The growing influence of the Greens must be sending shivers through Labor ranks.
WELL before opposition leader Tony Abbott so accurately pinpointed where power really lies in Canberra, State Scene received an email from a contact who has similarly assessed this question.
“The only convictions this Labor government has are Bob Brown’s; Labor is the government but the Greens are in power,” Mr Abbott said.
My Canberra contact, though not as concisely, wrote: “I’d just begun my travels to speak at a legal conference in Oxford, when things got interesting on the bus from Canberra to the Sydney international terminal.
“It was September 3 – the federal election was past, but there was still no new government – the horse trading with independents was well under way.
“A few rows away, a woman was very excitedly (and loudly) chatting on her mobile to someone who was probably her daughter, jubilantly describing what a great deal somebody named ‘Bob’ had negotiated.
“Soon quite a few of us on the bus were hearing words along the lines of – ‘It’s almost like being a cabinet minister, without being one officially.
“‘We will see all the cabinet papers and departmental briefings and have input into all the processes and full access to the public service’.
“If we [the passengers] couldn’t believe our ears, it seemed like all her Christmases (and Bob’s) were coming at once, and they’d be Green.”
We’ll probably never know who the indiscrete lady with the loud voice was. My guess is she’s probably a Greens senator’s staffer.
It matters little since my contact’s preview and Mr Abbott’s comments are essentially identical.
There’s no mistaking that Australia has a Labor-Greens Government. Although headed by Julia Gillard, she’s far from calling all the shots.
Year 2010 will therefore be remembered as the one in which two Labor-Greens administrations emerged, with another probably on the way, so it may become the Greens hat trick year.
The first came in March, with Tasmanian Labor handing Greens leader Nick McKim several ministries, including climate change, sustainable transport and alternative energy.
Moreover, Mr McKim’s partner, Cassy O’Connor, is Tasmania’s cabinet secretary, meaning Apple Isle Greens are assured of seeing, to use the description of the noisy lady on the bus, ‘all the cabinet papers and departmental briefings and have input into all the processes and full access to the public service’.
But where’s that likely hat trick?
Now targeted is Victoria, where, one-time Murdoch University Trotskyist, Adam Bandt, who is now completing a PhD titled, ‘Work to Rule: Rethinking Marx, Pashukanis and Law’, took the federal Melbourne seat for the Greens.
Interestingly, he once dubbed the Greens ‘bourgeois’, but that didn’t stop him piggybacking into parliament on their ticket.
They have so many similarities and so few differences, which may explain why the prime minister conceded so much to Greens negotiators.
They could both, in fact, be in the same party. Except for some relatively minor factional disparities and loyalties, they’re just so similar.
Both come from South Australia, both studied law, both were campus student union lefties, and both worked for law firm Slater & Gordon.
Surely Ms Gillard never expected the Bandt-manned leftist Greens to install an Abbott-led coalition.
With Victoria’s election due on November 27, Labor politicians there are understandably jittery about being similarly clean-bowled.
With Tasmanian Labor, to Victoria’s south, formally coalesced with the Greens, and Ms Gillard doing likewise, though less formally, to Victoria’s north, it’s as though a Greens pincer movement was in play.
Victorian Premier John Brumby understandably feels surrounded, and fears he’ll be treading one or other of those paths.
That’s why he’s done what State Scene cannot recall any Labor leader having ever stooped to do.
The Australian’s national affairs writer, Paul Kelly, described his desperate move well. “Meanwhile Victorian Premier, John Brumby, is appealing to Liberal voters in the coming state poll not to preference the Greens – yes, that’s right, those same Greens in a formal working alliance with the Gillard government – because Brumby fears they will only steal more votes and seats from Labor in the deepest heartland of its strongest state.”
Victorian Greens are likely to snap-up the state seats of Melbourne and Richmond.
And polling shows they may fall just short in two more – Brunswick and Northcote.
According to one Victorian observer: “If that is correct, Victoria is headed for a cliff hanger election, with a strong chance that the state will end up with a hung parliament.”
Even though a Victorian Liberal-led coalition looks out of sight, a Tasmania-style Labor-Greens arrangement or a Canberra–style one is on the cards.
So there’s the likely hat trick, with Mr Brumby hoping Liberal voters pad-up for his side, since only they are capable of thwarting a leftist Green fate.
Add to this the fact that Labor faces almost certain defeat in New South Wales in March, and the 12 months between the Tasmanian and NSW polls must be viewed as constituting a major turnaround in Labor’s 110-year history.
And this despite the fact that, during much of the Howard era, Labor held power in all states and territories; and between December 2007 and September 2008 reigned supreme across Australia.
How things have changed, and so suddenly; but worse looks to be on the way.
The coming half decade, 2010 to 2015, not only offers Labor dismal outcomes, but it’s probably the beginning of an even more dismal longer term for years beyond 2015-20.
Labor, despite having held total power across Australia, and so recently, increasingly looks to be morphing into a political cadaver.
It’s rapidly running out of rank-and-file members; branches nationwide are shells of their former selves or non-existent; the party machine lives off taxpayers’ dollars from the head-tax paid after each election on dwindling numbers of votes gained; and quality of candidates is, frankly, very low to deplorable.
Furthermore, Tasmania’s, Canberra’s and maybe also Victoria’s Greens MPs will demand a share of the patronage bonanzas, the spoils of office, meaning appointment of party loyalists to state and Canberra-created quangos and other cushy jobs for the boys and girls.
Why should all those taxpayer-paid-for jobs only go to Labor’s long-time faithful, and not to Greens pals?
With Labor’s membership precipitously sliding, quality of candidates ever deteriorating, and number of taxpayer-funded patronage positions set to decline, the future is far from sanguine.
True, things aren’t much better across Liberal ranks, but at least the situation there is unambiguous.
They know where they stand; in the cold, in opposition. You can’t get clearer.
Labor, on the other hand, still looks like a winner but increasingly has to share the spoils of office with a party that has Labor leaders spooked with the global warming hoax and pressure for higher taxes – on mining, carbon dioxide gas, and, still coming estate taxes and hikes on superannuation, capital gains, car usage, electricity and businesses.
There can only be one beneficiary once their impact slowly begins biting into people’s pay packets and limits their children’s aspirations, then trims lifelong nest eggs and assets.
Not Labor. Unfortunately, all that’s still quite some time off.