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Adam Bandt’s green capitalism

May 12, 2020 • 14m 19s

Three months since becoming leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt has begun articulating a plan for the party that embraces “green” capitalism, and sees their future in partnership with Labor. Today, Margaret Simons on what we need to know about Adam Bandt.

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Adam Bandt’s green capitalism

221 • May 12, 2020

Adam Bandt’s green capitalism

RUBY:

From Schwartz Media, I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am.

Three months since becoming leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt has begun articulating a plan for the party that embraces capitalism… and sees their future in partnership with Labor.

Today: Margaret Simons on what we need to know about Adam Bandt.

**

RUBY:

Margaret, what measure did you get of Adam Bandt as a person? What is he like?

MARGARET:

He has been a politician who I think has flown under the radar a little bit.

Archival tape -- Margaret:

Really good little recorder… it’ll do its job...

MARGARET:

He's been highly significant in politics, but there's never been a detailed profile of him and not many extended interviews.

RUBY:

Margaret Simons is a journalist and author. She profiled Adam Bandt in the latest issue of The Monthly.

MARGARET:

Well, the piece is called the Personable Hard Liner. And I think that pretty much sums it up. He's very pleasant. He's charming. He's clearly intelligent.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

If we get through the coronavirus crisis in reasonably good shape, it will be because of public institutions acting in the public good...

MARGARET:

Surprisingly hesitant. I would say shy or almost socially awkward as an interview subject. Until he gets fired up and then suddenly he becomes very fluent.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

… Took to the GFC for example and their willingness to trash science and trash independent expert advice from the Sports Commission...

MARGARET:

So, yes, he is a hardliner. He's very intellectual. I say in the piece that he is an unusual Australian politician in that he's really a scholar and his activism is embedded in scholarship, in this case, Marxist scholarship. And I think that's unusual in Australia.

You don't have many Australian politicians who have PhDs. And if they have done research, it's often sort of fairly instrumental kind of research, fairly narrow policy-focused research. So I think he's unusual in that he's a scholar politician.

RUBY:

Did you learn anything about his past or his family or the way that he grew up that gave you any insight into how he approaches leadership or politics more generally?

MARGARET:

His dad was a social worker and his mother was a schoolteacher. So it's a reasonably conventional Middle-Class upbringing. His mother, he describes as a practical environmentalist.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

And that flowed through from her family as well. A really strong sense of. We've got one planet, one set of resources. We've got to look after it.

MARGARET:

And his father, he says, was the one who is sort of shouting at the television, telling liberal politicians that people are going through a hard time and needed a break.

And he seems to have been politically fairly fully formed at the time he started university, which I think is a little unusual.

He made a very deliberate decision of going to Murdoch University, even though his marks would have got him into University of Western Australia, which was more prestigious.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

That idea of being part of a new approach being set up at Murdoch University was quite exciting. And I don’t regret it...

RUBY:

So Bandt went on to join the Greens and in 2010 was elected as the Member for Melbourne, making him the only Green in the lower house -- What was that experience like and how did it shape him as a politician?

MARGARET:

Yes, well, of course, it was in a sense, he was thrown right into the heart of the fire, if you like, of politics, because of thanks to the fact that he had a lower house seat

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

Melbourne is an amazing place...

MARGARET:

The Greens were part of the agreement which allowed Julia Gillard to form a government with the support of the rural independents and the Greens.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

And Melbourne is home to many people who share a growing feeling that the way we were doing things in the 20th century simply is not sustainable environmentally, economically or socially.

MARGARET:

And so he took part in a number of cross-party committees on really key issues like an emissions trading scheme, a tax on carbon and many other matters and was very influential in, you know, the hard business of policy in a way that most MPs in their first term wouldn't be.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

A carbon price is not going to be a cure all. We are going to need a range of government initiatives to tackle the problem of climate change.

MARGARET:

And he's well remembered from that process as a constructive player who was trying to get good policy up rather than play shallow political games.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

We are going to need a significant renewable energy target…

RUBY:

Can you talk me through how Adam Bandt became leader of the Greens. Was he warmly welcomed into that leadership role?

MARGARET:

Well, the Greens, of course, were the creation of Bob Brown and an environmental movement that originally came out of the movement against the damming of the Franklin Dam back in the day, back in the 80s.

Archival tape -- reporter:

The flooding of the Franklin river is being touted by some as not just an issue but the issue.

Archival tape -- Bob Brown:

I think it’s been a tremendous victory for Australia as a whole as far as its environments concern not only for the Franklin river but for our other world heritage…

MARGARET:

And then when Bob Brown retired after many years, he handed over to Christine Milne, who also came from that sort of Tasmanian environmentalist background.

Archival tape -- Christine Milne:

We have to make sure we stop cutting down the forests that are home to the leadbeater possums…

MARGARET:

Adam is a bit of a change of direction in that, so though he was the only person in the lower house and although he was very influential within the Greens, I think it's fair to say there was a bit of resistance to him. When Christine Milne retired, it's generally believed that she organised it so that Adam didn't get the leadership and he was also blocked from the deputy leadership at that time.

Archival tape -- reporter:

First to the dramatic change in the federal Greens party today with Christina Milne resigning and Richard Di Natale replacing her as leader…

MARGARET:

And Richard Di Natale, of course, became the leader.

Archival tape -- Christina Milne:

The co-deputies were elected unopposed.

Archival tape -- reporter:

So Adam Bandt stepped down?

Archival tape -- Christina Milne:

Adam will make a statement later...

MARGARET:

Adam comes from a more sort of hard-line left, says he wouldn't describe himself as a Marxist, but he certainly was influenced by Marxist thought. And I also think that there has probably historically been some suspicion of him because he doesn't come from that environmental movement, which is where the Greens have their roots.

And, you know, the Greens are still trying to work out where they go after the extraordinary leadership of Bob Brown. You know, it's still a personality-based party in some ways, but the leading personality has left. And it will be interesting to see whether Adam can really take them forward in leadership terms, because Bob Brown has left a very big shadow, I think.

RUBY:

We’ll be back in a moment.

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RUBY:

Margaret, Adam Bandt has been leading the Greens for 3 months now… has he articulated how he intends to take the party forward?

MARGARET:

The impression I got from talking to him is that he thinks that the need for action on climate change is so urgent that we kind of don't have room to argue about whether we want socialism or not.

We've got to move quickly and that means we have to form an alliance which will include socialists quite possibly, but will also include the owners of big business people who are concerned about the future of capitalism in the changing climate.

He is arguing for green capitalism, and he says in the interview something along the lines of he'd rather his daughters grew up under green capitalism than under the alternative, which would mean a short and brutish life.

RUBY:

What does he mean by green capitalism?

MARGARET:

Well, good question, and I'm not sure we know yet. So he talks about the Green New Deal, which is, of course, a concept which is being talked about in Europe and has been introduced in Europe, also by parts of the Democrat Party in the USA. What exactly does it mean? Well, he hasn't yet really spelled that out.

At the moment, it's a reframing of existing Greens policies around getting companies to pay more tax, around fairly major investment in order to tackle our emissions crisis, bringing dental programs into Medicare, you know, existing Greens policies that have been around for a while.

But I gather that COVID aside, this year was going to be about pushing that agenda forward and developing new aspects of it and getting some more specifics around it. But that has all been made more difficult, of course, by the current situation.

RUBY:

And there's tension in the Greens between those on the left and right of the party. So where does that approach of green capitalism place him and his? Is he likely to face internal pressure on these issues?

MARGARET:

Yes, I think he is. I mean, the Greens have not been very successful at all at managing their internal tensions. Not at all. And when they've made headlines over the last few years, it's often because of some internal spat.

And it's quite difficult to tell what those spats are about in terms of policy or political positioning. I mean, often they're represented as being between left and right or between socialists and greenies tree Tories, as they're called. But quite often they don't seem to be about anything much at all. They seem to be about personalities as much as anything.

And I think that's going to be one of his main challenges. And he said this himself in the interview, that the party is going to have to get better at accepting that if you're going to have this coalition of people, there will be differences between them

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

One of the things we need to do is get better at accepting difference internally and better at finding ways for people to air their differences internally and feel that they have been heard.

MARGARET:

That's not necessarily a bad thing. But you have to get better at resolving it.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

And try and have as many of those differences aired in a way that doesn’t spill over in the public arena…

RUBY:

Mm hmm and beyond the Green New Deal, what priorities does Adam Bandt have for the Greens?

MARGARET:

Well, he says that his aims, his three aims for the next term are to turf out the current coalition government to get the balance of power in both houses of Parliament. So both the Upper House and the Lower House and to be in government is a say in some sort of partnership coalition arrangement to introduce a new green deal.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

I believe that the path towards getting change in this country is for the Greens and Labor and independents to cooperatively work together and share power like we did under Julia Gillard.

MARGARET:

That's what he sees as the future. Whereas Bob Brown, of course, who's to talk about replacing the Labor Party. You won't hear that sort of talk from Adam Bandt.

That means the Greens must work with Labor if they want to have influence. I think there's a lot of conversations that probably need to take place behind closed doors in order to heal some of those pretty fettered sores.

Archival tape -- Margaret:

Okay thanks for that. That’s it, Adam, from my point of view.

Archival tape -- Adam Bandt:

Okay thanks…

RUBY:

Margaret, thanks so much for your time today.

MARGARET:

It's a pleasure.

[ADVERTISEMENT]

**

RUBY:

Also in the news…

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied misleading Parliament over his part in the $100 million dollar sports funding program.

New documents have revealed Morrison’s office sought authority over the approved projects.
Labor is expected to question the Prime Minister further as parliament returns today.

**

Home visits and small outdoor gatherings will be allowed in Victoria from this Wednesday, as Premier Dan Andrews revealed the first stage of the state’s easing of restrictions.

Up to 5 people will be allowed to visit homes, and outdoor activities of up to 10 people can take place.

However the Premier has cautioned people against loosening social distancing behaviours too quickly.

**

And New Zealand is also winding back it’s restrictions from this week, after introducing a severe lockdown in March.

Restaurants, shops, gyms and playgrounds will reopen, and up to 10 people will be allowed to visit homes.

I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am. See ya tomorrow.​

Three months since becoming leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt has begun articulating a plan for the party that embraces “green” capitalism, and sees their future in partnership with Labor. Today, Margaret Simons on what we need to know about Adam Bandt.

Guest: Author and journalist Margaret Simons.

Background reading:

Adam Bandt, the personable hardliner in The Monthly
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

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7am is a daily show from The Monthly and The Saturday Paper. It’s produced by Ruby Schwartz, Atticus Bastow, and Michelle Macklem. Elle Marsh is our features and field producer, in a position supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas. Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Osman Faruqi. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

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221: Adam Bandt’s green capitalism