Personally, I have never had a problem putting the Greens last.
I had, and continue to have, a great deal of respect for genuine environmentalists – people like Bob Brown and many who support the Greens in a genuine belief that it is the right thing to do.
I do not find myself in disagreement with many of their policies. I need to stress and make clear that what really offends me about the Greens is their political strategy and the means they use to maintain their electoral appeal.
If you understand that strategy then all else about the Greens falls into place.
I have seen the Greens up close in the NSW Parliament, in local government in inner-city Sydney and been opposed by them.
I regard them as destructive opportunists, not interested in governing and fundamentally, gutless.
Regardless of denials to the contrary, they never concern themselves with the exigencies and complexities of governing. No going to a budget committee and preparing a submission for the Greens. No explaining why the treasurer and or cabinet colleagues should cut an important portfolio’s budget to fund their project du jour.
When you’re Green, money just grows on trees.
Now they are squealing about Labor having a re-think on preferences.
Perhaps they would like to explain why they did not preference Labor in NSW in the 2011 election?
Who could forget Sarah Hanson-Young’s (left) performance on ABC’s Q&A, mid-year 2010.
When repeatedly asked if Greens preferences would put Tony Abbott in The Lodge, she squirmed, ducked and weaved, hiding behind the mantra of how people allocate a preference was their personal choice.
Despite being a party that concerns itself primarily with the natural environment, when it comes to the lower house the Greens only seriously target the most inner-city urbanised, gentrified seats. At local level they are ever the populist.
Inner-city Sydney also has significant public housing estates… Never knew the Greens to take any interest in that constituency. (Mind you, public housing tenants are not known to be vocal about local issues nor are they green voting. No mileage in them.)
The infamous intransigence of the Greens should not be mistaken for admirable adherence to strongly held values. It is, in fact, a political strategy.
The Greens know only too well that their heartland would shrink if they deviated from the platform to achieve a sensible outcome.
In other words, just like every other political party they have an eye to maintaining their vote.
In some ways I would not expect the Greens to do otherwise, but they make such a meal of “not being politicians”.
Their unique selling proposition is their purity and they are not going to give it up as a matter of survival and political expediency. I just wish they would admit it because anyone who has seen them up close knows it to be true.
They know they cannot afford to be seen for the politicians that they are.
To me that is the ultimate fraud. Pretending not to be politicians.
Let me be really controversial here…
I firmly believe that, by and large, the major parties, precisely because they are concerned with governing, place less emphasis on political expediency.
Years ago I saw one quite prominent Green “preparing” a protest fixing the placards in place along a wall. Getting ready, every one guided into place, creating the scene (I wish I could remember the exact details or had taken a video), as soon as the TV cameras arrived, they quickly rearranged themselves, hands on hip, in instant-outrage-mode performing for the camera, as if they had just arrived there by accident.
It took my breath away.
The Greens are not good under pressure and hate it when they don’t have the moral high ground. Remember Senator Larissa Waters? Again on Q&A, she was explaining why there was nothing wrong with the Greens accepting a very large donation, ($1.6 million. I acknowledge it was all very legal and transparent) before the last election.
Luckily I was in my bed watching the programme. Even so, I almost fell on the floor, laughing at the stupidity and arrogance of her answer, which was, in effect: “We only need the money to run Green candidates.”
Well, what does she think the other parties want donations for?
But what she was implicitly saying is: It’s OK in this case, because it is for Green candidates, and of course we all know that’s different because they are Greens not nasty mainstream party candidates.
The Greens NEED us to believe they are special, they NEED to feel that have the moral high ground, even in the case of asylum seekers. Better they die at sea than support the PM’s compromise.
The most egregious example of Green purity was their role in killing the emissions trading scheme put forward by Penny Wong.
But here is the rub. The Greens Party do very well out of this. The carbon tax that has gone through has made them heroes, but the very same legislation which would not have been possible without a Labor government has cost Labor dearly.
The carbon tax legislation was “business as usual” for the Greens. It did not require courage. It gave them lots and cost them nothing.
Labor was courageous and will be punished for it.
The Greens have a brand that they will protect at all costs. It angers me that they will never admit that that is what they are doing by coming to a compromise that might just offend some of their supporters and cost them some votes, but achieves a much-needed outcome.
Just like any other party, they seek to protect their market share all the time pretending it is “principle, authenticity conviction and values”.
At least the mainstream parties take an electoral hit from time to time for the sake of the greater good.
The Greens are no better than luxury fashion brands, which hoodwink people into buying their overpriced products because they have worked out that people want to shroud themselves with the intangible values of that brand.
It makes the green voters feel good about themselves.
The Greens are not after middle ground (who, by and large do not support them), they have the luxury of just doing what either enhances their vote or does not damage it.
Democracy is not about having it your way on each every issue, it is not always about “YOU”.
The Greens pander to the worst of the yuppie-boomer chattering class. They effectively say: “Yes you can have anything you want and you can have it now”. Pity the poor treasurer has to figure out to how to fund it all.
Mainstream parties, charged with the responsibility of governing, are made to seem unreasonable because they may not be able to deliver on something because, unlike the Greens, they operate in the world of reality and complexity.
Courage in politics is many things. Probably the greatest courage comes from those who have the most to lose.
That loss can come from introducing legislation that will go against you in your heartland. It’s hard to say “no” to your constituency. To disappoint the people who voted for you. Who believe in you. It breaks your heart to tell them that there is greater need elsewhere.
And, so, you take a hit.
It must be wonderful to be a politician from a party that can always say “yes” to any idea that their constituency expects them to support… regardless of the consequences.
I would be more impressed with the Greens if they would occasionally say “no” to their supporters and take some punishment, like every other party has to.
But they don’t. I am not blind to the failure of the Labor party. Neither major party is perfect. But I am eternally frustrated that parties that actually have to govern are never given an ounce of credit for the difficult task of actually running a government.
Especially a hung parliament.
The Greens don’t give anyone that credit. They just don’t have the guts.
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*Former long-serving NSW Labor MP Sandra Nori represented the electorates of McKell and Port Jackson from 1988-2007. She served in the Carr and Iemma governments and her ministries included Small Business: Tourism, Sport and Recreation; Major Venues and Events; Assisting the Minister for State Development and she was also Minister for Women from 2002 until her retirement from parliament in 2007.
These days Sandra is a member of the Macquarie University Council, TAFE NSW Commission Board and Deputy Chair of the National Duke of Edinburgh Award Board.