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Joint press conference: World Energy Outlook, Royal Commission, Murray Darling

Christine Milne and Sarah Hanson-Young joined Mark Parnell in South Australia to comment on the World Energy Outlook, the Royal Commission into child abuse and the Murray Darling


Subjects: World Energy Outlook report, Royal Commission into child abuse, Murray Darling


CHRISTINE MILNE: The International Energy Agency has released the latest World Energy Outlook. It says very clearly that two-thirds of the world's fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we've got any hope of constraining global warming to less than 2 degrees. That is in complete contradiction to the Energy White Paper that's been released by the Gillard Government, which is a dash for gas, dig up the coal, ship it away as fast as possible. It's in complete contravention also of Obama's push for massive shale oil in the United States. The world has to get serious about global warming, we are currently on track for 3.6 degrees of warming. That is devastating for the planet and devastating here in South Australia when you consider the Murray Darling. We have to make sure that climate change, the impacts of climate change are taken into account when you consider any Murray Darling plan into the future. And I'll get my colleagues to speak about that in a moment.

I just wanted to comment on a couple of other things. With the World Energy Outlook showing overnight we need to completely constrain fossil fuels and rev up the renewables, in Australia the Greens achieved the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, 10 billion into renewable energy, but we have to make sure that that's on top of the Renewable Energy Target. We can't afford to make sure we put money into say, solar thermal and squeeze out wind. We need them both. And the good news is that there would be hardly any difference in the cost in terms of power bills if we did make any projects funded under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation additional to anything funded under the Renewable Energy Target. It would be a win-win for Australia and particularly necessary when you consider we are currently on track for 3.6 degrees of global warming.

On another story today, the Royal Commission, the Greens have been calling for a Royal Commission into child abuse in Australia for a long time. I first wrote to the Prime Minister about this in 2005, the then-Prime Minister, and more recently a couple months ago. I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister has said yes to a Royal Commission and I'm really pleased that at last the nation's parliamentarians are saying to the victims of child abuse we believe you, we are listening to you, we want to hear from you how this was covered up for so long, how the perpetrators of this abuse got away with it for so long, how they managed to shift people state to state, institution to institution, and continue to have the community listen to the institutions and not the children being abused. This is a situation which is going to take many years to resolve, I don't think it's appropriate that we put a timeframe on how long this Royal Commission should operate for, what we need to do is get it set up, get the broadest terms of reference so that it has every capacity to fact-find across all of those areas. I was concerned when I saw that the Catholic bishops had put out a statement saying that they are looking forward to being consulted in terms of the terms of reference for this inquiry. I think it is critical that the terms of reference are framed in terms of what the victims are saying happened to them, and the systemic problems that led to this being covered up for so long. I don't think it's appropriate for the Prime Minister to consult with the institutions through which that abuse was perpetrated and determine terms of reference based on what they say, because this is a fact-finding exercise, that's what a Royal Commission is, to uncover all of the facts, and we need to make sure that all of the facts are genuinely uncovered in this Royal Commission.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the fact that the Catholic bishops have said they're looking forward to being consulted, does it show that they've have had it their way for too long, that they believe that they need to be consulted when in fact what they need to be done is to be investigated?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Well it's interesting that the bishops have asked to be consulted in terms of the terms of reference for an inquiry into child abuse. Did we go and talk to the painters and dockers before the commission of inquiry into the union? Did we go and consult with say bikie gangs before there was a Royal Commission into those activities? The issue here is, it is the victims who need to be listened to. The whole purpose of the Royal Commission is to say we are listening to you, we are hearing you, we believe you. And so the terms of reference have to be framed in such a way that we do hear them, and not constrained so that we can't get a full picture of what actually occurred.

Now, I just wanted to introduce the issue of the Murray Darling. Australians love the Murray Darling and we want to save the Murray Darling system, but so much has been said about what will save the Murray. The Greens want to come back absolutely to evidence-based science. And that means taking into account the climate impacts on the river system, but it also means that vague promises about achieving 3200 gigalitres need to be firmed up beyond vague promises and actually be guaranteed in legislation. It has to be a minimum. Jay Wetherill has said he wants it to be a minimum and yet the figure that turns up constantly is the 2750 gigalitres. My question to the Prime Minister is what is so set in stone on 2750? Has any deal being done up until now so that anything additional is just possible, may be, we'll consider it later down the track? Why is 2750 set in stone? Has a deal been done with Tony Windsor? Has a deal been done with somebody else? It's time for the Government to say if that is the case, if it's not then the Government should be absolutely open to guaranteeing the minimum 3200 gigalitres that such a fuss was made about in Adelaide only a few weeks ago. In the Senate we're now are going to move on this and I'll just ask Sarah to come and indicate specifically what we're going to do in the Senate.

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: Well we know that both the Federal Government and the State Government here in South Australia want to see a returned amount to the river of 3200 gigalitres. Well let's do it, let's actually guarantee that that will be returned. To do that we need to amend the two bills that are currently before the Federal Parliament. The Greens are announcing today that next week we will move those amendments, we will guarantee that South Australians will get what they have been promised, 3200 gigalitres as a minimum. If both the State and Federal Governments believe this is important, then let's deliver it, upfront, real water, right now. That's what we need to pass through the Parliament. There's no use having empty promises, this is a plan that must save the river, not just for South Australia but for the rest of the nation, and South Australians who care the most about the long-term outcomes of this river system. They want the amount of water returned that science argues, we want the 4000 gigalitres, but the Government says they're happy to deliver 3200. Well we will help the Government deliver that, we'll work with the Government , we'll put forward the amendments, and it's a call to all South Australian MPs both state and federal that if they really believe that this is the time to save the river, if they really want to do it, let's guarantee 3200 gigalitres, back the Greens' amendments in the Parliament next week, and here in State Parliament Mark is going to be putting the pressure on the State Government.

MARK PARNELL: I'll be moving in State Parliament this afternoon for Jay Weatherill to go to his Labor federal colleagues and make sure that the legislation delivers what Jay Wetherill says South Australia needs in terms of water down the river Murray. It's not good enough just to have aspirational targets, we've seen even today professors of law coming out, experts on the constitution saying it's not guaranteed, this extra water, so Jay Weatherill needs to stop popping champagne corks and pretending that the battle is won, and he needs to get into the ear of his federal colleagues and make sure that we do have enough water coming down the Murray, to keep a healthy and vibrant river system alive.

JOURNALIST: So what is it that you're introducing today?

MARK PARNELL: The Greens are introducing a motion into State Parliament that will be calling on the Premier to get in touch with his federal colleagues and make sure that we do get enough water to keep the Murray alive. Because so far the extra water has been aspirational, it's been a promise, but it's not in legislation.

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: It's an opportunity for the State Government to send a very clear message to their federal counterparts to back the Greens' amendments. And if South Australian politicians are serious about saving the river, they'll vote for the Greens' amendments, we can work together to deliver a system and a plan that will save the river.

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