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'Green New Deal' Explained: The Radical Overhaul Hoped To Transform Australia

We need a political revolution to address the crises in inequality, climate and jobs which are "smashing" Australia, paving the way for a radical 'Green New Deal' to overhaul the country's entire economy.

That's the message from new Greens leader Adam Bandt, who stood behind a 'Green New Deal' banner as he took the party's top job last week.

It's a term popularised by progressive American politicians Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; it's been a catchcry for fringe environmental activists for years before that; and it traces its roots back to one of the most radical political plans in history.

"A Green New Deal is a way of turning anger and anxiety into action. It's about providing a hopeful vision, to make us more equal," Bandt told 10 daily.

Bandt (centre) speaks after winning the Greens leadership last week. Image: AAP

But what is it? And how does Bandt's plan for free dentist visits link to action against devastating climate change?

Let's get into it.

What is a Green New Deal?

Not surprisingly, a 'Green New Deal' refers to action on environment and climate change -- but it's more than that, says academic and political economist Tash Heenan.

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"It's about tackling the climate crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It's a structural solution to structural problems that are connected to each other -- you can't separate economy from environment," Heenan, PHD candidate at University of Sydney and leading voice on an Australian Green New Deal, told 10 daily.

"It's adaptation and mitigation together. It's an enormous mobilisation of resources and investment, in a way that's socially fair. This includes giving people good jobs, and investing in energy, housing and health."

A Green New Deal calls for radical overhaul of industries like fossil fuel and emissions. Image: Getty

The 'new deal' is a play on the famous political overhaul proposed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, a groundbreaking program of spending and reform to stimulate America's economy through the Great Depression.

That political program aimed to avoid economic disaster, while the 'Green New Deal' concept has been raised in the U.S, the United Kingdom, wider Europe, and Australia to address issues around climate and inequality.

"It recognises we can't keep going the way we're going, whether that's politically, economically or socially," Dr Natalie Osborne, lecturer in the School of Environment and Science at Griffith University, told 10 daily.

"We need a shift in the way we look at people, politics and the environment. 'Business as usual' is increasingly untenable."

Sanders has been a high-profile backer of a Green new Deal. Image: AAP

The idea has been around in "fringe" environmental circles for years, Heenan said, but has picked up steam with recent high-profile political endorsements in the U.S.

Sanders and Warren, front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, are fans. Sanders described a 'Green New Deal' as a "nationwide mobilisation centered around justice and equity during which climate change will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond."

What does a Green New Deal include?

"It's different in different contexts. What it means for Australia isn't worked out yet," Osborne said.

Sanders' idea of a Green New Deal includes transitioning the American energy system to 100 percent renewables; creating millions of jobs "to solve the climate crisis"; massive investment in public transport, infrastructure, high-speed internet, conservation; and "ensuring a just transition" for workers affected by changes, such as coal miners.

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In the United Kindom, Green New Deal ideas have included investment in small-scale local energy grids; heavy new taxes on oil and gas; government financial incentives for renewables; support for 'climate refugees'; and breaking up big banks.

Bandt's ideas for an Aussie Green New Deal include free dentist visits under Medicare, widening free education, and a "manufacturing renaissance" including exporting renewable energy.

It's a wide array of proposals, not all related to climate or 'green' ideas; but all linked to ideas of fairness, equality and reform.

" Many people are feeling very anxious about the future," Bandt said. Image: AAP

"A Green New Deal is about coming up with a new form of doing politics. It takes on assumptions of how we've organised ourselves as a liberal capitalist society, and says we need a new type of politics to deal with today's challenges," Osborne said.

"It could be really beautiful. Many people are not happy in the way they're currently living, so how can we do this differently?"

Heenan said "every worker in every industry" would be affected by climate change and inequality in coming years, hence the broad remit of a Green New Deal.

Why is Australia talking about it?

Bandt, the Member for Melbourne in federal parliament, was last week elected as Greens leader following Richard Di Natale's resignation. He gave his first speech as leader behind a podium bearing a Green New Deal banner, saying Australia "needs" it.

The Greens say the "time has come". Image: AAP

"We’ve got three big crises smashing us. A climate crisis, a jobs crisis which is particularly bad for young people, and an inequality crisis. Many people are feeling very anxious about the future," Bandt told 10 daily.

The Greens have talked about a Green New Deal for a decade -- "now it's an idea whose time has come," Bandt said -- and admitted the plan required substantial "ambition".

What is the Greens' vision for a Green New Deal?

Bandt's first speech as leader outlined two elements: "government taking the lead to create new jobs and industries, and universal services to ensure no-one is left behind". The first three examples he gave included the Medicare dental reforms, "genuinely free" education, and manufacturing reforms.

"I want to make Australia the renewable energy superpower where people bring their businesses from overseas for cheap, clean electricity as we urgently phase out coal," Bandt said.

"I want Australia to make things again and with a Green New Deal we can."

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Massive investment in renewables, like solar panels, is included. Image: Getty

Bandt said including dental care would give poorer people access to currently expensive treatments, as well as other flow-on effects.

"It's not just a health issue, it’s a social justice issue. If your teeth look bad, it might make it harder to get a job... having good teeth is actually really important to everyone's health and well-being," he said.

"We need a vision to get out of the mess we’re in at the moment. It’s not about short-term thinking, it needs a plan to make us more equal."

Bandt said the Greens would have "a lot more to say" about its Green New Deal plan in coming months.