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Inside the Greens’ climate deal with Labor

Today, national correspondent at The Saturday Paper Mike Seccombe on the high-stakes political games that are going to decide our climate future.
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For more than ten years, the Greens and the Labor Party have been blaming each other for holding back progress on climate action. 

Now, things have shifted — Labor’s new emissions reduction target will almost certainly become legislation, after the Greens announced that they’ll support it. 

But that support has only come after fierce negotiations and several concessions from the Albanese government.

Today, national correspondent at The Saturday Paper Mike Seccombe on the high-stakes political games that are going to decide our climate future.

Socials: Stay in touch with us on Twitter and Instagram.

Guest: National correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Mike Seccombe.

 
Read Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

##RUBY:
From Schwartz Media I’m Ruby Jones, this is *7am*.

For more than ten years, the Greens and the Labor party have been blaming each other for holding back progress on climate action. 

Now, things have shifted - Labor’s new emissions reduction target will almost certainly become legislation, after the Greens announced that they’ll support it. 

But that support has only come after fierce negotiations and several concessions from the Albanese government.

Today - National Correspondent at *The Saturday Paper* Mike Seccombe, on the high-stakes political games that are going to decide our climate future.

It’s Thursday August 4.

[Theme Music Ends]

##RUBY:
So Mike, the Greens have now announced that they will back Labor's climate bill after getting some concessions from the government, which is obviously a huge shift in Australia's climate politics. Let's go back and talk about how this happened exactly, because when Labor introduced this bill last week, you spoke to Greens leader Adam Bandt about the strategy that he was going to take. So what did he say to you? 

##MIKE:
Alright. The reason I wanted to speak to Bandt was because in the new Parliament the Greens are just so vital to the Labor Government's legislative agenda. Labor has only 26 of 76 Senate seats, so to get a majority it needs 13 more. And the Greens hold 12 of those. So, Labor needs all 12 of the Greens plus one more from the crossbench if they're to get anything through, providing the Coalition opposes it. So had it been the case that the Greens had voted against the climate change bill, it would have died. You know, it's as simple as that. And so I was wanting to find out what Bandt's conditions were for offering his support. And he told me that going into negotiations, he had four main concerns.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“One was that the bill didn't have a genuine floor…”

##MIKE:
That it was possible for the government not to achieve its proposed target of a 43% reduction in emissions.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“The second was that it could operate as a ceiling…”

##MIKE:
So it could be enshrined in law that you get to 43% and that's it, don't go any higher. You know, there was no prospect of lifting that.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“Imagine a Senate where the composition changes and Pauline Hanson could have effective veto power over a government that wanted to listen to the climate science. And a third concern is that the bill had no teeth…”

##MIKE:
And it didn't really oblige the government to do anything to cut pollution. And the fourth one, which is the biggie, is that this legislation was silent on the question of whether we would continue to develop new coal and gas mining projects.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“Which could blow the targets out of the water and put any chance of reaching even those weak targets beyond reach.”

##MIKE:
And if those go ahead, that would put paid to any chance of reaching even the 43% target that the Government's talking about.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“We put those concerns to the government and we're pleased that the government has responded to some of those concerns and addressed them in the legislation that ultimately found its way to Parliament.”

##RUBY:
Mmm so how has the government responded to those concerns?

##MIKE:
Well, I think we can say the first two have been more or less addressed. The Climate Change Minister, Chris Bowen, somewhat belatedly offered the assurance that 43% emissions reduction target was quote a floor, not a ceiling. And this is now reflected in the legislation which stipulates 43% as a minimum. So in other words, it can only go up. So that's good. The third point about teeth is sort of addressed.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“We welcome moves from the government to start putting climate in the objects of a number of government agencies. That was something we raised as a concern.”

##MIKE:
The proposed legislation includes a provision that government agencies and the CSIRO and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund and so on should have the new target incorporated into their, quote, objects and functions unquote. And this is significant because under the previous government a lot of these agencies came under heavy pressure to assist with climate destroying activities by providing funding for new projects. So that's one worry, the second is whether the government acts on the advice it is given and there’s nothing to suggest, you know it’s mandated that they should. So that’s the third point sort of addressed.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“The question of coal and gas remains outstanding and remains the biggest difference between us and the government.”

##MIKE:
But it’s the last one is about the opening of new coal and gas projects. It's become the real sticking point. The Labor Government has made it quite clear that it will not amend this bill to meet the Greens demands that there be a blanket moratorium on the approval of new coal mines and gas fields.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“One of the more distressing parts of the discussions has been seeing just how strongly Labor wants to open new coal and gas.”

##MIKE:
And we know that if the planet is to stay within the global warming limits, you know, 1.5 degrees Celsius, there can be no new oil and gas fields or coal fired mines created. You know, the science is clear on that.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“If the parliament passes the 43% on a Monday, but Labor opens the Beetaloo Basin on a Tuesday. That project alone adds 13% per year to Australia's emissions. And that's not accounted for in this bill. That's not accounted for in the Government modelling.”

##RUBY:
Okay. So that's really the crux of the issue then Mike, and there's history here, isn't there, for, for Labor and the Greens on this, because obviously the Greens voted against Labor's old carbon pollution reduction scheme back in 2009. And so I'm guessing that none of that tension is lost on Bandt or Albanese both parties would be feeling, but this is a big test for them and for their relationship.

##MIKE:
Oh absolutely. I and in the lead up to this they've both been blaming the other for the failure in 2009. So it is a big test and both sides are playing it pretty hard.

##Archival tape -- Sarah Ferguson:
“Talking about clean energy. Let's talk about climate because it does look like you're going to get the Senate votes to pass your 43% emissions target. But the Greens at the same time are asking you to commit to no new coal and gas projects for export. Will you resist them so as not to forgo the substantial revenue that would come from those projects.”

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“We’ll be supporting our policy…”

##MIKE:
You know, lately we've seen Albanese out there misrepresenting the Greens on the climate bill.

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“Our policy is for powering Australia. That will be 43% reduction, but…”

##Archival tape -- Sarah Ferguson:
“That's a question about a moratorium or putting a stop to prejudice for export.”

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“Well, that's not in our policy and we won't be implementing that policy. That's the policy of the Greens and no doubt.”

##MIKE:
Suggesting that Adam Bandt and his party wants to immediately close down Australia's fossil fuel exports.

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“If Australia today said we are not going to export any more coal, what you would say is a lot of jobs lost. You would say a significant loss to our economy, significantly less taxation, revenue for education, health and other services...”

##MIKE:
Which is not what the Greens are advocating at all. They're saying that there should be a phase out of coal, of thermal coal, you know, which we use to generate electricity. They're saying phase out by 2030 and they're saying phase out metallurgical coal, which is used for steelmaking by 2040. They're not saying that we should immediately, you know, stop it as of today, which is what Albanese's been suggesting. 

So, yeah, both parties have internal and external pressures to contend with. You know, Bandt is under pressure from the more ambitious radical elements of his party, I guess you would say. And Labor, of course, is beholden to the mining unions, to its fossil fuel donors who are very generous to Labor, not quite as generous as they are to the Coalition, but they're very generous to Labor and of course also to, you know, those people in middle Australia who are more concerned about economic issues than climate.

And both sides are clearly catering to their constituencies and neither can be seen to be giving too much away.
So it was sort of, you know, a bit of bluff poker, I guess you would say. And I'm told that there was some opposition within the party room to passing this climate change bill unless Bandt could get sufficient concessions from Labor. 

So on Tuesday, during the parliamentary sitting day when the parties have their party room meetings, the Greens met on this and discussed the climate bill, that was inconclusive, so they went back again on Tuesday night and eventually it was agreed that Bandt had won concessions enough to justify agreeing to the bill. 

On Wednesday he appeared at the National Press Club to confirm the Greens support and also I might add to flag that they would continue to press for further measures to reduce the use and export of fossil fuels.

So this isn't the end of the matter.

##RUBY:
We'll be back after this. 

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##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“The Greens want us to become a more equal country with a safer climate. We are not a rubber stamp. We will not be taken for granted. This is the critical decade for climate action, to tackle inequality and the cost of living crisis.”

##RUBY:
Mike, we've just heard Adam Bandt address the Press Club announcing the Greens would support Labor's climate bill. Can you tell me about what he said?

##MIKE:
Well, essentially just that he considered that they had improved the bill sufficiently and would pass it.

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“We have been able to secure improvements to the bill, ensuring that the target can be ratcheted up over time and that it's now Dutton-proofed with a genuine floor, which means the target cannot go backwards.”

##MIKE:
They were still disappointed that they hadn't got a higher target than the 43% the Greens went to the election advocating for a 75% cut. So there's a big, big difference there. 

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“And that's why I can tell you today that tomorrow I will be joined by our Greens MP’s in the House of Representatives in voting for the climate change bill. And when the bill comes before the Senate, we will vote for it there as well.”

##MIKE:
But still those concessions offered by Labor about including climate considerations in the riding instructions for various government authorities. The fact that we would have regular reporting back to the Parliament on progress, etc., that those were considered sufficient to justify passing it. 

##Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:
“We will push to ensure the safeguard mechanism safeguards our future by stopping new coal and gas projects. We will push for a climate trigger in our environment laws. And I call on all Australians to join this battle, this battle to save our country, our communities and indeed our whole civilisation from the climate and environment crisis.”

##RUBY:
And for over a decade now, these two parties, the Greens and Labor, they’ve blamed each other for the lack of progress on climate change. We're now on the brink of the Greens and Labor voting together for this target. So how big a moment is this and how much do you think it changes Australian politics? 

##MIKE:
I think it is a pretty big moment actually. This was essentially the first big test of the new power relativities within the parliament, right. On this particular piece of legislation, by just a blanket opposition to Labor's proposal, the Coalition essentially wrote itself out of the equation. It all came down to negotiations between Labor and the Greens. 

So yeah, I think this is a pretty big moment. This shows us that the Greens have arrived as a very, very serious power in this new Parliament. 

##RUBY:
And so the fact that this agreement has been reached, does that mean, Mike, that the climate wars are over? 

##MIKE:
In a word, no. 

What it does do, I guess, is shift the field of conflict. Before the election, the coalition parties were dug in against any substantive change at all, and they still are. But now the real action is between Labor and the Greens in the Senate with I suppose bit players in the teal independents in the House and the Senate crossbench. But this much we know, that the science is on the Greens side and so increasingly it would seem, according to all the polls, is popular opinion. You know, a substantial proportion of the population are not satisfied with the incoming Government's action on climate at this point. So I can only see this ultimately, you know, moving in the direction of the Greens position. It's just a question of how long it takes.

##RUBY:
Hmm. Mike, thank you so much for your time.

##MIKE:
Thank you. 

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[Theme Music Starts]

##RUBY:
Also in the news today,

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has responded to Greens leader Adam Bandt’s climate announcement claiming a victory for the government. 

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“The Parliament is about to, after a decade of inaction and denial and delay, move forward.”

##RUBY:
The Prime Minister signalled that while some amendments had been made to the bill, there would be no climate trigger. 

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“We made our position very clear, there will be some amendments passed in the House of Representatives, are sensible that are consistent with our position.”

##RUBY:
Anthony Albanese also said that he was inviting the Opposition to join the conversation on climate. 

##Archival tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“If the Coalition decide to break with their rhetoric and actually come to the table, listen to the business community who are saying that what we need is investment certainty.”

##RUBY:
And Stuart Ayres has resigned as deputy New South Wales Liberal leader, and trade and investment Minister and will be investigated for a possible breach of ministerial conduct. 

His resignation comes after the draft of an independent report into the appointment of former New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro to a lucrative trade position in New York raised questions about Ayres’ involvement.  

Ayres has denied any wrongdoing, saying he was only standing down so the matter could be investigated. 

I’m Ruby Jones, this is *7am*. See you tomorrow.

[Theme Music Ends]

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