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Sheridan on the Greens

September 2nd, 2004

The bizarre campaign of distortion against the Greens continues with an extraordinary piece by Greg Sheridan, though one that is something of an embarrassing reminder of Sheridan’s long-standing support for the Suharto military dictatorship and its occupation of East Timor.

As with previous pieces in this genre, the modus operandi is to misquote Greens policy, take an extreme interpretation of the misquote and run with the resulting scare. There’s only a marginal difference between Sheridan’s treatment and the full-blown black helicopter fantasies being peddled by Steve Edwards.

Sheridan’s first point of criticism reads

For example, they assert that Australia should force the Indonesian Government to bring all “war criminals in its ranks” to justice by withholding military co-operation, which wildly overestimates the importance of Australian military co-operation to Indonesia.

The actual policy reads

using (along with other governments) continued military cooperation with the Indonesian military as a bargaining counter to convince the Indonesian Government to bring all war criminals in its ranks to justice before an international tribunal instead of trying them before the Indonesian-controlled Jakarta Human Rights Court.

There’s certainly room for argument as to whether Indonesia can be convinced, but it’s clear that Sheridan has misrepresented a policy that most Australians would endorse. The Greens aren’t asserting that Indonesia can be forced to act at Australia’s behest, as Sheridan claims. The rest of the article is no better – for example, a policy on Israel-Palestine is criticised because, while condemning suicide bombings, it doesn’t specifically use the word ‘terrorism’.

The Oz editorial picks up the same line and the Fin has another, rather rambling. piece from Gary Johns.

I’m still puzzled by the politics of all this. Commenters have suggested that it’s aimed at the Greens’ Senate vote, but that would mainly help Labor. Besides, devoting the opening days of a tight election campaign to a strategy aimed at marginal improvements in the Senate outcome seems misguided.

It still seems to me that the results of all this will be, first, to reduce the flow of Green preferences to the Liberals and, second, to benefit Labor at the direct expense of the Liberals. After all, there are only so many buckets you can tip in an election, even with a long campaign. By the time Sheridan and others get around to attacking Labor, a lot of people will already have tuned out.

Update: More on this from my blogtwin , Tim Dunlop

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  1. d
    September 2nd, 2004 at 08:36 | #1


    The politics are pretty obvious. Youre making a narrow distinction between the Brown Greens and Greens in general.

    First Labor have already shown the’ll do what ever the Greens ask them to get votes.

    A symbol of this is the elevation of super Green
    Peter Gareett to a candidate position.

    Second green ideologues have great power in the Labour party.

    So this is simply a reminder that a vote for Labor is a vote for the Greens

  2. Geoff Robinson
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:03 | #2

    The Coalition are on track to win half of the senate seats up for election and hence hold a blocking majority in the Senate. Sheridan et. al fear that in either Victoria, Tasmania or the ACT the Greens will win a Senate seat at the expense of the Coalition. They fear the impact of the Greens on an ALP government that would need Green support to pass controversial legislation. Sheridan’s attack is rational. What is extraordinary is the denial of legitimacy to the Greens. His position is that those who do not accept his views are not entitled to participate in politics. His evocation of the ghost of Hanson is noteworthy, because much of the Canberra commenteriat’s opposition to Hanson less reflected rejection of her views (Howard’s adoption of many of them was applauded as an act of genius), then Hanson’s affrontry did not regard Sheridan, Kelly etc. as the last word in political wisdom. Particularly bizarre is Sheridan’s defence of international financial agencies, where were Sheridan et. al. when the IMF mauled East Asia?

  3. Paul Norton
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:19 | #3

    Will someone tell me when Steve Edwards names me as the President-designate of the Zionist Occupation Government of Australia which will be established if Labor wins the election as part of a secret preference deal with the Greens?

  4. Paul Norton
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:34 | #4

    In Sheridan’s case I think what we are seeing is an expression of a form of Catholic Right conviction politics which regards the Green world view as its antipode and sees waging ideological struggle against it as the highest priority.

    I’m not sure that Sheridan consciously regards the battle of ideas as worth fighting even if it’s unhelpful to the Coalition’s electoral prospects. I suspect that when he gets into Fighting Father O’Neill mode the part of his mind which is capable of such pragmatic calculations shuts down.

  5. September 2nd, 2004 at 10:36 | #5

    If somebody wants to vote for the anti-Green party, they will probably vote for the coalition.

  6. September 2nd, 2004 at 11:04 | #6

    The Greens, Democrats and Labor are all fighting over the same turf- the dissaffected and disillusioned hard left. Howard etc quite rightly see them as the real enemy; Latham and other centrist ALP types should do likewise. Haven’t you noticed the shots at the Greens coming from the likes of Lindsay Tanner, Anthony Albanese and whats-her-face who holds the seat of Sydney? The ALP is at greater risk from a resurgent Greens than the Liberals.

  7. September 2nd, 2004 at 11:08 | #7

    A Green power-balanced Labor government would be far more Left-wing than a stand-alone Labor government. This is because Labors basic policies are the same, centrish, ones as the Coalitions. Green socio-economic policies arep genunie Left.
    The Coalition would prefer Labor to win the election on its own, rather than with Green preferences. Running a scare campaign against the Greens will get Left voters to dump the Greens and increase Labors primary vote.
    Or perhaps the Liberals have done their polling and focus grouping which shows that marginally-seated voters are suffering a “scape-goat deficiency” crisis. This fits with the Coalition supporters need to victimise someone, anyone, in order to have a nice day.
    Howard has publicly distanced himself from any kind of attack based on class, race, sect or gender. But he has left open the option of running a Tampa-like campaign against natives who belong to wierd political cults.
    The Greens may be slotted into the “enemy within” category. This is consistent with my theory of Howards agenda: his real political animus is against domestic Cultural Leftists, not foreign people of colour etc.
    It is crucial for the Govts self-respect that they be declared winners of the Culture War, but that they be seen as the rightful winners. A large moralistic Green backlash would dash the cup of victory from their lips.
    So the Green vote must be neutralised for both political and psychological purposes.
    Or perhaps the Govt & its supporters have gone mad and are, in their dying spasms, lashing out at ideological tormentors to the Left. The Sting in the Tail.

  8. snuh
    September 2nd, 2004 at 11:27 | #8

    Haven’t you noticed the shots at the Greens coming from the likes of Lindsay Tanner, Anthony Albanese and whats-her-face who holds the seat of Sydney? The ALP is at greater risk from a resurgent Greens than the Liberals.

    which is why it’s so puzzling that [say] john howard would get stuck into them. i mean it’s not as if a potential green voter, scared off by the drug policy thing, is about to vote for the coalition.

  9. Dave Ricardo
    September 2nd, 2004 at 11:57 | #9

    For mine, the money quote from Sheridan was

    “The Democratic Labor Party was a wholly honourable expression of Labor people who were especially motivated by anti-communism, and for 20 years from the mid-1950s played an important and constructive role in Australian politics.”

    Constructive? The DLP? This was a party whose sole purpose was to keep the Australian Labor Party out of federal office. This it did by running scare campaigns along the lines of

    “If Labor wins, they will let Russian/Chinese/Vietnamese communists rape your daughters”.

    Once Labor won in 1972, and the daughters didn’t get raped (at least not by Russian/Chinese/Vietnamese communists) the public realised that the DLP were full of it, and they were eliminated at the first electoral opportunity, the double dissolution election of 1974.

  10. Paul Norton
    September 2nd, 2004 at 12:21 | #10

    I think it was Edmund Burke who said that Macchiavelli’s great contribution to understanding political behaviour is that he sought to explain what people actually do, rather than state what they ought to do. I applied this maxim to my Honours thesis on the 1995 Queensland State election, with profit.

    Basically, one of the essential skills of a good political analyst is the ability to imaginatively sympathise with people and understand why they hold the positions they do and act as they do, especially when those positions and actions are ones which the analyst deeply disagrees with or disapproves of.

    This skill is also very useful for practical political actors, as it helps them both to understand the minds and motives of their adversaries, and to persuade members of the public to change their views.

    However, it is an attitude and skill which runs the risk of causing one to love thine enemies (or at least cease hating them) and to have doubts about one’s own beliefs. And it is difficult to combine inside the one brain with other skills and attributes which are conventionally considered politically useful in an adversarial political culture such as Australia’s, such as the capacity for single-minded zeal and persistence in support of a cause, relentless hostility towards opponents, non-squeamish appeal to strong popular emotions, the capacity to do “whatever it takes”, etc.

    I think part of the reason for the attacks on the Greens (certainly by Catholic Right hacks like McManus & Sheridan) is that the Right of Australian politics and the commentariat either lack or (in Sheridan’s case) have repressed the skills of “knowing thine enemy” and understanding why people think and act as they do. If one sets aside the possibility that wavering Labor voters are being dog-whistled, this would explain why the Right are persisting with a line which relies entirely on demonisation rather than rational persuasion, and which (the possible dog-whistling effect aside) is likely to be counter-productive for the reasons others have mentioned.

  11. September 2nd, 2004 at 12:23 | #11

    You folks don’t handle scrutiny very well do you?
    Finally people are being made aware that the greens have nothing to do with saving whales and cuddling koalas. They are quite simply another tired incarnation of the communist party with a few anarchists thrown in for luck.
    I am telling everyone I know to go and read their policies for themselves.
    The greens go well when their exposure is limited to bob browns’ 30 second sound bites but when you come under real scrutiny, you fold and start crying foul. I vote Liberal but I’m not campaigning on that front. I’m pushing “anyone but the greens” and man it’s fun.

  12. Dave Ricardo
    September 2nd, 2004 at 12:47 | #12

    Snuh is right. The biggest winners from dumping on the Greens will be Labor. The more semi-lefty voters vote Labor rather than Green, the better for Labor, which does not want to rely on green preferences. Preferences leak, the candidates have to finish on primnaries in the right order for them to be activated, all sort of things can go wrong.

    Not to mention Labor would like to win back Cunningham, and hold to the seats of Sydney and Melbourne.

    There may be an element of Coalition gain, in the Senate. At the last Victorian state election, there were very big Green votes in safe Liberal seats, as young Trish and Alexander, fresh from their expensive private school education, defied their Liberal voting parents and voted Green, perhaps getting the same frisson of excitement that they got when they smoked their first joint, or had their first bonk.

    This didn’t lose the Libs any seats though, because it only happened in safe seats, since voting Green is an indulgence practised only by the young haute bourgeoisie in the leafy suburbs, black clad social work lecturers in the inner city, and a sprinkling of others. In the aspirational and working class electorates, Greenery is as scarce as it is in the Gibson Desert.

    Dumping on the Greens may therefore get the Liberals some more votes in the Senate. But it will help Labor in the Reps.

  13. September 2nd, 2004 at 13:25 | #13

    Most of the green votes are going to go to Labor anyway. everyone knows that. What I am saying is, if your vote is going to Latham anyway, then why not just vote Labor?
    Actually a dose of Labor would not be such a bad thing. Far too many people have forgotten what it was like to live with 11% unemployment and 17% mortgage rates and maybe we need a kick in the date. One term is all we would need to ensure a long period of Liberal reign after that.
    Again, anyone but the greens. Halelujah!

  14. Dave Ricardo
    September 2nd, 2004 at 13:44 | #14

    Gibbo, I have a horrible feeling you might see me as a soul mate.

    I am not.

    I’m not a big fan of the Greens, but not for the reasons given by Sheridan and his mates. The reason I’m not a big fan is not because of their policies, whichg are mainly OK, but because the Greens appear to sincerely believe in the infallibility of their beliefs.

    Bob Brown has certain strengths, but when he casts himself in the role as Pope of the Green Left (with Kerry Nettle in support role as Cardinal Radzinger), well, it just puts me off.

    For all that, if they were to get the balance of power in the Senate, that’ll be a lot better than some of the alternatives.

  15. September 2nd, 2004 at 13:51 | #15

    The Rights strategy may be summarised as: Retake the High Ground by Giving a Low Blow.
    The Coalition are behind in the Polls, taking a hammering on moral issues and its the start of the final quarter. So I am not surprised if one or two of their Enforcers come out and flatten the Lefts star (Brown) followers.
    It takes the attention away from the scrutiny Howard’s real and alleged moral flaws. And it puts one of the Lefts stars onto the sidelines nursing his wounds.
    The Coalition like to play rough and dont fancy losing to a show-pony like Brown.

  16. September 2nd, 2004 at 14:07 | #16

    snuh at September 2, 2004 11:27 AM makes a very astute observation:

    The ALP is at greater risk from a resurgent Greens than the Liberals.

    The Greens (Brown) are to the ALP what the Browns (Hanson) are to the L/NP: spiritual soul-mates but political rivals.
    I would not be surprised to see the ALP machine men co-operating with the L/NP apparatchiks in sticking the knife into the Greens.
    Both major parties are pretty much indistinguishable in terms of policy. Their difference arise in the squabble over the division of political spoils.
    The Greens, like One Nation, offer a genuine choice – albeit an extremist one in certain respects. They upset the settled duopolisitic Australian political market.
    They will also be expensive to buy off. Think how much money Howard had to spend to buy the Right Nativist vote back into the Coalition fold: about $51 billion according to Hartcher.
    Thats money that could have gone to the Coalition’s side of the Big End of Town or Labors Mates in the Unions.

  17. Jason Soon
    September 2nd, 2004 at 14:38 | #17

    My opinion of the Greens has risen substantially in the last few days. While from my perspective they exhibit substantial negative traits such as economic nativism and Luddism, they should also be judged by the quality of their enemies. They have brought (1) the Santamaria Right; (2) the Paleo-con Culture Warriors (i.e. Jack Strocchi); and (3) the nation-state fetishists (i.e. Steve Edwards) out of the woodwork frothing at the mouth. They have also reopened the debate on drug prohibition. More power to them.

  18. Peter F,
    September 2nd, 2004 at 14:55 | #18

    I’m following this discussion with interest, but I still don’t have a clear sense of what the motive for the “Right’s” (Right loosely defined)obsession with the Greens might be.
    Geoff Robinson made an interesting point about the Coalition’s likelihood of getting close to the 20 seats in the Senate to give them a blocking vote, and the threat which a strong Green vote presents to this. The reason this occurs is that the Libs (+ Nats in Queensland) will be close to 43% in each State. Since above the line voting has been introduced, the Democrats practice of splitting their preferences 50-50 has advantaged the Conservatives relative to Labor, because their Reps preferences would normally be 60-40 (or stronger) to Labor. In the past because of the Democrats generally strong Senate vote, this has been worth a minimum of 2% to the Coalition, where Democrat prefs are counted. With the decline of the Democrats vote this time, this figure will be less important, but still of some significance, unless the Democrats change their customary split preference ticket for above the line votes. Has anyone heard any whispers?
    This time as Geoff points out, there is a threat from the Greens to the Liberals’ third seat in at least Victoria and Tasmania, and some prospect of the Greens winning the ACT seat, of which the Libs would normally be assured.
    May I also comment on the anti-Greens stance of Tanner, Albanese and Plibersek? No surprise there, if the Greens’ primaries push up by 5-10% at the expense of these Labor members, they are vulnerable. Paradoxically, the Libs would do more damage in these electorates, by running dead (as their “no show” in the Cunningham by-election demonstrated) and encouraging a maximum Greens vote.

  19. September 2nd, 2004 at 15:15 | #19

    I am not a “paelo-con Culture Warrior”, what ever that is. FWIW, I oppose both the Multiculturalist Left and the Nativist Right.
    In general policy strategy I am, like the PM, a Vital Centrist who applies the Third Way approach to Cultural issues ie accepting racial diversity but rejecting attempts at dissolving cultural solidarity.
    Just as Hawke applied the Third Way to Economic issues, accepting economic liberty but preserving some social equity.
    As a temporary Machiavelian political tactic I accepted aspects of Howards right wing politics over the past few years. But the Culture War is over and the Good Guys have won.
    This is the political position of the vast majority of right-thinking people.
    Tell me, oh self-regarding Cultural Leftists, did you not, despite your pacifism and detestation of conservative governments, support the PM and the ADF in the Timor intervention?
    If you answer YES then you also are guilty of disgraceful Machiavellian tactical voting.
    PS Jason – Please, for your sake and mine:


  20. September 2nd, 2004 at 15:20 | #20

    Most libertarians would drug liberalisation and abolition of IFIs, but they are often right for the wrong reason. Eg, they mistakenly identify the IMF and World Bank with free market policies, when these institutions are the very antithesis of a market-based approach to development issues.

    Similarly, one could take their drug policy more seriously if they were less hung up on lots of other things they don’t like, such as tobacco, gaming etc.

  21. September 2nd, 2004 at 15:24 | #21

    That should read: ‘most libertarians support drug liberalisattion…’

    and ‘…Greens often right for the wrong reasons.’

    Bad editing.

  22. Terence
    September 2nd, 2004 at 16:33 | #22

    I disagree with Gibbo’s comment: “The greens go well when their exposure is limited to bob browns’ 30 second sound bites but when you come under real scrutiny; you fold and start crying foul.”

    A left-leaning person reading Greens policies is dangerous for the major parties. More so than Bob’s bumble-head use of ‘hardly ever’ camera-time he gets from the media. Read the policies and you and your mates/family/colleagues etc., may come to agree with the Greens. Better to attack them publicly – turning people off and away from delving further – leaving Bob & Co. to unconvincingly explain, in 30-seconds, what would take a bit of self-effort to uncover.

    The strategy’s a good one. Attack the policies before they’re out in the market. You already know Brown hardly gets TV-time (the thing we most watch and hear), and that he’s slow and statesmanlike when he does and you don’t get enough time to explain much, anyway.

    Just attack, and attack, and attack, and beat the dog down, until everyone knows your message and has no idea of the true Greens position (cos you know it’s just not worth the while to look a bit deeper).

    This should help the party duopoly to have as much strength as possible, after the F.E.

  23. September 2nd, 2004 at 16:55 | #23

    Yeah…what stephen said. The second time.

  24. John Quiggin
    September 2nd, 2004 at 17:36 | #24

    Terence, the policies are on the web, easy to find, and considerably less loaded with weasel words and escape clauses than those of the major parties. Even so, Sheridan and others have to resort to absurd distortions to find anything with which to scare people.

  25. Shaun
    September 2nd, 2004 at 17:45 | #25

    Why are the Libs taking on the Greens? and trying to drive potential Green voters to the ALP?

    Perhaps the Libs have seen their internal polling, found that they are so far behind Labor that they not only can’t catch up but that the Greens look like being the other major party on Oct 10.

    So to retain status as the “opposition” party they are taking on the competition – the Greens

    It’s nice to dream…

  26. Jono
    September 2nd, 2004 at 18:42 | #26

    I agree d. Labor is much more green than most people care to admit.

    One of Latham’s ridiculous promises that has received little or no attention from his cheer-squad in the media is his pledge to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

    This is a policy that even the opposition parties in most other western democracies wont consider. The Kyoto protocol will just result in a 3% reduction of man-made C02 emissions over the next century. Oh yes, and man-made C02 contributes to about 0.000003% of the total C02 in the atmosphere.

    It will result in the loss of jobs to countries that don’t sign the protocols, and will cripple many industries.

  27. Jono
    September 2nd, 2004 at 19:02 | #27

    Terence, the policies are on the web, easy to find, and considerably less loaded with weasel words and escape clauses than those of the major parties

    Its also considerably less loaded with solid policy. Its full of ultra-left ideals, but almost no elaboration on what policies they would implement. It talks about handing our foreign policy over to the UN and the principle of unrestricted immigration. They talk about putting aboriginal reconciliation as a high priority, and legalising drugs… fine.

    But what the hell does “encouraging people to eat less meat” or “encouraging people to ride bicycles” mean in terms of policy ?

    One of the few policies they actually detail was to impose CGT on homeowners who sell “expensive” residential properties.

    Their overall policy is deliberately vague, so it appeals to young students and activists who want to vote for a party with a “social conscience” so to say, and who aren’t too fussed by the specifics. And you know what.. its gonna work VERY well for them at election time.

    I think ALP were pretty canny to appoint Peter Garrett. They could steal away the green vote so they won’t have to have the balance of power held by the greens.

  28. September 2nd, 2004 at 20:05 | #28

    The Kyoto protocol will just result in a 3% reduction of man-made C02 emissions over the next century. Oh yes, and man-made C02 contributes to about 0.000003% of the total C02 in the atmosphere.

    Just to introduce some reality to your post, but human CO2 emissions have already caused atmospheric CO2 levels to rise from about 280 ppm to a bit over 370 ppm.

    Slightly more than the 0.000003% you mention.

  29. September 2nd, 2004 at 20:26 | #29

    “Labor is much more green than most people care to admit.” What? With the Right dominating the party? Doubt it.

    Garrett was just a sop to the left, really, though he is a cogent performer who would have a broader appeal than Bono, who hangs out with the likes of Warren Buffett and George Soros these days.

    The scare-mongering just reeks of desperation, to me.

  30. Hannibal Lecturer
    September 2nd, 2004 at 22:31 | #30

    This is the political position of the vast majority of right-thinking people.

    -Jack Strocchi

    How can you have a vast majority of 2 people Jack?

  31. daz
    September 2nd, 2004 at 23:28 | #31

    Peter F – how do you dervive that Democrat Senate Prefs are usually worth a minimum 2% to the Coalition?

    The Dems almost invariably take 6th or occasionally 5th place in a half-senate election. Sixth leaves no prefs for anyone and 5th would usually produce a teeny-tiny surplus which would be evenly split making other prefs decisive.

    Or am I misjudging something?

  32. daz
    September 2nd, 2004 at 23:44 | #32


    You’ve never actually seen any of these “Green Policies” for yourself have you? Only on TV and read about them in the papers and on blogs, right?

    You ask: ‘But what the hell does … “encouraging people to ride bicycles” mean in terms of policy ?’

    From the Transport Policy:

    “Favouring walking, cycling and public transport as the preferred modes of ‘passenger’ transport

    Encourage the cycling and walking amenity of the streets by supporting, for example, lower urban speed limits on residential roads.

    Increase the proportion of bicycle trips to 20% [of marketshare in passenger kilometers] by 2010”

    There’s more, but what level of micromanagement do you expect a party with 3 MPs to proscribe for States and Local authorities?


    Greens candidate for Griffith.

  33. Jill Rush
    September 2nd, 2004 at 23:48 | #33

    What is surprising is the over the top statements that are being made which seem to mistrepresent the views of the Greens. Why the hysterical tone?

    The issue of trust when others are serially misrepresented will become a key issue – shades of truth overboard.

    The Liberals have taken the view that they will get the balance of power in the senate – perhaps they have an inkling that people like Nick Minchin are on the nose in SA. Whilst the nuclear dump was neutralised by constant pressure this wasn’t easy for the people of SA and Nick Minchin identified himself very strongly with this cause.

    Family First may well take a Senate position in SA, the Greens may take a position, Labour may take 2 positions which would leave the Liberals down in SA – despite the Advertiser headline today screaming that the Liberals were well in front in their polling.

    If this kind of scenario was what their internal polling was saying then they would want to try and get one of the least favoured parties out of the picture – much better to have Meg “Anything you want John” Lees from the Liberal perspective.

  34. Carlos
    September 3rd, 2004 at 00:17 | #34

    The real reason for the rodent and his dogs venom against the Greens: PANIC

    “First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” – Gandhi

  35. James Farrell
    September 3rd, 2004 at 01:28 | #35

    On Richard Glover’s radio program this afternoon, Sheridan worked over the usual cliches about the Greens: ‘ingrained hatred of the modern world’,…philosphy taken from Chomsky, Pilger and Mike Moore,…uncosted policies,…blah blah blah. At some stage he said, ‘You can read their policies on the internet’. Then at the end he said (or maybe I misconstrued it, and I’m happy to be corrected by anyone else who was listening) someting like: ‘People don’t need to read the policies, because they know their looney’. I assume he followed his own advice, since he made no refernce to any actual policy, except to repeat Abott’s lines aboput drugs. What an unbelievably lazy slob.

  36. Frankis
    September 3rd, 2004 at 10:22 | #36

    Some commentators on international affairs are bright, well informed and worth listening to. Some like Greg Sheridan are perseverative fools representing only their master’s voice. It’s clearly true that the fools do get regular gigs in the media, and apparently are seen as some kind of fair counterbalance to genuinely bright and decent commentators such as Scott Burchill – I don’t care whether he’s “leftish” or raving pinko commie, by the way – but why beat around the bush, or dignify Sheridan’s drivel too much, when you could be wasting the same time on the thoughts of smarter and better people? If I wanted to hear what Rupert thinks I’d ask him, not his boy.

    With Howard, realize that we’re looking at a mean and tricky rodent trapped in a corner. He’s been in a more or less controlled panic (as Carlos observes above) ever since the elevation of Latham, all made worse for him now that he’s seen the colossal mistake he’s made by leaving his election to the last possible moment. He should have gone months ago when the stench about him was less, but now he must go before the US presidential election. He knows that even dopey Australian voters will think twice about electing a rodent if the Americans get mad enough to dump a Shrub in November. He’s made a mistake already, and others to come, from fear of losing the thing he holds most dear which of course is political power. Now, he’s such a cunning and successful rodent that this still leaves him an awfully long way from actual electoral disaster, if only he could get his fear under control. We’ll have to wait and see.

    But the fundamental point is that one shouldn’t assume that the coalition is gaming anything perfectly by now. Howard’s lashing out just as viciously as should any rat, caught in a trap. Who can blame him for that, man or rodent he is what he is! We’re free though to hope that voters will one day wake up to the value-free, gang rulez mentality of a mean little prick and get mad enough to vote in someone of integrity to replace him.

    Which reminds me of another thing people may be discounting, giving the rodent more credit than he is worth. Howard sees himself as almighty in the Liberal party, ruling these days almost as by divine right. The grovellers around him do nothing obvious to stand up against his delusion (that the winning of an election by his demonising of drowning women and kids, calling them terrorists) was the work of a great leader. In the rodent mind what’s good for Johnny is good for the party – and this time around Johnny is being challenged in his own seat by a high profile Green perceived as being what Johnny is not. Wilkie presumably is uncomfortably widely seen as being someone of intellect and integrity. Now – does Howard hate him? What do you reckon!

  37. Peter F
    September 3rd, 2004 at 11:02 | #37

    I shouldn’t have generalised about the Democrats’ Senate vote and its value to the Libs. I was thinking of the specific situation where the Libs are just short of a 3rd quota, and there is a battle for the 6th seat between Libs, Labor and the strongest minor party, If the Democrats are eliminated and they give half their preferences to the Libs, that is more than the Libs would get from the intent of Democrat voters as expressed by their Reps voting. My guess is that for a 10% Democrat vote, preferences going 5% each way compared to 4%-6% benefits the Libs by 2%. Obviously if the Democrats have a quota there’s little or nothing left.
    This time it’s quite obvious that the Democrat vote will be well below 10%, but I’d wager that Democrat voter “true” preferences would be much more anti-Liberal. I also predict that the Liberals will not reach the decisive 43% on their own in many (if any) States.

  38. Jono
    September 3rd, 2004 at 12:48 | #38

    From the Transport Policy:

    “Favouring walking, cycling and public transport as the preferred modes of ‘passenger’ transport

    Encourage the cycling and walking amenity of the streets by supporting, for example, lower urban speed limits on residential roads.

    Increase the proportion of bicycle trips to 20% [of marketshare in passenger kilometers] by 2010”

    You see, to me this seems like a typical example of the greens weakness. They believe in positive outcomes but not principles or policy to realistically acheive them.

    You asked me what level of micromanagement I expect. Well personally I think that government has no business encouraging or coercing people to use one form of transport over another.

    How do the greens expect to increase the proportion of bicycle trips (per km travelled) to 20% by 2010 ?

    Its just warm + fuzzy madness. Its like John Howard saying that he hopes the murder rate will fall by 20% by 2010, and he will encourage Australian’s to refrain from murder.

    I don’t like the idea of politicians promising outcomes. Outcomes cannot be guaranteed. If so much of the basis of greens policy is based on outcomes, whilst the Coalition have stated their tax, health care and education policy up front, including the baby bonus, even though you may not agree with some of them, then at least you know where you stand.

  39. Terence
    September 3rd, 2004 at 13:35 | #39

    John, I agree with you, regarding “Sheridan and others [and their] absurd distortions … with which to scare people”.

    My comment was a jab at those who bait the Greens, knowing they have neither the personnel and/or financial resources to set the record straight, via a blanket media-promotion, to those who may only listen to the ‘fast n’ sharp’ messages delivered by telly, talkback, and such. I think going to any party’s website and doing some research is something most people don’t consider.

    As a card-carrying member of fag central, the gay-marriage/Christian-fundie vote-grab thing spiked my interest. I support the Greens, simply because of THAT issue (as I did during the last FE’s boat-people hate fest, simply because of THAT issue).

    The major parties have it in the bag, as always. I enjoy the economy the Coalition presides over; no complaints there. If Labor wins, I’ll be happy to see Latham at the wheel. To stay in power, stuffing up, for them, is not an option. If the Coalition wins, I’ll be just as happy to see Howard/Costello, then Costello/???, continue the work I think they’ve, for the most part, done well.

    My (alleged wasted) protest vote is just me saying, “F**k Off!”

    The question is: How many people will do the same, and at what cost, if any, to Labor and the Coalition? I’m not thinking about it too deeply, being largely disinterested in most of the political shenanigans; however, I know logically that there’ll be a few like me. The question is: How many are a few?

    That’s why Sheridan & Co. are doing their thang, so as to keep that FEW (or is it many?) down to the bare minimum.

    Personally, I hope they fail.

  40. daz
    September 4th, 2004 at 22:30 | #40


    Our policies run to 172 A4 pages and tens of thousands of words in 53 categories, compiled in the last couple of years by the ceaseless toilings of a few dozen dedicated volunteers. A couple of hundred of those words are about bicycles. There’s more about it in our Housing and Urban Planning policy.

    If I read you correctly, you believe that:

    1. Governments (and parties) should not have transport policies;
    2. The Greens need a more detailed bicycle component in their Transport policy; and,
    3. Government (and party) policies should not describe the outcomes they are intended to produce.

    I think the first two points cancel each other out, and point three speaks for itself.


    Greens Candidate for Griffith

  41. September 5th, 2004 at 20:31 | #41

    I think the point, daz, is that Parties shouldn’t describe the outcomes they intend to produce if they can’t describe *how* they’ll be producing them; especially not if they first described these outcomes in response to charges that the Party is too vague about what it intends to do.

  42. John Quiggin
    September 5th, 2004 at 20:36 | #42


    Setting policy targets without precisely describing the methods intended to achieve them is routine practise for governments.

    To criticise a party like the Greens, with no prospect of holding office anytime soon (and certainly not before 2010) for not giving precise implementation plans is silly enough.

    But what has in fact happened is that people like the Herald-Sun have taken every such target and assumed that the Greens are advocating extreme measures of compulsion to achieve it. This is dishonest in the extreme.

  43. Mork
    September 6th, 2004 at 19:51 | #43

    Jono put his finger on precisely what scares me about the Greens. The thing about many of the outcomes that the Greens prescribe is that in the real world, the only way to achieve them would be by using a high degree of coercion across a whole range of areas where most of us expect to be left to our own devices.

    And I don’t think that the Greens leaders that I’ve observed have given me any reason to trust them to recognise the same sphere of individual choice and freedom that I want to see respected, should its abrogation ever be necessary to achieve one of these outcomes.

    It’s not, as you say, John, merely that they haven’t given precise implementation plans. The thing is that the only way to implement many of these things is to impose significantly on personal choice.

    Sure, they’re not about to win government. But if these are their goals and they are insensitive enough to the issue to not even feel the need to provide the merest assurance that they recognise that some of these desired outcomes are going to have to yield if people choose not to modify their behaviour, then I’m as sure as hell not going to encourage them with my vote.

  44. daz
    September 6th, 2004 at 22:06 | #44

    The only thing Jono said that was true was that we want to encourage people to ride bicycles.

    Mork thinks the “only way” we can get more people to ride bicycles is “to impose significantly on personal choice”.

    I thought this was supposed to be about making The Greens look bad?

  45. Mork
    September 6th, 2004 at 22:58 | #45

    daz – increased use of bicycles is hardly the only Greens policy that could only possibly be achieved by restricting personal freedom.

    And here’s a couple of tips for free: first, you will be a more effective politician if you try to address voters’ concerns with reasoned argument, rather than insulting them. Tip number 2 is that mockery is an effective weapon in skilled hands.

  46. Paul Norton
    September 7th, 2004 at 14:40 | #46

    Mork, it was the great liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill who said that the freedom of the individual needed to be restricted to the extent necessary to prevent her from making herself a nuisance to others.

    In the intervening century and a half we’ve discovered that many of our activities “across a whole range of areas where most of us expect to be left to our own devices” do create a nuisance for others. Your discretionary motor vehicle usage adds to various forms of air and noise pollution which harm the health of others. In the US the number of people who die annually from air pollution-related disorders is twice the number of people who died on 9-11. The greenhouse gas emissions for which I am personally responsible are helping to destabilise the staple food production systems of many of the poorest countries on earth.

    Obviously, non-coercive measures to induce voluntary changes in people’s behaviour in a more sustainable direction are always to be preferred, but given what we now know about the interaction and interconnectedness of our actions and their consequences for each other’s well-being and that of nature, surely the debate about practical measures to achieve ecological objectives has to move beyond foot-stamping assertions about “my rights as an individual!!!!!”

  47. Mork
    September 7th, 2004 at 16:44 | #47

    Please, Paul, spare me the high school debating.

    It’s trite that every government needs to draw a line between imposing on individuals to achieve collective goals and respecting individuals’ preference to do things that may result in outcomes that the government regards as less preferable.

    The thing about the Greens is that for their goals to be achieved, that line has to be placed much, much farther along the scale of goverment coercion than any Australian government has ever placed it before. If you are a person that places a high value their autonomy, that is a legitimate reason not to vote for them. It is even more of a reason given that they don’t even seem to see this as an issue – I don’t think it occurs to them that a government ought to consider whether it is imposing too much on individual freedom.

    I am actually a lot more receptive to arguments that governments ought to require me to relinquish some freedom of choice for ecological reasons, because the stakes are so high. But the Greens have potentially coercive policies across a whole range of activities, many of which have nothing at all to do with ecology or anything other than their aesthetic ideal of what a preferable society would look like.

    In short, I cannot see how my life would be anything other than substantially less pleasant under a Greens government. So f*#k ’em.

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