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Lee Rhiannon on 7.30

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Lee Rhiannon 21 Jun 2011

Lee was interviewed on the ABC's 7.30 on June 21 by Chris Uhlmann. You can view the video at this link.

CHRIS UHLMANN, POLITICAL EDITOR: One much discussed senator elect is Lee Rhiannon, formerly of the New South Wales Upper House. Before she has even set foot in the chamber he is being routinely described as an extremist. It seems only reasonable to let her speak for herself. She was in the building today and I spoke with her earlier.

Lee Rhiannon, welcome.


CHRIS UHLMANN: You haven't even entered Parliament yet and members and senators are making speeches saying you are the pin up for the hard left. How would you describe yourself?

LEE RHIANNON: I've been in the Greens for 20 years. Deeply committed to our policy and our ideals and I'm working hard to be an effective voice for NSW. There's a lot of work we have to do here. And I think one of the strengths that I bring is work with community. I was in the State Parliament for 11 years. And by working with the community, we got some real runs on the board.

CHRIS UHLMANN: In Federal Parliament, what would your priorities be?

LEE RHIANNON: My priorities will be once we have our portfolios announced I'm keen to come back and talk about that, but right now, it is being that strong voice for NSW. Our economy is suffering because of the mining boom. We're very much in this two-speed economy. And there's many of our sectors like education, agriculture, even manufacturing these days, are suffering. And I think that we need to be looking at measures so that the wealth that's coming from the mining industry is spread more fairly and effectively.

CHRIS UHLMANN: What do you mean by that? In your maiden speech to the NSW Parliament you said Labor had failed in its ideals to redistribute political and economic power. What did you mean by that?

LEE RHIANNON: I think when you look at what Labor started with, they did have a strong commitment for the majority of people. And more and more as time went along they tried to walk both sides of the road by trying to maintain their values, while hanging out with corporate interests. And I think many people have seen through that. And I do believe that that's one of the reasons the Greens are winning more support, that people identify with the values that we stand for.

CHRIS UHLMANN: When you talk about corporate interests, in this sort of language it does sounds very negative as though there there is something inherently wrong with corporations.

LEE RHIANNON: I'm not saying that. We're just talking about the system that we live under in this country, about being more fair and just. And our senators have often spoken about the need for the company tax to return to the level of 33 per cent for the mining resources tax, to actually be implemented at the level that the Henry Review suggested. So I'm aware that I'm often misrepresented as being anti-business. But they're the constructs that often one's enemies put on you. All I'm saying is it should be fairer.

CHRIS UHLMANN: You have been a very vocal advocate of boycotts on Israel. That was at a local council level. You're now in the Federal Parliament. Do you think that that kind of thing is what you will be pursuing here?

LEE RHIANNON: This has obviously been quite controversial and I've always been very clear that this issue isn't going to be one within the Parliament. There isn't the support for the boycott for Palestine. That doesn't mean that I'm going to shy away from standing up for human rights for Palestinians. But this is an international, a very broad based campaign. That is working in a non-violent way. And overseas, in North America and Europe, it's actually very mainstream.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So you won't be pushing for it in the Australian Parliament?

LEE RHIANNON: No, no, that's not my intention is. My priority will be supporting the plan that will come forward for action on climate change, and then a whole lot of priorities to address issues in NSW.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you think that Australia needs to look at more taxes like death duties, for example?

LEE RHIANNON: Look, we believe that the taxes need to move over from being based on work-related issues to being linked to resources and pollution issues. We certainly need a shift in taxes. Much of our work there has been misrepresented. But on our economic policy, I think it's very detailed, it's very impressive and it would make a real difference to the majority of Australians if it was implemented.

CHRIS UHLMANN: On death duties?

LEE RHIANNON: Again, our policy is very clear there. It doesn't kick in until we've got to the five million threshold and there is protection there for small businesses, family farms and family homes. And I appreciate the question, because I know often our opponents misrepresent our position.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Bob Brown has said this is never going to get up. Does this mean you don't push for it?

LEE RHIANNON: We'll work out as a party room and with our members of the party on how all our policies go forward. We have about 43 policies. Different ones come forward at different times but the policy is there.

CHRIS UHLMANN: You have pushed for transparency in political donations. How then does that square with the Greens getting the largest ever donation, $1.6 million, from an individual corporate donor?

LEE RHIANNON: Look, no rules were broken there. Either of the Australian Electoral Commission or of the Greens themselves. Our position on donations is tea with should be moving for a ban on donations from all corporations and other organisations. In New South Wales, we've chosen to apply that to our own party. In other states our party hasn't and I totally respect that.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Finally, doesn't transparency begin with access to your conferences and at this stage the media doesn't have access to the NSW conference or the Australian Greens conference?

LEE RHIANNON: Good point. That's something that I I'm often asked these days and I've actually started talking to some of my colleagues about it. We are our party is obviously growing and I think there is room that we do need to open up some of these ways that we work.

CHRIS UHLMANN: You are in fact the only Australian political party which doesn't allow access to its conferences.

LEE RHIANNON: I don't think that's actually probably true. I think you'll probably mean of all the parliamentary parties.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Certainly you are a parliamentary party?

LEE RHIANNON: Yes, now a parliamentary party but when you said political parties I think there's others that have closed doors. 

CHRIS UHLMANN: But as a parliamentary party don't you believe the media should have access to your...

LEE RHIANNON: That's what I just said, I think there is room for us to change how we work here, and it's an issue I have discussed with my colleagues. I think there is a real need to be more open and one always needs to reflect on how we can improve our own work.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Lee Rhiannon, thank you.

LEE RHIANNON: Thank you.

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