Hmmm.  Funny.  Nothing of the sort.  "discrimination in the workplace" is closest.  I keep typing, "discrimination in mar" and Sea Monkey's dropdown list is cut to the single entry "discrimination in marketing".

Okay, the full phrase, Web pages from Australia.  Plenty of enthusiasts, but no distinct appearance of "young Australia" or a revolt.  Pretty quiet, really.

‘‘But Senator Wong has defended her approach of publicly supporting the stance of defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.


Greens senator Christine Milne took exception to Senator Wong's defence of Labor's record on tackling gay discrimination.  "This is a lack of leadership I have to say," she said.

Earlier, her party leader, Senator Bob Brown, said he was "horrified" by Senator Wong's position.

Senator Brown, also openly gay, said Australia needed to move on from the status quo.  "I was horrified.  To somehow excuse discrimination ... on the basis of culture or heritage - are we going to bring back in hanging?"’’

Why doesn't he talk about financial rights equal to those of marriage, instead of wanting to pervert the language?  Oops, did I say that?

Why a dishonest slogan, "discrimination in marriage laws", when there is no discrimination in the marriage laws, but rather, a matter to which marriage laws do not relate, and so in respect of which marriage laws can't discriminate?

Why a reference to hanging?

In summary, no evidence of a "revolt by young Australia".  But young Australia can use the Web, can't it?

He is a liar.

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