On Greens negotiations

Colin Smith writes: Re. “Greens team up with government to pass Hockey’s last tax bill” (Thursday).  We Greens have traditionally been attacked — whenever we have rejected a proposed political compromise on the grounds that it was worse than useless — for allegedly allowing “the perfect to be the enemy of the good”. We are still being attacked, for instance, over our refusal to support Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, a scheme so compromised that it was almost accepted by Abbott and the denialists.

When, however — as now over corporate taxation — we accept a compromise on the grounds that it is much better than nothing, we are called “traitors” and “the gutless Greens” who have “sold out” and done a “dirty deal”.

The real issues

John Richardson writes: Re. “The gloss is vanishing quickly from Turnbull’s shiny new government” (Friday). With the 2015 parliament just disappeared and the “silly season” upon us, I implore Bernard Keane, Guy Rundle and the rest of Crikey’s band of merry men and women to try a little harder in 2016 .

Bernard’s “demolition derby” mounted against the likes of Andrew Nikolic and Andrew Hastie might help expose the presence of would-be fascists in one of our modern neo-liberal parties, but it overlooks a more fundamental issue for Australians trying to relate to the world around them.

In the wake of the dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris, politicians from around the world wrapped themselves in both their flags and self-righteous hyperbole and labelled the murderous crimes as “an act of war”, “an attack on all of us”, “an attack on humanity”, “the work of the devil”, “an attack on our values”, “an attack on our way of life” and many more.

But all of these claims are made based on a huge unspoken presumption, which is that we all know and share “common values” and a common commitment to a certain “way of life”.

But do we? How many of us think our values are greed, self-indulgence, selfishness, arrogance, hubris, ignorance, hypocrisy, dishonesty, deceit, hypocrisy and materialism and how many others think that they are compassion, respect, equality, caring, sharing and standing-up for the underdog, fair play, integrity, honesty, tolerance, decency and a fair go?

The real point is that if we don’t enunciate our “core” values and articulate what we mean when we talk about defending “our way of life”, how can we be sure that we are collectively of the same mind?

For many people I’ve spoken to, the real “promise” of Malcolm Turnbull is the sense that he is not an ideologue, trapped by dogma. He is not a “machine” man but very much his own man. For all his wealth, he appears to have the capacity to engage and identify with “everyman”. And for many he appears to be a person of “principle”, rather than a creature of expediency, like so many of his predecessors.

While it remains to be seen what kind of leader Malcolm will truly turn-out to be, the one thing he should be doing at every opportunity as our nation’s Prime Minister is spelling out what he believes in and stands for so the people of this nation can judge for themselves whether they want to support him and his government.

Not slogans, but plain and simple: what are our values? Is the “way of life that we want to defend” a way of life where we celebrate our common humanity and the richness of our cultural differences rather than fearing them?

If we can get that right, people like Nikolic, Hastie and Abbott will become irrelevant, while the pernicious grip of those who would “govern” by fear and deceit will be broken.

Malcolm needs to start by asking himself if he just wants to be our nation’s most popular Prime Minister or its greatest?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey