Adam Bandt: National Press Club



I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri. Respect to the elders here and all over this land. 

Power to all of those fighting for justice. For Treaty. For Truth. And for a Voice to Parliament. 

First Nations people have faced so much injustice which must be remedied. I would like to thank those fighting for Treaty, Truth and Voice for your invitation to be part of something greater than ourselves. All of our children should grow in a country that has come to terms with who we are, how we got here and how we intend to move forward.

The Greens will campaign for a Yes vote in the Referendum. A successful Referendum will be a big step towards Treaty and Truth telling.

The Liberals, however, are stuck in the past and aren’t fit for this century. On the Voice, they are determined to repeat the culture wars, and use racist dog whistles reminiscent of John Howard. We are in a climate emergency, but many Liberals still dispute the science. They lack integrity, and they pushed a failed economic agenda, leading to record cost of living, record inequality, millions living in poverty and a housing and rental crisis. That’s why people kicked them out, with the Greens’ help. 

Last time I was here, I said that as the Liberals become a far right irrelevance, Labor is shifting to becoming the country’s centre-right party, with the Greens now the only social democratic alternative. 

Everything is bearing this out, from Labor lovingly embracing nuclear submarines to saying job seekers have to remain in poverty to help fund a $9,000 a year tax cut for politicians and billionaires.

Labor should be lifting all income support above the poverty line in this Budget, but instead Labor is moving to occupy the political space vacated by the Liberals. 

Now, Labor now holds government in every state and territory on the mainland, together with the Greens here in the ACT. 

Federally, the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate. 

With that power, the federal government has an opportunity to make real, substantive, long lasting changes. To make a real positive difference in people’s lives. 

To really confront the crises that we’re facing as a country. 


But at the Federal level, since their election, instead of seizing the opportunity to make major progress, Labor is largely behaving like a centre right party, not a progressive party. And the fear I hold is that Labor is more concerned with governing from the centre right than really tackling the cost of living or climate crisis.

Labor’s climate policy is a case in point. Under the original safeguard put by Labor, pollution from the entities covered by the safeguard scheme - mainly coal and gas - was set to rise from 140Mt now to up to 184Mt. Why? There was no limit on the 116 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline opening, and coal and gas could increase their pollution as long as they bought enough dodgy offsets. 

During the negotiations we bore witness to Labor’s determination to keep backing more coal and gas. In a week when the UN Secretary General and the world’s scientists pleaded with countries like Australia to stop opening new coal and gas mines, the Labor Party kept saying they wanted to open more coal and gas mines. Negotiating with Labor was like negotiating with the coal and gas lobby.


But we used our numbers, we hung on and we secured a huge hit to coal and gas. The changes secured by the Greens mean there is now going to be a hard cap on pollution, on actual pollution. The cap will mean no matter how many offsets the corporations buy, the law will require actual pollution to start coming down. This puts a limit on the expansion of new coal and gas in Australia.

We estimate we have stopped the equivalent of about half of those 116 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline.

We also secured a pollution trigger, which for the first time will give the Minister the power to assess the impact new projects will have on pollution, and reject them if it is going to start lifting actual pollution. For the first time, the government can stop new coal and gas projects if they’ll lift climate pollution. 

In addition, we’ve also put big financial hurdles in the way of a number of other projects like the Betaloo and Barossa gas fields proceeding.

When gas giant Santos complains that the government is ‘“handing power to the Greens” in the final design of the safeguard mechanism’ and putting new gas projects at risk and when the gas lobby backs the Greens in saying the new laws will stop new gas projects, and when the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says that the concessions we secured have “effectively halted new gas exploration and development into the future”, we feel we’re on the right track.

But it was the Greens that had to drive these changes, to make something meaningful happen. 

Labor’s plan was not to tackle the climate crisis, but to appear to be tackling the crisis, which is becoming a theme of this government.

The Greens say better things are possible. We can do more than just acknowledge the existence of problems – if Labor works with us, we can actually tackle them. 

But Labor, whether it’s on climate, income support, wages, rental relief, or mental and dental health into Medicare, is telling people that better things aren’t possible right now. 

Not yet. 

Not now. 

It’s too hard. 

Too expensive. 

There’s too many constraints. 

It’s out of their control. 


Rather than taking the opportunity of the death spiral of the Liberals to push the country forward, Labor is moving into the centre right. 

But political opportunity is not an excuse to leave people behind. We’re in a crisis, and we need to act like it. 

The government can, if it wants to, intervene much more to tackle the cost of living and the climate crisis. 

People aren’t just trying to keep their head above water, they’re drowning in rising costs. 

There are more people waiting for food banks, more people struggling to pay the rent, more people working poor, more people living below the poverty line and more people worried about the future. 

People know that Labor didn’t cause these crises, but people expect government to now intervene much more to fix these crises. 

The Budget gives us a chance to address the crisis. 

Labor says that it faces tough choices in the Budget. 

But if Labor chooses to keep their Stage 3 tax cuts, negative gearing, capital gains tax concessions and fossil fuel subsidies - Labor’s not making tough choices, they’re making bad choices. 

These aren’t tough choices, tough choices are what people in the cost of living crisis have to make every day. Whether they can afford to eat, whether they fill up the car with petrol, or whether their child can go swimming. 

They’re tough choices. Labor’s not making tough choices, they’re making everyone else make tough choices. 


Labor’s stage three tax cuts for billionaires and the very rich will cost the budget $254 billion over the next ten years - a jaw-dropping figure that will blow out again in next fortnight’s Budget. 

Instead, that money could provide direct cost of living relief to the people who need it. We could put dental into medicare, build more affordable homes and make childcare free. 

But instead of intervening to fix the cost of living and housing crisis, Labor’s spending $254b to benefit billionaires like Clive Palmer and Gina Reinhart. 

Labor will give every politician a $9,000 a year handout while everyday people do it tough. 

Well let's make this very, very clear. 

If Labor is determined to keep their stage three tax cuts for billionaires and politicians, they can’t expect us to wave through everything else they do in this Budget. We are not here to facilitate centre-right Budget measures.   

It’s the same with the AUKUS agreement and $368 billion dollar submarines. They are, as Paul Keating said, a terrible decision. 

They don’t even address the number one threat to our national security, which according to Former Defence Chief Chris Barrie, is the climate crisis. 

The climate crisis risks societal collapse, yet Monday’s Defence Strategic Review only gave a nod to climate, mainly through the narrow lens of disaster response. The government should release immediately the climate risk assessment conducted by the Office of National Intelligence, which they are sitting on.

We understand Labor wants to pinch national security from the Liberals, but $368b is an expensive price to pay for political expediency. 

One further test will be whether the Budget really taxes the big corporations or whether Labor just flogs them with a wet lettuce. 

The Tax Office has said oil and gas corporations are “systemic non-payers” of tax and it's true.

According to the Tax Justice Network, in 2020 Qatar collected approximately $26.6 billion in annual royalties from LNG, while Australia exporting about the same amount of gas only collected less than  $1 billion from the PRRT.

The Petroleum Resource Rent Tax - the gas tax that is meant to tax the superprofits of these big corporations - is an utter failure.

We know the Treasurer is looking at this, but Labor needs to have the courage to not just tinker around the edges. 

To actually tackle the problem, not just to appear to tackle the problem, as is becoming the Labor way.

Last week I outlined the Greens’ plan to reform the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax and introduce royalties for oil and gas projects that would raise $94.5 billion. 

This is what we would like to see in the Budget and it would pass the Senate before July. 

This shouldn’t be a hard decision for Labor.

A hard decision is trying to find a rental property with a degree in nursing or midwifery in one of our capital cities, while being saddled with thousands of dollars in debt. 

More than 3 million Australians currently owe in excess of $74 billion in student debt. 

In Labor’s October budget, there was more money raised from the interest charged on student loans than there was from the gas super profits tax. 

Just think about that for a second. 

The interest on loans to students and former students, students who will benefit our society with their education, are paying more to the government under Labor than gas corporations under the gas tax, corporations which are driving the climate crisis. 

As of today, student debts will go up by approximately $5 billion thanks to the CPI increases, and if Labor won’t act on this in the Budget, we will introduce measures to deal with it once and for all, with legislation to scrap indexation and freeze student debts. 


Housing Crisis

Above all, right now, we’re in a housing and rental crisis. 

Rents have skyrocketed. There are not enough affordable homes. Millions are stressed just trying to keep a roof over their heads. 

More and more people are sleeping in their cars with their kids, others are lying awake at night wondering whether there’ll be a letter from the real estate agent telling them the rent has gone up again by hundreds of dollars a week, or worse, that they’ll simply have to leave. 

More and more people are spending hours in line to simply view a rental property. Some people have not been able to get back into a permanent home after years of floods and fires. 

Right now, there’s a shortage of 640,000 public, community and affordable homes, and it’s increasing every year. 

Rents are rising six times faster than wages. People are being encouraged to bid higher than the advertised rates, forcing rents higher and higher. According to Homelessness Australia, an average student will be left with $13 dollars a day after they pay their rent. Many essential workers, like nurses and aged care workers, would have to spend two thirds of their income on rent to afford a place in our capital cities. 

It does not have to be this way. Labor can freeze rent increases and build more public and affordable homes.  

The Prime Minister says ‘bad luck’ to renters by mocking these suggestions, calling them “pixie dust” when I asked him about it in Question Time, or according to Labor backbencher Julian Hill, “simply impossible”. 

But it is possible. 

A rent freeze is both legally and politically possible.

During the pandemic, National Cabinet decided to collectively act to protect the interests of renters with a moratorium on evictions. The then PM Scott Morrison reportedly put federal government financial assistance on the table, including through taxation arrangements, as part of a package to provide rent relief.

If Scott Morrison can act, Anthony Albanese can as well.


The Ministerial Council Meeting of Housing Ministers is about to meet and it should be on their agenda. They could seek a submission from the ACT, where Labor, in government with the Greens, put caps on rental prices. 

Scotland - again with the Greens in shared government - has just implemented rent controls and it can be done here too. 

The Victorian, South Australian, Tasmanian and the ACT governments all froze rent increases during the pandemic. 

Many state governments already limit rent rises to once a year, and if they simply extended that to two years, there would be a two year rent freeze. 

It is unacceptable and irresponsible for the Prime Minister to throw his hands up and put the Greens’ rent freeze proposal in the too hard basket when Labor holds almost every seat around the National Cabinet table.

So the Greens’ proposal, which I am announcing today, is to establish a Rent Freeze Housing Fund, with an annual $1.6 billion of extra funding for states and territories under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, effectively a doubling of their existing NHHA funding. States and territories could access this fund if they impose a two year freeze on rent increases and capped rental increases after that. States could put that money to expanding their own stock by building more public housing, or by buying up existing empty homes or NRAS properties to deal with the crisis immediately. 

This is a real and concrete pathway for the Federal Government to introduce a freeze on rent increases. We have put to the Government that we are ready and willing to pass a housing plan that includes a commitment to coordinate a freeze on rent increases, $5 billion a year invested in public and affordable housing, owned by the government, which people could rent for 25-30% of their income, along with an immediate doubling of rent assistance for the struggling students, single parents, pensioners, people with disabilities, families and those looking for work, as the downpayment on raising all income support payments above the poverty line.

So there’s the pathway for the federal government to deal with the rental crisis, Mr Albanese.

The Government’s own National Housing Finance Investment corporation has said we need $15 billion a year invested in public and affordable housing for the next 20 years. The Greens, in the spirit of compromise, have suggested that the Federal Government should contribute a third of that. 

Is Labor really saying that they are willing to spend over half a trillion dollars on Stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy and on nuclear powered submarines, but can’t find $5 billion a year for public housing and $1.6 billion a year for a rent freeze, in the middle of a housing crisis?  Any moderately progressive government would scrap the Stage 3 tax cuts and submarines, but even if Labor remains resolutely committed to handing over $9,000 a year to Clive Palmer, there’s another way to fund the proposed solution to the housing crisis.

Right now, Labor is giving billions in handouts to investors and landlords through negative gearing and capital gains tax handouts. This is driving up prices and rents, and locking young people out. 

Labor’s biggest Budget expenditure on housing is for tax breaks for wealthy property investors. 

Labor is making the rental crisis worse.

Labor should stop giving handouts to property moguls with more than one investment property and instead use that money to fund a rent freeze, double rent assistance, and build even more government-owned public and affordable housing.

This isn’t about someone who owns one extra house or flat as an investment in addition to their main residence. They’re not affected by the Greens’ proposal. We’re calling for an end to tax breaks the government is currently giving to people who own three, four, twelve or twenty-five properties.

It is about the 20,000 wealthy moguls who own more than six properties each and claim these handouts for the 151,000 houses they own between them. 

Half of all the billions in negative gearing tax concessions goes to the top 20% of households. 

All up, the Greens’ proposal would raise $74.1 billion over the decade and cost $69.4 billion.

Tackling the rental crisis actually saves the government money.

Instead, Labor wants to gamble $10 billion in the Future Fund and if it makes a profit, build social and ‘affordable’ homes, with no minimum spend and spending capped at $500 million a year. And if the fund makes a loss, like last year, nothing is spent. Imagine if the government spent no money on public schools one year because a stock market gamble backfired: that’s what they’re proposing for housing.  

Labor says it will build 30,000 homes in five years, across the country, then nothing, and at the end the waiting lists will be longer than they are now.

Even if Labor’s bill passed tomorrow, by the next election, there won’t be a single home built. 


We don’t need billions gambled on a fund for the future - we need direct investment right now.

$5 billion a year would see 225,000 homes built.

The Greens want to see the government do what governments have done in the past. Spend public money on public investments. Government should just build the damn homes itself, not gamble money on the stock market. 

Labor is currently pressuring the Greens to pass their weak housing bill that sees the crisis get worse.

But if Labor wants our support on its housing bill, it needs to come to the table on the rental crisis and on building more public and affordable housing. 

With all his Question Time contempt about a rent freeze being ‘pixie dust’ and his reported delight about campaigning at the next election on his housing bill failing in the Senate, the Prime Minister needs to understand this isn’t an inner city council meeting and a chance to get even with the Greens. 

There is a full blown nationwide rental crisis and it must be confronted.

The Prime Minister’s scorn shows he hasn’t kept up with the sea change in Australia’s housing system.

There’s now a third of the country who rent. 

As a group, renters have been ignored by the old parties. 

The Greens campaigned strongly on renters’ rights at the Federal election and our vote went up. 

After investing for many years in our grassroots organising model, another key to our success in the last election, the Greens now have the means to communicate directly with many of these renters, most of whom don’t spend their time listening to the Prime Minister’s question time threats.

We have already been going to the queues at rental property inspections in Melbourne and handing out rent freeze materials: ‘Rent Freeze Now, ask me how,’ as well as doorknocking in Labor electorates around the country about our stance on Labor’s housing bill, and we are receiving great support. 

People know that as things stand, Labor is actively choosing to make the housing and rental crisis worse.

Labor is the party of property moguls.

The Greens are fighting for renters and affordable homes for all.

If Labor wants our support on their housing bill, they need a package that meets the scale of the crisis. A package like the one I have just outlined can be legislated and in place before July.

Labor negotiated on the Safeguard Bill, they recalled Parliament to deal with power bills, and they should show the same urgency on housing and rents so that everyone has an affordable place to live. 


As the housing crisis illustrates, this country is not the country that it was 20 or 30 years ago. Its people are progressive, socially democratic and crying out for change, but government hasn’t kept up and today’s Labor is not progressive, with its tax cuts for the wealthy while keeping people in poverty.

Labor nods towards the crises we’re facing but comes up with plans that see the problems get worse. Basically, they’re saying “we’re on it”, but they’re not. 

As the Liberals become irrelevant and Labor shifts to the centre-right, the Greens’ aim for the next decade is to grow our power and make real change in this country. 

People face insecure work and insecure housing. Real wages are going backwards as is the quality of life. 

People are worried about the future and they face a cost of living and a climate crisis.

People reject racism, transphobia and ableism. 

They want real action on the environment.

The Greens aim to be the party of renters, whose number continues to grow, and the party of stressed mortgage holders forced to buy at prices inflated by the old parties’ handouts to property moguls. 

We will also be the party of choice for a generation of young people who have been left behind by the old parties. 

For people under the age of 34 years, the Greens now reportedly poll higher than the Liberals.

Their political identities were forged during the climate strikes and they can’t understand why Labor and Liberal want more coal and gas. 

They survived the pandemic, only to face no real prospect of owning a home, and now even renting near where they work or study is being put out of reach. 


The Greens have a vision for the future. Free education. Free childcare. Freeze and cap rents. Mental and dental healthcare as part of Medicare. A four day work week. 

We are already the only party with a policy to seriously tackle the climate crisis, and we are going to work to be known as the party with the only serious way of tackling the cost of living and housing crises too.

By stopping the handouts to the big corporations and billionaires and making them pay their fair share of tax, we will fund the services that will make this country more equal, and we will end the housing, cost of living and climate crises.

And in doing so, we will build a better life for everyone.

Thank you.