Despite or because of the Libs’ and ALP Right’s and Murdoch Press’ hysterical invective against the Greens, it is highly likely that the Greens will get at least 10% of the popular vote for the foreseeable future. Numbers like that give the Greens a powerful role in parliamentary politics.
One interesting outcome is that the Greens have begun to induce the ALP and the Tories to co-operate over certain issues against the Greens. This new phenomenon in turn, helps to explain the rhetorical violence of both sides against the Greens.
Pyne would be loath to admit that the Libs destroyed One Nation by becoming One Nation. The ALP cannot become the Greens because the Greens agenda is inimical to the agenda of powerful and numerous sections of the ALP. But a more significant reason for their political longevity is that the Greens are a properly constituted party with a viable branch structure led by intelligent, articulate political professionals. By contrast, One Nation was a pack of opportunists attempting to ride the coat-tails of Pauline Hanson, an egocentric publicity addict bereft of insight and expertise.
If the ALP wants to form government they have no choice but to come to an arrangement with the Greens. Meantime, the Greens can play both major parties with promises of preferences in return for policy concessions. Time is on the side of the Greens.
Greens and normal politics
The Greens threaten to disrupt the habitual lines of patronage and influence so assiduously nurtured by corporate interests (read media, gambling and mining) and their clients in the major parties.
This disruption represents the most serious peril to the political culture of Australia since Whitlam rid Australian politics of religious sectarianism in the early 1970s.
State governments are heavily reliant on gambling taxes for their financial viability. Moreover, employment by the gambling sector is a well trodden road for retired pollies.
The Greens thus threaten to derail some lucrative gravy trains. This is very flaky behaviour by the lights of our established pollies. What pollie in her right mind derails a gravy train?
Nevertheless, the Greens have weakened themselves by choosing an undemocratic constitutional structure. The unrepresentative structure of Greens policy making fora reveals a disproportionate influence of members from small states and by extension those who are willing to compromise in order to achieve short term popularity.
Bob Brown’s peremptory dumping of inheritance tax was justified in the name of popularity and achieved by support of a conference stacked with representatives from small states. Greens political careerists threaten to trash the Greens brand.
The Greens should recognise that they have to choose either permanent opposition and uncompromising radicalism, or extinction as a party. There is no alternative.
Here is a sensible voice of dissent in the Greens:
Which brings me to the unrepresentative nature of the conference. Under the formula for delegates what we get at Greens national conferences is more or less equal numbers from each of the states. It’s more Senate than House of Representatives. So NSW, with over 30% of members, has approximately 15% of delegates. Victoria is in the same position.
The Greens have slurped deeply from the poisoned chalice of federalism, imbibing substances that are toxic to the heartlands of progressivism. The future of the Greens is with the youth of the inner suburbs. They are the vanguard of cultural change, not the populist trollatariat. The rise of the Greens is a twenty-year project. The party must look beyond victory in the next by-election. If the careerists don’t like it, then let them join another party.