Monday, July 4, 2011

On the QT: Feel the audacity of the Greens!

So today, the Greens took control of the Senate (well the balance of power part of it). I hope you all enjoyed the gay wedding you attended and stopped by the old folks’ home after the reception to administer some euthanasia on anyone looking a bit too inert for your liking.

So the day came and went and apparently nothing much has changed. This of course is just all part of The Greens’ evil plan. First they will lull us into a false sense of security and then just when we’re all comfortable they’ll… unleash their full arsenal and (wait for it, it’s pretty sinister…) vote in the Senate.



A party that at the last election got 13 per cent of the vote in Senate now holds 11 per cent of the seats in the Senate.


Or as The Herald Sun editorial on the weekend called it:

Greens leader Bob Brown, is no longer the warm and fuzzy figure once thought of as a harmless, tree-hugging Tasmanian environmentalist.

Senator Brown has revealed himself as a danger to democracy in challenging the potential mandate of a Coalition government to abolish a carbon tax imposed by the current minority government of Labor, Greens and independents.

Uhuh. “A danger to democracy”. I’m not sure “danger” or “democracy” mean what the author of that editorial thinks they mean.

I must first make an admission: I am not a Greens voter. Basically my local member is Andrew Leigh and I am a sucker for intelligent economists who also blog. I may one day vote for the Greens, but the cold-hearted, economic rationalist side of me, has thus far kept me from doing so.

But I like a lot of things about the Greens – especially that they don’t all talk in sound bites.

But the thing I like most about the Greens is that they have seriously screwed with the heads of the Press Gallery.

The Gallery demands “scrutiny” of the Greens, and hate it when Bob Brown plays all coy with them, or calls them the “hate media”.

The big problem with the Greens though is they don’t act like a proper political party. They don’t have public brawls, they don’t leak to the press, the don’t background the press, they don’t particularly feel much need to use the press the way the Libs and ALP do.

They may one day feel like they need to feed the media, but at the moment, not so much. (Also the other parties have safety in numbers, which makes leaks easier to get away with.)

The problem is the media are desperate to be able to get a hold on the Greens.  Mostly they like to think of them as just the far-left of the Labor Party. And on some issue that may almost be true, but that doesn’t mean Greens Senators will act like left-wing ALP Senators (or MPs). One of the reasons I’ve noticed of why people join the Greens and not the ALP is not just the policy differences, but also the bullsh*t that can go along with joining the ALP – the factions, the in-fighting, the egos, the kowtowing to Party heavyweights.

And yes, when Bob Brown goes perhaps there will be some jostling to get his job. But for now, there is no evidence of the destruction of the Party that so many commentators see happening – ooh Lea Rhiannon is now here, feel the instability!!!

And so the press gallery seems to have some dopey need to dip into the hyperbole bowl when writing of the Greens.

Take today. As there was a new Senate, there was to be the usual vote for who would be President of the Senate (ie the Speaker of the Senate). Currently the role is held by ALP Senator John Hogg.

This morning when nominations for the position were opened, the Greens nominated Greens’ WA Senator Scott Ludlam. He lost the vote 62 votes to 9 (ie the ALP and LNP voted together for Hogg)

Here’s how the media reported it:image

The Australian:

James Massola

THE Greens have failed in an audacious bid to seize the coveted post of president of the Senate from Labor, as the party flexes its muscles as the chamber's new balance-of-power holder.

The Herald Sun (with subtle accompanying photo of Bob Brown, just in case you think the Greens are in any way serious):

Phillip Hudson

THE Greens have formally taken the balance of power in the Senate today and shifted their seats to the government side of the chamber.

They have also made an audacious bid for the prestigious post of Senate president, which is normally held by the Government.

The Courier Mail:

Steven Scott

GREENS Leader Bob Brown has failed in a bold bid to gain control of important roles of president and deputy president in the new Senate.

Malcolm Farr

10.52am The Greens have started to flex their muscles.

For the first time in the Commonwealth's history, a Green senator today is representing every state of the nation.

The clean sweep was confirmed today when the half Senate elected last August was sworn in. They included four new Green senators joining five others.

And the changed dynamics quickly became evident when the Greens used their extra muscle to challenged the Government's nomination for President of the Senate.

Yep, “audacious”, “bold”, “extra muscle”.

Except here’s the thing. Let’s go back three years to August 26 2008, the last time the Senate changed. Let’s see what happened when they called for nominations for the position of President of the Senate:

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia—Leader of the Government in the Senate) (12.18 pm)—Mr Clerk, I remind the Senate that the time has come when it is necessary for the Senate to choose one of its members to be President. I propose to the Senate for its President Senator Hogg, and I move:
That Senator Hogg take the chair of the Senate as President.

The Clerk—Are there any further nominations?

Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania— Leader of the Australian Greens) (12.18 pm)—Mr Clerk, I propose to the Senate as its President Senator Christine Milne, and I move:
That Senator Milne take the chair of the Senate as President.

The Clerk—Are there any further nominations? There being no further nominations, I invite the candidates to address the chair

Wow. So three years ago, when the Greens had 6 members out of 76, and didn’t hold the balance of power, I guess they were also “audacious”, “bold” and displaying “extra muscle” when they nominated Senator Milne to be the President. The difference? Back then they only got 6 votes.

But hey, how about we go back 6 years on August 9 2005, when the Senate numbers changed over – but when the Liberal Party held a majority in the Senate. What happened then?

Senator HILL (South Australia—Leader of the Government in the Senate) (12.47 pm)—Mr Clerk, I remind the Senate that the time has come when it is necessary for the Senate to choose one of its members to be President. I propose to the Senate for its President Senator Calvert, and I move:
That Senator Calvert take the chair of the Senate as President.

The Clerk—Are there any other nominations?

Senator BROWN (Tasmania) (12.47 pm)—Mr Clerk, I propose to the Senate for its President Senator Nettle, and I move:
That Senator Nettle take the chair of the Senate as President.

Wow. So six years ago, when they only had four Senators and had bugger all power, I guess they were also “audacious”, “bold” and displaying “extra muscle” when they nominated Senator Nettle to be the President. The difference? Back then they got seven voted (the Democrats chipped in for a few votes)

There were a couple pretty senior journalists writing those pieces, but today they were shown up by a more junior member of the Press Gallery, Macquarie radio’s, Sarah Wiley who tweeted:

Greens trying to get Scott Ludlum elected senate president. a stunt the greens often pull at the start of a new senate.

And then followed it up with:

Coalition expected to support Labor's John Hogg as Senate President. Usual practice.

Perspective. Good to see.

The Greens have some dopey policies (in my opinion), and Lea Rhiannon will surely say many dopey things. But journalists, would be advised to not lose grip on reality. Just because there are nine Greens Senators doesn't change the world, and today it certainly didn’t make any difference to how they acted when they only had four.


Over in Question Time we had the continuing farce of the ALP releasing bits of the Carbon Price policy, but not all, and then acting all shocked that the Liberals might ask them about other aspects. The ALP also again wasted Dorothy Dixers talking about Abbott, instead of talking up their own policies and programs. No one gives a damn what Abbott said about petrol, let it go. Wait until the whole thing is released and in place and then call him on all the bullshit – eg go off to Whyalla and check if it has been wiped off the face of the earth…

Till then forget him and focus on yourself – focus on what you are doing. And for God’s sake get the whole bloody policy out… and Huzzah!! They are finally doing that – this weekend:

This weekend the Gillard Government plans to announce a price on pollution as the central element of a comprehensive policy to tackle climate change, cut pollution and drive the transformation of the Australian economy to a clean energy future.

After hearing a report on the discussions of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, Cabinet agreed tonight that sufficient progress had been made to allow an announcement date to be set for Sunday 10 July 2011.

Considerable common ground has been achieved in the MPCCC talks in recent weeks.

This reflects the genuine commitment of members of the MPCCC to tackle climate change to protect Australia’s environment and support the economy.

While there will be additional discussions with the MPCCC this week, followed by further Cabinet consideration, it is expected that the remaining details will be finalised in these discussions ahead of Sunday’s announcement.

The Gillard Government’s priorities in designing the carbon price have been cutting pollution, protecting household budgets, and supporting jobs.

A carbon price is an important reform that will create incentives to lower Australia’s carbon pollution at the lowest cost to the economy.

It will do this by putting a price tag on the pollution of fewer than 1,000 businesses.

More than half the revenue raised will be used for tax cuts and increased payments to households, which will be generous, fair and permanent and will keep pace with cost impacts from the carbon price in the future.

After announcing the policy the Government intends to introduce legislation to Parliament later this year.

This will be an opportunity for all MPs to decide whether they accept the scientific advice that climate change is real and whether they accept the economic advice that a market mechanism is the cheapest and most effective way of reducing pollution.

Arrangements for media will be released this evening. Arrangements for stakeholders will be announced in the coming days.

This will not lead to any big shift in the polls (there’s little hope of that till the legislation is brought in and the world doesn’t end like Abbott says it will), but at last the phony war is over.

Now the Government has to get on the front foot and sell this policy (note “sell”, not “spin”).

They will have the whole of the winter break to do so. Let’s see how it goes…


Anonymous said...

The Greens have some dopey policies (in my opinion)

Can you give some examples, and what's dopey about them?

Skander said...

What is this NSW centric obsession with Lee Rhiannon? I know the Oz hate her, but it marks their world view as taking in very little beyond the Sydney city limits. Is it because she spooked them somehow? Or is it just because they can't bear the idea that someone not from NSW can have influence? Think, oh, Rudd, Gillard, Brown perhaps. Or do they miss being part of a coterie around power, and hence their trumpeting of Abbott?

We have Adam Bandt an Richard Di Natale from here in Victoria, that's 2/10 versus NSW's 1/10. And yet apparently only NSW's one of four "freshman" senators is about to launch a coup to take the Greens to the hard left. Come off it. She has neither the influence nor position to do so. Is it only because she hails from the same place as the Oz that they chose her as te bogey woman? I haven't seen anything of a similar tenor about our two Victorian Greens. Not even from the Herald-Sun.

Doug said...

Ah yes - sigh - Mr Grog, now nice to see you haven't lost your touch during your recent and over-extended sabbatical. Is the book finished yet and can we now have more posts please?
A question: If I need a daily fix of Grog, does that make me an alcoholic?

Anonymous said...

13% of the vote and 11% of the senate is OK on the surface but if it turns into effective control of the senate when deals are done with ALP who need them its not OK.

Martin said...

I think you are wrong about the lack of response in the polls. The simple fact that she has stuck to some principle and followed it through will garner respect from the kind of people who have been switching off recently. We'll see...

Blake said...

"Anonymous said...

13% of the vote and 11% of the senate is OK on the surface but if it turns into effective control of the senate when deals are done with ALP who need them its not OK."

They still have less power than the coalition. If the greens are asking something extortionist of the ALP in helping get a policy through, the liberals could always barter and ask for something smaller than the greens.

Any way you cut it the Greens and the ALP make up the majority and if those two parties decide together to push something through then that is democracy working precisely as its meant to.

Nikolaos said...

I'd be a natural Labor party voter ... but the ALP seems no longer to have any soul. The Greens do. So I vote Green 1st, Labor 2nd, and the Bonet Tabbott & The Totty-Wavers 3rd.

Anonymous said...

The Greens have some dopey policies (in my opinion)

Can you give some examples, and what's dopey about them?


We keep seeing things about dopey this, or wacky that, but no-one ever provides an example.

I recognise that this wasn't the purpose of this piece, but this throwaway line doesn't really add anything of value without at least one example.

Rhiannon said...

I also wonder about the dopey policies thing.
Even when people get all het up about 'inheritance tax! OMG!" really, I know very few people who would have to worry about being taxed on inheritances, not including the family home, farm or business, that are above $5m.

Perhaps there are some dopey policies, but I have seen little evidence of it, especially when people use it as a throwaway line. I sometimes feel that people feel they HAVE to say that sort of thing in case people think they are being 'soft on the Greens' and therefore some kind of Nazi Watermelon, drinking heroin lattes. (Ok, ok, descent in hyperbolleeeee)

Apart from that, fabulous post as usual!

SimsonMc said...

"...challenging the potential mandate of a Coalition government..."

Do you think the Herald Sun Editor might be getting ahead of himself?

Friendless said...

I'm all in favour of a carbon tax, but OMG, this government has done the world's worst job in introducing it, With a complete absence of information they've left it up to Tony Abbott to explain it by default. No wonder they're doing badly in the polls, they're letting the opposition take the limelight. I desperately need to hear more about government policies actually happening, and less about what stupid thing Mr Abbott has said, but Julia needs to take control of the national agenda. Thank goodness Bob Brown has some policies, or this government wouldn't be doing ANYTHING.

Anonymous said...

"Can you give some examples, and what's dopey about them?"

Top of my list is:
>all Australian citizens over the age of 16 to be eligible to vote;

I can't see how having the voting age at the lower end of the various legal ages of responsibility (driving, drinking, jury duty, etc) makes sense.
I personally would question the ability of the vast majority of 16 year olds to fully grasp the implications of the responsibility of voting (although, I'd make the same claim of a good proportion of 18 year olds).

I'm generally a Greens voter, BTW.

Anonymous said...

I think that people are right to bang on about Lee Rhiannon and the possible danger that she poses to her party. But is this any different from the major party's NSW factions? Look at Labor's Sussex Street cronies who flex their muscles at every policy discussion. Remember the Liberal's David Clarke who has the power to play king-maker as long as his conservative Christian agenda is respected.
Full disclosure: I am not a member of the Greens but I have family members that are. It is my inside understanding that like the two major parties the NSW Greens are suffering from Sydney-centric view of NSW that forgets the rest of the state. It is more of a factor for the Greens because they're very inner-city-centric.
So maybe it's a symptom of the political game that is played in NSW in general, rather than Senator Rhiannon's personal agenda, that has the potential to be so volatile for a political party.

Anonymous said...

Actually, all the parties have at least some dopey policies. Is there really any one out there who agreed with every policy of a single party at the last election federal election?

At best one can only hope to agree with a majority of policies - or at look for a sensible policy or two about some major issue(s).

Anonymous said...

all Australian citizens over the age of 16 to be eligible to vote...

The most powerful argument I've seen in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 is that many 16, 17 year olds have jobs and pay income tax.

So if we keep the voting age at 18 because kids aren't mature enough to vote any younger, then to be fair, the government should legislate that no person under 18 has to pay a cent of income tax. If they're emotionally/intellectually mature enough to pay income tax, they should have a say on how it is spent.

Taxation without representation... didn't some folks have a revolution about that somewhere or something?

Greg Jericho said...

Yeah true re the dopey policies. Maybe that was a bit flippant.

I guess my intrinsic position is that I like many of the Greens' expenditure proposals, but not their revenue measures.

Raising the corporate tax rate to 33% for eg. I would have liked that when I was young and at uni, now I think it a bit foolish - one of those oh we can get the big end of town to pay for it all ideas that seems to be the Greens' standard response.

Other things like: "abolish fees for educational services at public universities for Australian students and forgive HECS debts and FEE-HELP debt incurred at public universities".

Sounds lovely, but actually I think HECS is a good way to do it. I would be more interested if they were to suggest changing the way HECS is repaid perhaps, but getting rid of it completely and going back to free uni education? I just don't think it is sustainable or good for the sector. I would prefer the money that that measure was going to cost be put towards the funding of the education sector.

I also think, incidentally, the make up of the Greens' "shadow ministries" is dopey. You have Bob in charge of foreign affairs, but Ludlum overseeing Burma, SHY on Tibet, Di Natale on East Timor and West Papua.

You have Lea Rhiannon on "democracy" Huh? And "animal welfare" Does that really need a spokesperson?

Look I realise they only have 9 to cover the entire Ministries of the ALP and LNP, and the ALP and LNP have "parliamentary secretaries" that can read pretty dopey too, but it just comes across as a bit "University Student Association".

And yeah, the ALP and LNP have many dopey policies as well. That is certainly true. And I agree with many things on the Greens side of things (mostly social areas).

As I said, one day I might vote for the Greens, but I wish they had someone in their party who was a financial hard arse who you knew in their meetings was saying - Great idea but how in the hell are we going to pay for that?

Maybe there is such a person already, but I couldn't nominate who that is - especially when Bob, their treasury spokesperson, occasionally likes to spend the proceeds of say the mining tax twice.

Anonymous said...

You would probably get 16-17 year olds on $50,000 a year as family businesses would exploit a loophole in the taxation system.

I do think the greens use simplistic and targeted slogans like any other party.

'Big polluters' 'Big miners to pay a bigger share' 'Green Energy' 'Hate Media' 'Make polluters Pay'. All this is a slow propoganda campaign to slowly engrain into peoples minds that they carry the moral debate on climate change, that they actually have a clue how to solve the issue and thus they also hold the best interests of the nations future.

Greg Jericho said...

Anon, yes they do, but they avoid (at least to a great extent) the repetition of talking points that infects the ALP and LNP

Patrick McMaster said...

You had me right up until "economic rationalism". Wow what a success story that has been for the developing world. Free markets, globalisation, deregulation, eliminate the welfare state, yada yada yada except of course when multinationals seek to privatise their profits and socialise their debts, oh economic rationalism what a success story, about as successful as the Australian Colin's Class Submarines, Boring!!!!!!!!

B.Tolputt said...

Good article and it made me aware of something I had no idea of before (that Brown always nominates someone for Senate President). I didn't think much about him doing it this time, so the media explosion was already ridiculous in my mind, but now knowing that this was a usual thing... it's obvious the MSM are gunning for something to make the Greens look bad.

I too am a Labor voter who likes the Greens. As far as Senate is concerned, I've been voting Green since I could actually vote as they can negotiate things back from the right-wing lean Parliament seems to have with the Coalition & Labor making up the "two party system". That said, it is hard to take some policies of theirs seriously and, should they start actually having control (rather than this MSM myth of it), I might move my vote.

Take, for example the "vote @ 16" policy. You are not even legally allowed to enter a contract by yourself at this time. Whilst I understand the "no taxation without representation" angle, I can honestly say that I was not mature enough at that time to make weighty decisions. Niether were most of my school mates. You can't drive by yourself, you can't drink or smoke (not that I really wanted to do either), and you are only just able to sleep with someone your own age. I cannot justify (nor could I then) the idea of getting control of who governs us.

James In Footscray said...

Greg notes sarcastically the Greens get the balance of power 'and apparently nothing much has changed'. Gillard says after the carbon tax 'Australians will realise the sky hasn't fallen in'. Since when has no disaster been a sign of good policy?

han said...

While I have always voted Green since gaining citizenship 4 years ago, I disagree with the dogmatic positions the Greens take on some issues (note dogmatic not dopey, because dopey should only apply to anything Barnaby says on air). Nuclear is one good example.

And talking about dopey, how about ALP's citizenship assembly on climate change (most dopey ever policy), the real Julia election campaign (second most dopey ever election strategy). How about East Timor solution? How about Gillard's inconsistent, incoherent, hypocritical stance on gay marriage?

B.Tolputt said...

Since when has no disaster been a sign of good policy?

Well, the thing to remember here is that the Greens getting the balance of power (assuming Labor & Liberals continue to squabble like children) is that it is not a matter of "policy" that brought this around. It's a matter of "democracy" that put them there. People voted for them and they got the representation they desired.

That is a good thing and a sign of good democracy.

Ablokeimet said...

The mainstream media (especially the Murdoch press) have taken a turn against the Greens since they realised that they were going to be in a position to have influence. As many have pointed out, however, 9 Senators do not a majority make. Influence only turns into power when the two major parties vote against each other. And, having 11% of the Senators with 13% of the vote doesn't read like having influence out of proportion to the electoral mandate.

Further, it's par for the course for minor parties to have policies which are wish lists rather than practical programs - and it's a rational response. They know they'll only have a limited amount of influence, but they can't tell in advance exactly what they'll achieve, since it is a matter of negotiation with the major parties and dependent, above all, on the major parties' mutual antagonism. Therefore, they put up a wish list and see how much their elected politicians can achieve out of it. If they had a firmer grip on power (e.g. as part of a coalition government), they would need to start prioritising.

That said, I believe that the Greens are utopian idealists, because they believe that capitalism can be made peaceful and just. On the other hand, the Libs have never pretended it can, while Labor gave up on its illusions in a Parliamentary road to Socialism decades ago. Nowadays, they just try to make capitalism a little less unjust than the Libs do.

Finally, the reason The Strine is going so hard at Lee Rhiannon is pure and simple anti-communism. She used to be a Tankie* (a supporter of Moscow-line "Socialism" against independent, and generally more democratic, Leftist tendencies), but most of them threw in the towel when the Moscow Stalinists did. I assume that Senator Rhiannon abandoned her subjective Socialism at about the same time. She's certainly no Socialist of any description now.

* Tankie. n A supporter of the belief that Socialism would come to power in Europe in the wake of the tanks of the Red Army.

Anonymous said...

It's actually a common misconception that you can't enter into a contract if you're under 18. There are rules about when such a contract will be binding, but there's no blanket rule that says a minor can't contract (or consent to medical treatment, or do most other things necessary to run their own lives)

ex-Whyalla resident... said...

As for that quip about Whyalla being wiped out... I grew up there and it really is the arse end of the world; wiping it out would improve Australia no end and should be an objective of all three parties in Parliament....

Mystikiel said...

"An estate tax affords a certain protection against the development of a race of idle rich".

What a bunch of extreme leftist twaddle. Except that the above quote comes from Winston Churchill, who supported an inheritance tax, as did most principled conservatives back then.

This is the case with most Green policies. In reality, their proposals are in line with what both social democratic and conservative parties believed in more enlightened times. Its not so much that their policies are skewed to the left, but that the political rhetoric today is so far skewed to the right.

As far as raising the rate of corporate tax and lowering the voting age, surely these are matters where people can reasonably disagree? Are they ideas that should summarily dismissed as dopey?

In any event, shareholders in public companies will still receive franking credits for any company tax that has been paid on their dividends, and so will not really be any worse off. The only people for whom the rate of company tax actually matters are self-employed people (Peter Costello even admitted as much) - who semi-legitimately use their entity to pay less tax than they would be if income was attributed to them as individuals.