Ahead of Tuesday night’s Federal Budget, Adam Bandt warns Labor is putting the future of young people at risk by continuing to give tax breaks and subsidies to fossil fuel companies responsible for fuelling climate change.
Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, the Greens leader argued large coal and gas producers are “wrecking the economy” by fuelling extreme weather events like floods and droughts which cost billions of dollars.
“These big corporations are taking the economy for a ride… Getting out of coal and gas will protect Australia's economy and ensure that we can continue to feed ourselves and our kids will continue to have a safe future,” he said.
Mr Bandt believes the government’s top spending priorities in the Budget for the environment should be:
A big build of publicly owned renewable energy.
A freeze on electricity bills funded by a tax on coal and gas corporations.
Protecting wildlife with a multi-billion dollar nature fund.
Bandt concerned Budget will contain tax breaks for fossil fuel companies
While Mr Bandt believes the government should be spending on adaption measures to mitigate the impact of climate change, he argues the “real focus” must be on stopping new coal and gas projects and phasing out existing polluting infrastructure.
“We’re very happy that the Coalition is gone, but Labor wants to open up just as many coal and gas mines as the Coalition did,” he said. “In the safeguard negotiations, the Greens managed to stop about half of the 116 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline, but we're worried that the Budget will continue the tax breaks for the coal and gas corporations that we saw under the Coalition.”
Mr Bandt argues Australia should heed the warning of the UN Secretary-General who has called for an end to international public and private funding of coal projects. "Labour is taking young people for granted, but then putting their futures at risk by opening new coal and gas projects," he said.
How the Greens believe power bills could be reduced
In his Budget, Treasurer Jim Chalmers will introduce changes to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT), which he says will “deliver a fairer return” to Australians. The PRRT is a tax on profits from gas and oil exports and changes to it follow a review initiated by the Coalition in 2019. The move is expected to net the government $2.4 billion over the next four years.
Mr Bandt believes more needs to be done to reform how the gas industry pays tax, noting that some corporations pay little or no tax. He describes the current system as “broken”. “When a nurse pays more tax than a multi-national under the gas tax something is seriously wrong. This is our chance to fix it.”
By making gas producers pay more for the resources they extract from Australia, Mr Bandt believes the government could raise up to $90 billion that could fund services like dental care or a reduction in power bills. “We will push hard in the Senate to fix the gas tax,” he said.
Call to end logging of native forests
To protect Australia’s wildlife, Mr Bandt argues the country needs to end the logging of native forests, adding that this will help slow the climate crisis. “The best carbon capture and storage technology that exists is called a tree, and instead of keeping them we’re logging them," he said.
But some wind farm operators are destroying native forests to make way for their renewable energy projects. In October, Yahoo reported that conservationists are concerned about a number of wind farm proposals in Far North Queensland that could impact endangered species like koalas.
Mr Bandt believes that Australia is large enough that a renewable energy roll-out should not come at the expense of wildlife. “Smaller countries like Germany that have been powering ahead with renewables have a much smaller space to put them, we don’t have that problem,” he said.
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