Labor, Greens stoush hits ACT

Labor, Greens stoush hits ACT

The national row between the Greens and Labor is continuing to escalate, and is exposing tensions in the ACT relationship.

ACT Greens leader Meredith Hunter hit back last night at Labor figures who described Greens' policies as unworkable.

She pointed to the carbon tax and mining tax that became federal law with the Greens' help and to many Greens' policies implemented in the ACT by the Labor government.

She said the Greens and Labor had a good relationship in the ACT Assembly but she appeared irritated at the government repeatedly failing to give credit when implementing a Greens' policy.


Chief federal government whip Joel Fitzgibbon stepped up Labor's attack on the Greens yesterday, saying the minor party's policies were either ''populist and unachievable'' or ''achievable and economically destructive''.

Union boss Paul Howes revealed he has been itching for a fight with the Greens and was hoping they would ''bite'' after a NSW Labor push to preference the Greens last.

NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari intends to move a motion at this weekend's NSW Labor conference that calls on delegates to consider preferencing the Greens last at the next federal election.

ACT federal MP Andrew Leigh also joined the slanging match.

Ms Hunter said the attacks on the Greens by NSW Labor were a very bad strategy that could benefit her party electorally.

''Labor was decimated at the last election and it looks to be a little bit of sour grapes, a little bit of who can we blame, rather than sitting down and reflecting on our own efforts,'' she said.

''One of the attacks I've heard is the ridiculous statement around the 'unrealistic, unworkable' ideas of the Greens. That's an out of control attack that just doesn't have any substance and certainly here in the ACT that's been proven to be the case.

''We have a good relationship [with Labor] here.

''There are times when we disagree on issues but that shows a sophisticated relationship, that you can have disagreements but you can still get on with it.''

Ms Hunter said a communications protocol was negotiated to cover the situation where the ACT government would acknowledge when it was implementing a Greens' policy.

''Just in the last couple of days there have been a couple of those that have gone through to the keeper, I have to say,'' she said.

''Yes, it has fallen down, absolutely.

''[When] there have been lapses in that protocol, they have been taken up strongly with the Chief Minister.

''In the majority of cases that has been taken on board but unfortunately it has happened again in some instances.''

Ms Hunter would not be drawn on whether she believed Labor was engaging in a deliberate strategy to play hardball with its minority government partner in the lead-up to this year's election.

However she said: ''We will be going out strongly during this election campaign to promote and raise awareness on a range of issues and initiatives that have got up because of the parliamentary agreement and because of what we negotiated into that agreement.''

While Dr Leigh's remarks were more moderate than some players, the Member for Fraser expressed his disappointment at the Greens' policies.

He took particular aim at the Greens' decision to block legislation in Federal Parliament for offshore processing of asylum seekers, which delivered a huge rebuff to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. ''My concern is that, however well-intentioned their policies are, it meant Parliament did not find a solution to reduce drowning of asylum seekers,'' he said.

''Both the Greens and the Coalition played an unfortunate role.

''The Greens have always argued for onshore processing of asylum seekers.

''That's the situation that is in place at the moment and you can see the results.''

In a recent speech to Parliament, Dr Leigh launched a scathing attack on the Greens, saying their rejection of Kevin Rudd's original carbon plan resulted in a delay that caused pollution equal to emissions from one million cars each year.

He told Parliament the Greens senators ''chose self-interest over the national interest'' when they blocked the original Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the Labor-Greens stoush was confected. ''Frankly, it's as choreographed as world championship wrestling,'' he said.


Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said Labor's attacks on the Greens were a ''gift to Tony Abbott'' and undermined the minority government. ''I think they're cannibalising themselves,'' he said.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the party remained committed to working with Ms Gillard as Prime Minister.

Ross Peake is a senior reporter for The Canberra Times