Towards a sustainable green economy

The Australian Greens support an economy that sustains the needs of people and nature, now and for future generations. Economic activity should support, rather than deplete the social and natural capital of our world – that is, the natural environment on which we all depend, and the social relationships that make people happy and healthy. These principles apply at all levels of economic activity – local, regional, national and global.

The Australian Greens believe that protecting common interests, including the need to conserve natural resources and public assets for future generations, should take priority where these conflict with private interests.

Australia’s economy is in transition like never before. The industries that have brought us prosperity in the past are now holding us back from creating prosperity for the future. The Greens are committed to renewing our economy from one that relies on the declining industries of the past to one that provides the jobs and opportunities of the future.

We have everything we need to build the new clean economy, except the political will to invest public money for the future and the courage to take on the vested interests of the past.

The Greens are the only party that understands that the economy must work for the benefit of society and not the other way around. We have a progressive plan where tax reform starts at the top by removing unfair tax breaks and wasteful subsidies for polluting industries. Not only will this help address the structural deficit of the budget, but it will force money away from tax sheltered locations like superannuation, housing and mining and into productive areas that will set us up for the new economy and more equitable wealth distribution.

The Greens are committed to economic justice. We believe that the economy must be equitable, serve the needs of everyone and provide the best chance to meet the challenges of the future. Read the principles underlying our economic policies.

Read our more detailed policies for the green economy here.

The key elements are:

Renew Australia

Australia’s economic future is clean and green, or it is no future at all.

We are currently heading towards a climate catastrophe. Our planet is warming, sea levels are rising, we are living through hotter summers and more extreme weather events. It makes economic sense to act now.

The Greens’ plan for a clean energy powered economy will secure all the benefits of lower prices, better technologies, more jobs and significant export opportunities for innovative technologies and services developed and produced in Australia.

Renewing the tax system

The Greens have put a costed plan on the table to raise billions of dollars in revenue to fund our schools, hospitals, services and infrastructure by ending unfair tax breaks that benefit the very wealthy.

Ending corporate tax avoidance

We have a comprehensive tax integrity package which ensures that tax reform starts at the top, not the bottom. All businesses need to pay their fair share. Australians are sick of multi-nationals treating taxation as an optional extra. Every dollar they don’t pay means poorer services and infrastructure for us all. See our detailed initiative which addresses these issues.

Buffett rule: a high income tax guarantee

Income tax is the largest source of revenue for the federal government, so the Australian Greens think it is essential that the system has integrity and is no longer open to exploitation. The Greens plan of a high income tax guarantee is a safeguard of our progressive income tax system and ensures that the system is working properly, that tax is being paid by those who can most afford it.

Reform capital gains tax and End negative gearing

We should raise revenue by ending unfair tax breaks, and raising revenue from those who can most afford to pay. Negative gearing and the unfair capital gains tax break has locked young people almost completely out of the housing market, and benefits only the richest few. We will redirect spending towards the new economy, fostering innovation and clean energy.

Investment in public infrastructure

Government investment in public infrastructure is vital to Australia’s future. The Greens would increase federal funding for productive and transformative infrastructure by up to $75 billion and establish the Australian Infrastructure Bank to manage the financing of this investment. Building and maintaining productive and transformative infrastructure will create jobs, maintain and improve our quality of life, and will provide stability in the face of global uncertainty.

Read our plan for the Australian Infrastructure Bank which will be the backbone of our national investment plan.

Public health insurance

The Greens see health as an investment, not a cost. Ensuring that our health system will always be accessible, affordable and universal is our priority. The Greens’ plan sets out how we will invest in affordable, accessible public health care by phasing out of the wasteful private health insurance (PHI) rebate and reinvesting that $10 billion into health and hospitals.

Lifetime of Learning

The Greens believe that all Australians are entitled to free, well-funded and high quality, life-long education and training and that investment in public education is essential to ensure a fair Australia and to support the transition to a sustainable new economy.

Higher funding for higher needs

The Greens will enable an equitable education for all, and ensure that every student in every Australian school can reach their full potential and maximise their abilities.

Supporting university students

University students face more barriers to education than ever before. The Labor and Liberal parties have increased student debt and class sizes, while cutting student support. The Greens have the courage to back students and make high-quality university education accessible to all Australians.

Below are some links to independent publications which cover various economic issues, both nationally and globally. They represent only a small number of interesting reports and comments available on a wide range of issues. The Greens do not necessarily endorse the content of these publications but we provide them as interesting background.

Hot property: Negative gearing and capital gains tax reform April 2016

The Grattan Institute

Overview:  A substantial change to Australia’s tax arrangements is long overdue. The interaction of a fifty per cent capital gains tax (CGT) discount with negative gearing distorts investment decisions, makes housing markets more volatile and reduces home ownership.  Like most tax concessions, these tax breaks largely benefit the wealthy.

Company tax cuts – What the evidence shows  March 2016

This report from the Australia Institute concludes that international and Australian data on tax rates and macroeconomic indicators provides no support to corporate Australia’s ‘instinctive’ claims that lower company tax rates bring wider economic benefits.

Gender equity insights – Inside Australia’s gender pay gap 2016

This report clearly establishes that gender equity and inequality has a significant economic cost. The report states that persistent gender pay gap is an economic, political and social issue. Gender pay gaps do not always signal direct discrimination, but remain problematic for a number of reasons. They represent poorer outcomes for women in terms of economic and personal freedoms; lost human capital potential and investment; and an impairment of economic growth for a nation looking to remain competitive on a global scale.

Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production 2015

The Overseas Development Institute reports that G20 country governments are providing $444 billion a year in subsidies for the production of fossil fuels. In the opinion of the ODI, this continued support for fossil fuel production marries bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for the climate.

It includes a summary of the situation in Australia reporting that investment in fossil fuel exploration, extraction and electricity production in Australia is supported by an average of $5 billion in national subsidies annually. The mining industry receives most of these benefits through tax breaks for fuel and capital investment costs. In addition, Australia’s public finance for fossil fuel production averaged $262 million per year between 2013 and 2014.

World’s best economy: Another wipeout for Australia 20 December 2015

Independent Australia describes itself as a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the environment, Australian history and Australian identity. It contains news and opinion from Australia and around the world. This article describes how Australia fell from world’s best economy in 2013, to third last in 2014 in the IAREM global rankings. Australia had had held top spot from 2009 to 2013, after managing the global financial crisis (GFC) better than most.

A GST reform package December 2015

A report from the Grattan Institute suggests that raising more GST revenue, either through a higher rate or applying it to more goods and services, is preferable to most other means of raising revenue, including higher income taxes. A well-designed GST package that increases the rate to 15 per cent could lead to a tax and welfare system more progressive than at present. Higher welfare payments and targeted tax cuts would make low and middle-income households on average better off.

Free trade agreements costs and benefits November 2015

The Australian Institute has published a discussion report questioning the benefits of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). FTAs are being promoted as Australia considers one agreement with China and another with 12 countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). However, analysis and experience shows that FTAs over promise and under deliver.

Fiscal challenges for Australia July 2015

The Grattan Institute has released a working paper assessing Australia’s weakening fiscal position and some of the revenue measures required to address it.  It says that Australia is set for more than a decade of deficits between 2008 and 2019, with Commonwealth net debt projected to peak at 18 per cent of GDP in 2017, higher than any year since the mid-1990s.

A super waste of money: Redesigning super tax concessions May 2015

A report from the Australian Institute shows that super tax concessions are increasingly being used by high income earners as a way of minimising their tax. This is not their original purpose. They were designed to encourage people to save for their retirement so they would be more self-reliant and less dependent on taxpayers. It suggests that reform of super tax concessions is long overdue and should start from the principle that the only justification for using taxpayer’s money is if it reduces long term impacts on the budget.

Young Australians set to pay for government policy mistakes  December 2014

A thought provoking article in The Conversation looking at potential inter-generational inequity based on a report from Grattan Institute: The wealth of generations.  Having enjoyed continuously increasing prosperity since the Second World War, Australians have come to expect that each generation will live a better life than the last. But this steady progress may be at risk. Young Australians may end up with lower living standards than their parents at the same age.

Steady-state, green, sustainable economy? 

The following articles discuss these and related concepts. These articles are offered as background information for those interested in these concepts. They contain links to reports which may assist in discussions of these topics.

Study: Australians can be sustainable without sacrificing lifestyle or economy 5 November 2015

A sustainable Australia is possible – but we have to choose it. Few topics generate more heat, and less light, than debates over economic growth and sustainability. In this article in The Conversation, the author considers a new framework to explore how Australia can decouple economic growth from multiple environmental pressures – including greenhouse emissions, water stress, and the loss of native habitat.

To get climate change under control, our growth fetish must go 15 November 2014

Compound economic growth is at the heart of our environmental impact. Climate change, ocean acidification, species extinctions, the depletion of the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, all these impacts can no longer be ignored.

Under a vision of a “steady-state economy”, the economy does not exceed its ecological limits with stable levels of population, consumption and GDP. The economy fits within the limits of Earth’s ecosystems with a more equitable distribution of wealth. This would involve significant economic change and the “degrowth” of already wealthy nations. It is also likely to be politically unpalatable.

Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it 2 October 2014

This article in The Conversation asks: What does genuine economic progress look like? The orthodox answer is that a bigger economy is always better, but this idea is increasingly strained by the knowledge that, on a finite planet, the economy can’t grow forever. What is a steady-state economy? Why it is it desirable or necessary? And what would it be like to live in?

Reaching its limits: can the global economy keep growing? 9 December 2013

This article reconsiders The Limits to Growth and considers its application to today’s situation. It suggests that our current trajectory suggests that the world system will realise a decline in living standards. There needs to be a shift in the global economy that moves away from wellbeing measures based on GDP, and which embraces new meaningful measures of progress, as well as better accounting of resources and people.


Posted May 2016