The Greens will push Labor to back key parts of its new environment strategy – including a $2bn nature fund – in exchange for crucial support of the opposition’s climate change policy in the Senate.
Flagging the party’s readiness to horse-trade over energy policy if Labor wins the election, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the party was not afraid to use its numbers on the crossbench to extract stronger commitments from Bill Shorten on the environment.
The Labor leader has announced a baseline and credit scheme for polluters emitting more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year using the existing safeguard mechanism, but the party has also promised to provide concessions to trade-exposed heavy industries such as steel, aluminium and LNG.
The Greens, whose support may be critical for Labor to pass its climate policy through the Senate even if it wins a majority in the House of Representatives, say the scheme does not go far enough. It wants Labor to scrap plans to allow polluters to buy carbon credits from overseas, while also forcing them to pay for their damage to the environment.
The party is also pushing for a ban on all new coal mines, and wants existing approvals for the controversial Adani project reviewed.
The Greens climate change spokesman, Adam Bandt, has already expressed frustration with the shadow climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, who declared before the election was called the Australian parliament must end the current stalemate and back Labor’s climate policy in the event of a Shorten victory, otherwise politicians will betray the next generation. Bandt says Labor is in no position to issue ultimatums.
Hanson-Young, who is fighting to keep her South Australian Senate position at next month’s election, will unveil the Greens’ environment policy on Wednesday along with Bandt.
The centrepiece of the policy is the new nature fund, which would invest $2bn a year to protect Australian flora and fauna from invasive species, create new safe havens for threatened mammals and fund the development of recovery plans for at-risk species. The fund will also pay for 10,000 qualified “environment managers”, and boost the number of Indigenous rangers.
“In any negotiation with Labor over climate and the environment, we are going to be putting front and centre our extinction crisis and the need to protect and restore our environment,” Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia.
“What we are putting very clearly today is that this has to be part of the climate conversation.”
She said big polluters should be forced to invest in environmental programs because “they are the ones wrecking the joint”.
Hanson-Young said there was an expectation from voters that Labor’s environment policy was better than the Liberal party’s, but the opposition needed to come under more pressure to flesh out its plans.
“Really they haven’t been held to account over it at all yet; they have got no detail, they haven’t put any money on the table.”
At Labor’s national conference last year, Shorten committed to introducing a new environment act and creating a new commonwealth environmental protection authority after coming under pressure from the party’s Labor Environment Action Network, but is yet to provide details.
The Wilderness Society has called on the major parties and potential crossbenchers to commit to an overhaul of environmental protection laws and the establishment of new independent regulatory agencies before Australians cast their votes on 18 May.
Hanson-Young said the Greens in the Senate would “hold the Labor party to its promises on the environment”.
The Greens environment policy also proposes a new network of marine parks, including the Great Barrier Reef, and the outlawing of oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight.