Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:35 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Di Natale today relating to the Adani coal mine.

Today we learned that the ABC has revealed that the Adani Group paid no tax on its Abbot Point coal terminal, a project that was running for three years until mid-2016. It earned almost $1 billion, and not one cent of that flowed back to the Australian people. Of course, to add insult to injury, we also learned that, while Adani pays no tax, it is also polluting Australian coastal waters and wetlands with coal-laden stormwater, and then it refuses to pay a $12,000 fine. This company is an absolute disgrace. We learned from the environment department that Adani may have been negligent because it didn't disclose its CEO's history of causing serious environmental harm in Zambia. This is a company that should not be opening in Australia, and it certainly should not be opening up one of the world's biggest coalmines.

The good news is that it seems that the Australian Labor Party is waking up to Adani's appalling financial and environmental track record. That is a good thing, and we welcome that shift in position, although we wait with anticipation for full-throated opposition to that mine. We know why it's happened. It's taken a huge Greens win in the Northcote by-election and now the prospect of a by-election in Batman. We know that, on the back of a big Greens result in Queensland and, of course, a huge campaign from the Stop Adani movement there, the Labor Party is looking to shift its position. That's good. That's democracy in action. But do you know what? The people of Batman are a bit smarter than that. They know that this isn't a question of whether somebody shifts their position in the lead-up to an election. What they want to see is an optimistic, forward-looking, progressive vision for this country.

This is a by-election where we will see two competing visions for the Australian nation. One vision is to see a minor shift in position towards one coalmine on the basis of that company's track record. The other position is to recognise that we can't open up new coalmines. Whether it be Adani or an Australian company with a track record that is not as bad as Adani's, the answer must be the same: we cannot continue to open up new coalmines in the Galilee Basin, or anywhere else in Australia for that matter. We need to stop opening up new coalmines. We need to make the transition to green, clean renewable energy with the jobs that it brings, with the reduction in energy prices that it brings and, of course, with the huge investment that comes with a burgeoning new industry.

The people of Batman understand that this is the opportunity to express their view about what they want the future of their community to look like. They also want a party that stands up for decency and compassion when it comes to innocent people seeking asylum. They want to see those offshore detention centres closed. They want to see a party that stands up to racism and bigotry and that doesn't appease the far right. They want to see a party that's prepared to tackle inequality through housing affordability by making sure that renters are given more rights and that loopholes are closed. They want to see a party that is prepared to put the interests of community ahead of its corporate donors and bring some integrity into the Australian political system. That's what the Greens provide.

The Greens have been achieving so much through our campaigning, through our advocacy, through our work in the community and through our work in the parliament. It is now a wonderful opportunity for the people of Batman to say that that's what they want to see in this place and right across the community. Whether it's Adani, whether it's housing affordability, whether it's a banking royal commission, or whether it's a national anti-corruption watchdog, what we're seeing is the Greens leading the national policy debate in this country. Is it any wonder that the old parties want to avoid a banking royal commission when they're the beneficiaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the financial sector. When you see where those big donations are coming from, is it any wonder that taxpayers' money is handed out to the mining sector and the private health insurance sector rather than being invested in renewables, schools and hospitals. That's what the people of Batman will see in the coming weeks as the Greens continue to campaign with our terrific candidate, Alex Bhathal—a strong, local, independent voice advocating courage, compassion and action on those things that matter.

Question agreed to.