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. @Geoff Brwn
    @Greens are Feral
    @Brian, Queensland

    I must say I suspect a Poe, or three here. It’s difficult to believe that such stereotypical caricatures are actually for real. But having dealt with rightwing trolls in the past, I regret to say that they probably are.

    As I’ve said in the past, it must be incredibly embarrassing to be a philosophical conservative these days, given the mindless anti-intellectualism and anti-science tribalism that is “actually existing conservatism”.

  2. Aussie Unionist, gregh, Sam Clifford …

    What do you make of the near simultaneous appearance of four new IDs/nyms all making the same hysterical DLP-style claims about The Greensand or abusing the bloghost? One of them was in such a hurry that it couldn’t even type “Brown” correctly. I’m going to go out on a limb and conclude that Quiggin’s position (which has been cited at Catalepsy and probably from there circulated to the rest of the rightwing blogosphere has picked up a DLP-style troll. These could of course be simply an iteration of one of our more modestly spoken reactionaries.

    It is probably not worth responding to trolls of this sort. No kind of serious discussion can be had with people who, at least superficially, describe observable reality in terms peculiar to them alone(cf: Bob Brown’s policies – whether on the environment, economy, foreign policy, defence, refugees, health, education – are so far left it would make Mao Ze Dong and Lenin look like neo-conservatives;). What they seek is to provoke flames (Oh how I pity your brain-washwed students. […] Why is it that down to earth sensible people tend to come from the Conservative parties of politics and the goons from ther left field?) and nuke the topic into a commentary about things that can bear little relation to the case for The Greens that most people recognise as salient.

    Don’t feed the trolls is the rule here.

  3. Different (and new) IPs, maybe as a result of the Crikey republication or Catallaxy, and in one case from here

    though the total absence of comments suggests its not exactly a hub of activity.

    That said, don’t feed the trolls. If someone wants to make serious point in opposition to my post, they will be most welcome, but comments like those made above deserve only derision.

  4. @Fran Barlow
    here’s another right wing troll not worthy of a feed – Paul Howes, the National Secretary of The Australian Workers’ Union, who wrote in last Sunday’s Telegraph: “If Rhiannon is successful in her bid for election to the Senate -with a little of campaign assistance from the taxpayers of NSW – her watermelon” group will become the dominate force in the Greens nationally.

    That will mean for many voters, when they think they are casting a vote for the environment, they will, in fact, be voting for many issues that they may not support and be completely unaware of.

    The Green’s have been using the slogan “The future is Green” but if Rhiannon is successful, truth in advertising laws may require them to amend it to “The future is red”. end quote

    Another case against the Greens!

  5. The only joke biggger than Paul Howes himself, is the notion that he’s a lefty, mixed up those mischeivous Greens; no doubt an old valve wireless hidden under the bed so he can get orders from Moscow.

  6. Not going to argue with the post as it’s spot on I reckon.

    And, Fran, totally agree. The initial ‘price on carbon’ would be the removal of distortions provided by the huge subsidies – kill the Diesel Rebate for starters.

    I’m hopeful that the Greens will be holding the balance of power in the senate, and hope there may be sensible policies arising, including the death of many subsidies to carbon.

    (on a bit of a tangent – there’s a piece on ABC’s The Drum by a Greg Barns you may wish to avoid if you haven’t already – horrid bit of logic, but funny I guess – his fear peddling thesis is that the Greens will gang up on a Labor, block supply to install a Green pliant Liberal party – only slightly better prose than our new 3 trolls)

  7. It is not racist to want australians in australia!

    If I was in the mood to be charitable, I’d assume that Chris meant that we should encourage recent arrivals (not to mention Brits who came here decades ago and have never bothered) to take up Australian citizenship as soon as possible. But given the content of the post on which he is commenting, I’m not feeling charitable – Chris is a pretty clear illustration of why we need to lift the ban on the word “racist” and apply it to all those making overt or coded appeals to racism. Nothing further from you please, Chris – JQ

  8. Prof. Quiggin, you obviously are not aware of the full list of policies and ideals of the Greens, otherwise a seemingly educated man like you would not go near them. If they were to govern or have a powerful say in running this country, we would be taken back to the dark ages. Closing down the mines (uranium), stop coal exports, and closing down coal fired power stations are just a few.

  9. Shifting from the aspects of GREEN policies to the prospects for GREEN politics, my general psephological philosophy is that a Right-wing polarisation brings forth a Left-wing polarisaiton. But that the polarising moment would not last. So I predict a plateauing of the GREEN primary vote.

    On 10 APR 2010 in the pre-Gillard era – it seems almost a lifetime ago! – I predicted that the LN/P’s hard Right-wing would be rejected in the forthcoming election, although they would help their case by “dropping Work Choices Mlk MVIII”. Abbott has already seen the writing on that wall and has pre-emptively ditched of Work Choices.

    On 12 JUN 10 I predicted that the ALP would win the election comfortably, irrespective of leaders. And that the GREENs vote would slump as the hollowness of the L/NP’s Right-wing support base was exposed and anxiety about giving Bob Brown too much direct power started to mount:

    I don’t think this ideological divergence will last, at least in AUS. The Centre-Left is on solid ground with its core policies. And its political base (aging Baby Boomers, NESBs and single mothers) are a growing demographic.

    I suspect that the GREEN vote will slump back down to 10% once the L/NP’s Hard Right is defeated. Most people do not want Bob Brown calling too many shots in Canberra.

    So far that tendency appears to be working. The latest Newspoll shows the GREEN vote at 12%, down from its pre-Gillard high of 16%.

    I see no reason to predict the GREENs breaking out of their ~10% ceiling. They have gotten little or no public traction with their asylum-seeker campaign, further extensions of cultural liberalism is on the nose with about 2/3 of the populus. They will certainly get more formal power when the half-SENATE election gives them effective coalition governing rights. But thats likely to drive more primary votes back to the ALP or even L/NP, as moderate voters get spooked.

    This indicates that the converging tendencies in the AUS electorate, that I have been banging on about for most of the decade, are over-overpowering strong. The AUS electorate is like one of those inflatable sand-bag clowns that just keeps rocking back on its centre of gravity, no matter which way they get hit.

  10. Oh my goodness – we have two tribals in here (11 and 12). It doesnt take them long does it ? Loons out of the woodwork – still fighting the cold war with expressions like “comrades”. How old are they? Their bones must be creaking after 50 years of footstorming for the now sadly disgraced displaced right.

  11. @Jack Strocchi
    Jack – for an aspiring political commentator you are pretty biased. Id bet you $20 here and now you are wrong about the green vote not going over 10%. Its political rightism thats on the nose with voters.

  12. I’m pleased to be able to vote Green in the Senate with a minor chance of it actually coming across. Pleased because the Greens are running a good solid person (NB to the trolls – the candidate is also a devout church-goer) whereas I wouldn’t have voted for the last person they ran under any circumstances. Labor is a cert for the other seat, but the Senator is OK.

    Why am I pleased? Because I want Labor to have to negotiate its outcomes and to an extent this will enable it to occupy the middle ground quite effectively, while enabling the Senate to be more a house of review and less a house of opposition. It won’t, as some commentators put it, be the Greens holding the balance of power. Labor will be able to negotiate with either party to get things through.

    My very safe Labor HoR seat has a new candidate who defeated the machine nominee (hooray!) and who also looks promising. I’m quite happy, all things considered.

  13. Fran Barlow 27

    It will be good when some commentators are honest enough to use the name “sock puppet”.

    Regarding the content of JQ’s post, I think the case for the Greens just got stronger. Gillard’s climate announcement was: new standards on NEW coal fired power stations and a “citizens forum” to build concensus on a carbon price. Plus some dollars for a national power grid (not enough: $1 billion).

  14. There is no doubt that a Green vote means that Greens have a right at the table of decisions. Each vote is worth money and I don’t see why you would reward poor performance with any more money. The Greens can do with more because they are not taking the corporate dollar.

    I agree that preferences should flow to Labor because Tony Abbott is not the right material for a Prime Minister whereas Julia Gillard is showing a lot of aptitude. More importantly and it is reflected by the “warrior” above, is that the Liberals campaign is so negative and combative. The language being used includes armada, Battlelines (reflected in Abbott’s biography) and many other angry words. The promise that Workchoices is dead is not convincing as it is unrealistic. We need to take Tony Abbott at his word that he cannot be believed as perhaps he has his fingers crossed. It is no wonder that he rates badly with women and young people as his macho stance alienates many.

    A vote for the Greens will be needed to keep Labor in touch with reality – after all look what great popularity did to Kevin Rudd.

  15. My partner and I are committing to donating $2.30 to The Greens per informal vote in our booth where a primary is for the Greens.

    This is the best way (apart from helping them out) we can support our candidate. He isn’t going to get within cooee of winning or even pushing the Lib into third place.

  16. Every stupid troll I see on this site only reaffirms my desire to vote Green 1st, and Labor before Liberal. Labor have done some things well, quite a few things in fact, but have been let down by poor communication. They have also allowed some ridiculous claims to be broadcast by the media without adequate and rapid challenge by senior Labor ministers.

    As a particular case where Labor copped a shellacking was the home insulation scheme house fires and contractor/installer deaths. They could have taken the high ground but didn’t, because to do so would have upset the small business constituency. Some of the most serious cases came down to small business greed and this went unchallenged by Labor. For example, one guy hired new and inexperienced staff to install the bats. The staff had no idea of the electrical dangers they were exposing themselves too, or that they could cause roof fires by inappropriate insulation placement. The business owner was directly responsible with regards to ensuring adequate training of all staff. One such owner admitted on national TV – ABC Four Corners – that he didn’t want to spend the money on training, which is appalling.

    Eviscerating the Ruddmeister may have felt good for the machine men, but it was a stupid waste of a PM who could have recovered lost ground if communication with the public was improved.

    Personally, I cannot remember any other case of an Australian PM being treated so hostilely by the MSM, including the ABC, from the get go to whoa! The Australian paper’s chief editor Chris Mitchell seemed to make it his mission to bury Kev whatever the cost. Perhaps Chris didn’t like the way Kev gentlely joked about something George Bush said over the phone. Or perhaps Murdoch cracked the whip and Chris jumped into action.

    Greens for me. Mum always said not to forget my greens.

    PS: Great to see you are back, Pr Q. Cheers!

  17. Having been a member of the Greens in Canberra, some twenty-something years ago, I know they are all very progressive and politically correct, but in essence care very little for working class issues which, in their schemes, must give way for Green pet policies as delivered by the media and received from various paperbacks you can buy at Uni Co-op bookshops.

    However, some Greens are not of this ilk, support workers, and for their troubles are tagged “water-melons”.

    So I would not give the Greens a blank cheque. They are a mixed bag. But if you know a Green candidate personally, or have good reason to believe the local candidate really has the interests of workers at all levels in mind, then a vote for a Green accompanied by a second preferance for the ALP seems reasonable.

    But always put the ALP ahead of the Tory Liberals.

  18. I doubt whether labor or the greens will fly in my electorate either….given there must by now be thousands of blue ribbon sepp55 developments. I guess that means nothing will change here except for the traffic getting worse. I will be stuck here till I die. No way in. No way out.

    Ill still give my vote to the greens but Im thinking its worth exhausting it somewhere along the line as well. Best I can do to keep the abottsvile horror away and I am so disappointed with mining tax back down and other neoliberal directions in Labor (Workchoices watered down not abolished) my vote wont go directly to Gillard either.

    Pleased to see the greens open their first office down my way – across the road from Bronywn Bishops. Wonder if they share the same cafe?

  19. @Chris Warren

    The leadership and activists in the Green party think their voters are left wing. They are not.

    The average green voters are rather well-off with all the economic caution that breeds and they are rusted on to the privileged treatment of superannuation and home ownership.

    Their enthusiasm for public transport is interest group based – many green voters live in the inner-city and use it to commute to their desk jobs.

    As long as they have their dope and organic vegetables, many green voters would be all for work for the dole as long as they were green jobs or community work. Call it a conservation corp.

  20. @Jim Rose
    Public mass transport is not just a choice of greens JR. Its increasingly a policy preference of many voters tired of the gridlock and two kilometre tolled roads…
    Investment in mass public transport should have been on the political radar decades ago…its called city planning.
    What did happen to the department of public works in NSW? I understand its now a committee and doesnt exist. Its part of the reason voters are unhappy with both majors Im sure….they dont seem to be doing much planning. A lot of announcements and fanfare but in reality….there is real ineptitude there in advance planning because there has been an ideological gall stone (the market does it better) blocking sensible public policy.

  21. @Alice
    I used to live in Australia’s most planned city, which was Canberra.

    Canberra is a sprawling car city with five town centres and huge green spaces to let the bushfires in.

    Also, corner shops are illegal.

    All shops are in a shopping centre for each suburb. Because they are centralised, you must have a car to drive to them and bring home your shopping.

    Canberra is so spread out that the buses are hopeless and it is too cold in winter and too hot in summer to walk to and wait at the bus stop for more than a few minutes.

    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.

    Buses work better when cities are compact, summers and winters are moderate, and, most of all, where roads are subject to cordon pricing and congestion charges. Ken Livingston showed this well in London.

    The Swedes have a really cleaver way of introducing cordon pricing and congestion charges. Trial them for 7 months, stop charging the cordon prices and congestion charges for 5 months, and then hold a local referendum on whether people want to go back.

  22. @Alice
    in another triumph of central planning, front fences are illegal in canberra too.

    Planners must not have small children who like to run out on to the road.

  23. @Jim Rose
    Jim Rose – I dont think that greens support public transport because as you suggest without any evidence that “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.”

    This is a pretty absurd sort of comment to make. Greens support for public transport is about the only decent policy discussed after the great debate on TV tonight (except that it bore no resemblance to a a debate and was simply a sales pitch for the most part). It was discussed by Bob Brown after the great “debate” and he made the comment that a silly amount of time was wasted on discussing boat people (groan) while the major issues we face as a nation were ignored.

    In an age of increasing traffic gridlocks in Australian major cities which is reducing your highly rated labour productivity, reducing the efficiency of the transportation of goods and services, hindering businesses and adding emmissions to an already pollution warmed environment discussion on mass public transport systems is a major issue.

    One, it would appear, that only the greens are willing to discuss. The two main parties traded political putdowns and shied away from some pretty major concerns Australians face.

    Your dislike of planners is obvious but we do not live in an uncharted frontier and what transport systems we currently use were mostly the result of past public planning and construction.

    There are now too many of us to do without planning for future transport infrastructure needs. To continue to press for reliance on cars is simply irresponsible – we need more options where families and indidividuals become less car reliant.

  24. @Alice

    on demographic evidence, in–ignore-at-ones-peril/20100324-qvsu.html Lindsay Tanner notes that:

    “Essentially the rising Green vote is a product of increasing tertiary education. Green voters are typically either tertiary educated or undergoing tertiary education. Their support is heavily concentrated amongst tertiary disciplines that are focused on much more than just making money. Unlike most Australians, these voters tend to be secure and comfortable enough to be able to put aside immediate self-interest when assessing their political options.”


    “[the Greens] relentlessly feed off Labor’s need to make compromises in order to marry progressive reform with majority government. All their energies are directed to attacking the Labor Party, not the conservatives.”

    As for demographics, see

    Spilt voting is good for the soul.

    Vote with your heart and then follow your wallet and second preference the Libs. The greens take more from Labour than they give back in preferences.

    When the green vote went from 8% to 15%, second preference of Libs by these green voters in these opinions polls increased from 20% to 32%.

    The greens facilitate protest votes while electing right-wing governments.

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