The case for the Greens

As I said last time, I’ll be advocating a vote for the Greens. Unlike some commenters here, I plan to give my second preference to Labor[1]. To justify my second preference first, I regard the Liberals under Abbott as utterly unfit for government. Abbott has behaved as an unprincipled opportunist throughout his period as opposition leader, denouncing “great big new taxes”, then proposing taxes of his own with no regard for consistency or good public policy. In office, I expect he would discover that he had a mandate for the hardline rightwing policies he has always favored.

Coming to the choice between Labor and the Greens, this isn’t the first time I have given a first preference to the Greens, but it’s the first in some years. The main substantive issues that concern me are economic management and climate change, but these issues (and particularly climate change) can’t be separate from questions about process and principle. The government has done a good job on economic management, while the opposition has been consistent only in error. On the other hand, the government has made a terrible mess of climate change policy, almost entirely because of its reluctance to deal with the Greens and to confront the opposition and the lobby groups that back them. In the long run, the only way they will be able to govern effectively is through co-operation with the Greens, and the sooner they are forced to realise this the better.

It’s obvious at this point that the CPRS proposed last year is dead, and that a new ETS will have to be developed, hopefully when we have seen some more progress in other countries. For that reason, I think a carbon tax, with few exemptions and a tight cap on compensation to emitters is the best way to go. The Greens idea of a two-year interim carbon tax would be a good starting point for discussion and there is still time for Labor to announce in-principle support for a deal of this kind.

On other issues such as asylum seekers, the government’s position is carefully ambiguous, while the opposition is as close to overt racism[2] as it has ever been. A big vote for the Greens would force the government back towards a decent position.

Then there is the machine politics that led, first to Rudd being forced to dump the CPRS, and then being sacked when this decision had such disastrous consequences. Without excusing Rudd for some earlier failures on the issue, this alone would be enough to deprive Labor of my first preference in the presence of any decent alternative.

It seems reasonable to hope that the Greens will get enough votes to hold the balance of power in the Senate from July 2011. It seems unlikely, except by a fluke that they could do the same in the House of Representatives. But the loss of even two or three inner-city seats would put Labor on notice that its core support can’t be taken for granted.

I’m even marginally hopeful as regards the seat of Ryan, where I live. The incumbent Liberal, Michael Johnson, has been disendorsed over corruption allegations, but claims to be the victim of factional smears and is running hard against the official LNP candidate. The Greens have done well in the past, and might benefit from a flow of preferences.

fn1. This assumes that there is no preference deal made that would lead me to think otherwise. For example, if Labor were to preference Steve Fielding or the like again, I would consider exhausting my Senate ballot in a way that gave a preference to neither major party (to see how, read here.

fn2. The one genuine example of “political correctness” in Australian politics is the one that prevents us from using the word “racist” to describe racism, but there’s no doubt that’s what it is.

112 thoughts on “The case for the Greens

  1. @Jim Rose
    Jim – your “demographic evidence” cannot be called demographic evidence at all, unless you are referring to percentage swings in the Tasmanian vote which has very little to do with providing evidence to support this sweeping comment of yours…

    “Greens support public transport because relatively fewer of them have children to ask and ask again why they are waiting at a bus stop in the cold, the heat or the rain when mum or dad has a car.

    Which is an absurd comment. The “demographic evidence” you provided to support your comment is…well… an opinion piece in the National Times. Hardly evidence.

    Im beginning to agree with Ernestine in wondering how much of the Professor’s blog site should be given to this sort of lengthy politically motivated spreading of misinformation.
    Stranger and stranger…

  2. @Alice
    1. What is your understanding of the demographics of green voters? Rich, poor, suburban, Howard’s battlers or inner-city professionals?

    2. What is your understanding of the demographics of the 20% of green voters who give their second preference to the Liberals?

    3. Does vote splitting increase the net vote for the Left, and therefore the chances of re-electing a progressive government?

  3. @ Jim Rose.

    I do live in Canberra. Now, and for the last few decades.

    I have a car, but walk to the shops. There are shops in each suburb.

    I catch the bus to work, and so does my child. (The other child no longer lives at home, but also used to catch the bus.)

    Sometimes we ride our pushies along the (planned) bike paths.

    There are no facts in your description of Canberra, and consequently no value in the points you try and make that follow out of your false descriptions.

    As a matter of interest, I am not a Green and have never voted Green, although the latter looks like changing.

  4. @2 tanners
    “ACT Green’s Public Transport spokesperson, Amanda Bresnan, has pointed to the Australian Bureau of Statistics report on Australian Social Trends as evidence that the ACT Government has failed Canberrans on Public Transport planning and investment. Canberra had the lowest public transport usage at 7.9 per cent, and the largest decline, at 30 per cent from 1996 to 2006.” See

    The above must be true because a green MP said it! But just to check:

    “In 2006, Sydney had the highest level of public transport use among the capital cities, with over one-quarter (26%) using public transport as their main method for travel to work or study. Canberra (8%) recorded the lowest level of public transport usage.” The next lowest on 10.5% are Hobart and Perth.


  5. Carol Bird, maybe you haven’t realised it but Australia has been a multi-cultural country for donkey years and every citizen, including Muslims, have the same wrights. No more bulldust please.

  6. @gregh

    “In March 2006, three-quarters (75%) of adults living in capital cities travelled to their usual place of work or study using private motor vehicles as their main form of transport. In addition, 19% of adults used public transport, and a further 5% either walked or cycled as their main form of transport to work or study.”

    “Much of metropolitan Canberra was designed in the 1960s around a car-based transport and land use system with the expectation of a future trunk public transport system.

    Currently, cars provide the bulk of Canberra residents’ accessibility needs (83 per cent of work trips), with relatively low use of public transport, walking and cycling for work trips (7 per cent, 4 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively).

    Compared with the Australian average for getting to and from work, Canberrans use their cars more, cycle more, walk about the same and use public transport less.”


  7. @ Jim Rose

    1. You have suddenly changed from buses (see your original claim) to public transport (which includes trains and trams).

    2. So 8% more people use cars in a city with no trams or trains than in cities which typically have one or both. Golly, that’s a surprise.

    3. The plan, as you yourself noted, was to establish trunk services, but as it happened the unforeseen stagflation of the 70’s followed by the establishment of self government obviated the possibility of ever investing the amount needed to add a completely new kind of transport infrastructure. Not actually a town planning failure there.

    4. All of which means that your figures are comparing apples with oranges. The fact that more people ride and walk makes your point being too cold for waiting for buses look foolish. Your central point about planning remains based on false data and is backed up by irrelevant data.

    5. You must have moved away a long time ago if you think that front fences are illegal.

  8. @2 tanners
    My claim was that Canberra is a car city and is so spread out that the buses are hopeless.

    why didn’t planners establish a city plan resilient enough to triumph over things as predictable as governments changing their fiscal priorities.

    self-government should have increased the capacity of canberra’s taxpayers and voters to fully articulate their yearning for trams and trains?

  9. A big vote for the greens might mean that your message falls on deaf ears. While I can understand the appeal of voting Green, especially in the current political atmosphere, a win for the Greens in some seats could all too easily deliver a Coalition Government, the like of which we will not have seen before.

    I feel hopeful that many of your concerns would be addressed in a Gillard Government as she is a more consultative leader, receptive to community concerns and a more effective negotiator than Rudd. A big vote for the Greens will see Tony Abbott in the top job and ensure that the now opposition’s overtly racist position on migration and refugees will become government policy. A big vote for the Greens will not alter Tony Abbott’s climate change views.

    For me, the performance of the Greens over the CPRS legislation initiatives was a real wakeup call as to the real interests of the party. These initiatives were widely back by many environmental experts and groups, at least as a good starting point, but ultimately railroaded by the Greens voting with the Liberals in a political game play to try to bring on a double dissolution election and thereby increase their chances of holding the balance of power in the Senate. The Greens were simply playing politics at the expense of actually bringing about some change when they had the chance. If Tony Abbott becomes PM, that chance won’t come again.

  10. Lisa, it seems most unlikely that the Greens would go into coalition with the Libs&Nats, so the coalition that might result if the Greens won Lower House seats and held the balance of power there (unlikely I think) would be Lab-Green.

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