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New Greens Leader Has No Time For Anti-Vaxxers Or Raw Milk Drinkers

Richard Di Natale doesn't buy the paper, is against the Netflix tax and is ready to take on the anti-vaxxers in his own party.

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As soon as senator Richard Di Natale was elected as the new leader of the Greens last week, he took out his earring and set about reshaping his party's image.

Facebook: senatordinatale

This week he sat down with BuzzFeed News in his parliamentary office to discuss the budget, leadership, and the new direction for the Australian Greens.

The budget handed down by the government on Tuesday night contained a few surprises for the Victorian senator.

All in all a small-minded budget from a visionless government #Budget2015

Di Natale says he wasn’t expecting the proposal to remove benefits for charity workers as well as the generous tax concessions to small businesses, which he’s concerned could be open to rorts. But the biggest disappointment for the former doctor was the freeze on dental funding.

“I negotiated with the previous government that young kids would get access to Medicare funded dental care. So they’ve frozen the funding there so that was a surprise and disappointing,” he said. "It wasn’t quite the sledgehammer the last one was, but it continues along the same trajectory."

But this won’t stop him from being more open to negotiating measures through the senate than his predecessor, Christine Milne.

"When it comes to my approach to negotiation, you put your politics aside," Di Natale says.

"The things that are not consistent with your policies and your values, you don't support. Where there may be some common ground you need to be prepared to try and get an outcome for the community. If something's not as good as we'd like it to be, but it's still a step forward, we'll support those sorts of measures."

He'll even meet with Tony Abbott this week.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

Di Natale says he wants to have an "open and frank dialogue" with the prime minister, and there needs to be trust between the two leaders.

"I suspect many of his voters won’t support my views and that's true of the people who support me. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't work together to get outcomes for the community."

And the key to getting those outcomes? Don't take it personally, the former GP says. "I didn't give up a career in medicine to stand up here and have a go at people, walk out and not get anything done. I did it because I wanted to achieve things," he says.

In the spirit of an open and frank dialogue, BuzzFeed News asked Di Natale about the issues that matter to him.

He's against the Netflix tax.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

The government's budget has added a 10% GST on digital services purchased overseas, but Di Natale says it was probably introduced to appease Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

"Look at the Netflix tax, it's hard not to link that to Foxtel [which owns its own streaming service, Presto] and you've now got something where the traditional business model for pay TV has been broken down," he says.

He says the government shouldn't tax people for accessing digital content when there's other "low-hanging fruit" they could look to for revenue, such as mining subsidies and superannuation tax.

"It's the future and the government has got to adapt to that. Don't try and protect these failed old business models in the process."

He'll continue to take on anti-vaxxers in his own party.

Victorian Greens / youtube.com

"Some of those people might be attracted to the Greens because of the belief that anything that is natural is somehow good for you. Arsenic's natural. It's not good for you."

He acknowledges the concerns of some in his party about the role of government in vaccination, but says he'll always stand up to people who promote misinformation and fear.

"My staff have had to deal with lots of angry emails," he laughs, "but I think that's the only way to do it."

He won't support the raw milk movement.

ABC News / Via abc.net.au

"Raw milk is complicated in that the risk increases the further away from the supply chain you are, but I absolutely wouldn't drink raw milk and I wouldn't give my kids raw milk."

And what if the new leader's public stance against anti-vaxxers and the raw milk movement will see some members abandon the Greens? That's a risk he's willing to take.

"I want us to be a party that supports science and evidence, and the policies I put forward will do that. There will be some members who have very strong positions against vaccination and will be re-assessing if the Greens are the party for them, and I know some have already done that."

He doesn't buy the paper.

Jupiterimages / Getty Images

A self-confessed radio junkie, he'll choose ABC's Radio National over 3AW Mornings With Neil Mitchell any day.

And while he subscribes to news outlets' digital offerings, when it comes to the daily rag, he says he's moved on.

"I've given that up - It's all on the iPad now".

Di Natale is also interested in Twitter as a news source and wants to move the party's communications away from the mainstream media and into the digital space.

He added: "The concentration of traditional media in this country is owned by one person who’s not particularly sympathetic to what we stand for."

He thinks the Murdoch press could someday be "completely irrelevant".

Daily Telegraph

Di Natale says he regrets the previous government didn't pass legislation that would have strengthened media ownership regulations in 2013.

"We should have passed those reforms and there's other things we could have done. We lost that opportunity and that was a huge disappointment," he admits.

He describes the Daily Telegraph front page which portrayed then-communications minister Stephen Conroy as a dictator as "nonsense".

He's critical of his parliamentary colleagues who still see the approval of the big print mastheads as "the pathway to winning elections".

"There's a huge backlash as soon as something like that [the Conroy cover] happens here. Politicians just go to water, and there's the feeling that if you get Murdoch offside then you jeopardise your prospects."

"But maybe the issue of Murdoch will become completely irrelevant in another twenty years because people won't be accessing media in the way that they currently are."

The Greens normally struggle for media coverage, but Di Natale and his bloodless rise to the throne has been discussed an awful lot in the past week.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Even News Corp's Courier Mail was complimentary of the change.

"While these previous leaders looked like Greens activists, the Victorian senator looks like a Greens voter," Dennis Atkins writes.

Di Natale insists he has always held positions consistent with the rest of party and promises no "captain's picks". He says his job is simply convincing people from the progressive mainstream that "our values are their values".

But as he hoses down rumours of a radical new Green regime, the straight-talking senator knows that in a political landscape where image is everything, even cosmetic change can run deep.

"Are you going to see a radical change in policy direction from me? No you’re not going to see that."

"But what you’re going see, is someone who is going to be able to communicate those positions. Because I’m a different person in a different way to what you might have heard from other Greens politicians."

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