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Mar 11, 2016

Labouring hard on a story of Greens-Liberal conspiracies

Labor will use anything it can to paint the Greens as drifting to the Right, but the Greens vote is holding up so far.



Labor won’t be too unhappy that Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger has confirmed the Victorian Liberals are open to a preference deal (in Kroger’s terms,  a “loose arrangement”) with the Greens because leader Richard Di Natale isn’t a “nutter”, and Di Natale saying he wouldn’t rule out supporting a minority Coalition government.

Both are, in a way unexceptionable statements — a Liberal-Greens “deal” would involve open preferencing by the Greens — e.g. not formally directing preferences to Labor. Antony Green estimated back in 2011 that this tends to reduce the Greens preference flow to Labor by 3% of preferences (not 3% of the vote). That is, in a very tight contest, it might make a difference, but otherwise it probably wouldn’t. And Di Natale’s comments indicated he’d probably back a Labor government — “it’s much more likely that the opportunity rests with Labor,” the Greens leader said. But under Christine Milne — by implication a “nutter” in Kroger’s estimation — the Tasmanian Greens supported a Liberal government in Tasmania in 1996.

Labor has been working hard to portray the Greens under Di Natale as drifting rightward. The Greens deal with the government on tax secrecy and, particularly, on Senate voting reform, have elicited near-hysterical reactions from Labor, with Sam Dastyari leading the charge. It was Dastyari who accused the Greens of “selling out tax transparency for a cheap, dirty deal with Scott Morrison”, and he wanted to crowdfund a billboard attacking the Greens on the issue. More recently, he used the Senate voting reform bill to theatrically accuse the Greens of selling out the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Dastyari permanently looks on the verge of self-parody, but as Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann discovered, he can be a dangerous enemy.

That Labor votes with the government against the Greens on a regular basis, rather than once or twice, doesn’t tend to get mentioned by Labor.

Now Anthony Albanese, a target for the Greens in inner-suburban Sydney, is spruiking a “secret deal”. Any preference arrangement, however loose, and even a bland statement that Di Natale wouldn’t completely rule out supporting a Coalition government will be more grist to that particular mill (and, again, it’s not like Labor hasn’t preferenced against the Greens to its own detriment in years gone by — hello, Steve Fielding).

For all that, it’s important to remember that the Greens have done well under Di Natale: there was no dip in the party’s support after he replaced Christine Milne, and the Greens have continued to poll at around 10% in the Essential Report, despite Di Natale having far less experience and profile than Milne. In polling terms, there’s been an almost seamless transition between leaders, which didn’t happen when Milne replaced Bob Brown — the departure of the veteran Tasmanian caused a dip in the Greens’ vote, but it began recovering before the 2013 election (before a stunning performance by Scott Ludlam in the WA Senate byelection).

The problem is, the Greens need every vote — even with an ordinary half-Senate election this year, there are six Greens senators up for re-election, and in Tasmania they no longer have Christine Milne’s name recognition. The 2010 election delivered an exceptional outcome for the Greens in unusual circumstances — extraordinary levels of disillusionment with both an opposition led by Tony Abbott and a Labor Party that had knifed Kevin Rudd. Di Natale is thus leading them into what will be, even under the best circumstances, a tough election where there are likely to be casualties in the Senate, even if they can jag another seat in the Reps.

Expect a lot more talk of “secret deals” from Labor, and more stunts from Dastyari.


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18 thoughts on “Labouring hard on a story of Greens-Liberal conspiracies

  1. Teddy

    Any preference swap is most likely a fantasy, true, but it will be hard for the Libs to ignore the opportunity of knocking off Albo in Grayndler.

    The redistribution there adds Balmain (and lots of Lib voting residents) to Grayndler, but still, with the Greens also polling 20 to 30% in the now very wealthy electorate, the Libs can’t quite win it yet. But by running dead and ensuring 3rd place (which they’ve done before in Grayndler) and directly preferencing the Greens (probably with a confusing HTV) they can anoint another Greens to the lower house to keep Adam Bandt company.

    That’s how Bandt won Melbourne in 2010. The Libs gave him they seat. It suited them then, and they’ll do it again.

    Albo’s right to be scarred, his days are numbered. Tanya Plibersek too… Its win-win, the Libs decimate the Labor front bench, the Greens get rid of Labor’s left and grab yet more disillusioned “progressives”. I’d be incredibly surprised if Di Natale didn’t insist on that in the senate-vote deal. He’s a smart guy, right…

    Or not?

  2. Peter Darco

    As I recall in 1996, the National Party in Queensland said to the Greens: Give us your preferences and we will do lots of good things for the environment.

    To my amazement the Greens fell for it, and it was only a week after the election that the Greens realized that had been told lies.

    If the Greens have forgotten their own history, they could do worse than examine the promises and performance of Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott.

  3. Mike Smith

    The Greens would need to drift a lot to the right to be as rightwing as Labor currently is. Labor is quite close to the LNP as far as left/right wing positions.


    And they would need to drift *up* a lot to be as Authoritarian as Labor.

  4. Paul Kennelly

    The number of times that the Greens vote with Labor or the Libs is a bit irrelevant. It’s what they vote with the Libs on that is important. And there can no more important issue, and a vote with far reaching consequences, that when Bob Brown decided to vote with the Libs (crucially except for two of them) to vote down the ETS in 2009. That decision has left us today without any significant climate change action. It gave us Abbott and every policy decision he was, and still is, responsible for. And yes, split tickets only make a few percentage points difference to Labor’s 2PP vote. But in 2010, it was all the difference in the Victorian State Election. The Greens wanted to teach John Brumby and Labor a lesson. Too bad about the people who were adversely affected by the Baillieu/Napthine government’s four year destruction of state schools, hospitals and other services. Of course, many Greens aren’t ordinary workers. They are likely to actually benefit from Lib policies of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. On ABC radio the other day, Richard Di Natale said the Greens vote was increasing. This was despite the fact that at the last Federal election, their vote dropped by 3% in the House and 4% in the Senate. He sounded like Abbott. Whether Labor is in government or in opposition, the Greens spend most of the time commenting on the policies of Labor. It is why, when Senator Ludlum actually made a speech criticising Abbott that it was so unusual. The reason that the Greens do this is because they know that is where their vote will come from – disillusioned Labor supporters. So they spend most of their time trying to convince Labor voters that they should be disillusioned. No Labor achievement is ever good enough. They didn’t even give credit to Wayne Swan for saving us from the GFC. The party of ideological purity is part of the same package as the party of inertia. The party of compromise is the party of change. The Greens say that Labor should adopt the policies of the Greens. Well, we already have a party that has the policies of the Greens – it’s called the Greens – and they get about 10% of the vote. And that’s what Labor would get if they became the Greens – 10% of the vote. The test of the Senate voting changes will be known soon enough, but you can bet that any adverse effects, like an increase in informal voting, will be called by the Greens as being the fault of Labor (and not the Libs).

  5. PhoenixGreen


    I think you give Bandt and the Greens too little credit with that comment. They did have armies of volunteers doorknocking, a surprising amount of ad money and built a record-high primary vote in their own right, Lib preferences were just the straw that broke the camel’s back and brought forward the inevitable.

    Albo should have taken Barton and Labor needs to think again about their strategy on this. The point is: if they don’t want to represent the progressive-left values of these electorates then they will have no choice but to make way for someone who does. They should either adapt their policy or cut their losses. The only other option is a protracted and futile death struggle with people on their own side of the chamber.

  6. Teddy

    I certainly do give credit to the Greens in Melbourne PhoenixGreen, especially for that “surprising lot of ad money.” If my memory serve me right, it came from the largest ever single donation to any political party from someone who had made lots and lots of money from capitalism… That it goes to a candidate (in Grayndler) who only just recently left the still staunchly anti-capitalist Socialist Workers Party is just hilarious.

    In Balmian during the last state election, the Greens had a “surprising” amount to spend too – with huge billboards and illuminated posters plastered all over the inner west of Sydney. They helped ensure the re-election of our Greens MP and got one into adjoining Newtown too.

    I’m impressed. All credit where credit is due… What does surprise me though (and I’m a resident of Grayndler) is how similar Greens and Liberal voters are here. Both are my neighbours. They’re both very rich, overwhelmingly white, graying baby boomers with two cars per household and investment properties “up the coast”. Which both will retire to soon, continuing their dalliance (not “Alliance”, no way!) in the Greens-held electorate of Ballina…

  7. Bull Dog

    Paul Kennelly above – Spot on, it’s Bob Brown who has delivered us the mess we are in, this is pure irony for the ‘Greens’, they are responsible for the lack of climate policy as a result of their egotistical stupidity of policy purity and not voting for Rudd’s ETS at the time. That policy could have been fine tuned later and dealt with their concerns instead we have had three years of policy vacuum, an idiot for a PM and a waffly ponce to replace him and no end in sight. To top that off we h now have Di Natale who might just have given the Libs a senate majority after a possible DD and that will be the end of this country then. How stupid can you be.

  8. CML

    @Paul Kennelly & Bull Dog…totally agree with your comments! This is just Bernard having another love-in with the Greens…who can do no wrong. Sickening, isn’t it? Of course its all Labor’s fault!!
    So…let me get this straight…its okay for the Greens to get a small PRIMARY vote in ‘inner suburban Sydney’ and coast into the HOR on LNP preferences, but its NOT okay for cross-bench senators to do the same thing in the Senate.
    Greens…hypocrisy is thy name!!!

  9. AR

    I fear, with every word out of his mouth, that DiNatale is a changeling/cuckoo in the Green nest.
    Until he explains and apologises for the ludicrous decision to support the Govgernment’s refusal to make BtL voting optional like AbL then I will consider him a green(ish) Meg Lees/Cheryl Kernow, intent on abandoning principles for power, destroying the Green party in return for a sinecure.
    As for “Dastyari permanently looks on the verge of self-parody” – the tiny, but imperfectly formed, Mini Mr Bean sounds like a schoolboy debated whose voice is unlikely to break for decades.

  10. drsmithy

    Paul @4, can you remind us which party voted with the Liberals to give us sovereignty-destroying trade agreements, human rights abuses of refugees, privacy-invading eavesdropping laws and more Australians yet again fighting someone else’s war ?

    Then could you maybe tell us which parties voted against those things ?

    You would struggle to find much policy the Greens are on the wrong side of.

  11. drsmithy

    Until he explains and apologises for the ludicrous decision to support the Govgernment’s refusal to make BtL voting optional like AbL then I will consider him a green(ish) Meg Lees/Cheryl Kernow, intent on abandoning principles for power, destroying the Green party in return for a sinecure.

    What do you mean ?


    A: The Greens have always supported below-the-line preferential voting. Today, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters reported to the Parliament with its recommendations. As well as agreeing that we must proceed with the proposed reform to make Senate voting above the line more democratic, the committee (which included Lee Rhiannon) also called for ‘below the line preferential voting’ reform.

    We have pushed the government to support this reform, and today they agreed.

    The ‘below the line’ reform we have helped achieve will mean that voters can number [1] – [12] below the line. At the moment, only three per cent of people vote below the line — no doubt in part because navigating a ballot paper the size of a tablecloth is near impossible!

  12. AR

    Doc – “The Greens have always supported below-the-line preferential voting” which is my point.
    DiNatale was prepared to abandon that in his eagerness to agree with the government when it rejected the JSCEM recommendation. WHY?
    It was only the public outrage at the idiocy of this decision that caused the government to hold the notorious 4 hour enquiry and subsequently caved-in to good sense.
    So the question remains, why did DiNatale grovel so quickly and damagingly – what was he offered wink-wink-nudge?
    I hope that this abject capitulation is not going to go down the memory hole – it certainly won’t escape constant mention until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

  13. drsmithy

    DiNatale was prepared to abandon that in his eagerness to agree with the government when it rejected the JSCEM recommendation.

    I’ll admit I haven’t followed the gory details of this as the Greens have been campaigning on OPV for over a decade. Do you have a link describing this ?

  14. GR

    This is a pro-Green political party puff piece. Why do I pay my subscription to Crikey when I might as well just look at the Greens’ website? The Greens are an upper-middle class party who flirt with revolutionaries for bit of fun on the weekends. I like Bernard but this article is sub-standard.

  15. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Whingeing Labor voters can’t take a trick. He’s a lovely bloke Albo and Tanya’s up there with the best of them but what have they been doing about their plight? Nothing. If they get knocked off by Greens that will be two less Labor members able to make constructive changes to benefit Labor. Why doesn’t Labor listen to its own experts – at least the ones who aren’t just whining about the Greens? Oh that’s right, branch members count for zero. You’re all barking at the moon, green with envy but wearing the wrong colours. Shucks.

  16. Salamander

    Do you prioritise green or socialist? Compromise or bomb out like Bob Brown and the ETS.

  17. Xoanon

    [… if they don’t want to represent the progressive-left values of these electorates then they will have no choice but to make way for someone who does. They should either adapt their policy or cut their losses.]

    Exactly right. I live in the seat of Melbourne and used to be an ALP member, but finally couldn’t stomach the way the party sidelined the beliefs of its most progressive members.

    It’s particularly offensive the way Dastyari and his ilk get angry at people like me for moving from Labor to the Greens, as if they own our vote no matter what policies they promote.

    If they can’t be a progessive-left party, get out of the way and let someone else do it.

  18. drsmithy

    It’s particularly offensive the way Dastyari and his ilk get angry at people like me for moving from Labor to the Greens, as if they own our vote no matter what policies they promote.

    This is the football team approach to politics. Party first, policies and people second.


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