Federal Politics

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Greens soften policy stand

THE Greens have announced a party platform portraying many of their core beliefs as ''aims and principles'' rather than explicit policies, presenting a smaller target to critics in a federal election year.

After a year in which senior Labor figures have labelled the Greens as ''loopy'' and extremists who threaten democracy, the new platform does not resile from the party's basic beliefs, but it contains fewer firm policy measures, in keeping with the manifestos of the major parties.

It removes one of critics' favourite lines of attack, no longer specifying that the Greens support death duties.

The platform gives the Greens' federal MPs - currently nine senators and one member of the House of Representatives - flexibility in negotiating legislation when holding the balance of power. But it will also make it harder for opponents to attack or ridicule the party over specific policies.

For example, the new platform no longer specifies that the Greens want to abolish the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, but rather talks about ''redirecting funding from subsidising private health insurance towards direct public provision''.

And it no longer calls for a freeze on Commonwealth funding for private schools, stating instead that funding should be based on school need and that money not provided to the wealthiest private schools under the model should instead be given to the public sector.


The new platform was agreed at the party's November national conference and has now been approved by all its state branches.

The document still makes it clear that the Greens want to increase the marginal tax rate for people earning more than $1 million, but no longer specifies that it should be raised to 50 per cent. It advocates increasing the mining tax and applying it to more commodities, but no longer proposes a rise in the company tax rate to 33 per cent.

The platform says the Greens want tax reform that improves housing affordability by no longer rewarding speculation, but it does not specifically call for an end to the concessional arrangements for capital gains tax. It no longer specifies that the Greens support death duties or an ''estate tax''.

The party has had disappointing results in several recent elections, including in the recent ACT poll, in which it lost three of the four seats that it had held in the territory's assembly.

Greens founder and long-term leader Bob Brown retired this year. The party's new leader, Senator Christine Milne, has sought to appeal to new constituencies, including rural voters and small businesses.

But the Greens are attracting about 10 per cent of the national vote in most major opinion polls, compared with the almost 12 per cent they achieved in the 2010 election.

The party has recently started a national fund-raising effort, mainly through micro-donations, to build a $3 million war chest for the 2013 federal election year.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said this year that if the Greens ''stood on their real platform, they would be struggling to get to 3 per cent of the electorate''.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said they were ''loopy'' and were extremists who threatened Australia's democracy.