They’ve dealt with the devil, and the criticism from all the expected sections of the media will be fierce.

But here’s the reality: if Julia Gillard can form a government — and it remains a big if — Bob Brown’s Greens will have more political clout than at any other time in their history. And they’ve had to give up almost nothing to get it. As Bernard Keane writes for Crikey today:

“…what the Greens will have secured if Labor is able to hang onto office is, in effect, an all-care and no-responsibility role in a Labor government, giving the Greens many of the benefits of incumbency without any of the responsibilities.”

Labor will continue swinging in the breeze; it showed little commitment to the Greens agenda during the campaign — from a price on carbon to a debate on Afghanistan to electoral and parliamentary reform. But if it can convince the wavering country independents to back it in — and Labor’s case for smoother legislative passage, at least, is strongest — then Brown’s ability to wield his party’s Senate power and drag Labor kicking and screaming towards a greener social agenda improves exponentially.

But Labor shouldn’t fool itself about this deal. The Greens are coming after Labor in its inner-suburban strongholds. They have a multi-term agenda to expand both in metropolitan areas and in the regions. Labor may think it has secured Adam Bandt’s support without giving in too much on key policies — and hey, it dumped that godawful citizens’ assembly idea — but it has given the Greens the tools to continue their expansion, and it will be at Labor’s long-term cost.

There’s no Liberal-National style coalition here — if it works, it will just be a three-year truce between long-term enemies, and one which allows the junior party to arm itself.