The Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam is having the time of his life. Five years after being elected he has seen his personal profile rise to the point that he’s now getting recognised on the street. There was also a lot of attention garnered from his “Welcome to WA” speech that went viral.
Senator Ludlam spoke at length to No Fibs this week.
The Carbon tax is the most effective piece of public policy I have ever seen.
Guinevere Hall: Why do you think your public profile has increased so much?
Scott Ludlam: When the recount shenanigans were happening and then the votes were lost, that actually lifted my profile here in WA quite significantly. Because the major parties never showcase their senators, because they are so focused on the house, that has helped with the profile too. Two of the WA Liberal senators are both ministers and no-one knows who they are.
GH: There’s been some criticism about you naming PM Tony Abbott as homophobic and racist, what proof do you have of this?
SL: On homophobia, my definition includes people who say they are really uncomfortable around gays and lesbians, which he has done, and people who believe formal discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality is appropriate, which he does. The fact that he tolerates Corey Bernardi, for me that sums it up, that would meet my definition, and if Miranda Devine has a different definition then she is entitled to that view as well.
On racism, the election campaign that we have just had was defined so strongly by an appeal to people’s fears, principally around asylum seekers, that nowhere have I ever seen Scott Morrison or Tony Abbott expressing concern about British backpackers who are illegally here, arrived on planes, and then disappeared; and yet these people who are arriving in far more desperate circumstances, who happen to arrive by boat, have been whipped-up into a national security threat, and the debate has been militarised and used to provoke fear and hate in the community. This very strongly meets my formal definition of racism.
This is a racist policy that has been used to support short-term political ambition, it is an ancient form of politics that positions a group of vulnerable people as ‘The Other’ that the population at large should hate and view as a threat, and they position themselves as being up for meeting that threat, and why not do that on a stage with officers from the Royal Australian Navy? It’s racist. If there is another word I am very open to hearing it.
GH: Do the Greens have a better solution to Manus Island?
SL: The Labor opposition has not laid a glove on Tony Abbott for six months. Part of that is that they are fatally compromised on Manus Island, they are hardly going to come out and condemn the horror show that they set in motion. They look like a deer caught in headlights in that they don’t really know what to say and have not been very effective.
The Labor refugee policy was designed to stop the boats by being more terrifying than the Taliban and the boats haven’t stopped, they are being turned around, we have militarised the area of the ocean, but in succeeding in that we are up there now being competitively as terrifying as the Iranian Secret Police or the Sri Lankans in their white vans, and now people are killing themselves, or being killed, or self-mutilating or becoming mentally ill.
Lab/Lib policy to stop deaths at sea is: ‘We need to abuse their human rights in prison camps indefinitely’. Now we have had someone murdered in their care.
Would it be possible to prevent people drowning without becoming a regional human rights abuser?
The Greens strongly believe it is possible, we know it is possible as Fraser did it in the 1970s, during war in Indochina. Use the vast amount of money being spent on detention camps and use it on UN personnel in Malaysia and Indonesia, getting into the camps and saying: ‘Whatever you do don’t get onto these boats because 100 people have died. If you stay here you will be cared for, your human rights won’t be abused and eventually you will be resettled’. You expand the humanitarian intake here and other countries in the region. Prioritise the areas in the transit camps in Malaysia and Indonesia, so that when people come into the camps there is a queue and the queue is moving, it instantly collapses the so-called ‘business model’ of the people smugglers.
GH: What is your top priority in this campaign?
SL: Labor should be proud of the Clean Energy Act, on domestic climate policy we created a good set of laws that are working and we are really proud to defend it. If I lose it will be to the Palmer United Party (PUP) or a minor party, and then we won’t be able to, and we will be one vote short when the renewable energy target come up.
In our view it is the single most important issue going, everything else will be rendered meaningless within the next decade or two if we don’t get this one right.
We have a climate change-denying PM and administration who are effectively advocating and acting on behalf of legacy fossil industries, we need to hold and protect what we have got so that when these people have gone in 2016 there is more to work with, and so that we haven’t been set back a decade.
They have launched a war on renewable energy, their number one campaign slogan is to wreck the clean energy act.
GH: What do you think about the Liberal’s attack on the carbon and mining taxes being ‘anti WA’?
SL: I think Abbott is misreading the local mood on anti-WA mining and carbon tax, there is no local uprising or groundswell demanding an end to the mining tax, it is harmless, and it collects no money, the least effective piece of policy I have ever seen. On the other hand, the carbon tax is the most effective piece of public policy I have ever seen.
GH: How has the mood changed since September 2013?
SL: Last election people voted against a dysfunctional government, and Tony Abbott was one of the most effective opposition leaders in modern political history.
Six months on, Labor has done its leadership detox and now we have ‘actual Tony Abbott’, saying we have too many trees and too many National Parks; penalty rates need to be hit; we are going to smash up the ABC; and that we don’t need renewable energy. On all these fronts people are getting unified and starting to push back and realise this government is disaster.