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Issue #1583      February 27, 2013

Greens/ALP break-up sharpens “get the Greens” agenda

Greens leader Christine Milne’s announcement last week of the break-up of the political relationship with the Gillard government was no bombshell. In fact the guarantee to support confidence votes and supply still stands so, in most regards, life goes on as if nothing had happened. Commentators note that both parties would welcome the opportunity to distance themselves from the reputation of the other in the electorate. They will be free to “be themselves” in the lead-up to the federal election on September 14. But there is a disturbing element in the background to the split – the drawing together of the ALP and the Coalition to try and neutralise the Greens as a political force.

Greens leader Christine Milne.

Milne used her address to the National Press Club to set out the grounds for the unusual divorce. There was the mining tax that raises hardly any revenue, the carbon tax that goes soft on big polluters, the backing given to coal seam gas projects, the refusal to stop mineral exploration in Tasmania’s Tarkine wilderness, the offshore detention of refugees, the forcing of single parents onto the dole and a general lack of transparency.

“[Labor] has embraced the agenda of Gina Rinehart, it’s embraced the agenda of Rio Tinto and Xstrata,” Milne said. “They don’t care about people and the environment and that’s exactly what’s showing up here with its over-generous compensation to allow polluters to keep on polluting.”

Gillard was not smoothing any ruffles, either. She previously described the Greens as a “fringe party” and she returned to this theme with gusto. “At the end of the day, the Greens party is fundamentally a party of protest rather than a party of government,” the PM said. “I’m not surprised that the Greens party has walked away on the basis of a difference about jobs,” she added in reference to Labor’s support for mining the Tarkine.

The Greens will target Labor voters disillusioned by the federal government’s total embrace of the economic agenda of big business and its continuation of Howard’s reactionary social attitudes. Labor will try to win back supporters who have been duped by the corporate media to believe that Gillard has been captive to the Greens and their allegedly “trendy” concerns.

The Murdoch media, in particular, has been waging a war on the credibility of the Greens but, if the polls are any guide, it’s not working. Support is hovering at around a healthy 11 percent. The handover of the party’s leadership from Bob Brown to the less charismatic Christine Milne has apparently not hurt the Greens in terms of voter intentions. But the party’s future in parliament is not completely in its own hands. Labor and the Liberals are said to be in conversation about cutting the Greens out. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has said he will announce preference decisions closer to the election date but that didn’t stop him from confirming that the Libs definitely would not be giving preferences to the Greens in the seat of Melbourne, currently held by the Greens’ Adam Bandt.

Milne is putting on a brave face. She says her party is aiming to win lower house seats and senate quotas in its own right. That will be difficult and fears are held that Adam Bandt and South Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young might lose their posts. With most commentators already calling the election for the Coalition, the Greens are highlighting the need for a solid vote for them. At Sarah Hanson-Young’s recent campaign launch, former leader Bob Brown warned “Voters have two choices – the Greens retain the balance of power, or Abbott runs riot.”

All these developments take place independently of the needs and wishes of the people, particularly the disadvantaged. Milne was right to describe the two major parties as the “indentured servants” of billionaire mining magnates but the reality is that the Greens have to fit in with this overarching agenda or have an extremely limited role. The party doesn’t have an alternative to the capitalist system whose destructive features it can often identify but can’t grapple with at a more fundamental level. The political force that will do that and set about breaking the dominance of the monopolies hasn’t been built yet. A good Greens vote so that Abbott’s rampage will be restrained to some degree in the senate is undoubtedly important. Far more urgent is the building of the left and progressive alliance in the communities and the workplaces of Australia with a strong Communist Party at its core.  

Next article – Ancient trail links coast to mountain

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