THE GREENS: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Why Liberals and Labor must preference Greens last
, December 25, 2010
Labor and Liberals have to come to terms with the fact that their common arch-enemy is not each other, but the Greens.
In the August 21 federal election, the Liberals preferenced the Greens in some seats, resulting in Adam Bandt being elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Melbourne.
Labor preferences also led to the Greens gaining several more seats in the Senate, giving them the balance of power from July next year.
However, at the recent state election in Victoria, strong resistance within the Liberal Party and from the Nationals saw Liberal leader Ted Baillieu decide to preference the Greens last. It is now clear that the Liberals gained more in electoral support from this decision than they lost from not gaining Greens preferences.
Labor did not preference the Greens in two upper house regions. The combined effect was to stop the Greens making any gains in the Victorian parliament.
Subsequently, some political commentators have proposed that at future elections Labor and the Coalition should adopt a strong bipartisan approach to putting the Greens last, just as they did with Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party.
The Greens' strongholds are inner-city suburbs. These are a mix of high-income "doctors' wives" areas and former blue-collar suburbs that have become expensive real estate areas now inhabited by tertiary-educated white-collar professionals working in central business districts and by university students.
Many of these voters are thirty-something, highly paid, single or dual income, no kids, a new generation whose schooling and university education have a heavy environmentalist content.
Some 60 per cent of the 9,000 Greens Party members are professionals and 30 to 40 per cent hold masters' degrees or PhDs.
Following the federal election, the Labor-Greens alliance poses serious problems for the Labor Party, particularly from its traditional blue-collar, working family traditional base.
Three decades of deregulation, corporatisation and privatisation of public monopolies such as electricity, water and gas have given the new managers and owners the ability to ratchet up prices. At the same time, the Greens and the environmental lobby have blocked the building anywhere in Australia of new base-load, coal-fired power stations and new dams.
These two influences are now impacting on families as utility prices increase. The cost of electricity is estimated to double within five years. Already in NSW, where a state election is due in March, there is widespread public unrest over the rising costs of living.
This pain to consumers will be magnified as interest rates rise and if other negative impacts of the global financial crisis eventually hit the Australian economy.
Effectively, the Greens are an anti-economic growth, high-tax and radically secular party. They aim to shut all coal-fired power stations and build only renewable and gas-fired power stations.
In reality, there are no tested and proven, major base-load solar- or wind-powered electricity plants working anywhere in the world. Further, renewable energy is very expensive, except for hydro-power. And hydro-power is ruled out, because the Greens reflexively oppose building new dams.
Technologies such as solar panels are expensive. It is the upper-income groups who mostly install such panels, which is taxpayer-subsidised by blue-collar families who cannot afford them.
Labor's attempt to attract Greens voters by pushing environmental policies such as a tax on carbon dioxide emissions and by allocating preferences to the Greens ahead of the Coalition, is clearly helping the Greens win seats in parliaments and thereby giving them a platform.
Indeed, the Gillard Labor Government's agenda is being dominated by the Greens' initiatives on the carbon tax, same-sex marriage and euthanasia - well before the Greens assume the balance of power in the Senate.
The more Labor defers to the policies of the Greens, the more Labor is likely to alienate itself from traditional Labor working families.
Labor could learn a salutary lesson from its sister left-of-centre parties in Europe.
The more the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) made common cause with the Greens, the more the trendy, new class SPD voters decided to vote Greens instead of the SPD. Then, the more "green" the SPD became, the more it alienated its traditional blue-collar base.
Today the German SPD and the Greens are almost equal in the polls. In Sweden this year, the Social Democrats scored their lowest vote since 1911 as voters rejected the so-called "Red-Green alliance".
Writing in the German national daily newspaper Die Welt
(October 7, 2010), reporters Dirk Maxeiner and Michael Miersch commented that choosing Green may the easier way to sooth the guilty conscience that plagues the new elites because of their spoiled lifestyles, but "traditional [SPD] labour voters have almost nothing to do with the green elites".
Australian Labor, beware! An old German folk-saying warns: "Wer sich grün macht, den fressen die Ziegen"
("Those who turn themselves green will be eaten by goats").Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civil Council.
Dirk Maxeiner und Michael Miersch, "Das pastorale Idyll der Hobbits von der SPD", Die Welt
, October 7, 2010.
Dirk Maxeiner and Michael Miersch, "Labour's Green suicide", Die Welt
[English translation], October 9, 2010.