Echonetdaily’s Hans Lovejoy was given the opportunity to ask questions of the three Green MPs before their appearance at St John’s Catholic School hall in Mullumbimby on Saturday night.
The night’s bill was originally only meant to include federal senator Scott Ludlam (WA) but swelled to include senator Larissa Waters (Qld) and NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham. All MPs were on their way to congratulate the community at Bentley after Metgasco was forced to suspended its planned gas mine there.
What’s your bet on a double dissolution if the budget is blocked?
Senator Ludlam: If the budget is blocked, Abbott will have no choice but to go back the polls. There will most likely be a series of blocked bills that will just pile up month after month until these lunatics produce others. As long as Labor hold, we’ll be sending them back. At some point they have to decide whether to abandon this disastrous budget or come and talk to us.
What’s your take on Clive Palmer’s idea on taxation – do you agree that abolishing expected corporate tax earnings would inject billions into the economy?
Senator Ludlam: Palmer’s whole policy platform is tax evasion for his mining companies. He ran on that platform, and his cleverness is being able to disguise that while saying he is standing up for the mums and dads. That’s real political artistry. But you don’t know what’s policy and what’s been made up on the spot. There’s still an element of genuineness in there that is obviously resonating with people and we shouldn’t ignore that. My prediction is that they won’t last a year once Abbott tries to buy his senators back from him with various bribes and break the parliamentary block. Palmer’s policies have an interesting element of social justice – if he calls a press conference on the children in Manus Island, we’ll go and stand by him because he’s absolutely right. And he’s already proposing to block things in the budget.
MP Buckingham: Every time anyone asks him some serious questions on his policies he says something like (former Rupert Murdoch’s wife), ‘Wendy Deng is a robot’. If you look at the speech (former Qld premier) Peter Beattie gave about him, he came across as a clown. But clowns can be very dangerous. He also can’t run in state politics because of donation laws. A lot of what’s going on in ICAC is because big business has financed our democracy. The US don’t have a democracy, they have a plutocracy.
I have also heard the Greens may approve the fuel excise tax. Is that correct?
Senator Ludlam: We may, if it comes to it. It amounts I think to 40 cents a week. In terms of other cuts they are proposing it’s very minor.
Waters: I would like to see the money raised go towards public transport rather than the roads.
I wanted to confirm that the federal ICAC bill was knocked back last week?
Senator Waters: Unfortunately both parties got together and blocked it even going to a vote. The bill itself didn’t go down because they refused to go on record about what their real position was. It was pretty shonky.
Do you know why we don’t have domestic protection for oil and gas reserves like they have in America, and I believe in WA?
Senator Waters: Queensland did have a policy of keeping ten per cent of our reserves, which was a Beattie policy from around 2006. I think current premier Newman is now wanting to wind that back.
MP Buckingham: What we don’t have in Australia is a national-interest test. There’s no question asked by the government of itself and the exporters about the triple bottom line: economic, social and ecological interests. That could apply to live exports and uranium.
Santos was recently exposed in one of their strategy documents where they were considering exporting. One of the things they recognised early on was that when they went to export they had parity to international prices. They could leverage their conventional gas of that export and get higher prices domestically. So what’s underpinned their business model from day one was higher domestic prices. They say more gas will put downward pressure on prices – well you can do that but it won’t make it cheaper.
Senator Ludlam: The fossil fuel industry is opposed to domestic reserves as they would get much better export prices. In WA we have a 15 per cent domestic reserve for gas – but the northwest shelf itself is heading towards depletion. And for the new gasfields coming online, there is no domestic reservation, which may see a doubling or tripling of price in WA. That’s freaking out the big gas users in the state.
It completely obscures the fact that we need to start fading this industry out, and reasonably urgently.
Are you all fans of rare-earth mining? The alternative to fossil fuel mining is mining precious metals that are processed into solar panels, magnets and computer chipboards. Australian rare-earths mining company Lynas moved their process plant to Malaysia after all political parties rejected their application to operate here. What is your position on encouraging the future of such industries considering the renewables sector rely so heavily on these raw materials?
Senator Ludlam: What Lynas tried to do was to export the high-value jobs from each processing plant. They do the bulk mining in WA, ship this radioactive sludge from Fremantle, which is very heavily populated, in these plastic bags, and it contains a lot of thorium. So the rare-earth minerals themselves aren’t radioactive, but tends to co-exist with toxic ones. So it arrives in Malaysia – and they immediately throw all the thorium and radioactive sludge away into these tailings dams next to the refinery. And in Malaysia, going back 10 or 15 years, they have had a real horror show with the rare-earth minerals. They have basically been tipping the radioactive sludges into the fields and there was very poor management. So that sparked a very substantial counter-movement in Malaysia and we’ve been doing everything we can to support them. I’m not opposed to rare-earth mining, but that doesn’t mean your company should get a free pass on your social and environmental obligations. We met a number of times with Lynas, and they’re just going for the dollar.
MP Buckingham: The thing with rare earths is that they’re not that rare. They are rare in large concentrations – but they are everywhere. NSW is absolutely chock-a-block with them. Our view is that we need them, and we introduced a bill into the NSW upper house called the Responsible Mining Bill. It recognises that we need to keep making some steel and coked coal in the short term, but we need to be smarter about how we produce it. And there are certain areas where mining is just too much of a risk.
Larissa and I visited a site up behind Bellingen, the Clarence River, the Wild Cattle Creek. That’s a completely inappropriate place as it’s in a water catchment, and there are all these other industries. And the other one – where they are mining rare earths in Dubbo – also comes up with thorium and uranium. And while you’re not allowed to mine uranium, they’re digging it up and storing it onsite and then lobbying government to export uranium. So by mining rare earths, the most valuable thing they’re getting is uranium.