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Doubts over end to Greens-Labor alliance

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What next? Advice to Gillard

What can the PM do next given her poll numbers are in wipe-out territory? Cotterell and O'Rourke, Breaking Politics' communications specialists, sharpen their advice.

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A three-minute telephone conversation on Tuesday has ended the 2010 post-election alliance between the Greens and the ALP, yet the government will not fall and the impact of the split may be unnoticeable to voters.

Confusion now surrounds the status of the relationship after the Greens also pledged to keep Julia Gillard in office.

Greens leader Christine Milne phoned the Prime Minister at lunchtime to say their civil union was over.

Amicable split: Senator Christine Milne at the National Press Club after her phone call to the PM.

Amicable split: Senator Christine Milne at the National Press Club after her phone call to the PM. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Moments later, the Tasmanian senator stood up at Canberra's National Press Club and slammed Ms Gillard's alleged failure to honour written commitments on transparency, protection of the national interest and action on climate change.

She listed the failed mining tax, the government's refusal to reveal its meagre takings until forced, and its continued promotion of the fossil fuel industries among the reasons.

But the apparent slap in the face for the embattled Prime Minister has delighted Labor strategists, who were seeking product differentiation between the government and the Greens, a problem that has dogged the government since its carbon tax about-face.

By mid-afternoon, and with government figures lining up to embrace the split, Senator Milne appeared to backtrack.

Asked by David Speers on Sky News if the agreement was dead or not, she said: ''It's in place on paper, yes, but our signatures are on it and that means something. Whenever I have signed an agreement to give a government confidence and supply, they can rely on the Greens' word.''

Ms Gillard, who has previously described the Greens as ''a fringe party'', clearly believes any split will do no harm to Labor's bid to focus on jobs and the everyday concerns of its suburban blue-collar base.

''We will always be the party that puts jobs, growth and work first,'' a spokeswoman said.

Senior ministers also embraced the divorce.

''The Greens have opposed quite a few bills during the last few years but the Parliament has functioned very well,'' Treasurer Wayne Swan said. ''The Labor Party and the Greens are cut from a different cloth.''

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, who faces a strong Greens challenge in his inner-west Sydney seat of Grayndler, attacked the left-wing party as ''political opportunists'' who had a ''parasitic relationship'' with the government.

But former Greens leader Bob Brown has backed the party's decision to end the alliance, which he signed with the Prime Minister in 2010, telling ABC Radio on Wednesday that Labor needs to look at how ''disruptive'' it has become.

Labor could have avoided its current woes if it had kept its end of the bargain struck with the minor party, he added.

In her speech, Ms Milne claimed the major parties had become ''indentured servants'' of billionaire mining magnates and she attacked Labor over design flaws in the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

As reported exclusively by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, she revealed plans for a far-reaching Senate inquiry into the tax's design, the conduct of secret negotiations with the big three miners, and the measures needed to strengthen the tax.

The Greens' separation move reflects the desperate struggles for survival in the September elections for two of the party's young stars, Melbourne lower house MP Adam Bandt and South Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Mr Bandt, now the Greens' deputy leader, wrested the previously safe Labor jewel of Melbourne from the ALP at the last election, following the retirement of the respected former Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner.

Political observers say the first-termer has his work cut out holding it again.

In South Australia, Senator Hanson-Young is locked in a difficult battle for the final Senate seat with the high-profile Nick Xenophon.

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