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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The Greens' momentum halted? « Previous | |Next »
November 18, 2010

Paul Austin in The Age argues that The Greens electoral surge has been halted due to the Liberal Party's decision to put the Greens last on its how-to-vote cards. He says:

The message is that if you want to play with the big boys, you'll have to survive on primary votes, not just preferences.This will hurt the Greens, big time...And the danger for the Greens is that the Victorian Liberals' decision will become a model in other states and federally - and for other parties.Don't rule out Labor doing something similar in future....It mightn't prove hard for Labor in future to prefer the Liberals to the Greens.

Austin's assumption is that The Greens deserved what they got.They are arrogant: 'too cocky as they took the major parties - and their preferences - for granted.'


Austin's argument can be questioned. First, the shift to The Greens in the inner city seats of the capital cities will continue, due to the ALP's turn away from its progressive values as a result of the domination of the NSW Right. It is just going to take longer to win the seats off the ALP without Liberal preferences.

Secondly, the Liberal decision probably means the return of a majority Labor government, rather than a weakened minority Labor Government with Green support that would allow the Liberals the political space in Parliament to work withe Greens to get legislation up. This is what is happening in federal Parliament.

Thirdly, Austin doesn't see the implication of his argument--the emergence of Lib/Lab with only minor differences between the two. It is The Greens who stand in opposition to the Lib/Lab neo-liberal business-as-usual growth model; an economic and political order that is profoundly opposed to breaking the umbilical cord that ties our civilisation to fossil-fuel consumption. The Lib/Lab political order is not going to challenge the power of multinational energy and mining companies in Australia. They support and defend it. Hence the Green's grass-roots momentum in inner city Melbourne.

Fourthly, Austin gives little indication that he is aware that the coal industry upon which Victoria's demand for electricity depends is heading for a crash. He hasn't read the International Energy Agency (IEA) just released annual World Energy Outlook (WEO), with forecasts for the structure of the energy market through to 2035. This compares coal and oil’s current 46 per cent share of global electricity generation to what it would be in 2030 under the 2°C degree scenario. The answer is just 22 per cent. The difference would be picked up by low CO2 energy, nuclear and renewables, with the latter seeing massive growth.

The Lib/Lab power bloc assumes that coal is destined to stay cheap for decades to come. This assumption supports investment in 'clean-coal' technology and trumps serious efforts to increase energy conservation and develop alternative energy sources.

Will coal stay cheap as assumed? Not with carbon capture (CCS) technology it won't, and that is the only way that coal can survive in a low carbon world. If coal prices rise, as they will, then renewables will become cheaper than coal with CCS.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:57 AM | | Comments (16)


Austin says 'The message is that if you want to play with the big boys, you'll have to survive on primary votes, not just preferences."

Both Labor and Liberal survive on preferences these days, not primary votes. Labor survive on Green preferences whilst Liberals survive on those of Family First. The Liberals also have to form a coalition with the Nationals to gain power.

Even though 2 degrees of warming still has serious consequences, the world’s governments, including the top emitters such as the US, China, EU and India, have accepted 2 degrees as the upper target for broad policy. This goal was also endorsed by hundreds of global corporations such as Rio Tinto, General Electric and HSBC at the Copenhagen conference in 2009.

If we are to put any more CO2 in the atmosphere than that, we will almost certainly be heading past 3-4°C. The economic consequences of that would be serious enough that even the business-as-usual growth model of the Lib/Lab crowd would dump the commitment to cheap energy as the overriding policy objective.

Paul Gilding and Phil Preston in their Carbon-Induced Financial Disruption paper say that:

some argue that technology such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) will save us from disruptive economic change and allow business-as-usual to continue. CCS can work – but can it work at an economically competitive price? A recent McKinsey report estimates that the cost would be in the range of USD$50-100 per tonne, which may prevent CCS from becoming commercially viable; particularly with the unit cost of renewable energy solutions now falling rapidly as production scale increases. The small amount of commercial investment in CCS compared to the $100 - $200 billion per annum going into renewable energy summarises the market’s view of their relative potential. Relying on the mass deployment of CCS to rescue the fossil fuel sector, given the short timeframe available, is a very risky assumption.

They say that from their perspective, there is a strong case for an outcome that includes significant government action and the abandonment of CCS as a competitive solution.

That means the economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves in Victoria and NSW may be of little to no economic value.

Looks like Fairfax has joined Murdoch in their anti-Green bias.
Well more transparently that is.

Its a real compliment to the Greens that the Libs have finally realised that they are the more dangerous opponent relative to the emasculated ALP [is there a better word to use than the sexist 'emasculated'?].
And a bit of a comment on their powers of perception that it took them so long to do so.

This will make things tougher in the short term for the Greens but it was inevitable and will serve them well in the long term.

An anti-Green rant launched by Greg Sheridan in The Australian:

The Greens are a pernicious and extreme party; they are now in power in coalition in Tasmania and are part of a power-sharing arrangement with the Gillard government in Canberra, though Gillard got absolutely nothing from the Greens in return for going into alliance with them...a cursory stroll through the Greens website shows just how extreme and destructive their ideology is. It's built on a hatred of modern Western society and as such is the logical successor to the Communist Party, just as many Greens were former communist activists or their progeny.

He forgets to mention that The Greens are now in power in coalition in the ACT.

We can expect a lot more of this kind of attack on The Greens by the likes of Albrechtsen and Sheridan-- The Greens are anti-free trade, anti-capitalism, anti-wealth and anti-growth.

one of the interesting thing about the minority ALP government in the ACT is that we get a real mix and match in the legislative process. In addition to ALP and Greens voting together on occasions the Greens and the Liberals get together on something, roadside drug testing most recently and on other occasions the ALP gets Liberal votes to ge their policy up.

contrary to the doom sayers the end of the world has not yet arrived, democracy is functioning and we have a less arrogant ALP government that has made fewer silly decisions than when they had a majority and the Liberals are competing on occasions for the middle ground.

The Greens represent a serious challenge to the existing order, with which both Labor and the Coalition have become (much too) comfortable. Both major parties are effectively moribund, with negligible active grassroots membership and a dearth of ideas beyond doing more of the same kind of things they've been trumpeting as 'reform' since the early 1980s. They are essentially two conservative parties who disagree over points of administrative detail.

The political establishment will join forces to try to destroy the Greens, unless the latter does the job for them a la the Democrats. Whether the Greens can survive and prosper will depend on the extent to which they can successfully re-engage a mass of voters with the political process.

There is a great post over at Loon Pond on Janet (madam slap) Albrechtsen. The cartoon characters are a treat.

I see the Lib's building has a tower on it. Labor's must have cable. funny

Austin doesn't make clear how to measure the halting of the Greens electoral surge. Implicitly he seems to suggest that the surge will be halted if they don't get a lower house seat.

If that outcome happens but they record say an increase in their vote to 14% statewide and ensure the return of several ALP candidates on preferences?
and get an increase in representation in the upper house with the balance of power?

Woudl these outcomes be consistent with a halting of the Greens electoral surge?

No Doug. The Lib Lab thing in Victoria is a botoxed example of something as old as the hills.
Remember the Libs and Labs combining to gerrymander Tasmania agains the Greens in the 'nineties of last century?

well you could have cable + wireless. I did when I was working in Canberra as a policy wonk. I had fixed line broadband at home in Adelaide and in the office in Canberra (both hooked up to a wireless router of some sort) and wireless for when I was on the road.

The wireless connection was useless for communications that required a very stable connection or require large amounts of data transfer. The connection also dropped out frequently and had low speed due to the high utilization of the towers nearby--lower speeds than the ADSL2+ that Internode provides me at home in Adelaide.

the post on Albrechtson at Loon Ponds is excellent:

Today, we have Dame Slap, the always alarmist Janet Albrechtsen, issuing dire paranoid warnings to young trains everywhere. Extreme secret agenda aims to change our society, she shrieks, and we know who are the usual suspects. That's right it's those damn young comfortably middle class inner city dwellers and their smug ways ... a bit like Janet Albrechtsen really, but they happen to have left the tracks

Wonderful. Every time I see a stylish Albrechtson on Q+A I think inner city urban elite.

George Megalogenis' Greening of the nation, an extract from Megalogenis's Quarterly Essay, titled Trivial Pursuit: Leadership and the End of the Reform Era, can be interpreted as a reply to Austin re the momentum of the Greens. He says:

Privately, the main parties concede that the Greens represent a structural risk to their respective bases because they have so many young people already on board. If they aren't thinking Labor or Coalition in their 20s and 30s, what would make them change in middle age?

He adds that the Greens are in double digits across all groups except men aged 50-plus. They are a pink and white-collar movement. The Greens pose an institutional as well as electoral threat to Labor because they appeal to that part of the base that provides parliamentary talent: the professionals.
Labor ceases to be a viable stand-alone party if it cedes a generation of voters, and party members, to the Greens.For the Coalition, the demographic time bomb is ticking just as loudly. It has even less support among young voters than Labor and can't claim a positive mandate while it presents itself as a protest party for the grey belt alone

The two main parties have a problem on their hands---their two-party duopoly is being threatened by those in the 18-34 age group.

Here we go again. The Labor Right attacks the Greens using Glenn Milne. This time it is Bill Shorten warning that the Greens' ultimate ambition is to cut living standards and reduce prosperity in the name of environmental puritanism. “The answer is never Green”.

According to Milne Shorten's intent is clear; to warn Brown that Labor can only go so far in accommodating the Greens-ALP alliance that sustains the government in office federally in a hung Parliament.

Milne recycles the Labor Right's position on Labor's corrupt emissions trading scheme (CPRS) in his Shorten: the answer is never Green.--It's all the Greens fault. Milne says:

Remember it was the Greens, not Tony Abbott, who scuttled Kevin Rudd’s first version of the scheme in the Senate prior to the last election, arguably destroying his Prime Ministership.They did so on the grounds that Rudd’s CPRS was not radical enough in its prescriptions. Will they do so again? And if so, how will Labor react? The straws are already in the wind, the tensions already evident.

This ignores that Labor plus the Greens did not hold the balance of power in the Senate. Against Coalition opposition, Labor could only have passed the legislation with Xenophon and Fielding onside. And Fielding had indicated he would vote against it. So it didn't matter how the Greens voted.