The Liberal-Green Deals
The ALP Pot calls the Green Kettle Black
It seems the Australian Labour Party can Do No Wrong - that is if you believe the polls. They’re positioned before the most important election in our nation’s history, poised on the crest of a monster wave of public approval.
Good for them. Who in their right or left brain hemisphere isn’t ‘gagging to see the back of John Howard’ as Catherine Deveny put it with customary delicacy. So thoroughly disillusioned have the electorate become with the incumbent government, our venerable PM may go down in history not as Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, but rather as only the second PM to be ousted from his own seat.
With what gratuitous relish we can recount that history. Stanley Melbourne Bruce used the surprisingly resonant catchphrase 'Men, Money and Markets' as the basis for his economic strategy and pursued radical reform of the arbitration system that would have imposed penalties for industrial action, and new awards to drive down wages and increase hours. He was ignominiously unseated in 1929 by the Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, E. J. Holloway. Maxine McKew would send Howard off with similar professional tidings - it would be just recompense for his stacking the ABC board with his handpicked cultural warhorses.
Where does that leave the party that has just been declared Australia’s third largest political party? Sleeping with the enemy by all accounts. With posters, print advertising, and now a You Tube message Labor claims the 3 newly elected Green upper house members have voted with the Liberal party 68% of the time.
Why? They ask, hoping to incite moral outrage, particularly amongst young green voters in Lindsay Tanner’s unsafe seat of Melbourne, traditionally a Labor stronghold.
I can speak as a Green here. The truth is we are in fact pro-nuclear, anti-abortion, pro-whaling, clear-felling, Maccas-feasting, fur-wearing, chain-smoking, SUV-driving, RSL cadets and Paris Hilton sympathizers. Oh, and we feed our resexed cats coal briquettes. Yep, and ‘It’s Great to be Straight’ is our motto.
In politics who can you believe? We could try the Victorian Parliamentary voting record. A cursory glance reveals that Labor in fact voted with the Liberals 69.5% on bills alone.
When the Greens have voted with the Liberals we have stood by our policies. The confusion now criss-crossing the traditional left-to-right political spectrum is caused by Labor and Liberal behaving like much of a muchness.
There was the Gambling and Racing Legislation Amendment (Sports Betting) Bill 2007. The Greens and Liberals both moved amendments that would have reduced the number of poker machines in Victoria to 10,000 (Greens policy) or 22,000 (Liberal Policy) respectively (cap is currently 30,000). The Greens also voted against referring a request from the Legislative Council that certain members appear before the Gaming Committee. But Steve Bracks could probably explain that one better. It might have something to do with why Labor voted down establishing an Anticorruption committee.
The Greens opposed amendments to the Parliamentary Salaries and Superannuation Act 1968 to increase the remuneration of certain MPs serving in senior positions on joint investigatory parliamentary committees. And the Greens supported a motion which asserted the right of the Legislative Council to compel any document or person to be produced on demand.
But the bill that really riled the Labor party was the nuclear plebiscite bill. It vested a single minister with the power to frame the question and circumstances of any plebiscite put to the people. The Greens know from experience that Labor words plebiscites in such a way as to deliver their desired outcome. Tasmanian Labor removed a third, no dams, option on a plebiscite which then left two choices: voting for a dam on the Gordon river, or voting for a dam on the Franklin. On an issue as critical as nuclear activities the Greens were not courting the risk of a craftily worded plebiscite. This nuclear plebiscite bill is in fact the only government bill that’s been defeated, and not only by the Greens but by all non-government parties.
The record stands. It is the Greens in fact adhering to stated party policy. It is the Labor party, including the federal opposition, that is not being true to itself. On Dr Haneef and security issues, on the Gunns’ pulp mill, on setting a short term emissions limit to offset climate change, on mandatory detention of refugees, on dismantling AWAs and the human rights defiling Australian Building and Construction Commission, on market deregulation, on cross media-ownership, on uranium mining, and on interventions into Aboriginal communities, the Labor party is as symbiotically aligned with big business and industry as the Liberals. Consequently the Greens will assess each legislative proposal on a case-by-case basis, and in accordance with our policies.
So they want to invoke moral outrage that that the Greens sometimes vote with the Liberals – which is a bit rich given that their preferences elected Stephen Fielding’s Family First to the Senate and the DLP to the Victorian Legislative Council. That outrage rests on a premise that is sadly lost to history – that the Labor party is any different to the Liberal party. They would have the Greens automatically vote with them and against the Liberals, because what, they’re going to suddenly prove themselves poles apart in government?
It’s true Labor cannot take Greens support for granted anymore, and in the coming weeks they may find the unions feel the same way. I can speak with many members of the Greens, if Labor represented the values it once did, we’d neither exist as a party, nor be forced to act now at times like the opposition they once were. Does this then side us with the Liberals – it’s a question Labor ought to asking itself.