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Tag Archives: The Greens

Now is the time, Mr Morrison.

“In this bucket is my house”, Aaron Crowe tells other unquiet Australians rallying in Macquarie St, Sydney, Tuesday. He lifts an organic compost bin, a repurposed twenty-gallon steel red drum with hand-made wooden lid, a homely relic of former peaceful, rural domesticity, now, destroyed forever, aloft.

The 38 year-old-father tips a few charred, remnants of the two-bedroom home he once built, himself, on to the footpath outside NSW’s Parliament. Crowe and his wife, Fiona Lee, journey 323 kilometres, from Warrawillah, near Bobin, SW of Port Macquarie, to call MPs to account; confront them with the truth.

A powerful, personal, rebuke to the spin-doctors and MSM who drown real voices out of public discourse

Crowe’s gesture is eloquent testimony to a terrifying new bushfire season and a call to authorities, especially NSW state politicians in charge of funds and resources that it’s time to get real about climate science. Communicating climate science through our commercial media with its spectacularisation at the expense of underlying issues, its government media drops and its climate denialism is now impossible.

The challenge of communication has been taken up by independent media, social media, conferences, public meetings and personal protests. No wonder our anti-activist PM has these in his sights.

Crowe testifies to how global warming has bred extreme bushfires against which there is no defence.

“We had ample time to prepare and they’re talking about hopes and dreams, thoughts and prayers, miracles and heroes – it’s not realistic. This is not about unicorns and fairies, this is about people’s lives, it’s only going to get worse.”  Yet Aaron Crowe’s plea is waived aside by his premier and his PM.

Now is not the time to talk about climate change chorus NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and PM Morrison, Tuesday. Bushfire survivor, Badja Sparks contextualises this for The Guardian Australia.

“Today is not the day to talk about climate change.” No, yesterday was, or the day before, or the month before, or the year before. But it didn’t get a mention.

Now we have the reality, and the mention it gets is: “Don’t talk about it now.”

So the politicians (and the media) turn the talk to hazard reduction burns, or the lack of them, as something else to blame on the “inner-city raving lunatics”.

“We had a bushfire two months ago that burned most of our property. It didn’t matter. It burned again.”  Badja attests to a terrifying new type of fire that defies traditional means of control. A crown fire roaring in from the west on a hot afternoon with an 80km/h wind – it wasn’t on the ground. It was a firestorm in the air – raining fire. There was no fuel on the ground; it was already burned.

“Now is not the time” is a tactic the US National Rifle Association (NRA) uses to silence of debate.

NRA “spokespersons” or “public faces” such as Dana Loesch are quick to claim  “now is not the time to talk gun control” after so many of the 36,000 plus annual fatal shootings that make USA’s rate of death by firearm the highest in the developed world. Clearly, not talking works – for the gun lobby.

And for the government. Coalition shill, Chris Kenny in The Australian declares, “Climate alarmists are brazen opportunists preying on misery.”  Pushing the Morrison government’s political barrow he writes,

“Climate alarmists are using tragic deaths and community pain to push a political barrow. Aided by journalists and others who should know better, they are trying to turn a threat endured on this continent for millennia into a manifestation of their contemporary crusade.” 

In “more of the same just more of the same” false equivalence, Kenny’s failure to research any of the characteristics that make the current fires unique does his readers a dangerous disservice.

So, too, does what was once the party of the bush, The Nationals. Now the burnt out people of the bush feel increasingly betrayed by National Party MPs. All MPs. Crikey’s Guy Rundle argues that the Nationals have made themselves the enemy of rural Australia’s survival. Catastrophic fires occur so often now that they are “beginning to wear down the resistant scepticism of large areas of rural Australia”.

When country folk could once pride themselves if not define themselves on the thought that city folk didn’t know what they were talking about, the reality of drought and bushfire has caused a re-think.

Increasingly extreme weather; the lived experience of rural voters tests their dogged loyalty to The National Party and its blind faith in climate science denial. It’s at odds with their own everyday reality.

Undermined is the nub of rural identity which values bush experience and concrete realities over abstract science. Now that rural National voters’ bushfire experience is matching scientists’ warnings, Rundle perceives a weakening of “folk denialism”; traces an awakening of respect for climate science.

It’s complex. Adding to voters’ alienation is the Nationals’ support for mining over farmers. On Channel 10’s The Project, Waleed Ali stumps Michael McCormack in March when he challenges the deputy PM,

“Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Within the network of influence and lobbying which mining holds over the Coalition, Rundle traces a moment when the Nationals as an organisation lost interest in representing their agrarian community.

“Former party leader Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas. His successor in the Nationals, Mark Vaile, now sits on the board at Whitehaven Coal, against which farmers in the Liverpool Plains have staged hundreds of days of blockades. Party scion Larry Anthony was a lobbyist for the Shenhua Watermark mine.”

John Anderson pops up like the White Rabbit on ABC’s The Drum last Friday to falsely claim that “the scientists cannot directly link extreme weather events with climate change”. But they can. And do. And our leaders – must heed them. The Australia Institute economist, Richard Dennis sums up,

Climate change makes bushfires worse. Even if we catch an arsonist who lights a fire, the fact is the fires they light will burn further and faster than they would have if the world had burned less coal, and the temperature was lower than we have made it.

We can manage fuel loads; cut firebreaks, but a fire lit by an arsonist will spread further today. Embers from hotter fires, race across drier ground; spark new fires further from the fire front than ever before.

First the women, younger folk and community leaders are sceptical of the Nationals’ bush mythology. Now, Rundle believes Nationals’ voters’ crisis of faith may harden into one final act of resistance before it cracks irrevocably. Attacking The Greens is one last populist move to regain a show of leadership.

On Monday’s RN Breakfast, McCormack is stung by Greens MP Adam Bandt’s claim that Morrison’s coal-promotion makes him complicit in the suffering of those currently being burnt out by extreme bushfires.

What people need now, the Deputy PM says, is real practical assistance, not “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies”.

To Mid-Coast Councillor, Claire Pontin, McCormack is “just saying silly things”. He and Joyce may have missed this pivotal change in their own constituencies, notes The Saturday Paper’s Paul Bongiorno drily.

The best real, practical assistance McCormack could offer would be to embrace the science. Then he might ask NSW’s premier to reinstate the tens of millions the NSW has cut from state fire services.

Denial, downplaying and disinformation costs lives – especially the myth of false equivalence which holds that both sides are too blame for inaction on climate change, a term which is itself spin-doctored because it’s a neutral substitute for global warming. In fact, it’s pretty much all the Coalition’s own work.

And much of that work was achieved by one man. Tony Abbott seized a personal political chance in 2009, writes The Monthly Today’s Paddy Manning, “sold the truth down the river” and in 2014, pre-figured Trump in becoming world’s first political leader to repeal a carbon price. Abbott then agitated against the NEG, creating waves of instability that helped Morrison topple Turnbull. Not only did Abbott put the nation back at least a decade, his legacy continues in Morrison’s lack of energy policy.

To adapt Katharine Murphy’s phrase, no wonder Morrison’s government doesn’t want anyone to talk about climate science, its own record is one of unmitigated shame and ignominious failure.

Yet McCormack insists we shouldn’t be talking about climate change. “Australia’s always burned”, he says. Nothing to see here. Just bushfires that come earlier, stay longer, burn hotter, higher and spread faster; evolving into a threat, unlike anything we’ve had to deal with before.

The deputy PM follows up with NRA tactic stage two: shift the blame. If only greenies weren’t locking up our state forests for ecotourism, we could get in and cut the fuel load. Yet only nine per cent of NSW is “locked”. Only Queensland is lower with a shameful eight per cent.

Greenies, moreover, have no issue with hazard reduction. It’s climate change itself which increasingly restricts burning off. As the fire season extends, south-east Australia dries out. Opportunities to use controllable, low-intensity fire to burn off the litter become fewer.

Above all, not all forest types are amenable to hazard reduction.  Wet sclerophyll and rainforest, for example, are not fire-adapted and most of the time are too moist to ignite. When they are dry enough to burn, it is too dangerous to burn them explains Brendan Mackey, director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University.

This is what the ecological and climate emergency looks like,” says Fiona Lee.  It’s a young couple’s way of calling out the Morrison government for recently voting down an Opposition move to declare a state of climate emergency. Dismissing Labor’s bill as “symbolic” and impractical, Energy Minister, Angus Taylor says its “emotive language” ignores everyday Australians’ practical needs. He would know.

Taylor belongs to a government that wilfully ignores practical needs. 23 former emergency service chiefs wrote to Scott Morrison, in April, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the serious threats facing communities this fire season due to climate change. In September, they wrote again. All were rebuffed while federal MPs rubbish any attempt to have a national state of climate emergency declared.

A hyper-partisan, Morrison government irretrievably stuck in campaign mode politicises the issue:

Labor is making a huge song and dance about declaring a climate emergency, but refuses to commit to a single policy in this area from the last election,” jeers Taylor.

Meanwhile, a ferocious new fire burns across the land, defying all traditional forms of management and causing the NSW government to declare a state of emergency, Monday. 500 homes are destroyed in one week. The fires are unprecedented in length, extent and intensity.

62 fires are burning across NSW, 56 of which have not been contained, ahead of a heatwave predicted for Tuesday which could see temperatures reach the mid-40s.

A “once in a century fire” is burning for the third time in ten years, a frequency which threatens even the false complacency nurtured by National Party retail politicians, such as Barnaby Joyce whose mantra is that bushfires and drought are just a feature of life in the bush, or that someone or something else is to blame. This week it’s The Greens again and or the sun’s magnetic field and or bad hazard reduction.

As it destroys life, property and virgin natural bushland, however, the terrible new fire threatens one of the bastions of climate change denialism itself, The National Party of the bush which is also under siege from drought and double-digit unemployment is losing credibility as its constituents experience first- hand the conditions climate scientists predicted. Will it also be the death of the National Party? If so, reflects Crikey’s Guy Rundle it will be the only death that is deserved.

“The pressure is now on Scott Morrison to resolve the fierce resistance in his own government’s ranks and respond with policies that persuade voters – thousands of them victims of this week’s inferno – that the federal Liberals and Nationals get it.” Paul Bongiorno notes.

Eastern NSW is ablaze. Bush fires, bigger and more ferocious than any Australia’s experienced before, include crown fire, an eighty kilometre an hour aerial firestorm – there’s no fuel left on the ground – raze a million hectares; cut a swathe of destruction already equal to that of the last three fire seasons combined. Areas burn at an intensity and in a season never seen before, says ecologist, Mark Graham.

A million hectares burn in NSW alone. Queensland and other states face the biggest fire front in Australia’s history. Catastrophic conditions are forecast for Sunday in four WA regions: east Pilbara coast, west Pilbara coast, east Pilbara inland and Ashburton Inland.

Catastrophic fire conditions is a recent forecast category which arose from the inquest into Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday Fires in which 173 people died.

“It’s a treacherous combination of gusty winds, high temperatures, low humidity and extreme dryness. Any fire that ignites will quickly reach intensities and move at speeds that place properties and lives in imminent danger,” writes Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, ARC Future Fellow in the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. Her definition could be a summary of global warming’s role.

So far in NSW, six people have died, nearly 500 homes have been destroyed, reports the Rural Fire Service (RFS).  That’s more than double the previous most severe bushfire season in 2013-14, when 248 homes were lost. More than 1,650,000 hectares have been burnt across the state — more land than during the past three bushfire seasons combined. And the fires could rage for weeks.

“It is likely that the fire threat in Northern NSW and South East Queensland will continue for weeks unless significant rainfall occurs assisting fire fighters to extinguish blazes,” says Andrew Gissing emergency management expert with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Up in smoke goes any hope that our nation’s leaders may provide for or protect us. Instead, state and federal MPs rush to hide their blame; circling their wagons to defend their own shameful record of wilful neglect, climate reality denial and how their loyalty to big donors in mining eclipses any civic duty.

Avoidance is the Morrison government’s default position on issues which might involve taking responsibility; facing the fact that anthropogenic climate change is creating droughts, floods and fires.

More alarming is the censorship attempted by the NSW government when it tells its public servants attending a conference on adapting to climate change not to make any link between climate and fire.

It’s all too much for Morrison who vanishes Tuesday afternoon only to bob up Friday in praise of model corporate citizen QANTAS’ 99th birthday and to greet George Brandis returning on the Dreamliner which makes an historic nineteen hour nineteen minute non-stop flight London to Sydney. That’s at least 300,000 litres of fuel return.

The IPCC estimates that aviation is responsible for around 3.5 percent of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects. Luckily MPs have scapegoats.

Joyce adds to the myth that the latest bushfires are caused by The Greens’ curbing back-burning and fire-hazard reduction despite the fact that climate change has made back-burning too dangerous.

Ever the conservationist, Barnaby recycles the voice of disinformation, populist shock-jock and LNP parrot Alan Jones who blames the fires on The Greens, falsely claiming they had prevented controlled burns. In fact, it’s global warming itself which is preventing controlled burning. Such measures are impossible due to the unique nature of the drought and the very dry conditions.

“Honestly, not today” calls NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as a reporter, who had previously been speaking to couple asks Scott Morrison about climate change. ABC News interrupts Morrison’s response.

“In this bucket is my house,” Crowe tells the crowd. “When’s the time to talk about climate change then, if I’m standing in the wreckage of my own house?”

“The time is definitely right for talking about climate change – for me, there has never been a better time to talk about climate change,” his wife tells the crowd outside.

Morrison’s absence for most of last week is an indictment of his failure to lead – as are the comments of his ministers, McCormack and Taylor. What is urgently needed is an embargo on the spin-doctors and a willingness to accept the facts; confront the reality that global warming means a terrible new type of bushfire that demands all of our resources not more of the Federal Coalition’s division and scapegoating.

Above all it means heeding reality; the stories of people like Aaron and Fiona have much to tell us. We cannot afford to brush them aside any more than we can ignore their cries for help.

As veteran firefighters have told Morrison, we will need to put in a lot more resources if we are to deal with the new levels of devastation, the new fires are bringing. His government and all state governments need to start listening. Act on expert advice. Twenty years ago would have been good but now is the next best time.

 

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In defence of Pauline

A probably unpopular take on the return of the female redhead who challenges our parliament and how we see ourselves as Australians.

Ms Hanson would have got in anyway. The changes to the senate rules didn’t make her return any more likely.  What made it inevitable was the failed economic and social policies of state and federal governments that led the same anti-modern voters who elected Ms Hanson 20 years ago to come full circle.

Brief History
After Ms Hanson was ‘betrayed’ by her own party apparatchiks, these voters tried minor parties.  They muddled about trying to find a voice that reflected their own thoughts. Suddenly Tony Abbott gave them true hope that Australia would return to the halcyon and mythical days of the 1950’s, when men were Men… and White. Then he got the sack, and was replaced with an urbane do-nothing who was completely clueless about what was going on below the executive floor, let alone at the bar in the country pub.

The last few months under Turnbull gave voters time to think. Time to realise that maybe they’d been conned. For years, many of these voters have bought the ‘aspirational’ market-will-provide line trotted out by the LNP… It’s only recently that people are actually figuring out that trickle-down doesn’t work; but don’t yet understand what happened. People voted to stop the boats, and then lost the farm.

This time, just as last time, Pauline Hanson has attracted groups with an axe to grind. The Socialist Alliance, Animal Justice Party, and other groups on the Left are just as guilty of this sin.  It should not call into question the legitimacy of Ms Hanson as a representative, or the legitimacy of those who voted for her.

E-con 101
We are in the midst of another labour-force revolution, coupled with major shifts in social identity. Types and terms of employment are in flux; and so far, no one has any clear answers on how we can transition from where we are into the future. That scares most people. For people who have missed out on a promised life of stability; and who feel marginalised and under siege by changing labour, cultural and social norms, it is terrifying.

Hanson appeals to people who cannot cope with contemporary life, let alone the future; different cultures or skin colour are not really the issue. When pressed only the true believers have problems with race and sexuality.  For the majority, those things are an obvious symptom that they can use to define their position. The real problems come from change, from different ways of thinking, the rise of technology and change in labour, the shifting sands of meaning, being unable to trust the local newspaper (if you still have one).

If you read the One Nation website, it is an almost incoherent rant. It is filled with the confused and bitter ramblings of everyday people, who have no comprehension of the policy and economics that have led to their current condition. This is a group of people who have no particular political, economic or social ideology.  They thought our society was still based on the True-Blue, Fair-Go, rustic simplicity represented by the 1950s. Now they have awoken post GFC to discover that the new century is a complex and frightening place, and they want someone to blame.

We need to accept, despite how they express their concerns; people do have valid reasons to be concerned.  In the last 20 years Australia has become one of the least protected markets in the world.  However, the prosperity promised as result of these changes never arrived. Instead services and businesses have shrunk and vanished. Lives have been whittled away by neo-liberal economics and globalisation from the Right; and shifts in worldview and social justice from the Left.  This is a group of people who are no longer at the centre of Australia’s life, and they have been left to fend for themselves without any help to transition or understand the change.  They feel justifiably marginalised…

…as an intermission, I suggest you all take a moment to watch THIS and then come back.

Peoples is People
Supporters of Ms Hanson don’t see themselves as racist or homophobic; just as their mirrors on the Left probably don’t see themselves as social fascists.  They are just humans who are uncomfortable with diversity, and don’t know how to express themselves. The intellectual Left has had decades sitting in ivory towers to reform language to accommodate diversity.  For most in regional Australia or outer city suburbs, casual sexism and racism is a way of demonstrating affection.  Labelling a person as racist, sexist or homophobic doesn’t make them so, it only shames… and then angers them. But, again, they do not know how to express their confusion.  Pauline Hanson gives them voice. She is representative of the views of thousands of Australians.  The difference is that she is happy to take money from David Koch to air these grievances in public, rather than just bitching into a pot of Four X.

These Australians (and they exist on the Left as well) don’t care about facts, they just know how they feel. They don’t want to think about consequences, or geopolitics, or climate change, or complexity; they want things to be simple, and they don’t want to have to change. They don’t want to think about policy, they just want government to take care of them; and they will give their vote to anyone who promises to do that. Last election it was Tony, this time it’s Pauline.

The saddest thing about all this reaction to Ms Hanson, is that it didn’t have to be this way. Pro-environment sentiment in the bush is at an all-time high.  The Greens candidate Jeremy Buckingham has large support for his pro-farm stance. The Greens and ALP could have gone into the regions and actually spoken to these people.
If they had heard their grievances, and took them seriously enough to have the lengthy conversations needed to bring understanding, then the past two elections would have been very different.

A classic example of this is renewable energy. Regional and outer suburban manufacturing is collapsing.  Ironically, if a ‘jobs and growth’ argument for renewable energy and action on climate change had been prosecuted more effectively, it’s likely we would be a lot further along to reaching our emissions target.  Instead we are facing the prospect of a Royal Commission into climate science.  All because no one bothered to address the dog-whistling from the Liberals, and actually explain the issues and opportunities.

The shrill and uncompromising front presented by angry voters is just that; a front. However, while anti-corporate ranting is accepted without question; too often intellectual and urbane progressives have not bothered to engage with the people Ms Hanson represents, purely because of their views on social policy.

Which is unfortunate, as those views are rarely concrete, and more often simple, easy targets for confusion and anger: It’s a lot easier to blame an immigrant (or a corporation) than unravel the economic and policy choices responsible for ones current state. If anyone took the time to talk, they’d find reasonable, if uninformed people who are willing to give up acting on social prejudice for better work opportunities and better services.

As seen by the non-partisan cooperation between progressive greens groups and conservative farmers in the Liverpool plains or The Great Barrier Reef, on many levels Ms Hanson’s supporters are natural allies against the destructive aspects of corporate neo-liberalism.  If the socially and economically just future we all claim to wish for is to become a reality, complaining about Pauline Hanson isn’t going to help.

If the elections of 2010 and 2013 should have taught us anything, it is that mud-slinging and ignoring citizens only further fractures our society; with serious deleterious effects on our economy, civil society and democracy. If progressive, intellectual, inclusive citizens are truly concerned about what’s happening in regional Australia; then they need to stop criticising and start having conversations.

Will you have to swallow your own prejudices?  Yes.

Will you have to work with people you do not like? Yes.

Will it be hard work?

Yes, democracy is hard work; anyone who tells you different is selling something.

 

Now is the Time for All Good Men and Women to Come to the Aid of the Party

By Allan Patience

This article has been re-blogged from ‘Pearls and Irritations’ with the author’s permission.

Richard Di Natale has called on the Greens to get ready for government. Well and good. The direction in which he is prodding his party is a rare glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak Australian political landscape.

Whether in a coalition (likely with Labor), or in its own right (unlikely), what sort of public policy agenda would a Greens government pursue? It is time for it to come up with a broad and innovative policy agenda; otherwise a completely new political party will have to be created.

The other major parties, Labor and Liberal, have become ossified under the thumb of ideologically blinkered, self-perpetuating elites, the consequence of what Robert Michels once called the “iron law of oligarchy.” The Nationals are mostly irrelevant to mainstream policy debates, but they too suffer from the same organisational malaise as the ALP and the Liberals.

For over three decades now Labor and the Coalition parties have been in obsessive thrall to a neoliberal mindset, utterly insensitive to the havoc that neoliberalism has been wreaking on our economy. However, what they are clearly incapable of comprehending today is that the whole neoliberal (or “economic rationalist”) project is about to come crashing down.

Some of the catastrophes that neoliberalism has unleashed on us in Australia include: stagnating economic growth rates; sharply increasing socio-economic inequalities that are undermining capitalism itself (though, as with most subtleties, this irony escapes most neoliberals); the running-down of vital public services and the devaluing of public goods (for example, hospitals, schools, public transport); the appalling expansion of what were once termed “repressive state apparatuses” (increased powers for police and border protection authorities, state-sanctioned human rights abuses on Manus Island and Nauru, draconian meta-data gathering laws, the use of legally prescribed secrecy by governments to hide what they are really up to); and a society in which a range of social pathologies (family violence, depression, narcissism, drugs, begging, violent crime) are becoming thesine qua non of everyday life.

The licence that big private sector corporations have been granted by successive neoliberal regimes has not resulted in better services, cheaper credit, or widely shared prosperity across the community. As Milton once observed, licence is not the same thing as liberty. Markets are now being crowded out by start-up ingénues and fraudsters while being bullied by big local and overseas corporations intent on feathering their own profitability nests and with little interest in the needs or rights of their employees and consumers.

For example, the billion dollar profits that the big four banks are presently announcing (even as they increase their lending rates) point to the abject failure of the principles of deregulation and privatisation – that neoliberals have boasted endlessly will free up a shackled market, to benefit everybody. In the case of the banks, the only beneficiaries have been their obscenely overpaid executives and a narrow grouping of major shareholders. And, remember, many of those shareholders are offshore corporations.

Consider, too, the myriad private providers of electricity that have exploded on to the scene since the privatisation of energy generation. Neoliberals promised that privatising the delivery of electricity would bring vigorous competition into a previously lazy and cosseted industry, driving down the price of electricity in household budgets. But, as every household knows only too well, this simply isn’t happening. In fact there are now far too may competitors in the market devising all sorts of byzantine schemes to woo customers, while investing in costly advertising and hustling campaigns to cajole bemused and confused customers into signing up with one or other of them. The result has been a shocking escalation in the costs of a fundamental public good – affordable electricity. The privatisation of electricity has been one of the most spectacular of neoliberalism’s disasters.

These are only two examples of many failures by neoliberalism to progress our economy and enhance people’s lives.

So what sort of agenda should the Greens espouse?

Their first priority must be to counter-attack in neoliberalism’s war on public goods and services. Reimposing regulatory constraints on a private sector that is out of control is an impossible task. That horse has well and truly bolted. However, neoliberals love to extol the virtue of competition in the economy. So why not give them some real competition?

This is where Greens should enter the policy debates. They should can mount a political campaign explaining that there is no competing mechanism in the neoliberal quiver to challenge the social destructiveness and economic vandalising that neoliberalism’s privatising and deregulating have unleashed. They need to explain that the only achievement of neoliberal policies has been to oversee capital roaring up the system, not trickling down.

This should be the prelude for advocating a policy of strategically targeted public competition into the so-called “free market.”

The first item on the post-neoliberal policy agenda should be the setting up of a publicly owned bank, to provide genuine competition in the banking industry. Of course the neoliberal beneficiaries of the current banking order will scream like stuck pigs about the unfairness of a publicly owned competitor in their midst, insisting that only they be allowed to compete on that most sacred of neoliberal cows – the fabled level playing field.

Anyway, why must a publicly owned bank be seen as unfairly tilting the economic arena? Its establishment would simply provide more competition to bring the banking field back to an even keel, while returning profits to the community either though cheaper, more consumer-respectful services, and/or profits being invested in public goods (for example, better schools, railways, medical services).

Another strategic area in the contemporary economy is legal services. Thousands of Australians are locked out of the justice system because of prohibitive fees charged by the big law companies that as greedy as the banks. A publicly owned law firm providing cheap and friendly (dare one say compassionate) legal advice would help address the unjust over-representation of social minorities and the poor who are routinely and unjustly the majority victims of the pointy end of the country’s legal system. When did you last hear of a senior partner in a law firm, or a distinguished surgeon, or a bank CEO going to jail?

Other strategic areas in the Australian economy in urgent need of tough public competition include the real estate industry (agents’ costs and fees are a significant factor in pushing up already escalating house prices), medical (including psychiatric) and dental clinics, a publicly owned pharmaceutical corporation (once a dream of the Whitlam government), childcare centres, a government airline, and a comprehensive news and entertainment media agency (an expanded and properly resourced ABC and SBS).

A cautiously progressive introduction of public competition into strategic sectors of the economy would certainly contribute to improving the barrenness of our contemporary public policy environment. As each new public competition agency is settled in, further competition could be contemplated – for example a publicly owned supermarket chain.

And once people realise that this kind of state intervention doesn’t cause the sky to fall in, then even the nationalisation of certain crucial industries could be considered – an obvious example is urban rail networks and road tollways.

Indeed with the institutionalisation of a healthy culture of public competition in the post-neoliberal economy, further private competition could even be encouraged. But any new private enterprises will have to operate on a truly level playing field. Regulators will require them to demonstrate that their services are consumer-respectful and that the efficiencies they promise are genuine, not bogus as so many are right now.

If the Greens are unable to mount a public policy program for the coming post-neoliberal era, then a new political party will be necessary. That will be the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party.

Allan Patience is a political scientist at the Asia Institute in the University of Melbourne.

 

Why can’t journalists ask the obvious questions?

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

We are all frustrated at the lack of scrutiny afforded to our politicians, and in particular to the government’s repeated claims that we have a debt crisis. Why is it, however, that there don’t appear to be any journalists in the mainstream media who have the gumption to simply ask; “Prove it”? One of our readers has circulated a letter to the independent media sites (The AIMN included) asking that we continue to pose the questions that the mainstream media avoids. The reader, James Fitzgerald, makes a lot of sense.

I sent this to the Guardian Australia this morning, and to the ALP and the Greens as well as New Matilda, The Hoopla and Crikey in the hope that someone (or everyone) runs with it. The journalism sentiments apply to you, too:

Hello, thank you for being a part of the Australian free press.

I see, year after year, election after election, from the conservatives and from the progressives, massive sweeping and dour statements about the inherited economy following an election. I would like to make two points to your editorial staff and your journalists in the hope that they will consider these when framing questions aimed at our (generally) economically conservative, politicians:

1. When a government is claiming a huge and unsustainable, inherited debt, how about they provide a list, to the community, of what the borrowings are for and who the borrowings are from? We can then make more informed decisions about the responsible way to service these debts. As it is, we get a load of sweeping statements proclaiming catastrophic debt (and deficit) accompanied by absolutely no details. It is incredibly arrogant of politicians to think that if they tell us finances are bad (or great?) they have no need to provide supporting information. Please request your editorial staff and journalists to question politicians about this and openly challenge politicians to provide correct information supporting their sweeping assertions? A simple list of borrowings, who they are from and what they are for, will allow much better democratic decisions to be made.

2. Can you also encourage your editorial staff and journalists to question why politicians appear to place more importance on a healthy economy than they do on a healthy society? To my understanding, a healthy economy will naturally follow-on from an established and healthy society. Commerce is (merely) a tool of society, so it should stand to reason that if society is strong, healthy and prosperous the economy will naturally follow. Please question politicians about what social benefits their economic decisions will provide (and to whom).

A wonderful man called Ian Plowman, when confronted by a decision, teaches us to ask: What is the benefit for our grandchildren’s grandchildren?

Again, thank you for your contribution to the spread of balanced, truthful and inquiring information in Australia and the world. I will also send emails with these two ideas to progressive politicians and to some independent, online news outlets so that they may ask the same questions of Abbott, Hockey and Cormann. They may also ask Abbott if he knows what brand of cigars the other 2 smoke when celebrating?

Best wishes,

James Fitzgerald

Greens fringe dwellers

“The Greens vote is complex”, writes Douglas Evans in this analysis of not only where their votes come from, but likely to be found in the future.

A recent AIMN article by Sir Scotch Mistery included the following quote:

Some vote Green, but the vote is meaningless we are told, even though almost 12% of the population vote for them. Why is the 12% so meaningless? Labor gets into bed with Bob Brown and others with ethics and vision, and are immediately held up as some sort of traitors. But no one, even Antony Greene, of the ABC, can explain why that vote is wasted.

This struck some resonances with me and prompted a comment in response to the article that became the basis for this article. As a fringe dweller, more an observer than a participant, I’ve got a few (shamelessly partisan) thoughts about the Greens. My former Federal MP Lindsay Tanner apparently agreed with the ‘experts’ Sir Scotch refers to. Tanner liked to say that voting for the Greens was just “shouting from the sidelines”. Of course that was just before the shouting got a little louder in 2010 and his Labor successor in the prized ALP Seat of Melbourne was defeated by Adam Bandt. In 2013 of course the shouting became positively deafening when Bandt repeated this feat without the aid of Liberal preferences.

The most recent Age-Nielsen Poll has the Greens on 17% nationally (up 5%) mostly apparently (and counter-intuitively) on the back of disaffected L-NP voters. In WA apparently the Greens lead Labor in the polls 27% to 20% currently and over the weekend with Labor still engaged in its own life and death struggle to reform itself, Christine Milne called for reform of the Greens constitution to give more power to members in formulating policy. This in a party that (in Victoria at least) already formally and regularly, as a matter of course, invites the participation of members in policy formulation.

After the decline in the Greens vote experienced in the 2013 and yet another tiresome round of finger wagging predictions of the end of the ‘accursed Greens’ both in the MSM and online, Scott Ludlam’s re-election in the WA Senate rerun and a bit of good news in the polls is welcome to an ageing Green like me. But just as the doomsayers are continually wrong with their predictions of the end for the Greens so the cheerleaders hoping for the triumphant rise of Australia’s social democrats would be wise to take a deep breath.

Despite these positive signs it would not be sensible to get too optimistic. No-one should assume, either that the the size of their vote will correspond closely with the number of seats they win, or that their vote will continue to grow steadily. It is a striking illustration of how uneven the Australian political playing field is that around 10% of the primary vote delivers a single lower house seat (out of 150) to the Greens while 4.29% of the primary vote delivers nine seats to the Nationals.

The Greens have experienced such swings in the polls in the past only to fall back to what appears to be the baseline 10% of the primary vote. Nevertheless, The Greens vote is complex. People vote Greens for all sorts of reasons. Many find a policy agenda that prioritizes environmental responsibility, social justice and compassion attractive. Some ageing social democrats like me, who believe this is what the Labor Party should stand for but increasingly doesn’t, are encouraged to find it is still possible to vote for a party that reflects these principles and is not simply the least-worst option. Many find it energizing and refreshing to be around an organization with a positive agenda that still, in the face of darkening times, has faith in the possibilities of the future and the potential for positive change rather than offering up continually reheated versions of the same-old same-old that has failed us in the past. The irreducible core of the Greens vote, about 10% of the electorate seems (to me) to be firmly based on these factors.

Then there is a soft vote that will come and go. Some whose natural habitat is either the steamy L-NP swamp or the scorching ALP desert have found themselves so disturbed by individual policies on, for example asylum seekers or climate change that they have moved to the Greens at least temporarily.

Some have voted for the Greens simply because they are not either of the two old parties that so many Australians are so very tired of. A large chunk of this group (which is politically pretty disengaged) is fundamentally conservative. These deserted the Greens in the last election when Palmer showed up on the horizon offering them a conservative alternative to the L-NP. Others (who are basically Liberal ‘wets’) close their eyes tight and vote for the Greens because they profoundly disapprove of what Abbott and his bunch of goons are doing to their Party and they can’t bring themselves to vote for Labor – the old enemy.

Others have voted for the Greens because they have seen them as the new-on-the-block-little-guys sticking it up the tired old tweedle dum and tweedle dee parties in Canberra. For these people the sight of the Greens actually wielding some power both in Canberra and Tasmania (Oh no they are a political party after all!) was disturbing and at the last election these voters deserted for The Pirates, the Animal Liberation Party, the Sex Party etc.

The breakdown of the most recent Age-Nielsen Poll is informative. While about a quarter of Australians between the age of 18 and 39 suggest they will vote Greens, the percentage of older Australians who would do so falls away strongly until apparently only about 10% of the oldest cohort (55+) votes for the Greens.

By contrast Labor scores around a third of the vote across all four age groups. The L-NP coalition captures about a third of the vote from the two youngest age groups but this increases until about a half of the oldest age group say they would vote for the mad monk and his band of merry pranksters. If this breakdown were to be maintained for a decade or so natural attrition would see the Greens steadily increase their vote to somewhere north of 20% Labor marking time in the mid 30s and the Coalition falling back to Labor.

The Nielsen poll is consistent with research for the Whitlam Institute carried out in 2011 by Dr Ron Brooker which examined the voting intentions of young voters (18 – 34 age group) prior to a series of Federal elections from 1998 to 2010. This showed the following:

  • Those intending to vote for the ‘old’ parties declined by about 10%, from somewhere north of 40% in 1998 to around 35% in 2010.
  • Those intending to vote for the Greens increased by about 18%, from around 5% in 1998 to roughly 23% in 2010.

The study shows that young voters are the natural core of support for the Greens and perhaps the vehicle for expanding the vote. It notes the substantial, possibly determinative, impact’ of the youth vote ‘on the outcomes of the 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 Federal elections.’ However it also notes the volatile nature of the youth vote as reflected in dramatic swings both to and from the Greens over the whole period.

The study argues that the electoral volatility of young Australians reflects that they ‘are strongly values driven and their attachment is to issues rather than traditional political organization.’ They ‘tend to … make decisions based on whose proposal or offer best fits their values on their issue of priority at a given time.’

The youth vote is electorally powerful but volatile. However it is also increasingly disillusioned with the political process. Half a million of them did not register to vote in 2013 and many more of them are presumably among the roughly 3% of Australians who deliberately voted ‘informal’. The rewards are rich for the political party that captures the attention and support of this group, particularly those currently opting out. The conservatives, in government, are focused on the establishment of ‘Australia Inc.’ for the benefit of their backers. Factions permitting, Labor in opposition might finally seriously begin to address its own deep structural and spiritual malaise. With the attention of the ‘old’ parties focused elsewhere and support for both falling among young voters anyway, neither are likely to make headway growing their support among this group. Both Scott Ludlam’s and Adam Bandt’s re-election campaigns bore strong similarity to independent Kathy McGowan’s successful community based campaign to unseat the unspeakable Sophie Mirabella in the Victorian rural seat of Indi. Taken together with the steady flow of emailed invitations from Adam Bandt’s office inviting participation in issues-based door-knocking and letter-boxing campaigns this suggests to me that the Greens’ approach to consolidating and strengthening their vote aligns precisely with what is most likely to attract the crucial youth vote.

I assume that as the crisis deepens (as it surely will) and both L-NP and ALP show themselves to have no remedies (as I expect to happen) support for the Greens will grow. I believe this will occur not only because of the revealed shortcomings of the ‘old’ parties but also because of the perceived strengths of the Greens. In a piece for Fairfax media discussing the current good news for the Greens Michael Gordon notes that they are being rewarded for not wavering in their policies and priorities.’ I think this is self-evident but this, of course is also the characteristic that marked the Greens as ‘unfit for government’ in the minds of granite brained, finger wagging, conservative political pundits and desperate Labor politicians in the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd soap opera.

However for Greens’ ‘policies and priorities’ to have any effect will mean coalition of some sort with Labor. For this to happen a number of things must change. Labor will have to realize that a Labor primary vote in the mid 30s and a Greens vote in the mid teens (eminently possible in the current climate) might just translate into some sort of progressive coalition government but in the absence of this would probably deliver power narrowly to the coalition.

Labor cannot simply assume that they can continue to disparage their progressive potential allies and float into power in their own right on a raft of Greens preferences. Those days are probably gone. Nor can they assume that they can get their primary vote back up into the 40s from where they might just achieve power in their own right. The breakdown of the Nielsen poll discussed above and the decades long decline in their primary vote to its current position in the mid 30s both suggest that ALP governing in its own right is increasingly unlikely.

They should get busy exploring the possibilities for co-operation and get used to the idea of shared power as an acceptable Plan B. Brad Orgill argued this in his eminently logical but (to me at least) hopelessly politically naïve book ‘Why Labor Should savour its Greens’. They should start exploring the possibilities for re-educating the Australian public who have been conditioned to believe that coalition with the Greens equates to a communist takeover or a pact with the devil. The Greens for their part must learn the hard political lessons of a couple of stints in power in Tasmania and the part they played in the Rudd-Gillard Federal era all of which ended in tears and recriminations.

State elections: something to talk about

 

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Today is a very important day. The states of South Australia and Tasmania go to the polls to choose the direction their respective states will take for the next four years. With the Abbott Liberal/National Government in charge in Canberra, South Australia and Tasmania will decide whether a Labor or a Liberal voice is the right one to represent their interests at the bargaining table.

The South Australian election is shaping up to be an intriguing tale of electoral fortune. The Labor Party, on the back of a 45-55 ReachTel poll, looks set for a loss but they will be buoyed by seat polling in two of their marginal seats showing the election is most certainly not a foregone conclusion. The Marshall-led Liberal Party is trying to end twelve years of Labor rule, and they will be hopeful of picking up the marginals Labor successfully defended in 2010.

The Tasmanian election on the other hand is not a question of who will win. The minority government of the Giddings led Labor Party and the McKim led Greens looks set to end, but will the Liberal Party get enough of the vote to gain an outright majority, or will they need to negotiate deals for a minority government? Will Labor remain the official opposition, or will the McKim led Greens garner enough seats to pass Labor and become the second largest party in the lower house? And what influence will Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party have on the result in the Apple Isle?

Plenty of questions remain on election day. Join the Infinitive’s* live blog with their election analyst Aaron Bakota when polls close and take part in the conversation!

South Australia

Tasmania

* Infinitive is an independent media site supported by The AIM Network.

Slave trade capitalism and the new Republican Party

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Time is a funny thing, especially how the same things seem to happen again and again.

In the early nineteenth century, the young United States of America was heading toward civil war.  The practice of slavery had been accepted, but restrained from spreading further, by the Founding Fathers and the new American constitution. However, with the annexing of the new territories in Kansas and Nebraska, slavery was becoming a major fissure in the cultural landscape of the new nation. During the 1850s one of the presidential hopefuls, Henry Seward made a speech addressing the growing disparity between the wealthy slave owners in the South, and the emerging industrialized society in the north;

“There are two antagonistical elements of Society in America”, Seward proclaimed, “freedom and slavery.  Freedom is in harmony with our system of government and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent.  Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice and with humanity and is therefore organized, defensive, active, and perpetually aggressive.  “Free labour” he said, “demands universal suffrage and widespread diffusion of knowledge.  The slave based system, by contrast, ‘cherishes ignorance’ because it is the only security for oppression.”

The freedom that Seward referred to was the free, or non-slave, workers that toiled in the increasingly industrialized northern cities. What is striking about this passage is just how much the sentiments that Seward expressed resonate today.

Today we appear to be facing a parallel scenario to Seward’s, with a push from wealthy multi-national corporations and northern foreign-owned miners who want to spread their low-wage, low skill, high-profit form of business to every state on the planet.

This aggressive and well-funded movement born in American Capitalism now threatens Australian shores; Maurice Newman, chair of the Commission of Audit, attacks the Australian minimum wage, Tony Abbott dismisses of the importance of penalty rates, education reform is defunded and a ‘review’ is announced into the newly minted national curriculum, all nicely framed by ongoing disinformation from government ministers on the reasons for recent collapses in manufacturing in the southern states, all the while encouraging us to drink the trickle-down Kool Aid.

While these attacks on the backbone of a progressive society continue, it seems that there is little fight from either of the standing opposition parties, the ALP or the Greens.

Can we learn anything from the history of slavery and American capitalism?  And in those lessons is there a blueprint for action that we can take now?

Suggesting that American Capitalism is rooted in the slave plantations of the past is not a new thing.  Slave-grown and picked cotton was America’s most valuable export. Without which silver and gold from England and Europe would not have flowed so readily into U.S. Treasury coffers and the pockets of Northern factory owners, providing the much needed ‘capital’ for the growing nation.  Modern management practices also can be traced back to slavers.  Including time and motion studies, and calculating an employee’s worth against ‘unit labour costs’ to calculate productivity.

From this comes one of the central pillars of American capitalism; the practice of paying as little as possible for labour. With many corporations in America, most visibly WalMart and McDonalds, basing their entire business model on hiring unskilled workers that can be paid the absolute minimum.

The difficulty for the workers is that it is not enough.  Recent debate in the USA has revealed that these corporations access billions of dollars in government welfare through their employees.  Because they do not pay their workers a living wage, employees are forced onto welfare programs like food stamps.  The fast-food industry alone rakes in a government subsidy of roughly $7 Billion per year, with McDonalds even having an employee advice line helping employees sign up to government welfare.  These revelations have gone straight to the core of the argument over a living wage, workers rights and the real corporate welfare queens.

In light of this it can be seen that the only difference between Seward’s “two antagonistical elements” and our own is the deep hypocrisy in the arguments of wealthy ‘job creators’.

American, and Australian, elites insist on their quasi-religious, Ayn Rand infused utopian delusion that, instead of inheriting their wealth and profiting from the intelligence and work of generations of workers, they actually built their entire empires by themselves.  This was perhaps best refuted by Bill Clinton when he responded to attacks on President Obama for his out of context “You didn’t build that”:

“The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made . . . Bob Straus, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. As Straus then admitted, it ain’t so.”

The economy and all the technological advances we enjoy today have been built by the skilled working and middle class that grew from the Industrial revolution in 19th century.  The claim that higher wages hurt business is simply false. It was the massive movement of consumer funds from well paid industrial workers that created the base wealth upon which the post-WW2 industrialized economies have been built.

Without the capital drawn from taxes paid by thousands of workers the ports, rail, and roads built in the 1950s and 60s that transported goods would never have happened. Those same taxes paid for schools that trained up the next generations of skilled employees that businesses could then leverage into creating products and delivering services.

The profits that companies made in the last hundred years were not driven by a select elite purchasing high price items, but by millions of consumers and businesses buying and selling, working and living, increasing demand and driving growth and trade.

When a portion of the population cannot afford to live, then they cannot participate.  When participation in the economy drops so does demand, with employment, trade and profits following soon after.

The rich will always maintain a degree of wealth and privilege.  In many ways the elite still exist in a semi-feudal world where those on ‘their’ lands should be grateful for the opportunity to eke out a subsistence living.   Thanks to their lofty position the wealthy are able enjoy their life regardless of economic conditions, as the businesses that service the wealthy operate in a very different space to the rest of the economy.  They are often able to ride out recessions, and can simply transfer their wealth to another market or country if trade or economies collapse.

The working and middle class, on the other hand, are reliant on trade and education.  The various accountants, tradesmen, managers, shop keepers, artisans, teachers, and lawyers require commerce and constant self-improvement to maintain their standard of living.  Without trade the rich can still enjoy their lands and property without much impact on their life.  However if trade declines or collapses, as seen in the Great Depression and recent Financial Crisis, the middle class and working classes are devastated.

One of the side effects of trade is exposure to new ideas.  Trade also drives innovation and social progress, as both serve to create new markets and new consumers.  All of this is a threat to any established elite, as social progress and greater knowledge builds further demand for equality. Not simply for equal rights for non-whites or non-heterosexuals, but for more equal representation in government, more equal access to opportunity, in short for a more democratic society.  This evolution of more equality in representation is one of the things that the wealthy and political elite fear most.  The American War of Independence and Civil War were fought over just these things.

The feudal world is a remnant that still hangs from our representative democracy.  In many ways representative democracy is the half-way hybrid of feudalism and true democracy.  We rely on a patrician class of political operators to work in our best interests, when in reality they are mainly working in their own self-interest and the special interests of their patrons.  A more direct democracy would see be form of republicanism akin to ancient Athens where all citizens voted directly on bills or the young USA where the voice of the citizenry was a direction for action by their elected representatives.  The attack on workers and education is an attempt to stave off this next logical step in social and political evolution to a more direct and effective democracy.

This is why religious conservatives and economic libertarians attack the means of sustaining a viable middle class.  Poor education dramatically reduces opportunities for employment and advancement, and hamstrings innovations that may threaten the status quo.  Cutting health care forces families to spend more of their income and time on caring for sick or elderly family members.  Failing to invest in effective public transport creates a class divide between those who can afford a vehicle to access job opportunities and those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to lack of mobility.

Even now the decision not to build a national, equal-access broadband infrastructure is picking winners and losers.  Those with fibre connections are already enjoying higher house valuations. Once again the inner cities will have the advantages, while the suburbs and regional cities – the tradition heartland of the working and middle classes – are relegated to second class citizens.  How long until cuts to education, health, penalty rates and minimum wage see further collapse of employment options and standards of living in Australia?

For Seward and his contemporary Abraham Lincoln, the principal opposition party of the time was too weak to respond to the pro slavery Democratic Party and the loud threats and aggression from the southern states that demanded they be allowed to establish slave estates in the new territories ‘for the sake of the nation’.

Eventually there was a split, and many from the opposition Whig party joined with other more progressive groups to form the new Republican Party.  Under this banner the nation set about a new path toward the equality promised in the American constitution.  Civil war followed, but the USA emerged stronger and more vigorous than ever.  What followed was over a hundred years of progress and growth that led the 20th century to be named the American Century.

In Australia the Liberal-National governments federally and in the states are filled with a similar aggression to their pro-slavery forebears, and are in a hurry to force their changes on our society before the sleepy masses awaken.  A vocal opposition would do much to quicken this awakening and stifle the fuming vigour of the neo-libertarians.

Unfortunately, the Greens party seem too much interested in attacking the ALP to increase their market share.  Meanwhile the corruption in the ALP Right and the union movement is currently hamstringing the pragmatic and progressive reform elements in the party, and the ALP is nowhere to be found except in lockstep with the right-wing unionists, vague statements on social media and irrelevant emails.

Now more than ever Australia needs a progressive political force that is unafraid to tackle the destructive policies and practices that are currently arrayed against Australia.

The ALP has split in the past; usually with right-wing elements peeling off to create new conservative parties, such as the United Australia Party; forerunner to the modern Liberal Party, and the Democratic Labor Party.

Perhaps now it is up to the progressive and Left in the ALP party to make a stand and plant a new banner that can be a rally point for the dozens of progressive micro-parties that sprang up at the last federal election, for environmentalists, for small businesses, for workers, for entrepreneurs. For everyone who wants better representation, not just in a leadership ballot but in building policy.  For everyone who sees the threat arrayed against our nation and its future, and wants to do something about it.

Perhaps, once again, It’s Time.

Disclosure of my political affiliations

Photo: captionit

Photo: captionit

A few weeks ago I wrote about the formation of a new party called The Australian Arts Party in an interview with one of its founders. So far it has 268 foundation members and needs to reach 500 to register.

I have since become one of the founding members.

I mention this because – every now and then – some troll will jump on the comments and tell us that we’re all a mob of Labor party stooges, and that the ALP are “complete morons” and total incompetents. After one such commentator had told me that the Labor Party were the biggest mob of idiots in the history of the world, I suggested to one that I may not – in fact – have voted ALP, he immediately assumed that I’d voted for The Greens and told me that they were even worse. For a moment I considered asking how The Greens could be worse than the biggest mob of idiots of all time. Then I considered telling him that I had – at one time – considered standing for the National Party. In the end, I decided that neither logic nor the truth would have any effect so I resorted to strategy of dealing with trolls by being more ridiculous than they are. I simply pointed out what a terrible job Joe Hockey was doing as Opposition Leader. For a person who argues by engaging in abuse and simply ignoring the facts, it frustrates them beyond belief when someone else does the same.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of The Greens. If I were, I would have resigned in protest when they joined with the Coaltion to block the ETS in Labor’s first term.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the Labor Party. If I were, I would have resigned in protest at their race to the bottom on Asylum Seekers.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the Liberal Party. If I were, I would have never resigned in protest because I’m sure I could justify whatever they did, because hey, whatever if it takes to become Government. And so what if you torture the odd person, Sri Lanka, times are tough and when the going gets tough, we give you a couple of boats so that you can round up anyone attempting to leave. After all isn’t the country that a potential refugee is attempting to leave the best placed to decide if they’re really fleeing persecuction or not.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the National Party, because I can use coherent sentences and use words such as “spurious” and “lickspittle”.

But I am – potentially – a member of the Arts Party.

Yes, I’m sure that many of you will argue that there are more important things than the Arts, and that we should be more concerned about other things. That’s part of the reason I’ve paid my $20 to be a founding member. Politicians and others frequently decide that there are more important things than the Arts. We’ll cut the Arts but not Defence. Schools will run a Physics class for four people, but decide that the numbers are too low in Music with fourteen.

So I could have joined a party with more important causes on its mind. I could have joined that party supporting motorists that just elected a Senator. What’s it’s name. Motorists United Together Enthusiastically. Or MUTE, as their newly elected Senator seems to be.

But I didn’t. I decided that the Arts was more worthy of a voice than all the other small parties that seem to be influencing government decisions, like the Shooter Party in NSW.

The Greens support is dropping – just shows that climate change isn’t real

Photo: wordbubble generator

Photo: wordbubble generator

Ok, I’ve read a number of times about The Greens losing votes in the Federal Election. Then after Saturday’s Miranda By-Election in NSW where the Liberals lost with a swing against them over 20%, Paul Sheehan treated us to this:

Bushfires should be good for the Greens.

They have been warning about the rising impact of extreme weather events caused by global warming. Their deputy leader, Adam Bandt, spent last week attaching the bushfires raging across the state, with the destruction of more than 100 homes, to the policies of Abbott. The destruction of the Labor brand in NSW should also be good for the Greens. So, too, should be the government’s cuts in services. And the dominance of the NSW Liberals by lobbyists.

Despite all this, on Saturday, in an electorate that adjoins the bushfire-prone Royal National Park, and on a day when Sydney was ringed by fires and had just experienced the hottest September on record, the voters demolished the Greens.

In the 2011 state election, the Greens won a respectable 8.8 per cent of the primary vote in Miranda. On Saturday, that was cut in half, to 4.4 per cent. This was also worse than their 6.6 per cent vote in 2007, and 5.9 per cent in 2003. You have to go back 14 years, to the 1999 state election, when the Greens were still a fledgling party, to find a lower Greens vote in Miranda, 4.2 per cent.

This follows a failure in last year’s local government elections, where the swings against the Greens were biggest in the areas where they had exercised the most power. Their primary vote fell 12 per cent in Woollahra, in Leichhardt it dropped 11 per cent, in Canterbury, 10 per cent, in Marrickville, 7.4 per cent, and in the City of Sydney, 9 per cent. Apart from several modest improvements in other local government areas, the Greens’ vote in last year’s NSW local elections was a general retreat.

Apart from making the rather strange comment that “Bushfires should be good for the Greens” – (I wouldn’t have thought that bushfires are good for anybody. Reminds me of a comment from someone about the “pro global warming lobby”?? when refering to people concerned about climate change) – Sheehan goes on to say later:

The Greens have been going backwards for several years. Yet the party shows no evidence of humility, nor signs of listening to the messages being delivered by the wider public.

This analysis concerns me for a number of reasons. Sheehan is not the first commentator to suggest that The Greens have had their day, and now the electorate is returning to “more sensible” parties. But very few of them aknowledge one of the very important differences when comparing the votes today with the previous election.

Bob Brown’s retirement.

Bob Brown was a high profile politician, who like him or loathe him, gave you the feeling that he believed in his cause. He managed to project his party into the media in a way that Milne is yet to do. This is how Sara Phillips, ABC, saw his retirement at the time:

Bob Brown’s departure from politics is a big deal. His party garnered nearly 12 per cent of the vote in the last election. The Greens held the balance of power in the upper house of parliament, and was a key vote in the government’s shaky grip on the lower house. The party appeared to be growing and seemed as though it were an increasingly serious third force in power.

Commentators are wondering whether his replacement, Christine Milne, has the strength of character and political smarts to hold the party together and push it forward into the future.

His political style was one of calm reassurance. His lanky frame never looked at ease in a suit, but he carried out interviews in a way that seemed to emphasise the reasonableness of his view. Christine Milne, by contrast, always seems lecturing and peevish. Where Brown is all ageing greyhound, Milne is a Jack Russell.

Brown is certainly a focal point for the environment movement. He earned his stripes campaigning on the Franklin River dam protests. Ardent environmental admirers will point out that he even had the strength of conviction to go to jail for what he believed in. Environmentalists saw him as one of them.

It was not unexpected that the loss of Brown would lead to a drop in the party’s vote. Yet, in spite of the drop in support for The Greens, Adam Bandt retained his seat.

But I’m not as concerned for The Greens as a party, as much as Paul Sheehan’s other assertion that it “shows no evidence of humility, nor signs of listening to the messages being delivered by the wider public.”

A few years ago, there was a poll in one of the newspapers which asked if we thought that the Queen should abdicate now in favour of Charles, or wait until William was old enough to take the throne. My immediate thought was that it doesn’t matter what we think. The Royal Family is not a democratic institution.

And so with climate change, it doesn’t matter how we vote. It’s not a democratic institution. We can’t vote it out of existence. (Yes, all you sceptics, just because the majority of scientists say it’s real, doesn’t make it so! Personally, I’d rather go along with the majority than Lord Monkton.)  Were The Greens to say that they’ve suddenly realised the economic potential of razing entire forests to the ground, it’s not really likely to win them any votes. And their reason for existing would disappear.

We expect The Greens to be a party of conviction. Even those who don’t vote for them would be surprised if they made a pragmatic decision in order to win a few votes. The Greens are expected to be like our conscience – at times, a little annoying for most of us; something to be ignored by others.

There are two ways of looking at what a political party should offer us. The first is that parties should stand for something, that it should have certain core values and that you know when you vote for, say Rossleigh Brisbane’s United Australia Party, that you’re electing someone who believes that economic prosperity is more important than people’s rights, but if you vote for the People Against Slavery Party they have a strong record on human rights.  Any change in these core values should be a long and slow process, not something to be defined with each election.

The second is that parties should sway whichever was the breeze is blowing, and to reflect community sentiment. That its aim should be to do whatever it takes to gain the maximum number of votes.

The trouble with the latter is that we then end up with no alternatives. If every party is following the focus groups and opinion polls, then every party offers what the majority allegedly wants. For example, if you support gay marriage, which of the major parties was offering to bring that in? (In reality, neither, although Labor might have introduced a Bill.)

I’m glad that The Greens do stick to their policies. I expect them to not listen to the public, but to present their views and give the public a chance to judge them.  I don’t agree with everything they say or do, but I’m pleased that they’re not the pragmatists chasing every possible vote.

Strange that Paul Sheehan also mentions how well the Christian Democrats did in the same by-election by doubling their vote to 7%. I can’t seem to find any articles suggesting that the Christian Democrats are lacking humility or not listening to the public.

Last chance to save the future

WE ARE ALL currently transfixed by the second coming of Kevin Rudd. The action is frenetic. Can he stop the boats? Will he vanquish the faceless men? Might he deliver us from Abbott and his unscrupulous band of ruffians, after all? asks Douglas Evans.

We continue with Douglas’s guest post.

No-one’s talking about global warming. Apparently forgotten, the climate kettle continues to simmer and as the temperature rises the clock keeps ticking ominously.

In the run-up to the 2013 Federal election that will determine government for most of what remains of the Climate Commission Report, ‘critical decade‘, it’s timely to remind ourselves just what our political parties plan to do about the most overwhelming issue of our era and one that will profoundly affect us all.

What does climate change science say is necessary to save our future?

The only useful measure of the climate change policies of political parties is their likely climatic effectiveness. Do they offer a reasonable chance of stabilizing global temperatures at or about two degrees of warming? WILL THEY WORK? In its recent report, The Critical Decade, the Australian government’s Climate Commission very clearly described the emissions reduction task we face globally in the first half of this century consistent with this goal. The report shows that if we implement serious carbon emissions reductions policies soon and achieve a global emissions peak by about 2020, we can realistically meet the 1 trillion ton emissions budget by 2050.  However, in a scenario without serious carbon reduction policies in place, we’re looking at a potentially catastrophic warming of 4°C or more by 2100.

The Commission estimated that humanity can emit not more than 1 trillion tonnes of CO₂ between 2000 and 2050 to have a 75% probability of avoiding the danger limit. Currently, we are 25% of the way through the budgetary timeline, but we have burned through nearly 33% of the budget. We’re running out of wriggle room and need to act immediately. The longer we wait to take serious emissions reductions steps, the steeper the global carbon emissions cuts will have to be. If we wait too long, we will reach a point where the necessary annual emissions cuts are simply beyond our political and technological capabilities.  If global greenhouse gas emissions were stabilized by 2020 and thereafter reduced to zero by 2040 (a task that requires a stringent maximum rate of reduction of 9% per annum) there is a reasonable certainty that temperatures can be stabilized around two degrees of warming.

Is  ALP policy consistent with this goal?

The ALP’s climate change policies aim at a 5% reduction in pollution levels relative to 2000 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution levels relative to 2000 levels by 2050. While emissions 80% below 2000 levels by 2050 are not zero emissions by 2040, this might seem a reasonable approximation of what the science says is required apart from three important facts:

  1. Up to two-thirds of these emissions ‘reductions’ are intended to be purchased ‘offshore’ as ‘offsets’ to continued growth in Australian domestic emissions which are not expected to stabilize under these policies until 2035! Quite apart from the often discussed difficulties of validating such measures the science requires that the whole world needs to stabilize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the threshold of two degrees of warming is not to be exceeded. To claim the purchase of offshore offsets as emissions reduction for Australian industry is little more than an accountancy trick intended to deceive.

  2. The ALP policy is based on a notion of ‘clean energy’ that assumes widespread continued gas and ‘clean coal’ combustion. It is based on:

  • The almost certainly erroneous assumption that the use of gas as a power source for electricity generation is less greenhouse gas intensive than coal.
  • The certainly erroneous assumption that greenhouse gases generated by the combustion of fossil fuels in power plants can be economically captured and stored at sufficient scale, within a useful time frame.
  1. The claimed intentions of ALP climate policy are entirely swamped by support for the massive expansion of Australian fossil fuel exports which if they came to pass would see Australia double Saudi Arabia’s contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gas by 2020 or soon thereafter. Under Labor’s fossil fuel export policies greenhouse gas emissions from Australia coal and gas exports will dwarf domestic emissions by a factor of three- or four-to-one.

A more thorough discussion of the ALP climate change and energy policies can be found here.

It is not unreasonable to describe ALP climate and energy policy as the most cost-effective path to runaway global warming by 2100.

Are the Direct Action Policies of the Coalition consistent with this goal?

As with the ALP this Coalition ‘policy’ embodies a (totally inadequate) commitment to reducing CO2 emissions by 20% relative to 2000 levels by 2020. It comprises:

  • An “Emissions Reduction Fund” of $3 billion to fund projects that would reduce carbon emissions, based on a tender process.
  • Support for projects such as “soil carbon technologies and abatement”.
  • A commitment to raise a 15,000 strong ‘Green Army’ of volunteers to clean up the environment. One of the tasks envisaged for this ‘Green Army is plantation tree planting as a means of carbon storage.

The abatement effect of the $3 billion Emissions reduction fund is unquantifiable but it is not unreasonable to compare it to the $5.5 billion ‘Contracts for Closure Fund’ that formed part of the ALP Clean Energy Futures legislation. This was intended to purchase reduction in greenhouse gas intensive, fossil fuel-fired, power generation capacity. It failed totally and had to be abandoned by the Gillard government.

The CSIRO’s review into soil carbon storage casts doubt over this assumption concluding that despite the theoretical potential of storage of carbon in agricultural soils research is currently inadequate to quantify this. Writing in Nature Climate Change, a group of seven Australian and UK climate researchers including Climate Commissioner Prof. Will Steffen, have gone further. They concluded that considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is ‘scientifically flawed’. They conclude that:

‘Avoiding emissions from land carbon stocks and refilling depleted stocks reduces atmospheric CO2 concentration, but the maximum amount of this reduction is equivalent to only a small fraction of potential fossil fuel emissions.’ 

The Guardian reports research showing that for the DAP’s proposed tree planting to achieve the pledged return of an annual 85 million tonnes of CO2 captured, even using the most optimistic assumptions about growth and yield, would require a planted area more than twice the size of Melbourne. Under ‘real world’ conditions the area would be somewhat larger again increasing both the anticipated cost and management complexity of this massive undertaking.

The only likely explanation as to why the Coalition would propose such a useless climate change policy  (incredible as it seems) is that from the point of view of the opposition the policy is a non-answer to a non-existent problem. They recognize the POLITICAL necessity for a climate change policy but actually don’t believe it is happening!

As blogger Alex White points out:

“In addition to saying “climate change is crap“, in a more considered interview with the ABC’s Four Corners, Tony Abbott said:

‘I have pointed out in the past that there was that high year a few years ago and the warming, if you believe various measuring organisations, hasn’t increased … the point is not the science, the point is how should government respond, and we have a credible response.’

The most honest assessment of the Coalition’s climate policy, ironically, comes from Malcolm Turnbull. In 2009, then-backbencher Turnbull, recently defeated by Abbott in a leadership ballot wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that the policy was ‘bullshit’:

‘…the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it’s cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to de-industrialise the world.

The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is ‘crap’ and you don’t need to do anything about it. Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing. After all, as Nick Minchin observed, in his view the majority of the Party Room do not believe in human caused global warming at all.’

A more thorough discussion of the Coalition’s climate change policy can be found here.

It is not unreasonable to describe the Direct Action Policy of the Liberal-National Coalition as a deliberate attempt to deceive Australian voters on the most important topic of our times.

Are the Climate Change and Energy Policies of the Australian Greens consistent with this goal?

The short answer is, despite a couple of possible omissions, yes they are! The Climate Change and Energy policies of the Australian Greens can be found here but I will raise a couple of points. On two pages the Greens set out fifteen principles and seventeen Aims in respect of climate change and energy policy. They are comprehensive and in line with the task the scientists say we are confronted with.

Some key points of difference with the policies of the ‘old’ parties include:

  • An emissions reduction target of ‘Net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions within a generation’. Compare this with 80% below 2000 emissions levels by 2050.
  • ‘Binding national emission targets for each year through to 2050 supported by a detailed strategy to reduce emissions from the energy, transport, industry, waste, agriculture, and land management sectors.’ Compare this with the total absence of any recognition of the importance of structuring the rate and methods of emissions reduction from the other two parties.
  • ‘100% stationary electricity in Australia from renewable sources as soon as possible by increasing the renewable energy target (RET) and in addition measures such as feed-in tariffs and regulations to support a range of prospective new renewable energy technologies.’ The Coalition does not mention emissions reduction from stationary power generation. They hope we will believe that their $3 billion Emissions Reduction Fund will achieve something. The ALP bases their policy around the continued presence of fossil fuel-fired power plants and hopes we will believe that they can somehow deliver ‘clean’ energy.
  • ‘No new coal-fired power stations or coal mines, and no expansions to any existing power stations or mines’. Contrast this with whole-hearted support for the expansion of the sector from both the ‘old’ parties.
  • ‘The adoption of the precautionary principle in relation to carbon capture and storage (geosequestration) by opposing public funding, and ensuring that companies are financially responsible for the risks of CO2 leakage’. Contrast this with the completely unwarranted faith of the ALP in these technologies and the silence of the Coalition on this matter.

As with all the policies of the Greens, these ‘Principles’ and ‘Aims’ are brief and unlike the policies of the other two parties describe where we must go. They do not embody assumptions of what existing ‘stakeholders’ and their representatives may be prepared to accept. That is correctly deferred to the negotiation process that leads to legislation. They do not attempt to set out how we should get there. That is also correctly deferred to the negotiation process leading to legislation.

A more thorough discussion of these policies can be found here.

It is not unreasonable to describe the Greens’ Climate Change and Energy policies as the only policies by an Australian political party that rationally respond to the severity and interlocked complexity of the climate crisis we confront. This is the only policy response currently on offer to Australian voters that truly gives hope that this problem might be overcome.

The Climate Institute, somewhat ironically funded by a philanthropic fund bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch’s niece, Eve Kantor and her husband Mark Wootton, rated the seriously inadequate Labor Clean Energy package as two and a half stars out of a possible five. There seems something wrong with a methodology that gives a bare pass mark to climate policies that guarantee runaway climate change but nevertheless that is what it finds. Using the same methodology it rates the Liberal Party’s Direct Action Plan one lonely star out of a possible five. Using the same methodology it rates the Greens policies as five out of a possible five. You can download the Climate Institute’s comparative analysis if you want to look further into the issues.  The rank ordering could not be clearer. The Greens followed by Labor followed by the dismal deceptive, disingenuous Coalition effort.

Now, as I have written elsewhere. It seems to me that we either use the limited power of our vote to push for an increased tightening of climate policies or we are complicit in wrecking our future. I can’t find any other way to put it. No point blaming Gina Rinehart and Andrew Bolt et al if we are not prepared to do anything ourselves. How bad must things get before those who see the problem begin to demand effective action from our elected leaders? Now the 7 September election presents all Australians with a chance to demand better from our elected leaders. For the time being, whatever our political persuasion, we must all be single-issue voters.

The voting options that I see are these:

  1. If you are a Coalition voter and seriously concerned about climate change you face a difficult choice. This article reveals their fraudulent, deliberate attempt to mislead voters. You either swallow your concerns about your future and that of your children and grandchildren, voting again as you have always done. Or you look around for the most effective policy. You won’t be happy when you find where it is.
  2. If you are a Labor voter and seriously concerned about climate change your choice is fairly simple I would say. If you accept the assessments I have made, you wish to continue to support the Labor Party but wish to send them a message that they need to lift their game, you should vote Green with Labor second. You can comfortably do this in the knowledge that in all House of Representatives seats, with one possible exception, your vote will end up supporting Labor. The message will have been sent and noted.
  3. If you are a Green voter concerned about climate change, you vote for your party in the knowledge that they are advocating for the strongest policies.

So now it’s up to all of us to do our little bit to save the future for our kids. Remember, this is the critical decade and by the time you get another vote the chance may well have vanished forever.

An easy life

GreensProtestHow easy my life would be if I were a Greens supporter. I’m not saying this in a sarcastic way. I’m deadly honest. Life would  be so much easier if I just gave up on Labor and  became a Green instead.

Think of all the challenging conversations I could avoid if I chose not to debate a topic, and instead just stuck with the same argument, the same opinion, no matter how situations changed around me. Imagine if I no longer had to worry about pesky policy challenges like how on earth revenue could be found to fund my ideas. Or if my answer to everything was ‘more tax’ regardless of how the electorate and the business community would respond?

As someone in my early 30’s on the left of the political spectrum, I would no doubt be far more hipster and fashionable if I did hold up a green triangle whenever politics was mentioned. I could get up on my high horse and never get down. I could demand one outcome and refuse to consider all others. I could cry when I wanted to show how much I care, and the argument would be over and I would feel I had won. I could accuse everyone else of being heartless. Of being evil. Of being a sell-out to political reality. I could be a sell out to political reality. Even better, I could become a professional complainer and even take a little bit of anticipated joy out of the prospect of an Abbott government, because it would give me more reason to complain, more reason to stamp my feet, more reason to take to the streets in protest. Protests are fun! And when people asked me what the Greens policies were, I could send them to a web address where dollars and cents aren’t mentioned, like a wish list for Santa, and then I could expertly draw the subject back the asylum seekers, gay marriage and the environment whenever I felt the conversation was moving elsewhere.

When the nasty bad bad man Kevin Rudd dared to suggest an alternative to an asylum seeker policy which has seen over 1,000 people drown at sea, I could refuse to acknowledge anyone has drowned. I could argue that we should encourage anyone who has enough money to pay for a seat on an old leaky boat to make the treacherous journey to Australia if that’s what they want, and damn the people who don’t have a cent to even think about making this decision. I could say any policy which wavers even fractionally from my ideal situation –  where there is no limit to the number of asylum seekers either drowning or being resettled in Australia – is evil and unconscionable. And when people try to talk about these other policy suggestions, and the outcomes of these policies, and even mention the word drowning, I could get angry, confrontational and upset, then go on a protest march to make myself feel morally superior. When Tony Abbott suggests an unworkable policy that is far worse than that suggested by Labor, I could whine even louder that this is a race to the bottom, but refrain completely from actually talking about the problem, and practical solutions to fix it. And I could commit to my plan to attack Labor as the worst of the worst, while ignoring the alternative problem of an Abbott led government and what this outcome would do to the country in many policy areas, not just my favourite one.

If I didn’t get the climate emissions reduction policy I wanted, I could completely withdraw from the debate and sit on my hands while someone else fought it out on by behalf. And if I did manage to get my policy onto the government’s agenda, I wouldn’t dare stand next to the Labor party and help them to sell it to the electorate. No, that sort of ugly political contest would be way below me if I were a Green.

Of course, in this easy world where I’m a Green, I wouldn’t care about industrial relations. I would pretend not to notice that an Abbott government, given the chance, would completely destroy unions and the workers rights they fight for. As a Green, I could remove myself from the messiness of having to fight for nation building reform, like the NBN, Paid Maternity Leave, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the National Plan for School Improvement. Of course I’d privately relish the outcomes of these policies, if they were successfully implemented, but I would never get my hands dirty actually supporting the Labor party to pass these reforms. And I’d avoid sounding like a hack by actually praising the Labor party for transforming their ideas into reality.  That would take far too much of my time and effort away from talking about the environment, gay marriage and asylum seekers.

No, if I were a Green, I could have it all. I could argue for every ideal I wanted without ever having to actually fight for anything to be done. I could hold my nose and vote for Labor and say I preferenced them second to last and oh how high and mighty that would make me feel. Or I could do a donkey vote and laugh and laugh about it with my friends, while we toast democracy and the amazing opportunity it gives us. I could keep my idealism in tact, without actually having to reason with a voter who disagrees with me to sell a policy. I could be the world’s most annoying back-seat-driver when it came to the Labor party – telling them how to run government when I’d had no experience doing such a thing. I could be pure. I could pretend factionalism didn’t exist in the Greens, and that their grubby purpose isn’t in fact to replace the Labor Party as the left-wing alternative. I could opt-out of any debate I didn’t want to have. I could take no pleasure and no pain from what happens to the government that I will never belong to. I could be an activist instead of a political realist. I could chain my identity to the brand of a party that never has to make a tough decision. I could be above it all.

But of course, if I took the easy path, what on earth would I achieve? I might be young but I’ve learnt enough to know that nothing worthwhile was ever easy. Hence why I’ll stick with Labor.

 

Some reasons why the Libs don’t want you to vote for the Greens

If anybody wants to know what the Coalition plan to do in Government then they need look no further than the Coalition Speakers notes 1 July 2012 for an insight of the frightening world they would hope to thrust upon us. It looks at all the topical issues including Border Protection, Communications and Broadband, Employment and Workplace Relations, Foreign Affairs, Heath Higher Education, Indigenous Australians, Multiculturalism, Population, Superannuation and Youth.

But typical of any Coalition document it focuses more on attacking the other major parties than how and what should be done. The ‘hows’ and ‘whats’ are nothing more than a bit of chest thumping. There is much more passion in their criticisms of both the Government and the Greens than there is in beating their own drum. Just the usual scare tactics, you might say.

What struck me the most about the document was their rabid hatred for everything the Greens stand for. The Greens are not my party of choice, but after reading the document I’m convinced that they stand for much more than I gave them any credit for. And if anything, I’m more determined to vote against a party that opposes – or condemns –  what the Greens want for our society.

I’ve made a list of some of the reasons why the Libs don’t want you to vote for the Greens. Upon reading them, you might also ponder how much the Liberals must be out of touch with the modern, progressive Australian. Here’s the list of what the Coalition fear:

The Greens believe in legalising same sex marriages.

The Greens believe in reintroduction of voluntary euthanasia laws in the NT & ACT.

The Greens support holding a plebiscite for an Australian Republic.The Greens will legalise the use of cannabis for specified medical purposes.

The Greens moved a private members bill entitled Anti-Terrorism Reform Bill 2009 to relax terrorism laws and calls for amendments to the Criminal Code and Crimes Act.

The Bill calls for greater freedom of expression and association, freedom from arbitrary detention, legal due process and privacy.

The Greens will repeal the sedition laws and will repeal mandatory sentencing legislation.

The Greens will prohibit the use of electroshock weapons and Tasers.

The Greens want an open door refugee and asylum seeker policy.They have said that they want to increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers Australia takes, but they haven’t said by how much; they also want to decrease the number of skilled migrants and increase the number of family reunion migrants.

Abolition of mandatory detention of illegal immigrants.

Restore Australia’s migration zone to match Australia’s territory and accept responsibility for processing all asylum seekers who seek protection in that zone.

Allow illegal immigrants unrestricted movement in and about reception centres.

Immediately grant illegal immigrants an asylum application visa (AAV) and move them into community reception centres after medical and security checks are satisfied or after 14 days.

Allow illegal immigrants with AAVs the right to work, travel, income support and access to ongoing educational and medical services anywhere in Australia while their claims are being assessed.

Ensure that refusal of an AAV is reviewable by the Administration Appeals Tribunal and that the illegal immigrant is housed in a facility close to an urban area.

Closing Australian ports and territorial waters to nuclear powered vessels and create nuclear free zones, municipalities and ports;

Prohibit mineral exploration, mining, extraction of petroleum and gas in terrestrial and marine nature conservation reserves.

Ban the exploration, mining and export of uranium and the storage of low-grade domestic nuclear waste in a remote location in Australia.

The Greens want a commonly agreed national benchmark to measure poverty and reform the social security system to ensure an adequate income for all.

The Greens will increase the number of marine reserves and implement a national framework for managing recreational and charter fishing.

The Greens will introduce an Oceans Act and establish a statutory National Oceans Authority to coordinate the sustainability of ocean uses. The Authority will report to the Parliament and enforce cosystem-based regional management plans and targets.

The Greens have called for a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that recognises prior occupation and have sovereignty enshrined into the constitution.

The Greens will pursue the conclusion of a multilateral convention based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and enact its provisions into Australian Law.

The Greens believe in the full restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT and ending the federal intervention into indigenous communities regardless of any consequences.

The Greens will repeal amendments to the NT’s land Rights Act as they believe the amendments disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Want to abolish SES funding for private schools, which would discourage private investment in education and create more dependency on taxpayer funding to fund school education.Impose new federal controls on where new non-government schools can be built or how many students they could enroll, which would severely limit parental choice.

Want Commonwealth funding for private schools kept at 2003/04 levels, which would see many schools be forced to close or sack teachers in order to stay open.Oppose performance payments for teachers.

Believe that education unions are the appropriate industrial representatives in all educational matters.

And finally …

Will increase Youth Allowance to the level of a living wage, irrespective of the cost to taxpayers

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