Sheridan on the Greens

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

48 thoughts on “Sheridan on the Greens

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. “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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. Jono,

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Daz,
    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.

  13. Daz:
    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.

  14. 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.

  15. Jono,

    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

  16. 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.

  17. Mark,

    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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

  20. 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.

  21. 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!!!!!”

  22. 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.

  23. Green with envy
    Hey, it’s really bad how the Howard-haters hate John Howard, isn’t it? Not like this fair and balanced assessment of the Greens and Bob Brown by leading Australian columnist, Greg Sheridan: The Greens are essentially left-wing Hansonites, simultaneousl…

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