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It's too easy being Green

Date

How do you brown off the Greens? Put them last on the ballot paper.

FINALLY it appears some in the Labor Party have woken up to the Greens. One benefit of this awakening is that some in the media are now prepared to give the Greens at least a modicum of scrutiny.

That they have escaped it in the past is perhaps understandable. After all, they are in one sense a minor rump on the Parliament.

For example, when Senator Sarah Hanson-Young took her young daughter into the Senate in June 2009, she insisted it was not a stunt and was simply because she wanted to have a few minutes with her daughter before she went home to Adelaide. But did anyone ask the senator why she hadn't organised to have this time earlier in the day? Did anyone ask if she had considered how upset her daughter might be if the standing rules were applied? What an easy life it must be when proper scrutiny just passes you by.

An accident of voting outcomes has given these few people the balance of power in the Senate. These few people who have no hope of holding the responsibility of government have ended up being the arbiter between the two major parties.

It's hard to imagine that many Australians would answer ''yes'' if you asked them: ''Would you like the Greens to arbitrate between Liberal and Labor?'' Certainly not a majority. Yet our system has given the Greens this power, and I think that alone merits them being under close scrutiny.

The recent spat between the Greens and a number of senior Labor people was quite revealing. It doesn't say much that is positive about the Greens that one of their mantras during this tussle was that they were the only thing standing between Tony Abbott and the Lodge. Is that all they stand for? Why not promote their policies?

Even more interesting was Hanson-Young's comment that ''the Greens have values and the Labor Party doesn't''. The glaringly obvious question is: ''Will you tell the Australian people why you support Labor being in government if you think they have no values?'' Do the Greens also think the Liberals have no values? Do they really think that in a pluralist society like ours, they are the only ones with any values? Or do they just not like Abbott as leader?

In any event, the Greens were happy enough to squeeze whatever they could out of the situation. They made their demands to Gillard and now both she and the Labor Party are paying the price.

Of all the things that are valuable in life, and public life in particular, credibility is one of the most important. Without it you're just another spruiker taking up air space and interrupting the peace for no good reason. You become a parody. Incredibly, Gillard gave hers away in her post-election deal with the Greens. Power was more important to her than her promise to the people not to introduce a carbon tax.

Not only has this damaged her, perhaps irrevocably, but it has damaged her team. It now seems to the electorate that before team Labor can tell you what it is going to do, it has to have permission from a few people outside the team. The government we elected kowtows to people we did not elect.

These outsiders do nothing to help govern. So when there is a difficult problem, they have no need to worry about policies that Australia can afford, no need of policies that will work. They are free to draw on their whiteboard so far removed from the real world with which any government has to deal.

Take the issue of unlawful arrivals by boat. It is easy to engage in a healthy dose of conspicuous compassion; so easy to just say ''let everyone in''. It sounds so caring, and you're glad because you want the world to see you as the good guy.

But in government, in the real world, playing little Miss Pollyanna is not an option. The budget bottom line dictates that you can only do what you can afford. You have the responsibility to make hard choices.

Hanson-Young should be asked what she thinks is the limit of what Australia can afford in unlawful boat arrivals. She should not be allowed to evade giving an answer, a number. Then it can be costed and the public can really judge whether her ideas are feasible.

She should also be asked if she would save any of those refugee places for the poor unfortunate people who wait in camps. Or would she just open the door through Indonesia and let those who wait in camps keep waiting?

Once she has faced the reality of a limit on what Australia can afford, the senator should be asked to tell us what she would do when people, unable to get in from Indonesia under her quota, came by boat anyway.

And, when she seeks to calm a wary electorate by asserting that those who are found not to be refugees should be sent home, she might outline a few ideas on how that could be done. History shows us that whoever is in government finds returns are extremely difficult to achieve. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

I hope the major parties act sensibly and refuse to preference the Greens ahead of many others.

How do you brown off the Greens? Put them last on the ballot paper.

Amanda Vanstone was a minister in the Howard government.

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99 comments

  • Amanda we dont care where you or they (Labor) may preference the Greens. But let me tell you this, you both do. For example Green preferences are the sole reason James Merlino MP got into office. We have had a gutfull of being stabbed in the back and major parties can go and jump.

    Commenter
    Rob
    Location
    Monbulk
    Date and time
    August 06, 2012, 8:03AM
    • Ms Vanstone, 'Former Howard Government Minister'. Has it occurred to you that your article might actually work against what you want achieved? After only being able to stomach half of your article with it's right-wing extremism, I am now just that bit more of an avid supporter of the Greens. Your Howard government credentials also reminded me of everything that I hope Australia will never become again. You might serve your cause better by keeping your cards a bit closer to your chest.

      Commenter
      Josh
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 9:34AM
    • Ms Vanstone, this is aggressive bluster. your writing is filled with slogans and half truths. You attack the Greens for having no policies, rather than accepting the existenceof their policies and engaging in any meaningful debate with them. I invite you to go check out their website- they have a whole entire section titled 'policies' which shouldnt be to tricky to find.
      A substantial number of Australians- 1 in 8, I'm told- see through the attack dog tactics of politicians like yourself, Amanda. We vote Green because they are the only party willing to stay with their values.

      Commenter
      Cath
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 10:26AM
    • Looks like the bipartisan dictatorship has returned - Liberal and Labor getting together to try to block 12% of the population from having any influence. They love the fact that they can use divide and conquer politics to rule us, while providing very little for the general population. Those two parties hate the fact that there is a third party in Australian politics that could one day threaten their position.

      Commenter
      Tone
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 12:13PM
    • None of the above replies actually address what the author is saying. The author is actually questioning the logic behind Greens policies and has used the Greens policy on refugees as an example.

      No one has actually addressed this growing criticism of the Greens.

      The Greens have the ambition to be a party of government in the future. To do this they must be able to ensure that their policies are realistic in light of the realities of governance. However if they and their supporters revert to name calling (as demonstrated in some of the replies on this page) in response to scrutiny, they will fail to win the trust of the majority vote required to form government.
      For the Greens to be realistic in light of the burden of governance, they would just become another Labor party and then another puritanical left-leaning party would emerge as a break-away from the stand-for-nothing/pragmatic Greens party.
      The Greens has a choice, remain puritanical and a fringe/issue party or become the Labor party and be realistic while leaning to the left.

      Commenter
      Melburnite
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 4:17PM
  • Nice article and so true. It would be good if the media asked the Green Party (which is what they are) the same questions and insisted on answers rather than giving them carte blanche to say anything with no scrutiny.

    Commenter
    Smithy2
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    August 06, 2012, 8:04AM
    • This rubbish about the Greens being "allowed to say anything with no scrutiny" is appalling. The Greens are lucky to have anything they say reported, Before the current Parliament, they had to be very lucky. Even today, it's far more common for critics of the Greens to be quoted than for the Greens themselves.

      Do I support the Greens? No - they are a capitalist party who imagine that it is possible to have a just and sustainable capitalism. They will be cruelly disillusioned by reality - but they are not the monsters or extremists that the Right portray them to be.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 9:32AM
    • You could say that about the Libs, they are either avoiding the 'hard questions' media or the media is going soft and not demand meaningful answers. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey hardly ever front up to the ABC because they can't or won't answer tough questions (and before you start frothing about ABC bias, it has more to do with real journalists asking tough questions and expecting tough answers from whichever side of politics). When are the Libs going to tell us just how are they going to fill the gap between their promises on spending with a balanced/surplus budget?

      Commenter
      Pfft
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 9:46AM
    • ???Go check any/every press conference Brown or Bandt ever had, Smithy2. The Greens are attacked for every policy they put out.
      Whereas Abbott has got by since the last election without any solid policy creation whatsoever.

      Commenter
      Cath
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 10:28AM
    • The questions the Greens should be asked about asylum seekers are valid. It's time SHY is made to answer them.

      Commenter
      Rodrigo
      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 10:44AM

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