In theory, tomorrow’s NSW state election should be the Greens’ finest political hour. Voters are furious with Labor for the scandals, the broken promises, the revolving door of premiers, the botched electricity sale. Yet they’re hardly swooning over Barry O’Farrell. The latest Newspoll shows 39% of voters disapprove of his performance — a six-month high. And climate change is dominating headlines, courtesy of the carbon tax debate in Canberra.
But all has not gone smoothly in the campaign. Both the Greens’ big hopes for lower house success — Fiona Byrne in Marrickville and Jamie Parker in Balmain — have been mired in controversy: Byrne for supporting Marrickville Council’s boycott of Israel, Parker for marketing dodgy products such as Horny Goat Weed. And although election campaigns are becoming ever more presidential, the NSW Greens do not have an official leader à la Bob Brown. Lead senate candidate David Shoebridge only entered office last year and is still relatively unknown in the wider community.
Nevertheless, if the Greens pick up two lower house seats and increase their vote in the Legislative Assembly, they will be able to hail the campaign a triumph.
Education: the Greens are committed to ending funding for wealthy private schools and want to redirect $780 million of federal and state funds from the non-government sector to public education. They also want to boost the number of public school teachers by 6000 or 12% — paid for by freezing funding for independent schools at their 2003 levels plus inflation. In particular, they want to boost teacher numbers in disadvantaged areas. The Greens have been strong supporters of the Labor government’s ethics program as an alternative to scripture classes.
Health: The Greens are opposed to casemix (aka activity-based) funding for hospitals — a key plank of the COAG health reform agreement. They slam casemix — a pay-for-performance arrangement that encourages hospitals to use resources efficiently — as an economically rationalist approach to healthcare. The Greens want an extra $100 million allocated to the public dental health care system with a focus on increasing access for rural Australians, Aborigines and seniors. The party also wants to ban the sale of sale of junk food in schools and junk food advertising during children’s television viewing times.
Transport: Unlike Barry O’Farrell, the Greens are cycling supporters and want to redirect 5% of the Road and Traffic Authority’s gargantuan budget to bike-riding infrastructure. The party does not support the construction of any new roadways in NSW. O’Farrell says the north-west and south-west rail lines must be given priority over the Parramatta-to-Epping link; the Greens want to build them all at once. They also want to extend the light rail network all the way to Penrtith.
The economy: Little to report here. The Greens have released policies on genetic engineering and s-xual identity but not the economy. But the party says it would boost government revenue and ease cost-of-living pressures by cutting investment in coal-fired power stations and closing the desalination plant. The Greens also argue that their environmental policies — including the construction of three giant solar thermal plants in western NSW — would create jobs. They want a ban on new coal mines and to close the state’s seven coal-fired power stations by 2036.