It will be so naive and unrealistic for anyone to deny the unique situation in Australian politics at the moment. It will also equally unrealistic to deny the Greens influence on the the current government, when they wish to use such influence.
The political influence is very clear on achievements on many fronts. Such achievements would not happen in normal situation, even if the Greens will continue to hold the balance of power in the senate.
The Greens political luck is double, at the moment:
1- The Greens are lucky to have the most naive unexperienced and inflexible government Australia had in recent decades.
2- The Greens are holding the balance of power with Labor government, and not Liberal-National.
The unique situation is that we are having minority government for the first time in the last few decades. This situation enables the Greens to be crucial in both houses. And this is why they could have crucial power if they wish.
The political power is displayed in the Greens successful in enforcing the minority government to introduce legislations or move Labor to change its stance on issues, that would not be possible in normal circumstances.
Some examples on this:
1- The Greens enforced Labor to introduce Carbon Tax, against clear commitments before the last election made by Julia Gillard’s government of “never ever under my government”.
2- The Labor change of heart on re-opening of the debate within the party on the same-sex marriage. This is against all commitments by Rudd’s government on the basis of religious commitment and Gillard’s refusal on the basis of anti-marriage stance she personally took.
3- The immediate ban of live cattle export to Indonesia.
While we think that the Greens luck would be short lived, as all indications suggest conservative tsunami in the next election. Such tsunami which would put the Greens face to face with their reality. Not only this. We would love to see the Greens continue to hold balance of power in the senate under conservative government, with their philosophy of being “cooperative opposition” that uses its control of balance of power “sensibly” as Bob Brown loves to put it.
We will explain such scenarios in next article.
But here, and after explaining the great influence of the Greens on Australian weak minority government, we need to ask a question: Why the Greens was successful on many issues, but stands impotent on stopping the Labor gross inhumane treatment of asylum seekers?
Before we answer this simple question, let us follow the Greens success story recently.
The Greens party started its political activism early 70s of the last century. Then a political party was formed in the mid of 70s of the last century. But since then, the Greens had no real political success or influence, apart from success in Tasmanian state election in late 80s. In all states, the Greens influence never exceeded one or two members of state parliaments in NSW and WA, only.
It was not until Tampa, that the Greens star started to shine. Again, the Greens were very lucky politically. At that time, the Democrats were losing its popularity because they held balance of power during very conservative government. Howard’s far right government could squeeze the Democrats on many issues, including especially the introduction of GST. So the only opposition voice the voters could hear during Tampa was the voice of the Greens.
So the rise of the Greens political success was on the back of the suffering of boat people. The Greens could double their popularity in 2001 election, from 2.5% to 4.96%. Such achievement that they could not achieve within more than 25 years of political existence. All this was because of Tampa.
The following election, 2004, the debate on boat people treatment was still raging. The Howard’s government was still campaigning on racism and Islamophobia. The Labor was not giving any real alternative. And the Democrats were already on boiling point with deep divisions and infightings. Again, the only alternative on issues of racism, Islamophobia and refugees (which were the main issue for the election) was the Greens. The Greens could again increase its voting by more than third (from 5% to 7.2%).
The issues of boat people, refugees and migration were negligible issues during the 2007 election. The only election item in that election was Work Choices. Surprisingly, The Greens voting stalled on 7.7%.
But when the boat people, refugees and migration became central issue for the last 2010 election, the Greens popularity jumped to historically high record of 11.76%. During the election, the only pressing issue was the boat people, border protection and fighting against people smugglers.
After this analysis, can anyone be doubt about the importance of raging racism, Islamophobia and boat people bashing in the Greens success story?
The Greens leadership and politicians know very well that without the debate on refugees and asylum seekers, their popularity will sink again.
This is why they keep talking on the issue, but no decisive actions or ultimatum to the minority government.
How ironic that the Greens did not include demands on asylum seekers to find humane solution to boat people bashing in the memorandum to form the minority government?
The Greens put 8 demands on Labor to support Julia Gillard to form minority government. No item was on boat people.
We deeply believe that the Greens wish the boat people continue to suffer, to keep this issue alive for the next election. Without this deafening racist debate, the Greens will have not much to be distinct from the Labor. Especially the Labor had agreed to introduce Carbon Tax scheme.
The only other issue where Labor has different stance from the Greens is on same-sex marriage. But we are sure that this issue will not make many Australians change their pattern of vote.
So the only hope for the Greens to keep this historic record voting is for the boat people’s issue to continue raging, regardless of blood spelt because of this.
Again and before anyone accuses us of Anti-Greens hysteria, we are open for the Greens to answer our questions. On the top of these questions is: Why the Greens is impotent to make changes in government’s policies only on boat people’s?