Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why does Labor keep shooting itself in the foot like this?

(First, a disclaimer: I am a former Labor voter who now votes for the Greens. I'm not entirely happy about this, but Labor has drifted so far to the conservative side on issues such as asylum seekers that I find it difficult to support them directly.)

On to the issue du jour: Sam Dastyari's latest gaffe in relation to Labor's dealings with the Greens.

It bugs me severely that someone like Dastyari is so out of touch with what is going on in Australian politics. I mean: branding the Greens as "an extremist party, not unlike a left-wing version of Pauline Hanson's One Nation"? Shirley you can't be serious!

Now, ignoring the use of an emotive term like "extremist", I understand the parallel Dastyari is trying to make. The Greens have pulled votes away from Labor on the progressive side in much the same way as One Nation pulled votes away from the Coalition on the conservative side. And it's true that Tony Abbott won back the One Nation voters for the Coalition with a very effective hatchet job.

But the Coalition also accommodated One Nation by adopting some of their policies in modified form, leading to things like the so-called Pacific Solution. My suggestion to Labor is that if they want to win back some Greens voters, they should try to find an accommodation between their policies and those of the Greens - and ease up on the shrieking about "extremist".

Anyhow, back to the issue at hand:

Senator Milne yesterday responded to Mr Dastyari's accusations of extremism in her party by accusing Labor of aligning themselves with the real extremists by preferencing Family First ahead of the Greens.

Labor preferencing Family First ahead of the Greens - that always works out well, doesn't it? Two words: Steve Fielding. Geesh; don't they ever learn?

Further along in the article, David Bradbury is quoted as saying:

I didn't receive any preferences from the Greens at the last election [...]

That is just flat-out wrong, as a glance at the distribution of preferences for his seat at the 2010 election shows. The Greens candidate's preferences flowed to him by a ratio of 2:1 compared to the Liberal candidate. In other words those preferences made the difference between his winning the seat by 45 votes, or 0.05%, and winning it by 1865 votes, or 2.24%.

Labor's antipathy towards the Greens - I just don't get it. They'll never be part of a formal coalition with Labor, but they're the closest thing Labor will ever have to allies in the various Parliaments across the land.

Bob Brown has stated: "We don’t want to keep the bastards honest, we want to replace them." In my opinion this would be a good thing in principle, but not in practice. Given the essentially two-party nature of Australian politics, it would require a major shakeout of our system - the creation of a proper social-democratic party, as Labor used to be, comprising the Greens and the more progressive elements of Labor as it currently stands.

Unfortunately this would leave the conservative, mainly Catholic, Labor Right faction as a rump similar to the DLP (Democratic Labor Party, remember?) in the 1950s. That had the effect of keeping Labor out of government at the Federal level for nearly twenty years. With Tony Abbott, who is no Bob Menzies, waiting in the wings to be Prime Minister - no, my suggestion isn't a good idea. For now, anyway.

So, Labor, how about a bit of good old-fashioned compromise with the Greens? Please?

End of rant.

Update. I'm guessing that what Bradbury was trying to say was that the Greens candidate didn't explicitly direct her preferences to him. That is rather different from "I didn't receive any preferences from the Greens at the last election". Whatever: the fact remains that he got 66.4% of the Greens' preferences - without the Greens directing their voters to cast their votes that way.

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