I can hear the howls provoked by that headline already but hear me out.
History shows us that the Greens often drag Labor, kicking and screaming, to where they need to be.
Take marriage equality.
This had been a Greens policy for years but, as recently as 2012, a private members bill from a Labor backbencher got only 28% approval in the lower house with both Gillard and Swan voting against it, though I believe Shorten voted yes.
Or a federal anti-corruption watchdog.
In February 2017, at the second reading of the National Integrity Commission Bill 2013, Senator Scott Ludlam gave the following speech:
In 2010, Greens Senator Bob Brown introduced the National Integrity Commissioner Bill. In 2012 our member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, introduced a similar bill into the House of Representatives. In 2013 Senator Christine Milne introduced a National Integrity Commission Bill. In 2015 Senator Rhiannon introduced a motion calling for a national anti-corruption body and political donations reform. I can remember sitting here on the crossbench and having that motion voted down by the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. If my memory serves me, a substantial number of crossbenchers supported the Greens and of course the major parties did not. In 2016 Senator Rhiannon reintroduced the National Integrity Commission Bill. How long is this debate going to need to run for?
Labor Senator Jacinta Collins said they were still thinking about it.
“Labor is open to the idea that a dedicated federal anticorruption body may be required but, at this stage, a case for one has not been made and it definitely has not been made through the discussions on this bill.”
Yesterday’s National Press Club Address revealed that, finally, Bill has come to the party.
Dying with dignity is another long-held Greens policy.
In August 2013, SBS reported “The Labor Party says euthanasia is a sensitive and complex issue and that members of the community have strong concerns about dying with dignity, compassion and with minimal pain. Labor won’t amend existing Commonwealth laws or seek changes to State and Territory laws at this time which state that euthanasia is illegal in Australia.”
But now the Victorian Labor government has passed the bill, similar legislation was defeated by one vote in Tasmania, South Australia and NSW, and the Queensland government is under pressure to join the debate.
The Greens have an optimistic renewable energy goal of 90% by 2030.
The former Labor government set a target of 20% by 2020. Bill Shorten has announced a goal of 50 per cent of our electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030.
Other countries are more ambitious, like New Zealand whose goal is 90% by 2025 or Denmark who are aiming for 50% by 2020.
Asylum seekers is one area where Labor won’t budge, still licking their wounds from the Stop the Boats campaign.
But they must have a strategy for dealing with the refugees on Manus and Nauru if the Coalition fail to find them homes before the election.
And they must have a policy that reflects the obligation to provide safe haven for people fleeing war and oppression rather than demonising them for their manner of arrival. The best way to put people smugglers out of business is to give asylum seekers ways to get here legitimately. If we reduced the 457 visa rorting, we could accommodate a larger humanitarian intake and employ people to assist them to settle in, perhaps initially, for some, in regional communities who express a willingness and have the capacity to help.
The Greens cop a lot of flak as being job-destroying populist loonies, but it’s informative that, over time, others come to agree with what they have been proposing all along.
I do understand the bad blood that campaigning for the same cohort of votes has given rise to. Die-hard Labor members do not want the Greens to compete for the progressive vote and resent them fielding candidates in Labor-held seats. They also accuse them of scurrilous tactics, but I am yet to see a campaign from any party free from the mud-slinging, misrepresentation and dirty tricks that sadly now typify every election.
I don’t expect, or even want, any formal coalition but it would be useful on a policy front if Labor recognised that, in many areas, the Greens actually represent the direction in which community expectations are, or should be, moving.