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I’ve Seen This Movie Before: A Warning for the Albanese Government

Having lived through the last Labor government where the Greens were involved, I am cautious about how the Greens, with their increased influence, will behave under the Albanese government. Leader Adam Bandt spoke of a ‘green-slide’ on election night, despite the party holding roughly 3% of the seats in the House. The popular conception of the Greens is as a ‘non-governing party’. A minor party in the true sense of the word. I say this not to disparage the Greens, merely to acknowledge the reality of their very small numbers in the House.

I want to look today at a piece in the SMH dealing with the rise of the Greens in the recent election.

Background: The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – Unreasonable?

The Labor Government elected in 2007 was keen to introduce a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), later demonised as the ‘carbon tax’. The statement was not accurate of course, but when did that ever stop the LNP? But back to the Greens. The Guardian outlined the timeline of events surrounding the fall of the scheme, and the role of the Greens in that process. Even under threat of a double-dissolution, the Senate still rejected the scheme a second time, seemingly because it was not up to the standards of the Greens.

While there is an argument of ‘if you plan to do it, do it right’, the Greens did not seem to acknowledge that compromise is the essence of practical politics. One may ask for much more than one wants in a negotiation, but there is a limit. It is for this reason that the Greens earned the ire of certain political observers. Their policies are rarely costed since it is known that they will likely never be implemented.

The Election Result: Ideology and The Structure of The House of Representatives

All seats in the House of Representatives (the House) have now been called. Labor will govern with a majority of 77 seats. The LNP have 58 and the remaining 18 are shared between the Greens, the Teal Independents and the Others. The Greens have four seats out of 151. Hardly the ‘green-slide’ that Mr Bandt declared.

The SMH article asks this question of all the parties

when it comes to ideology, how much is enough?

The Greens seemed to be the most ideological at the election, with Labor a close second. The Lliberals, as normal for Morrison, stood for precisely nothing. Given the Greens’ increased share of the vote (roughly one in eight), something more ideologically stringent (whatever one thinks of their policies) was the order of the day.

I want to turn briefly to the Liberals and ideology at the recent election. The piece referenced above makes an interesting observation on Morrison and his rise in the LNP

Morrison’s philosophical and ideological vacuity was not an accident. He was chosen out of panic after the Liberals had worked through Abbott, whose most successful setting was negative, and Turnbull…

Faced in 2018 with the prospect of Peter Dutton taking over, the party room gave the nod to Morrison, renowned by his colleagues for having zero ideological attachments beyond his existence as a Liberal.

That last clause is decisive: the decision to place Morrison in leadership was based on his being an empty vessel. He believed nothing beyond being a Liberal. If one may assign a core belief to Scott Morrison, it was in power. As Sean Kelly made clear in his (highly recommended) book The Game, Morrison saw politics as a match between two teams, where winning, rather than good policy, was the goal. This, however, is not an ideology.

Ideology on Steroids: The New Greens

The piece goes on to state

To hear him [Bandt] and his new MPs advocating for the immediate introduction of their climate change stance, you’d think the entire nation had voted Green, not one-in-eight voters.

It is correct to chastise Bandt and his troops for what is, by any other name, entitlement around the implementation of their policy. The party has four seats in the House. This is hardly a mandate. Their slightly increased share of the vote looks to be going to their heads. We have seen this movie before under a previous Labor government. The Greens, who have some good ideas, forget their place as a tiny minority in the grand scheme of things. The Senate is another matter, however. The Greens have at least twelve senators, so on that front they should be taken more seriously. However, the role of the Senate is different to that of the House.

The Prime Minister Responds: Albanese and The New Greens

In another SMH piece, Mr Albanese ruled out negotiating with what he called ‘fringe groups’, including the Greens. The context here was the event of a hung parliament. Interestingly, this did not change after the election. Mr Albanese said that he had confidence and supply secured, and did not need to negotiate with the Greens. The assurance of confidence and supply was presumably a reference to some of the Teal Independents. If this is the case, this lends more credence to the idea that at least some of the Teals are not just Liberals in cheaper suits.

I suspect that The Prime Minister has seen this movie before as well. He is trying to avoid being beholden to the Greens, and it is easy to see why. Having witnessed the destruction of the original CPRS by a Senate where the Greens held much sway. He does not wish to be in a place where he can be dragged too far in one direction or another. With majority government (including, if he desires, a Speaker) now secure, being beholden to the Greens (in the House at least) is now a dead letter.

Conclusion: Learn from History or Repeat It

The newly minted Prime Minister and his government seem to have learned the lesson from ten years ago. They are not willing to be beholden to the Greens because they know how that plays out. This is not to say that the Greens should be utterly shut out. Some of their policy ideas are positive (expanding Medicare to include mental health and dental care for one). But they should not be allowed to demand their policies be implemented when they received a tiny percentage of the vote. Who do they think they are, the Nationals?

More seriously, the lesson of allowing small minority parties to have large influence over policy is not a lesson that Anthony Albanese has forgotten. Long may this strategic competence continue.

 

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22 comments

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  1. Keitha Granville

    the secret will be to listen to all the sides in parliament, Labor doesn’t have all the good ideas. If they can manage the disparate views whilst holding their line, they’ll be ok. The Greens need to learn the art of compromise, or they will never be a major force.

  2. Ill fares the land

    One serious risk with the Greens is not that they want more on climate change, but that there are many “climate evangelicals” who will be salivating at their new found power. With climate change, more is certainly better but, as pointed out, there is a risk the Greens will refuse to compromise. It possibly won’t have occurred to the “nut job” Greens that had they accepted the Labor scheme, flawed as it may have been, we might not have had 9 years of Coalition disaster and instead of going backwards on emissions, we may have continued to achieve meaningful emission reductions. Doubtless, the Greens still think that was all Labor’s fault. Albanese has some serious issues to grapple with – one point to make is I saw a Bandt interview last week on ABC’s business and he was, to my mind, ranting. Bandt is a smart guy, but he was so frenetic, manic even, that he failed to get the point of some very serious questions, including that stopping an already approved Woodside mine leaves Australia exposed to legal action demanding substantial compensation. Such actions are regularly brought by aggrieved corporations around the world and have a serious impact on government decisions. Whether corporations should have that right is almost moot – they do and they exercise it.

  3. New England Cocky

    An excellent cautionary tale ….. the absolute certainty expressed by city boy Brandt sadly reminds me of 1920s Germany when a young Austrian talked a lot in beer halls with such conviction that he was sling-shotted into prominence with major industrialists and subsequently into political power.

    The uncompromising “My way or the highway” strategy of the Greens buys support from the media-ocrity wanting an easy story to meet a deadline, but does little to promote the best interests of Australian voters. Many commentators suggest that the Bob Brown Convoy to Queensland cost LABOR the 2019 election because North Queenslanders have little time for Mexicans, especially those from inner metropolitan city cellars having little knowledge about country living.

    The earlier Tasmanian experience with a LABOR & Greens ”Coalition” exposed this uncompromising strategy and from memory led to the fall of that state government, with LABOR promising to NEVER EVER AGAIN for many alliance with the Greens.

    So, hopefully in the light of the large number of progressive Community elected Independents in the HoR, the effect of the Greens will be a minimal deleterious impact on government policy.

  4. corvusboreus

    Brandt claims the small increase in GRN primary and addition of a couple QLd HoR seats constitutes a ‘greemslide’ mandate.
    The ALP say they will NEVER AGAIN consider entering into pragmatic alliance with the Greens.
    Both are guilty of blowing shart-bubbles.

    Ps here’s an existent example of practical government through a pragmatic alliance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Capital_Territory_Legislative_Assembly

  5. leefe

    Oh Lord.

    Rudd’s CPRS was not just slightly flawed, it was a totally ineffective set-up that would have paid polluters to do … SFA.
    And I really am tired of people harping on about the Greens helping to put the kibbosh on it and then ignoring how Gillard’s governments went into negottiattions with the Greens and came out with a far better suite of legislation that was highly effective in dealing with the problem. Abbott didn’t need any help from anyone to repeal that legislation.

    We had action. Proper, effective action, that was achieved through Gillard’s mob (largely organised by Albanese) working with the Greens. Rudd’s CPRS would not have survived Abbott any more tthan Gillard’s scheme. The Libs & Nats are why we haven’t had action over the past nine years, not the Greens.

  6. B Sullivan

    “I am cautious about how the Greens, with their increased influence will behave”

    Not increased influence, with their increased representation. You don’t really have a voice in Parliament unless someone is prepared to second your right to that voice. Even then a majority can silence you. The Greens now have three times as many voters as the Nationals, but only four seats to their ten. One and a half million Greens voters to just half a million Nationals voters. The Liberal Party only got twice as many primary votes as the Greens and Labor has less than three times as many. That’s what passes for democracy in Australia.

    “Leader Adam Bandt spoke of a ‘green-slide’ on election night, despite the party holding roughly 3% of the seats in the House.”

    The Greens represent the Green Movement, i.e. recognition that the welfare of the environment under extreme pressure from human impact not only matters but is of crucial importance. The political direction of the Teals is also an indication of that movement. Labor claims to be part of that movement but has lost a lot of electoral support due to its lack of enthusiasm for the cause. The anti-Green Movement Liberals were punished severely. Green-slide looks like a perfectly appropriate description of the election result.

    “The Greens, who have some good ideas, forget their place as a tiny minority in the grand scheme of things.”

    Not as tiny as the Nationals who still have all their 10 seats in Parliament that allows them so much power to sabotage sensible policy. Just half a million people. Yet Australia jumps to their tune in a mad dance of environmental destruction.

    And yes the Greens do have good ideas. They are aware of scientific solutions to the problems we face. Unfortunately there’s a lot of opposition to science in Australia. There may be an old Science Show program still accessible from the ABC archives that Robyn Williams might be able to resuscitate that clearly explained why Kevin Rudd’s carbon emission scheme was just as useless as the Coalition’s and that the Green’s policy was by far the most effective. Yet still the Greens are blamed for not supporting an evidently insincere Rudd’s scam of a policy. Rudd’s refusal to even consult with the Greens let alone negotiate a better policy that they could support is never questioned. The Greens did not “destroy” Rudd’s CPRS, nor did the Greens hold sway over the Senate. Rudd abandoned his policy. He quit. He couldn’t be bothered fixing it so that it would work. With the aid of his fan base in the media it was much easier to blame his failure on the Greens.

    “the lesson of allowing small minority parties to have large influence over policy is not a lesson that Anthony Albanese has forgotten.”

    The Greens had no influence over Rudd’s policy. He arrogantly ignored both them and the voters who supported them. And now the Greens are the third largest minority party after Labor and the Libs. Try not to be misled by the preferential voting system, but no party has a democratic majority in Australia. Labor may have 76 parliamentary seats to the Greens 4, but they barely have 3 times as many primary votes. A grotesque distortion of true democratic representation.

    The signs coming from Albanese are not good. Labor still just doesn’t seem to take environmental concerns genuinely seriously. He has already indicated a preference to do as little as his election promises oblige him to even though support from the Greens and the Teals would allow him to commit to far greater more effective and more democratically representative action. If he hasn’t learned from the lessons of previous governments that he has to do what needs to be done then history will indeed repeat and like Rudd failure will be his only option and the responsibility for that failure, like Rudd, will be entirely his own.

  7. RomeoCharlie29

    The throw-away line ‘ who do they think they are, the Nationals’ is actually quite apposite given the disparity in
    electoral representation for voter numbers between the Nats and Greens.

    A lot of Labor voters support many green policies precisely because they are better than Labor’s. Accepting the 2019 Bob Brown convoy damage and the earlier CPRS fiasco were mistakes the Greens still deserve recognition for supporting some of the principle Albo and Labor walked back from, including a substantial increase in the jobless rate.

    I hope there can be compromise on both sides.
    And what’s this about the Teals being Liberals in cheap suits? I think the Teals might actually be the better dressed.

  8. corvusboreus

    CL,
    Just so.
    It is not just that we must urgently curtail the activities that are escalating the unfolding global crisis (greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental degradation), but we must also urgently adapt to the expected negative changes already locked in through our past activities.

    Wilder weather and ever-rising seas mean that swathes of coastal and alluvial land currently densely populated or intensely cultivated will soon become marginal-permanently inundated.
    This will become evermore apparent, particularly in the next decade as the lunar nodal cycle swings back to max and king tides start really hitting hard.

    If you currently inhabit land below the 10m contour, I recommend you consider relocating by 2030.

  9. wam

    I am hesitant to comment on Dr Jones’ post as I have been vociferous penwise on similar topics for years.
    According to many here I was wrong and ‘annoyingly'(kaycor) repeating myself ad nauseum. eg Booby 2009, 2019 and the floods 2022?
    ps
    Leefe the climate was a compromise of the ALP lemon and the LNP lying rodent via Wong and Turnbull.
    Like the cake which brought howard back, his political loss brought us the deniers.
    The greens, having had nothing to do with the climate plan’s construction, were not obliged to vote for it.
    They declared it was not acceptable and twice joined the deniers to reject it.
    Thus the end of the scheme. The temporary re-visit, under bandit’s blackmail, had terrible consequences for gillard and labor.

  10. Florence nee Fedup

    All we hear is Labor has to work with the Greens. May I suggest the Greens blew it last time and are on their way to blowing it again?

  11. Kaye Lee

    Fact check

    There are 151 seats in the HoR, not 150.

    The Greens had all their policies costed by the PBO and also found savings to pay for them. They were there for all to see well before the election, unlike others I could name. These are for the last two elections.

    https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-05/Australian%20Greens%20Independently%20Costed%20Election%20Platform.pdf

    https://greens.org.au/platform/fair-share

    On the CPRS, Treasury modelling showed there would have been no reduction in emissions for 25 years. It gave billions in handouts to coal companies and big polluters, while it locked in emissions targets that failed the science. It would not have led to any change in behaviour by big polluters, while any future attempt to strengthen the scheme would have resulted in billion dollar compensation payouts to big polluters. Rudd refused to consider amendments. And as leefe pointed out, it was a matter of months before a far preferable scheme was negotiated. It’s demise was due to Abbott, NOT the Greens.

    Phrases like “forget their place ” and “who do they think they are” are not helpful. The majority of Australians are concerned about climate change and want greater action taken by our government – this is not a fringe or extremist issue.

    It is understandable that the Greens are pleased with the election result. As is Labor, It is obvious that the Greens can’t make “demands” of a majority government but it would be folly to ignore them. We shall see if our elected representatives can work together towards solutions or if we will once again see the battle of the egos.

  12. leefe

    Good to see you commenting on this one, Kaye. Solid facts are truly welcome.

    But so much of the rest of the commentary – and even the article itself – just leads me to despair. More of the adversarial, partisan in-fighting that we’ve endured over the last far-too-many years; indeed for most of the time since LJH got in.

    Our energy needs to be concentrated on fiixing the problems we have, not slagging off one another and playing these pointless blame games.

  13. Kaye Lee

    leefe,

    It flabbergasts me. Same with all their internal factional crap. They do deals to appease factions rather than to achieve outcomes.

    Rather than listening to ideas and evidence from all round and evaluating various courses of action for best result, they want ownership. They want to be the ribbon-cutter.

    Labor have started very well. They are not wasting the time before parliament sits which is a great sign. I hope they understand the relief we all feel and the fledgling hope we hold that things can be done better.

    Adversarial conduct doesn’t get results. I am sick of parliament being a stage for strutting theatrics.

    I think the crossbench will be an asset to this parliament and I think the Independents will help bridge the gaps.

  14. Michael Taylor

    I’m with you on this one, leefe. We need consensus. The challenges ahead are far more important than the bickering of the past.

    There are two camps here: 1) Got fingers burnt last time so I’m steering clear, or 2) Got fingers burnt last time but that shouldn’t prevent us from having another go.

    I’m all for number 2.

  15. Phil Pryor

    All political representatives, should recognise other viewpoints so as to reflect a national approach. Some diplomacy and statesmanlike behaviour is needed, but was nonexistent in Morrison and Joyce. The Greens feel triumphant, the independents keen, the ALP wary of carrying the real burden of opinion over decision making, the opposition whingeing and whining through stinko bent media run by a filthy foreigner. Some compromise, consensus, giveway, negotiation, real and deep investigation, professional information and advice, all will be needed, for our sake and that of the nation. Can enough good be done by good will?

  16. Kaye Lee

    Another thing that seems apparent – the rest of the world consider climate change the greatest threat to global security and have welcomed Australia’s increased engagement and ambition. Labor seems to be hearing that message.

    No-one said yay when they heard about nuclear submarines in a couple of decades time. I wish they would admit that weapons of war don’t solve problems – they just make arms manufacturers rich.

  17. wam

    Compromise, as anyone who hears him speak,, is not on the bandit’s agenda. He seeks far more than the extremist greens deserve.. It seems people here want equality of labor and the greens no matter what the cost. Over the last 12 years of the bandit, they have talked well. During elections there glossy pamphlets ‘talk’ well. . They are to be congratulated on winning seats using the right tactics to finish in front of either major party. Eventually, unless Albo exposes the bandit’s con, labor will have no choice but to submit to the bandit.and become unelectable.
    My family work at osborne and they are not rich, Kaye.

  18. Terence Mills

    Crikey had readers suggest titles for books dealing with the Morrison years :

    Belittle Women
    Are you there, God? It’s me, Scottie by Scott Morrison
    Fear and Loathing in Most Places
    A Teal of Two Cities
    Great Expectations (None of Which Were Met)
    Scott Morrison: This is My Wife
    Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, and Were Unafraid to Shout by Katherine Deves
    Bleak Spouse
    Down and Out in Kooyong and Goldstein
    They Paved Paradise and Forgot the Parking Lots

  19. corvusboreus

    “THIS HANDSHAKE IS NON-CONSENTUAL!”
    (A strayan people’s perspective on federal politics from 2019-2022)

  20. Stephengb

    Interesting that the Greens got more votes than the Nationals, but only managed to secure 4 seats.

    The problem with is sort of nit picking is that the system is based on the number of seats.

    The Greens have good policies and some really great people, however and in my view, Bandt isn’t one of them.

    Meanwhile, I admit to have underestimated Albo on a number of occations, Imwas wrong, I have learnt more about him during this last 2 years and especially durng the campaign, I think he will have the measure of Bandt, and indeed Dutton.

  21. wam

    Good arithmetic spin, Stephengb, and you’ll have supporters among other greens who are used to believing that their supporters deserve more members. They conveniently forget they are well above their vote in parliamentary representation, including LNP and labor preferences, in the senate.
    The seats depend on getting over 50% local support whilst the total depends on the number of candidates. But many other shifty cons are propagated in elections, congratulation bandit, well done in Brissie, and in the wash ups afterwards.
    I hope someone has an app and looks at a first past the post result. eg fryberger would be one winner?

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