Greens starting to show true political colours

Says an old-time Labor Party man

SLOWLY but surely the Australian Greens' carefully cultivated facade is crumbling. On Monday, Greens leader Bob Brown was roundly condemned for his demand that coal mining companies be forced to pay a super profits style tax in order to fund the Queensland floods recovery effort.

According to Brown, coal barons were responsible for the climate change-induced natural disaster and soon-to-materialise "severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in coming decades". Presumably Gaia herself will collect the new levy.

One day we might discover that climate change indeed played a role, but Brown's ill-advised attempt to extract political capital out of a still-unfolding disaster is signal evidence that the Greens are simply another political party scoring cheap partisan points for electoral gain.

Of course, all parliamentary parties are born into original sin: compromise, pragmatism and sometimes sheer opportunism inexorably result as a party, whether Left or Right, is cast out of its ideological Garden of Eden.

The only real surprise is how long the Greens have managed to portray themselves as non-political, and thus above criticism, all the while playing politics with a ruthlessness to make the most battle-hardened Laborite or Liberal blush.

And yet Brown's cynical rhetorical overreach should come as no surprise. During the previous parliamentary term the Greens, whose raison d'etre is to tackle anthropogenically caused environmental damage, refused to support Labor's ETS legislation; thus preventing Australia taking necessary, prudent action to tackle climate change.

Greens opposition ostensibly arose because of Labor's allegedly meagre carbon reduction target. However, a more cynical motivation could be discerned: stealing votes from Labor's left wing at the next election.

Further alarm bells ought to have rung when in the election's immediate aftermath, where they indeed won over many disaffected Labor supporters, senator Sarah Hanson-Young unsuccessfully challenged Christine Milne for the party's deputy leadership.

Hanson-Young should be applauded: ambition is the defining feature of any politician worth their salt. But the secrecy surrounding the vote suggested a party desperate to peddle the myth that it wasn't really a political party.

If further evidence were required to prove the Greens are themselves capable of political bastardry, then witness billionaire Wotif founder Graeme Wood's $1.6 million donation to party coffers, the largest single political donation by an individual in Australian history, despite Brown's previous denunciations of such largesse.

Perhaps these events might finally shatter the mythology surrounding the Greens' Pocahontas brand of politics and force progressive Australians to examine their policy prescriptions more seriously.

Particular attention should be directed towards the NSW Greens. At its December State Delegates Council, the party decided to officially support the anti-Israel boycott, sanctions and divestment movement. The Greens-controlled Marrickville council, in Sydney's inner west, quickly moved to implement party policy by officially backing the counterproductive and potentially anti-Semitic boycott in its entirety.

The good burghers of the inner west are now compelled to boycott Israel. Will the homes of Marrickville Jews be searched for illegal products? We shall await with bated breath the council's replacement of Israeli-designed Google search engines, Intel processors and other technology. Perhaps carbon-neutral homing pigeons will be recruited to fill the communications void.

The behaviour of the adjoining Greens-run Leichhardt Council also verges on the absurd. For instance, a proposal to build a Thomas Dux outlet (a scaled-down Woolworths supermarket) in Annandale was recently rejected, no matter that the venture would have created hundreds of jobs and produced an environmentally friendly option for residents who typically drive to Broadway or Leichhardt shops.

Even more farcically, late last year the council shut down a community sausage sizzle ($1 from each sale was being donated to local schools) run by an Annandale delicatessen because smoke was allegedly drifting into nearby shops. The council then graciously allowed the sizzle to continue on a six-month trial basis providing the meat was pre-cooked on an electric barbecue inside the delicatessen.

The man responsible for this policy adventurism is Greens mayor Jamie Parker. Using his mayoral credentials, he has also intervened in the Barangaroo development controversy despite Leichhardt bearing no geographic proximity to the area in question. Parker is the Greens candidate for the seat of Balmain at the March NSW state election and has faced allegations that his council spent $50,000 on a slush fund to pay for "major issues"; code for advertising Greens-friendly protest meetings.

The actions of the NSW Greens are of course hardly unique. Indeed, to this observer of Labor politics there are strong historical parallels with Bill Hartley's Victorian ALP of the pre-1970s. At times "Baghdad" Hartley's extremist grouping resembled more a Trotsky-ite cult than a mainstream political party, favouring militantly leftist policies, including a rabid anti-Israel strategy of forging close links with Arab dictatorships.

Not only did the Hartleyites make state Labor unelectable, their actions repeatedly cruelled federal Labor's electoral hopes. Following a close-run 1969 poll, ultimately lost because of a poor Victorian showing, Gough Whitlam finally convinced the ALP national executive to move against the recalcitrant branch, clearing the way for his famous 1972 triumph.

The Greens are unlikely to govern in their own right any time soon, yet political crunch time is looming. It is one thing for the party to secure the ballots of a narrow band of far-leftist anti-Israelis, Newtown vegans and Julian Assange supporters but the mainstream centre-left electorate is not likely to warm to such an extremist message.

For all its imperfections, the forbidden fruits of social democratic Laborism are likely to remain a continued source of temptation.


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