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Greens in turmoil as grassroots members push for new fuel tax backflip

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Mark Kenny and Lisa Cox

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Adam Bandt: 'we respect each others positions'

Deputy Greens Leader Adam Bandt says the party room remains united and that media reports of divisions are wrong.

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Continuing anger within the Greens over the party's ''perverse'' decision to block inflation-based adjustments to the federal petrol tax rate could spell fresh trouble for its leader, Christine Milne.

The Abbott government wants to restore indexation to the excise, which has been frozen at 38¢ a litre for 12 years.

Greens leader Christine Milne.

Greens leader Christine Milne. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The move would add between 40¢ and 60¢ a week to the average household fuel bill.

Senator Milne, who first flagged supporting the change and then announced her party's opposition after losing the debate in her party room, could now face pressure for a second U-turn, this time led by a grassroots members' revolt.

NSW senator Lee Rhiannon is pushing to overturn the stance amid what one Greens member called ''despair'' across the green base.

A meeting has been called for Saturday at the Sydney Mechanics Institute, where NSW branch members are expected to advocate a return to the party's original position in the interests of policy integrity.

In a sign of the intense divisions over the issue, Senator Rhiannon has invited members to have their say, even though the policy has been finalised, setting up a situation in which the party room has one policy and the membership another.

The Greens' constitution in NSW means Senator Rhiannon could be compelled by the membership to vote contrary to her leader, although that would have to come from a formal council meeting.

Despite that risk, Senator Rhiannon used a party-wide email to declare she was ''interested to hear from members'' about the issue.

Last week Senator Milne said the party would block the increase because the government would not use the money raised to invest in public transport, or to cut fuel subsidies for large mining companies.

But Greens inside the party room and in the broader movement conceded that the main reason for opposing the increase was ''political''.

The main advocates of the change were Deputy Leader Adam Bandt, Ms Milne's fellow Tasmanian senator Peter Whish-Wilson, and West Australian senator Scott Ludlam.

A senior Greens source called it politics over policy.

''They just can't come at giving Tony Abbott a win, even where it is consistent with our own policy,'' the exasperated member complained.

The decision appears to have doomed the $4 billion budget measure because the Coalition had been relying on support from the Greens to get it through the Senate.

It was not an unreasonable expectation. Historically, the Greens have favoured higher relative prices for polluting fossil fuels.

Greens senators have received ''stacks'' of emails from disappointed constituents over the reversal, as well as official correspondence from at least one state branch protesting against the decision.

The fight over petrol comes as some in the renewable energy sector expressed concerns over the Greens' handling of the Clive Palmer compromise to ditch the carbon tax but keep the renewable energy target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the Climate Change Authority.

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130 comments

  • The decision to block the fuel excise indexation has been the second big error the Greens have made, after allowing the LNP to scupper the ETS in the 2010 Parliament.

    The person for whom this should be a shocker is Abbott who campaigned for 3 years on a myth that a tax on energy would run a wrecking ball through the economy.

    The Greens should pass the excise increase with an ammendment to ensure that the money is not entirely spent on roads.

    The proposal as it stands would do nothing to reduce the deficit, as it would be entirely spent on new works and not used to pay off debt.

    Commenter
    Ross
    Location
    MALLABULA
    Date and time
    July 03, 2014, 7:57AM
    • Ross "The decision to block the fuel excise indexation has been the second big error the Greens have made, after allowing the LNP to scupper the ETS in the 2010 Parliament"

      Or you could say the Greens failed to pass Labor's ETS. The Greens and Labor are virtually a coalition and yet you still blame the Libs for not getting an ETS in 2010. Amazing. The greens are just opportunists. They dont care about the environment. When they have the choice to do something for the environment or stick it to TA, they will choose to stick it to TA every time. They are the most morally bankrupt party in Australia.

      Commenter
      mh
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 9:56AM
    • Milne was never a good choice as leader of the Greens. Bob Brown possessed determination, poise, genuine charisma and argued rationally. He inspired and was a voice of reason for a very many, including non Green voters, tired of the rotten machinations endemic to the LNP and ALP alike. Milne hasn't the qualities to emulate Browns success in engaging with the broader Australian community and should stand aside for someone who can, though if they have any collective wisdom at all they won't even vaguely consider Hanson-Young, let alone Rhiannon. An ability to inspire trust and an ability to explain Greens policy in a clear, calm understandable and definitely non histrionic fashion should be the prime requisite and motivator for their party. They do have such talent and it is definitely required on the front lines, now more than ever.

      Commenter
      Warwick
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 10:13AM
    • mh, funny kind of coalition when Labor loathes the Greens - for reasons it has never been able to explain - don't believe me - then check Section F of the Review [by the ALP] of their 2013 Election Loss

      Commenter
      Christopher
      Location
      Watershipdownunder
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 10:20AM
    • I agree with Christine blocking the fuel excise, it's not going to help the environment by increasing the price of petrol, while cutting funding to green innovation in other areas.........all increasing petrol prices will do is cause a rise in prices across the economy, causing huge poverty, which will impact the environment in other ways(rubbish dumping, etc)........if money is spent in innovative areas so people can choose products that limit pollution, people will naturally gravitate to those areas in my view........the same where if people are given the means to control how many children they have, they will usually chose to have less children I feel.....

      Commenter
      Hartley
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 10:23AM
    • Warwick

      May not often agree, but bang on. Fringe parties need someone to ascend beyond the ordinary e.g. Don Chipp, Bob Brown and perhaps to a lesser degree Natasha. Frankly, they almost need an evangelist; otherwise, it will be the long slow road of ascendancy or a very quick demise.

      With Milne, I have the feeling no one is simply listening.

      Commenter
      $keptic
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 11:24AM
    • Sure, Christopher - Labor hates the Greens but it's always good for the ALP to get into bed with them for most of Gillard's reign when it suited them.

      Commenter
      Smack
      Location
      City of the Fallen
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 11:25AM
    • Good to see there are still Greens who believe in the principles of an environmental party.

      Bob Brown supported the fuel excise as did any other rational green voter out, increasing a tax on the most polluting fuel is the sensible thing to do.

      Christine Milne has been revealed to be utterly clueless, a cheap nasty partisan with no sense of any principles.

      Commenter
      Regh
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 12:11PM
    • $keptic - It seems like Milne has jumped on the band wagon like the ALP of simply doing anything possible to stick a finger in the eye of Abbott whether this clashes with their ideology or aims/aspirations.

      Commenter
      Smack
      Location
      City of the Fallen
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 12:22PM
    • Yeah, Smack, and if Abbott could have bought Wilkie etc. he would have been hugging trees too - anything to get into the Lodge -so quit the party-political sniping.

      Commenter
      Christopher
      Location
      Watershipdownunder
      Date and time
      July 03, 2014, 12:58PM

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