"... Milne's announcement now frees up any previously reluctant Labor MPs to join figures like Joel Fitzgibbon in regularly savaging the Greens."Milne's announcement yesterday -- echoing the party's withdrawal of support for Michael Field's Labor government in Tasmania in 1990, on the basis that the Field government had walked away from forest protections -- was quickly and accurately identified as an effort to dissociate the Greens from the most troubled brand in Australian politics at the moment. It was also fairly clunky -- the basis on which Milne declared Labor had breached the agreement was that it had shown it would no longer "work together to pursue" the principles of "transparent and accountable government, improved process and integrity of parliament, policies which promote the public interest and policies which address climate change". That begs the question of why the Greens waited until six months before an election, and after the commencement of the carbon pricing scheme and the Parliamentary Budget Office, to declare they'd been betrayed. And a commitment to stick with supporting Labor despite complaining that Labor had walked away from them isn't exactly the best way to dissociate the Greens from the government. But the Greens are locked in a complex relationship with Labor. What's good for Labor is also, indirectly, good for the Greens -- but the reverse doesn't apply. The Greens' surge in 2010 was driven by disaffected Labor voters switching to the Greens in disgust after Labor dumped the carbon pollution reduction scheme, shifted to the right on asylum seekers and caved in to the mining companies. The Greens' vote stayed solid through 2011 and into 2012, consistently reaching 11-12% in Essential's polling, until Bob Brown retired. Thereafter, the Greens' vote began a slow slide into single figures, occasionally dipping to 8%. Much of that lost vote initially seemed to shift to the government as Julia Gillard and Labor recovered in the last third of 2012; Labor's primary vote picked up several points to 36-37%. If Labor's primary vote subsides back to 2012 levels, the Greens won't be the beneficiaries this time -- more likely the Coalition will be. The Greens also have a stake in a Labor recovery. As the WA figures suggest (and again bearing in mind that's a small sample size), the more the election becomes a landslide, the worse for the minor parties, including the Greens. As the Queensland election result last year indicated, when voters are bent on throwing a government out, they pay less attention to smaller parties than they ordinarily might. A Labor recovery, even if it isn't enough for Labor to be re-elected, might improve the Greens' chances of holding onto spots like Scott Ludlam's (the loss of whom would, party numbers aside, be a major blow to the average intelligence in the Senate). Even so, Milne's announcement now frees up any previously reluctant Labor MPs to join figures like Joel Fitzgibbon in regularly savaging the Greens. And the Greens might be perfectly happy with that: if you want to differentiate your product, it's much more authentic when your competitors do it for you.
Greens try for rebranding in the face of a falling vote
The Greens are on track to underperform compared with the 2010 election. In which case, getting your competitor to differentiate you isn't such a bad strategy.