Saturday, April 02, 2011

What's happening in Australia?

Last week saw two events in Australia that should give all right thinking people (ie people who agree with me) a little chilly shiver. The first was barmy, the second much more substantial.

The Liberal leader Tony Abbott chose to back and speak at a major anti-government rally. Not against cuts, as here, but against taxes - carbon pricing to be exact (pdf) - an imperfect measure intended to aid the fight against climate change.

Unlike the UK where climate change is often seen as an issue for people far away in Australia they *are* far away and have seen bush fires, droughts, floods and disasters over the last ten years on a really frightening scale. They've even had record hail storms.

There really is no excuse for anyone to be a climate denier in Oz, but the main opposition Liberals (read Tories UK people) had a mini-coup last year deposing one leader who was seen as too reasonable on climate with an out and out denier.

However, under pressure from the right Labor has taken it's traditional position of buckling. This has led to Labor's leader, Julia to issue instructions to the troops to distance themselves from their Green partners, even as the Greens are welcoming the deal both partners just signed. As per usual the electorate have scented weakness and signalled that they just don't respect it.

Meanwhile in the New South Wales state election we saw a massive swing to the right giving the Liberal/National Coalition seats they never dreamed they might win. Of course, the small crumb of comfort here is that the Greens also achieved their best ever result including electing their first ever representative in the NSW lower house (who's from the midlands). However, in the context of an incredible swing towards the climate denying right that win is a very small chink of light.

At least we know there is a growing audience for left and green ideas as Labor's failure to deliver a progressive agenda becomes more and more apparent. Right now they're lost and in government, a terrible combination. Here's the results.

Swing  Seats  Change
Liberal  38.6 +11.7 51 +29
Labor  25.6 –13.4  20 –32
National  12.5 +2.5 18 +5
Greens  10.3 +1.3 1 +1
Independent  8.8 +1 3 –3
Other  4.2 –3.1  0 0
   Total  93

For the geek minded I thought I'd also compare percentage seats to percentage vote under AV, just because it backs up the contention that AV accentuates trends which can, sometimes, lead it to less proportional than First Past the Post. That's by the by though.

Vote Seats
Liberal  38.6% 54.8%
Labor  25.6% 21.5%
National  12.5% 19.4%
Greens  10.3% 1.1%
Independent  8.8% 3.2%
Other  4.2% 0.0%

What's clear is thatthere is a space for a clear left progressive party in Australia, despite the growing vigour of the right, and that Labor's capitulation to the right's agenda does not just signal a lack of principle but is going to cost them dear over the next few years.


weggis said...

There's also this:

Bob Brown puts Greens Left on Notice

"the party was being hijacked by socialist ideologues."

"These people aren't Greens; these are people who have a clear agenda which has very little to do with the environment and a lot to do with extreme politics."

ktam said...

First up I wouldn't trust "The Australian" newspaper to say anything accurate about the Greens. The Australian has had an editorial that clearly states that it is out to destroy the greens, and that is what the paper is clearly trying to do.

If you want to believe a description of a party that is truly left progressive as extreme then that's is your interpretation.

Jim Jepps said...

That's a really interesting link, but I don't think it should detract from the fact the Greens scored a record result.

I think the problem with Lee Rhiannon was that the electorate didn't feel she was being honest with them after she denied saying things she's actually said on record (that's my understanding after reading blogs and reports on the subject over the last week).

She appears to be one of these single issue obsessives which may be unfair on her, but that's the way it appears from here. I certainly wouldn't say she looks like a socialist ideologue when she doesn't bang on about trade union rights and inequality in Australia, for example. (Certainly not in the same public way as her stance on Israel).

I'm not sure bob Brown publicly attacking his own party is such a great way forward either though - we've got a good opportunity to grow but infighting could very easily see us missing that opportunity.

ktam said...

One comment directly related to the article.

The Conservatives have been doing everything they can with smearing in relation to the Carbon tax, and yet even so the Greens in NSW managed to increase their vote.

Labour's disaster at the polls in NSW have nothing to do with Green issues and everything to do with their complete complicity in the implementation of the neo-liberal agenda.

Long live the Greens.


Brad said...

I wouldn't be so bold Jim to criticize and caricature individual Greens members from far off Ol Blighty nor rule on what the electorate thought.

How do you know? Do you live in Marrickville part time?

Nonetheless, while the NSW result was a 2 % gain for the Greens the "greenslide" flagged at the recent federal poll seems to have ebbed a bit. This is confusing, esp in the context of NSW and how far Labor was on the nose. While the NSW branch of the Greens are the most left in the country, they nonetheless did not direct preferences so many traditional ALP voters may not have trusted them especially in the light of their preference game play during the recent Victorian election where they offered to back the Tories. The Greens have also just gone into partnership with the ruling ALP government to back a carbon tax -- and people do not like it as they see, quite rightly, that it will be regressive and their everyday living costs will rise. So the Greens climate policy as far as working people are concerned is this onerous tax. Nonetheless, of course, the support is there as indicated by the historic win in Balmain --a traditional Greens heartland with a inner city gentrification demographic.
Unfortunately, in the NSW election the rabid right wing racist demagogue, Pauline Hansen, won an upper house seat and it could also be suggested that the Greens unwillingness to direct preferences could have contributed to her win.
So it is a mixed bag of plusses and minuses and in this mix comes a major campaign now being run by Labor -- in collusion with the Zionist lobby and the Tories -- to denigrate the Greens and try to divide them on on the issue of Palestine (something that Bob Brown seems to be willing to do). Its an attempt to make the Greens left flank a political liability. This is an unusual and puts the Greens under a lot of internal pressure as to how they will resolve the dispute.

My reading is that if the Greens had clearly directed preferences according to policy and ran a campaign focused on government action for climate change (such as nationalisation across the board and regulations) rather than be sallying us with a carbon tax as a one shot wonder, they would have done much better at the NSW election.
My personal view of the Greens in the cusp of the promise of what may or may not be a greenslide is that if what they are now offering is all they've got: taxes,and a disdain for the question of who governs us, then they have shot themselves in the foot and the promise that may be there for " a clear left progressive party in Australia" aint them. (And I know a few Greens members who now are thinking the same way).

dwight said...

Greetings from Melbourne,

I'd agree that the Australian (and any other Murdoch paper) is not a reliable source of info on the Greens. Try the Melbourne Age for a slightly more sane take. Ditto agree on NSW - very clapped out and corrupt Labour outfit getting a kicking. For me, as an ex-pat returned to Australia after 20 years away, it strikes me that a lot of the people who support Abbott are just very confused and scared. Partly because Australia is no longer - in their eyes - the bastion of Whiteness that it used to be (though it's more complicated than just saying "they're all racists) and also the green agenda is about acknowledging limits on what can be ripped out of the Earth. And the colonisation of Australia since 1788 has been almost ENTIRELY predicated on being able to rip out resources and flog them overseas. Would recommend Guy Pearse's "Quarry Vision" Would also be happy to do a short guest post on this if you were interested?

Jim Jepps said...

ktam: i agree it was a real achievement in context to increase the Green vote - let's hope we can get it even higher.

brad: mmm... I think I was pretty careful to say that I was talking about how it appeared and that the impression i was getting might be unfair on her. However, I've been reading what people in the area have been saying and the press and there's a clear impression - that could be wrong as you say. But it *is* the way it's coming across.

It *is* bad that Pauline Hansen got in - but I doubt very much that Green prefs had much to do with that, which seems to be an exclusively Labor argument who seem to believe that the Greens second prefs are theirs by rights.

I'd be interested to know how widely that view is shared among the electorate.

Dwight: thanks - that sounds really interesting!

All: Interesting piece on why/how the greens are being attacked;

Peter Cranie said...

I've done some trainspotting stuff on AV and the (likely) breakthrough in NSW over at my place Jim. It's still painful that 10% of the state wide vote returns just one MP, but without AV it would be none.

Jim Jepps said...

I'll take a look Peter, although I was actually refering to Labor vs Coalition where losing one third of their vote meant they lost almost two thirds of their seats.

It's absolutely true that the one Green seat would not have been won under FPTP but I think we need to think a bit wider than our own self-interest on this one.