Greens leader Richard Di Natale wants his party to develop a Green New Deal for Australia in time for the next federal election to tackle what he describes as the "overlapping crises of climate destruction and economic inequality".
In a speech prepared for the Greens national conference on Saturday, Senator Di Natale argued Australia needs a "big, bold, transformative plan" that sees urgent government investment in technology, infrastructure and public services that will in turn "address the climate crisis" and "create millions of new jobs".
The speech was due to be the leader's first major address to members since the May federal election, in which he would tell his party: "We need a Green New Deal." Due to mild complications with recent knee surgery, on Saturday, Greens co-deputy leader Adam Bandt will give the speech in Senator Di Natale's place.
The Green New Deal concept has already been approved by the federal Greens MPs, but Senator Di Natale wants to use the next 12 months to consult with Greens members, experts and the community to fill in the details. This is likely to be used as the party's policy platform ahead of the next federal election, expected in 2022.
The Green New Deal idea has existed in global political circles for more than a decade, but has recently been brought to new prominence by US Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This week, the two announced a $US172 billion ($250 billion) plan to transform public housing in the US into energy efficient homes, creating about 240,000 jobs a year.
Last month, Labor's Anthony Albanese used his first major speech as leader to start talking about job opportunities on the "road to a low-carbon future" but also backed traditional jobs in coal mining.
"Our climate is heating dangerously, we have a decade to cut our emissions in half," Senator Di Natale's speaking notes say, adding that inequality is also on the rise.
According to the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia's climate has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
A recent analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age showed while high-wealth households increased their average net worth by $1.3 million between 2003-04 and 2017-18, low-wealth households did not experience any real increase. The ABS found wealth inequality was at its highest level since the survey began in 1993-94.
The Greens national conference in Canberra on Saturday comes after a bruising week for the party in federal parliament. Greens senator Jordon Steele-John angered both the Coalition and Labor by claiming they were "no better than a bunch or arsonists" because of their climate change policies.
While Senator Di Natale has previously side-stepped questions about whether he agrees with Senator Steele-John, his speaking notes say, "the Morrison government has been using every trick in the book to avoid being drawn into the link between the climate emergency and the bushfire emergency".
"To be silent now is to endanger the lives of Australians."
This week, a group of former fire chiefs warned that climate change was the key reason fire seasons were lengthening and fires were harder to control.
Senator Di Natale is also facing pressure from some members to progress plans to directly elect the party's federal leader and change to a model of co-leaders for the top job.
- SMH/The Age