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Adam Bandt sits down for an one-on-one interview with 7am’s Ruby Jones.

The Vote: The Adam Bandt Interview

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Adam Bandt sits down for a one-on-one interview with Ruby Jones.

This election, issues the Greens have championed for years, like an integrity commission and reducing emissions, are now finding a lot of popular support.

But the party finds itself at a crossroads. It’s been unable to increase the number of lower house MPs and senators it has at the federal level for over a decade.

Adam Bandt, the party’s leader, has ambitions to change this.

So, in his first federal election as leader, how has he shaped the party, is this a different kind of Greens campaign and would he really be able to work with a Labor party that views the Greens as toxic electorally?

 

Guest: Leader of the Australian Greens and federal MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

 
Read Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

 

From Schwartz Media and 7am, I’m Ruby Jones, and this is *The Vote*.

 

Issues the Greens have championed for years, like an integrity commission and reducing emissions, are now finding a lot of popular support


But the party finds itself at a crossroads. It’s been unable to increase the number of lower house MPs and senators it has at the federal level for over a decade.


Adam Bandt, the party’s leader, has ambitions to change this.


So, in his first federal election as leader - how has he shaped the party, is this a different kind of Greens campaign and would he really be able to work with a Labor party that views the Greens as toxic electorally.

 

Today, Adam Bandt on the future of the Greens.

It’s Thursday May 5,

[Theme Music Ends]

RUBY:
Adam, good morning. 

ADAM BANDT:
Good morning.

RUBY:
Welcome to 7am.

ADAM BANDT:
Thanks very much for having me. 

RUBY:
Great to have you on the show. Let's get straight into it. What is the pitch? For anyone listening to *7am* this morning, why should they vote for the Greens at this moment in time? 

ADAM BANDT:
Well, the Greens are poised to be the most powerful third party in the next parliament. We're set to be in balance of power, certainly in the Senate, potentially in the lower house, in what looks like being a very tight contest. And by voting for Greens, you can kick this terrible government out, and then in balance of power, will push the next government to act on the climate crisis by stopping opening new coal and gas mines, but also to tackle the inequality crisis by getting dental and mental health into Medicare, building more affordable housing, and wiping student debt. They're the key things that we'll be campaigning on this election.

RUBY:
Mmhm. Let's talk a bit about the Greens policy on the climate crisis, because when you became the leader of the Greens in 2020 - so, right at the beginning of the pandemic - you spoke a lot about a Green New Deal. So what exactly is that, and how is that different to what we'd heard from the Greens before?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, this is about a transformative plan that puts workers and communities at the centre of the transition, that recognises that coal and gas workers are not the enemy, need support as we transition to a renewable economy, but that also says we can tackle the climate crisis by tackling the other crises that we've got as well. So including the housing crisis, the fact that so many people are living in poverty, all of those things can be tackled as part of a comprehensive plan. It's about saying we don't just need to change the government, we need to change what the government does. And it's about making sure that we make the billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax, to make people's lives better by tackling the climate crisis and the inequality crisis. 

RUBY:
And when you spoke over the last few years about the Green New Deal and about how this would work, you said that the government should invest in infrastructure, in renewables, and that it was a good time for the government to do that because loans were so cheap, because interest rates were at historic lows during the pandemic. But that is obviously changing. Interest rates are going up and going up much faster than it seems The Greens policy would have anticipated. So are you still saying that we would borrow money to pay for it? 

ADAM BANDT:
Well, investing in infrastructure is still a good idea. We've got to do it. We've got to get off coal and gas and onto renewables. And we've got a plan for a Snowy Hydro 3.0, to basically build across the country the equivalent of our current coal fired power fleet - so about 25 gigawatts - build that in renewables. Now that will require investment to do that, but it's a good investment because you end up with something that you can hold onto for generations. We do need to invest, to build more public housing, to build more renewable energy - that requires borrowing, but it's investment that helps not only grow the economy, but deliver something that's there for generations to come. But what we're also focussing on is making big corporations and billionaires pay their fair share to help fund our policies. And we've got one in three big corporations in this country that pays no tax. At all. 27 gas corporations brought in $77/78 billion of revenue in one year and paid no tax on it. So we're also saying to help fund the policies, make the billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax. 

RUBY:
I want to take a step back, if I can, from the policies that the Greens are bringing to the 2022 election, and talk a little bit about the Greens under your leadership, because it seems like in the past there has been a slight reluctance, I would say, from the Greens to talk about parts of their platform that seem more controversial or less politically popular. I'm thinking here, for example, about drugs policy; in the past, when it hit the front page during an election campaign, Bob Brown seemed reluctant to talk about that, presumably because he thought it would take away from some of the bigger or more important issues that the Greens were campaigning on. There does seem to be a change, though, under your leadership. You and others in the party seem more, I would say, unashamed of the policies that seem more radical to the Greens or have less popular support. Is there a shift there?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, I can't really comment on Bob and previous leaders. I will run my own race in that respect. But at this election, we've seen it rapidly becoming, in my view, a contest between a terrible government and a visionless opposition. And the problem is that we are facing some pretty big crises and they require big solutions and they require big thinking. And so with property, for example, like, whether interest rates go up this month or next month, the underlying pressures that drive up housing prices and that drive up rents are still going to be there. We're giving handouts to property investors who've got multiple properties - and I'm not talking about people who've got one investment property, I'm talking about people who've got multiple - and when you add that together with other subsidies, it's about $6 billion a year that we're giving…putting into a system that pushes up property prices. Now, the others don't want to talk about that. And there's a problem with that because so long as we keep coming up with other solutions and other ideas, like home buyers grants and so on, all that does is actually push up prices even further. And we've got to have the courage to grasp those big issues because they’re big problems that we're facing. 

RUBY:
Sure. But what about parts of the Greens platform that are more radical or more controversial, things like Defence, for example, we had John recently quoted in The Australian talking about the Greens defence policy, you know, and some would call the Greens defence policy radical; throwing out the AUKUS agreement, cancelling the submarine deal. Are you afraid that those kinds of things are going to put off voters who might actually agree with you on things like the need to address climate change urgently?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, I think people want peace and people are concerned about this march towards war. Yes, there are rising tensions in our region between the US and China. But we agree with Paul Keating on this, the…outsourcing Australia's defence policy to be effectively just a subunit of another country's - in this case the US - isn't going to make Australia safer. And so we've always argued for an independent foreign policy that puts Australia's interests first and will continue to do so. And what worries me is, you know, as we head towards this election, we've got, you know, with Peter Dutton, you've got a wannabe warmonger who is auditioning for the role of future opposition leader, trying to stir up a khaki election. That concerns us. And these real threats that we're all facing, including security threats, including the climate threat need some sober discussion, including about what's the best defence posture for Australia, and we want to have the discussion in that light. And we don't want to turn it into a khaki election issue in the way that the Government wants to.

RUBY:
Mm. Adam, you entered Parliament in 2010. You were the first Greens member in the House of Representatives. In the 12 years since then, it’s still only you there, the Greens haven't managed to repeat that feat. So, why not?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, in the last few years we've tripled our numbers in the ACT Parliament, doubled our numbers in the Queensland Parliament, we've just come off a record vote in South Australia, we are on track to grow hopefully an extra three senators this election in Queensland, South Australia, and New South Wales, and we're giving it a real shot in some lower house seats around the country, as well as Richmond in New South Wales, and McNamara here in Victoria. So we are campaigning strongly. Look, of course as the leader I would like to see it grow and it's…we want to break through not only in the Senate where we're on track to be the biggest third party in the Senate ever, but into the House of Representatives as well. But the signs so far - certainly since I've taken over, looking at what's happening over the last couple of years - are encouraging. And I guess we'll see how we go in a couple of weeks’ time. 

RUBY:
I do want to push you a bit on this, though, because your success in 2010, that was based on turning a safe Labor seat into an even safer Greens seat. But the Greens haven't been able to emulate that, to take a safe Labor seat in a progressive area; take Grayndler, for example, Anthony Albanese’s seat, and turn it into a Greens seat. And that's despite the area of Grayndler being a very strong area for the Greens at the state level, at the council level. Yet it's never really been within the grasp of the Greens federally. Neither has the seat of Sydney for example, or in Melbourne, a seat like Wills or Cooper. So why is that?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, we've grown significantly, certainly in state parliaments at the lower house level, growing in Queensland too. I don't think people would have thought ten years ago that we have two seats in the Queensland Parliament. Remembering of course that it’s just one chamber and it's…it's just effectively a lower house and we've got three in New South Wales Parliament. So I mean we've now got six in the ACT Parliament. You're right…

RUBY:
Sure, but I’m talking about Federally…

ADAM BANDT:
…the next step is we've got to go on at the federal. That's right. And that's…I haven't been leader for previous federal elections and I'm the leader for this one. And we're hoping to gain seats in the Senate, and also in the House of Representatives as well. The…our system, our electoral system in Australia is one where we're not like New Zealand, where if a party gets 12% of the vote, then they get 12% of the seats. We do have a system that does focus on lower house seats in the…focus on single member electorates, rather, in lower house seats. And yes, it is harder to Windows than it is to…than it might be to win, say, a proportional representation seat in…like they have in other countries. So we are aware of that. And part of what I've done is say we've got to grow not only in the House-...not only in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives as well. And I guess we'll see how we go. 

RUBY:
Hmm. Given, though, that you're in the exact same position that you were in 2010, both in the House of Reps and in the Senate with nine senators, why do you think that this would be any different, the 2022 election?

ADAM BANDT:
Because it's three seats in the Senate where we've got one senator, and we're running in Queensland now to get a second senator up against Pauline Hanson and potentially Clive Palmer as well, to try and get a second senator, a second senator in South Australia and in New South Wales, so we're not just replacing people who are already there, but saying seeking to grow. The campaigns in inner city Brisbane in particular are going gangbusters. We saw double digit swings in those seats in the state election, and those…the campaigns there basically haven't demobilised. They're growing and growing and growing.

And when you look at the polls, take polls with a grain of salt, but all the polls that have come out in the last couple of weeks suggest a real lift in our support in Queensland in particular, because that's where people are responding to the message that yes, we accept that politics as usual isn't working for you, but we're pushing to fix it. And we've got a people powered campaign - that's coming to your point about why do we think it'll be different this time. In the state of Griffith, they have had over 20,000 conversations with voters in the seat of Ryan, over 14,000 conversations - direct one on one conversations - with voters. And that people-powered campaign that saw me win in Melbourne, it feels a lot like that in some of those seats.

RUBY:
We’ll be back in a moment

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RUBY:
Adam, you have shared the chamber with Anthony Albanese for 12 years now. Do you like him? 

ADAM BANDT:
I get on well with him, and I respect him, and he's always been upfront in dealing with, as you referenced before in, you know, in his seat, it's been Greens running against that seat, so it's…there's… he’s certainly…I don't think there’s any…he has any particular great love for our party. But he's…he's upfront, I found him honest, and found that you can deal with him and have an honest conversation with him, and that is, I think, a critical thing when you're trying to get things done across the aisle in politics.

RUBY:
Mm. He's described the Greens as a complete distraction, said that they're trying to make themselves seem more important than they are going into this election and crucially, that he won't negotiate with you in a hung parliament. So how do you plan on mending that relationship and is it even possible? 

ADAM BANDT:
Well, Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison have both been confronted with the reality that there might be a power sharing Parliament and with the rise of more voices on the crossbench. And they've both said, oh, they won't work with anyone, and I'll leave it to listeners to make their own judgement about what they think about that statement. I mean, like, are they really saying…are Liberal…is Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese really saying that if the Australian people elect a parliament with third voices in it, that they're just going to take their bat and ball and go home or go back to another election? I mean, I don't want to go to another election. I would rather work with who's there. I can't speak for what they'll do. I can just say that in that situation we won't support the Liberals. We would like to see stable, effective, and progressive government, and we're putting forward a range of areas that we think we could work together on and push the next government on, because they do need to be pushed. Starting with not opening new coal and gas mines because Labor, like Liberal, wants to wipe out 114 of them around the country, which we just cannot afford if we're to tackle the climate crisis.

But other areas as well, affordable housing, and student debt ,and dental into Medicare - they're all we've got progress on those before in balance of power. Last time we got dental into Medicare for kids. We could do it again, we're just being upfront going into the election about the approach we'll take. 

RUBY:
So in the event that you are guaranteeing supply in a hung parliament, what are your non-negotiables?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, these are things that we’d put on the table. We would say first of all, we’ve got to tackle the climate crisis. And the…we can have a debate during the course of the next parliament about how quickly to get out of coal and gas. Labor's targets are less than the Paris Agreement, they're based on the Paris Agreement failing. The climate targets from Liberal and Labor are woeful. But I think everyone could agree that we should stop opening up new coal and gas mines. That at a bare minimum should be something we can all agree on, because you can't put the fire out while you're pouring petrol on it. And the world is pleading with Australia to stop opening up new coal and gas projects. The International Energy Agency says that even if you want to meet net zero by 2050, which is far too late according to the science, but even if you want to meet that, there can't be any new fossil fuel infrastructure. But Liberal and Labor are out there saying we're going to open up big projects like the Beetaloo Basin that would add up to 13% to Australia's emissions, as well as unleashing countries worth of emissions if the whole area is fracked. So what we'll be putting on the table is: stop opening up coal and gas mines. And I think that's something that people should be able to agree on. Labor so far said no, they're going to stick with the Liberals and keep opening coal and gas mines, but I don't think that position is ultimately defensible. The other elements that we'd put on the table… 

RUBY:
Just to stay with that for a second: so, in terms of phasing out new coal mines, the Greens platform is to do that in eight years, within eight years, by 2030. Is that up for negotiation?

ADAM BANDT:
So we've got a comprehensive platform which has Australia getting out of thermal coal by 2030, and metallurgical coal - the coal that you use for steel - by 2040. That's what the science requires. And we're saying stop opening up new gas projects and let the existing gas projects run their life, but then after that, don't open up any more. That's our comprehensive plan that we're putting on the table, together with a plan about how to support workers as we go through that transition. The…we would love Labor or Liberal to agree to that. Like, that's what the science requires. We'd love anyone to sign up to that. If we find ourselves in that balance of power situation, though, what we've got to do is push and try and get as much as we can on climate, and that would start with not opening up new coal and gas projects. And we think that's something that they should be able to agree to. 

RUBY:
Adam The Greens have come up with a suite of policies, policies around free health care, education. There's anti-racism policies in there. These are all things that you and the Greens clearly think would make for a more…a more just, a more fair, and more equitable Australia. But when it comes down to it on a good day, only 15% of Australians seem to agree with that, would be willing to vote for that. And I just wonder when you reflect on that, what you think that tells you about Australia?

ADAM BANDT:
That not enough people are hearing our message. And what I found in Melbourne, the reason that our vote has continued to grow and grow and grow in Melbourne, is that when people hear that we're not just fighting strongly on the climate crisis, but we've got a suite of policies to tackle the poverty crisis, the housing affordability crisis, the health crisis, they like them. I don't think the issue is our policies, the issue is and we as a smaller party have to get that message in front of people. And to that extent, we're up against…the fact is that everyone knows concentrated media ownership, suggesting that we've really only got a two party system,  that especially during election time ends up being focussed on two parties. But when people hear our message, they like it. And that's why, as it was referencing the Brisbane campaigns before. It's why we've invested very heavily in the last few years in having a people powered campaign that's based on one on one conversations as a way of circumventing that difficulty that we've had in terms of getting our message out. And when people hear it, they like it. And things like, you know, we've been pushing…we were the first ones to push for marriage equality and for a Federal Corruption Commission, for example - things that are now popular policies. That's because they've always had majority support. And sometimes it takes a bit of time for people to realise that's what we're fighting for, but when they do, they like it.

RUBY:
Mm. Do you really think that people haven't heard the message of the Greens by now? Do you not think that there is a sense that what the Greens see as an ideal future for the country might not be in line with what the majority of the country believes?

ADAM BANDT:
I think a lot of people know that the Greens want to fight for climate change, want to fight for the environment, but they wouldn't necessarily know about what we stand for beyond that. And this election in particular, we've had a big focus not just on having strong policies to stop the climate and environment crisis, which is the big existential issue facing us as a planet, but also here in Australia, but also policies that will tackle cost of living like because this comes back to the point about what is government for, and whether we're offering a real alternative. This…Labor and Liberal now support changing our tax system so that someone on minimum wage will pay the times same tax rate as the CEO. This is the end of progressive taxation in Australia, if Labor and Liberal get their way. The next budget could well be, whoever is in power, could well be an austerity budget because they ripping $184 billion out of it to pay for tax cuts for the likes of Clive Palmer. Now, we are saying: no. Government should be about making society fairer, asking the billionaires to keep paying their fair share of tax and not give them tax cuts, and instead putting that money into universal services that'll make life better. And we're the only ones talking about that at this election. Universal dental care, universal education. And when you have that conversation with people, they like it, but it is a fundamental difference between us and the government, at least, and increasingly Labor siding with the government about what is government for. 

RUBY:
If it is a matter of not enough people hearing the Greens message, do you get frustrated at the lack of cut through?

ADAM BANDT:
Well, it's a bit like…what's the…I might be paraphrasing or badly attributing here, but the Churchill quote about a politician complaining about the media like, you know, a fisherman complaining about the sea? Like you can't…like, that's the world we're in. And there's not much point in getting frustrated about it. My job is to work out what to do about it. And we've got to understand that we are in a system where Labor and Liberal take donations from coal and gas corporations, they've got a vested interest in not making these big corporations pay tax, so we're taking on some very powerful interests. And how do you get around that? You get around that by running a grassroots campaign, by participating and getting noticed in the media where you can, but yeah, there’s no use complaining about it. This is the system that we're trying to change, and so we've got to work out how to change it. 

RUBY:
Adam, thank you so much for your time. 

ADAM BANDT:
Thank you. 

RUBY:
We’ve also invited the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to join us for an interview during this election campaign.

They’re yet to accept our offer, but we hope they do soon.

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RUBY:
Also in the news today,

According to health authorities, three new Covid-19 Omicron sub-variants have reached Australia and are now circulating.

 

As authorities prepare for a likely spike in Covid-19 cases in winter, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is recommending people wait three months after a  Covid-19 infection before receiving their next vaccine dose.

 

And in the United States, President Joe Biden says that the leaked Roe v Wade draft opinion from the Supreme Court would be a radical ruling and could threaten “other basic rights. ”

 

As demonstrations outside the Supreme Court continue, democratic states across the country have moved to protect access to abortion in their jurisdictions if the landmark 1973 ruling is overturned.

 

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

 

Host

Ruby Jones is an investigative journalist and host of 7am.

Guest

Adam Bandt is leader of the Australian Greens and federal MP for Melbourne.

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