I haven’t had time to do a proper economic analysis of Labor’s proposals on dividend imputation credits. But you don’t need an economic analysis to see that making an overt appeal to conservative voters on the issue, as Richard di Natale has just done, is a very bad move if the Greens party wants to present itself as a left alternative to Labor.
Perhaps this is poor judgement in the heat of a by-election campaign, the significance of which seems to me to be greatly over-rated by all.
Alternatively, perhaps it indicates that di Natale is taking the Greens in a different direction. The obvious choices are
(i) A soft liberal centrist party in the mould of the Australian Democrats under Don Chipp
(ii) A serious push to displace Labor as the main alternative to the LNP
I don’t think there’s a real constituency for (i) and, to the extent that there is, it’s very different from the existing Greens support base.
I also don’t think (ii) has any chance of success. But, if it does, it will involve a lot of the kind of grubby compromises that are inevitably entailed in an attempt to put together an electoral majority. Labor’s shuffles on Adani and refugees are obvious examples, which have driven a lot of people to support the Greens. But now it looks as if the boot may be on the other foot.
A lower profile, but similar, example came up with the Senate inquiry into SA Tafe, which was a stunt by education minister Simon Birmingham intended to embarrass Labor ahead of today’s state election. It backfired both procedurally (because the Labor majority on the committee refused to take its ostensible purpose seriously) and in policy terms, since the submissions (including mine) focused on the disastrous state of vocational education in Australia generally. Despite this, the Greens joined the LNP in a minority report which tried to defend the whole sorry process.