New Greens leader Adam Bandt has labelled Prime Minister Scott Morrison Australia’s #1 climate enemy, saying his affinity for coal and refusal to chase ambitious emission reduction targets “have us in line for three degrees of global warming.”
Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV in the days after landing his new gig, the MP also outlined his party’s goal of reshaping Australia’s economy, how climate anxiety has changed since this summer’s bushfire crisis, and whether the Greens, a minor party still dwarfed in Parliament by Labor and the Coalition, can actually put their lofty plans into action.
But first, the Morrison thing.
“I think it goes all the way to the top,” Bandt said of Morrison’s favourite carbon-dense rock.
“I think Prime Minister Scott Morrison made it clear that he loves coal, that’s why he brought a lump of coal into Parliament and said ‘Don’t be afraid.’
“He’s the one who said that he’s happy with the way that the world is going on global warming and doesn’t see the need to cut pollution any further.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is hardly better, according to Bandt.
“The moment when we try and hold Scott Morrison to account, Anthony Albanese starts backing him. Anthony Albanese starts using exactly the same words on coal that Tony Abbott used to use for that, that Scott Morrison uses. The Labor-Liberal consensus on coal is the biggest obstacle to tacking climate emergency at the moment.”
It’s a crisis which has been brought to the forefront of voters’ minds by this summer’s bushfires, Bandt says.
Despite the disparity in seats held by the Greens and its political rivals, Bandt believes his party has an opportunity to drag the major parties away from Australia’s hardcore pollution fetish.
“I think the public sentiment has massively shifted,” Bandt said.
“And I think one thing that the government doesn’t understand is that people across the country are feeling anxious and angry, and people are feeling anxious because of those crises that I mentioned before, the climate crisis, the jobs crisis, the inequality crisis is making people feel very insecure about the future.”
Our cities have been among the world's most polluted.— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) February 10, 2020
We're in record drought.
We've had catastrophic bushfires.
And now we're facing life-threatening floods.
But still the PM won't accept we're in a coal-fuelled climate emergency, a denial which threatens us all. pic.twitter.com/vp0JZVRdfZ
Bandt’s pitch to address those anxieties is the Green New Deal, similar to a plan championed by progressive US Senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The all-encompassing scheme has two main objectives: winding down Australia’s extractive fossil fuel industries while fighting economic inequality. Also, free dental care.
Outlining such an ambitious plan – and make no mistake, it is just an outline right now – is contentious. Serious questions remain about how such a massive movement will retrain workers in fields rendered obsolete by green industries. Oil, gas, and mining industries will stand against the Greens’ proposed tax hikes. And Labor, still bruised from the last election, seems less likely than ever to barrack for structural change alongside the Greens.
But Bandt is optimistic that voters will support his plan, drawing inspiration from one of the stunning political movements in recent memory.
“Yeah, look, if I was in Iowa I’d have been caucusing for Bernie,” Bandt said of US Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. The 78-year-old is notable for being way, way further left than his counterparts, with his policies inspiring countless voters who felt overlooked by other politicians.
Bandt is confident his party can build a similar coalition of Australians disillusioned by the major parties.
Pointing to the surprise win of independent Zali Steggall over Abbott at the last election, Bandt said “This is an opportunity to join us and to step up.
“And if we do it, we’re actually to change the way we do politics in this country.”
It’ll be a big deal – if the Greens can pull it off.