CANBERRA OBSERVED: by national correspondentNews Weekly
Labor belatedly regrets its pact with the Greens
, July 21, 2012
It has taken the Labor Party almost 22 months to come to the realisation that its pact of convenience with the Greens was a catastrophic mistake.
NSW Labor secretary Sam Dastyari opened hostilities, accusing the Greens of “having no values”, and declaring the party as “bordering on loony”.
Mr Dastyari called for his party to no longer automatically favour the Greens in any future preference negotiations — provoking outrage from the Greens.
The Labor party official told Macquarie Radio: “These people aren’t our friends, they don’t share our ideology, they don’t share our values, they don’t share our history.
“I think for too long the Labor party, particularly in NSW, has really been giving the Greens a free ride. A lot of the Green agenda isn’t in the interest of Labor voters.”
Other Labor figures have chimed in against the Greens alliance, including the AWU’s Paul Howes, who helped install left-wing Julia Gillard as Labor leader and instigated the ALP’s same-sex marriage policy change.
Howes’s political formation was as a militant Trotskyite activist, but, having joined the AWU as an organiser, is now considered “right wing”.
Julia Gillard’s desperation to form a government after the 2010 election saw her enter into an ill-conceived coalition with the Greens that has resulted in Labor being stripped of hundreds of thousands of votes and set up a scenario of possible electoral oblivion at the next election.
The worst part about the signed agreement that gave Bob Brown more power and influence and access than any member of the Labor Party to the Prime Minister, was that it was unnecessary from the start.
The Greens were never going to side with the Coalition, especially not with Tony Abbott. They would have backed Julia Gillard and given her their vote in both the House of Representatives and on almost everything Labor wanted in the Senate.
But, in the single greatest mistake of her prime ministership, Ms Gillard decided to make the Greens the Labor government’s junior coalition partner with a deal that included introducing a badly-constructed carbon tax that will “gift” around $11 billion in blank cheques for eco-friendly businesses to build post-carbon energy technology.
This was in addition to the creation of the supposed “market mechanism” of putting a price on carbon designed to level the playing-field between “old” carbon industries and new low-carbon industries.
Either Ms Gillard exhibited poor political judgment in signing the pact with the Greens or is deep down sympathetic to their ideology.
Yet, while the Greens have used their position to extract all sorts of policy concessions from the Labor Party, from same-sex marriage to new privacy and media restriction laws, they have used their privileged position to advance their own political agenda.
At every turn the Greens have chosen to criticise Labor when it suited them, to claim credit for Labor’s policy initiatives when it suited them, and to differentiate themselves when it suited them to show they are more principled and more compassionate than Labor.
The crunch for Labor came with the parliamentary debate on asylum-seekers at which both the Coalition and Labor had finally come to the conclusion — but by different means — that the best way to stop asylum-seekers drowning at sea was to re-establish offshore processing.
However, the Greens’ “pure” approach was to maintain that onshore processing was the only humane way to treat people seeking asylum in Australia.
In fact, with people-smugglers now peddling the dream of unimaginable wages, free government health and medical care, housing and other extraordinary benefits, across the sub-continent and elsewhere, the Greens’ option is the one likely to result in the most deaths at sea.
Labor MPs were appalled with the Greens’ behaviour during the debate as they portrayed themselves as the party of compassion refusing to come to Labor’s aid against the Coalition in finding a workable solution.
After months and months of seeing the Greens receive preferential treatment at the cost of the Government’s standing in the polls, Labor MPs let loose.
A series of MPs described the Greens as “extremists”.
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, never a fan of the Greens, chimed in during the attack, declaring that the Greens ‘‘don’t stand for a strong business sector, with a focus on jobs’’.
‘‘Every project they succeed in knocking over, they regard as a victory — irrespective of the consequences, especially in regional Australia,’’ Mr Ferguson told the Melbourne Age. ‘‘My position’s well known — I’ve got no truck with the Greens.’’
Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr said the Greens ‘‘can’t be trusted on questions of economic management or national security’’, while Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said Labor and the Greens had “different values and different policies’’.
Labor has made up its mind about the Greens. Only one person’s voice on the matter is waiting to be heard.