Labor claws back in the polls
The national two-party-preferred vote is back to 50-50, while Julia Gillard has cemented her lead as preferred Prime Minister.PT0M31S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1b2v1 620 349 February 22, 2011
Many of the characters in David Williamson's Don Parties On, which premiered in Sydney on Friday, have become supporters of the Greens or fatalistic eco-catastrophists. The play, based in the Melbourne suburb of Lower Plenty on election night last year, has but one character who supported Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party and he is, by consensus, a dickhead. The rest are Greens of varying degrees of intensity who have abandoned, or never embraced, Labor.
There is a lot to be said for the Williamson genre. The playwright is entertaining and witty, the audience stay awake and return after the interval and most have a good time. What's more, Williamson's work is commercially successful and does not require the support of taxpayers.
It is true that there has been a move to the Greens in inner-city areas of the capital cities. But this has not spread to the suburbs, regional centres or rural areas. The latest Herald/Nielsen poll indicated that NSW voters who are proposing to junk Labor are moving straight across to Barry O'Farrell and the Coalition, by-passing the Greens.
Interviewed this month on Meet the Press, O'Farrell was asked whether the NSW Liberals would give their preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens, as the Victorian Liberal Party did successfully in last November's state election. The Opposition Leader made the point that, unlike Victoria, NSW has an optional preference voting system and that it is not necessary for political parties to advise supporters about how to allocate preferences.
O'Farrell added that the Liberals in NSW "haven't preferenced the Greens in the past" and he could not "imagine us doing it in the future". He also advised that the Liberal Party's state director, Mark Neeham, "will make the decision [on preferences] in due course".
In the four years he has been Opposition Leader, O'Farrell has been very successful in unifying the Liberal Party and in cementing a viable coalition with the National Party. Both are real achievements. Also, during this time O'Farrell has obtained a significant grasp of detail over all areas of administration. However, he has yet to establish his standing as a conviction politician. This may occur if, as seems very likely, O'Farrell is elected premier on March 26.
In the meantime, O'Farrell and his colleagues would be well advised to take a stance on the Greens. For starters, there would be some political benefit in acknowledging that some of Labor's candidates are preferable to the Greens. Then there is the fact that O'Farrell is closer to the Premier, Kristina Keneally, on a range of economic, foreign and social policy issues than he is to the Greens.
It is widely recognised that the Greens' best chances of winning seats in the Legislative Assembly turn on the electorates of Marrickville and Balmain - now held by high-profile Keneally government ministers Carmel Tebbutt and Verity Firth respectively. The mayor of Marrickville, Fiona Byrne, is standing against Tebbutt and the mayor of Leichhardt, Jamie Parker, is contesting Balmain for the Greens.
Any Liberal voter would be crazy not to preference Labor ahead of the Greens in Marrickville and Balmain. There are Greens who are primarily environmentalists - like Senator Bob Brown and Senator Christine Milne. And then there are hard-left Greens - like Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon, who graduated from the Communist Party to the Greens. Byrne and Parker are close to the hard-left Greens camp.
As mayor of Marrickville, Byrne has led the charge to sign up ratepayers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. This global movement, driven by the left, aims to boycott all goods made in Israel and prohibit all sporting, academic, government or cultural exchanges. The campaign does not distinguish between Israel's pre- and post-1967 borders and is aimed at Jewish and Arab Israelis alike.
Byrne and her Greens comrades seem unaware that Israel and increasingly Iraq are the only two democracies in the Middle East and that Arabs who are citizens of Israel have more democratic rights than Arabs domiciled in Arab nations. They also seem unaware that, historically, the left in Australia has supported Israel - as documented in Daniel Mandel's H V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel and Philip Mendes's article in the November 2009 issue of Labour History.
The Liberal Party, like Labor, has always supported the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. It is the Greens, not Labor, who challenge Israel, question the Australian-American alliance and are soft on counterterrorism legislation. Moreover, the Greens are well to the left of Labor on economic and social issues.
It makes sense for Liberals in inner-city Sydney to give their preferences to Tebbutt ahead of Byrne and to Firth ahead of Parker.
Gerard Henderson is executive director of The Sydney Institute.
Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU