Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Greens need to learn from Palmer United on achieving goals

I must admit of few things before discussing the issues mentioned.

First of all I need to admit that Palmer is surprising me everyday with his political tactics and positions. But I need to admit also that I am no fan of this right -wing conservative politician. But this does not mean that I do not agree with him on many things.

With only limited political expertise and limited numbers of politicians in both houses, Palmer is challenging the government on major issues. And it seems that he is winning.

Comparing all this with the case of the Greens party, The Greens case is very disappointing and depressing.

With the Greens experience in politics of more than 40 years and 11 Federal politicians, tens of politicians in state parliaments and hundreds of local councilors, one would expect that the Greens would have changed the Australian politics long time ago. When indeed despite all the above mentioned strength in the Greens case, the only achievement they achieved for the last 4 decades is Carbon Tax. Ironically it seems that Palmer will deny them from even this orphaned achievement.

So where things went wrong for the Greens and right for Palmer?

The Greens party has no principles and follow no principled politics. All what matters for them is to accumulate power, regardless of the cost. For them, the most important is how to win more votes, not how to enforce socio-political changes.

Let me discuss one clear example.

Between 2010-2013, The Greens held the balance of power in the senate, shared the balance of power in the parliament and could enforce shift of power from Labor to Liberals with one single MP. But despite this huge power at all levels in federal politics, they did not use such power in responsible way to maximise their achievements and influence.

The Greens were taking each issue on its own: discus it with the government and vote on it individually. So when the Labor cabinet introduced Malaysian Solution, for example, all what the Greens did was to vote against it in both houses.

Comparing this pathetic approach with the more sophisticated and clever approach of Palmer, one could understand why this politician became so important in very short period.

In Palmer tactics, issues will be discussed and negotiated in group. Palmer, for example, does not want any cut of allowances to orphans of fallen soldiers. He could vote against the legislation individually. The government might be able to negotiate with Labor and pass it. But Palmer made it very clear: if Liberals insist on passing this legislation, we will block scraping the Carbon and Mining Taxes (even though Palmer United supported scrapping these taxes during the election campaign). But by doing this, Palmer is doubling his political influence and strength.
When Labor attack on refugees rights were at its height, I wrote to Adam Bandt, the Greens MP for Melbourne, and asked him to act by threatening to withdraw Greens support for Julia Gillard’s government. Such move could send the government to double dissolution election. A move that Labor was not ready for. The Greens utterly refused to use their power. They, however, assured me that they will vote against these legislations that saw re-introduction of Pacific Solution, freeze the process of applications of newly arrived boat asylum seekers for more than 5 years and other draconian changes. But all these laws passed anyway because the Liberals supported them and the Greens did not use their power.

At that time, the Greens should have used Palmer tactics: If Labor insists to pass these legislation, we (the Greens) would stop supporting the government. We (the Greens) will also side with Liberals to veto other legislations to embarrass Labor and enforce them to give more compromises.

The refusal of the Greens to use these tactics limited their influence and resulted in the sole achievement of introducing the Carbon Tax.

I would not claim that the Greens are naive and this naivety was the reason for not using such tactics (which limited influence and achievements). The Greens did not want to use their tactics because they did not want to bury some of these issues, which theoretically distinguish them form Labor and gave them a lot of support.

The Greens knew that if refugees’ suffering stop for good, a lot of Labor disgruntled voters will go back to Labor. And this is the case for other issues that the Greens refused to act on to enforce the Labor to retreat.

This is the highest opportunist political prostitution you can ever witness.

Palmer on the other side showed high principled political ethics in Australian politics for decades. He talked loud of what he thinks and insisted to achieve his goals. He bargained well and used all circumstances available. And he will achieve. This is why his party will grow steadily (to some extent).

Again, I do not agree with Palmer on many issues. And I noticed that he did not come clear on a lot of sensitive issues. He does not talk much about refugees, foreign issues (Palestine, Syria, Libya...) and housing crisis. He is not talking about crisis in our health and education (especially tertiary) systems. And he is leading a party based around and owned by one person. And for all these, I do not support him.

Despite all this, I respect him, because he is showing no political opportunism.

The Greens will claim that they are still significant players in our political system. For me, this is the case so far because on the left there is no better alternative. Despite my strong resistance to call the Greens “left”, but the perception among Lefties is that the Greens is the best choice currently.

And this is why we need to create strong principled left alternative to challenge such perception of Greens monopoly on left representation.

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