Labor and the Greens

My latest piece in Independent Australia, motivated by today’s election in Queensland is about the relationship between Labor and the Greens and, in particular, the increasingly common case when Labor must rely on Green support to form a government. The headline, ‘Why a coalition between Queensland Labor and the Greens would work’, isn’t exactly what I would have chosen, but I neglected to supply my own, so I can’t complain. Key paras (including some material from this blog)

both parties need to realise that they are part of the same centre-Left movement. For Labor, that means giving up the idea that the Greens are a temporary irritant that will go the way of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) if they are ignored long enough or abused as “inner-city elites”.

For the Greens, it means accepting that there is no prospect of a Green majority government any time seen and abandoning rhetoric suggesting that they represent an unaligned alternative to a two-party duopoly. 

In electoral terms, the starting point for both parties should be an exchange of preferences in all seats. That starting point doesn’t preclude changes in the case of particularly objectionable (or particularly good) candidates, but it does rule out the kinds of negotiations we’ve seen so many times between Labor and conservative parties, particularly in the Senate. It also rules out the fake piety of Green “open tickets”.

11 thoughts on “Labor and the Greens

  1. I still find the “minority government” bull excrement objectionable. Until the Liberal-National-LiberalNational Parties sort their stuff out and form a single party we will continue to have minority governments all over Australia. You might even call them coalition governments.

    Admittedly the argument that those governments don’t work is much more plausible.

  2. I’ve got nothing to say one way or the other about the general merits of your position, but now that we know the results of the Queensland election (or near enough), I doubt they will give any impetus at all towards the Queensland ALP changing its tactical approach to relations with the Greens, which (despite defeat in South Brisbane) I expect them to perceive as vindicated.

    Meanwhile in the ACT, the ALP is unlikely to find any argument from the election result there for changing their different approach to relations with the Greens, which I expect them to continue to perceive as justified.

  3. Haven’t read the IA article, so this issue may have been covered there, but: are we aware that, in the case of full-preferential voting at least, less than half of voters actually follow their chosen party’s how-to-vote cards?

    As it says in the article, in the survey in SA in 2010 the Greens voters’ compliance with the party’s how-to-vote cards was 14.4%. Pragmatism, not “piety”, is the reason the Greens favour open tickets. There’s no point in wasting money (and trees) on how-to-vote cards if the punters aren’t going to follow them anyway.

  4. If intelligence and good sense prevailed in the Greens and the ALP, they would listen to Professor John Quiggin.The Greens are going to become a very significant party once the deadly serious nature of the coming ecological crisis becomes fully manifest. The Greens may will overtake the Nationals as the natural third party of Australia. The ALP will need a coalition with the Greens to govern in the not too distant future. Both ALP and Greens say they care about people, the workers and the environment. Those are the three biggies. They should be able to agree on that basis. The rest is minor detail by comparison.

  5. … are we aware that …

    What made you choose to insert those words when you could just as easily have chosen to omit them?

  6. Today on ABC TV Insiders program, Labor’s Federal Shadow Minister for Environment and Water, Terri Butler MP, was interviewed by David Speers. IMO, it was a master class in avoiding inconvenient questions.
    See the interview transcript at:

    Terri Butler would not answer whether she thought Australia needed to lift its short-term (i.e. 2030) climate ambition.
    Terri Butler would not answer whether she would like to see more gas used in Australia, or less.

    Is there any wonder why politicians have such a low standing when they won’t give a straight answer?

    The latest climate science suggests (per Earth System scientist Professor Will Steffen):
    • From 2020: No new fossil fuel developments of any kind (coal, gas, oil);
    • By 2030: 50% reduction in GHG emissions; 100% renewable energy;
    • By 2040: Reach net-zero GHG emissions.
    See my comment:

    Earlier today, US CBS News published a video segment titled “2020 is a make or break election for the climate”, including an interview with climate scientist Professor Michael E Mann, and where from time interval 02:06, a graph is displayed showing GHG emissions need to be reduced by 50% by 2030 and near zero by 2040.

    The Laws of Physics don’t ‘care’ about the games that politicians and ideologues play. If Labor wants to take what Terri Butler described as “the sensible approach” then they need to stop playing games and get serious about aligning their emissions targets with the latest climate science.

    What now counts is what we/humanity do/does now and before 2030; not aspirations about 2050, or later. Long-term only aspirations are tantamount to denial of an existential climate emergency.

  7. Each year, Greens members participate in a ballot to determine the order of preferences on how to vote cards at any elections occurring before the next ballot. The ballot also includes a question about whether to allow the campaign committee to override that order in the interests of strategy. I always answer “no” to that question as I think deals do more harm than good. The ballot results are secret, so I don’t know how many others take the same approach. I do know that the current campaign committee see preference deals as unethical and unproductive; we should direct our preferences to the candidates we want to win if we are unsuccessful. It’s worth noting that the Coalition-Greens reforms to senate voting mean that preference deals are no longer required at elections for any level of government – back when parties chose where to direct their above-the-line votes, deals were necessary. For completeness, I’ll mention that independents and new parties are placed on the how-to-vote in the order decided by the branch.

  8. seqaugur,

    You always answer “no” to the idea of having a strategy. That’s a poor idea. If the Greens remain uncoordinated how will they become a force? A party ticket is reasonable and sensible if it meets the party manifesto as much as possible. That includes preference deals. The elections are secret ballot. Any individual Green can still vote his own ticket and not the party ticket in his/her electorate if he/she sees a problem with the ticket. The Greens and Labor need to find some common ground. If the Libs and Nats can do it why not Greens and Labor? There will still be issues which the parties can differentiate on. Heck, it’s like the Greens want to fail and want to remain ineffectual small beer with no influence.

  9. Fakes? When it gets down to it, fake greens and fake labour already have long shared preferences for the wealthy neoliberal elites’ agenda. Red tories mixed in with blue greens would make for a drabber voter illusion. A crappy shade of brown, is it? Voter perception depression ensuing to be followed by their seeking maverick choices to bring the whole charade down?. No, the oligarchy shall best leave them as distracting a colourful trick as they are.

  10. Just – accidentally # caught 2x Labor Q’s in question time.
    1) get someome else to redraft questions as zero open ended
    2) ditch QT immeduately.

  11. If the ALP were to even go as far as just an exchange of preferences with the Greens in a few seats then, based on what King finds below about the latest results in Qld, it would surely now kill any chance of an ALP Qld State or Federal election win.

    Cross posted from – – the Elections Open Thread:

    (Borders & MAGA & JWH’s we will decide…battlers)
    Exodus from One Nation helped Palaszczuk, but will it do the same for Albo?
    MADONNA KING NOV 17, 2020 – Crikey

    Support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was decimated at the Queensland election, but it’s where those votes now sit that holds a clue for the federal campaigns of both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.

    Morrison knows Queensland helped hand him victory last time round, in the same way Anthony Albanese knows he must win back a swag of seats in the north if he’s to take the treasury benches.

    Just consider this: there is not one Labor seat north of the Brisbane River to the tip of Cape York. It’s a sea of Morrison blue. At the moment.

    But what happened on October 31 was not just an historic third term victory for Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Labor team. It also showcased the waning influence of Pauline Hanson in the state that made her famous.

    At its zenith, One Nation boasted 11 seats in the legislative assembly, and recorded 23% of the vote.

    Despite running 90 candidates this time around, it boasts only one MP, holding onto the seat of Mirani. More crucially, it copped a 7% swing against it across the state, raising real doubts about whether it can play any substantial party political role going forward.

    But here’s the thing: while it’s readily labelled a right-wing party, that only tells half the story. One Nation supporters have shown no real monogamy in terms of voting allegiance. Some of its members want the conservatives to be more conservative, but just as many others believe big government — Labor and Liberal — has lost its way and One Nation has been the noisy chihuahua to nip at its heels.

    Once upon a time, the party’s preferences favoured the conservative side of politics, but there are just as many examples — perhaps more — of that not being the case. And on October 31, Palaszczuk’s strong border stance brought One Nation voters back to the Labor fold.

    That now means those votes are up for grabs federally, in a move that will almost certainly set the tone, some of the policies, and a chunk of the campaign strategy, for both federal parties…


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