Larissa Waters, Richard Di Natale and Scott Ludlam

New South Wales Greens MP Jenny Leong’s recent New Matilda article entitled “Fascism Might Sound Like A Joke, But It’s No Laughing Matter” strengthened my view that the Greens actually sustain One Nation.

In the article, Leong absurdly lumps the political party I founded, Sustainable Australia, in with Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and Pauline Hanson to represent ”the rise of fascism”. Why?

Because like the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) and other transport experts, Sustainable Australia links immigration (the main driver of population growth) to traffic congestion. Presumably these experts are also to be thrown into Leong’s basket of fascists.

To be clear, Leong is wrong in both fact and logic. The Sustainable Australia campaign poster that Leong referred to in New Matilda actually called for “better public transport and lower immigration” to help ease road congestion, as we are supportive of a holistic approach that prioritises public transport investment over roads. But the opportunity to smear a centrist party was obviously too great for Leong. She wanted to create a perception that Sustainable Australia simply blames immigrants for traffic congestion.

Sadly for Leong, we don’t. We actually blame Coalition, Labor and Greens politicians for mismanaging this country and arrogantly dismissing complaints about declining living standards as fascism. Leong’s elitism actually breeds this discontent and drives people into the arms of the right-wing parties we now see gaining or regaining interest from middle Australia.

Some claim that our rapid population growth would be manageable if only we invested in ever more mass public transport. But that laudable goal is unrealistic.

Firstly, humans love the convenience of cars, and Leong has not convinced people to abandon them to get to work, the shops or to their kids’ sporting fields on a Saturday morning. And secondly, “diseconomies of scale” in our built-up suburbs has created a situation in which major new infrastructure is unaffordable due to its skyrocketing per unit costs.

This is particularly important as it is the Greens’ pet project to densify our existing suburbs with more apartments, in response to also unsustainable sprawl. We cannot cost-effectively drop in new hospitals, schools, recreational green space, train lines and roads throughout existing suburbs. We would need to sell off our public assets, increase rates and charges, cut back services and destroy our environment in a futile attempt to pay for such things … Oh wait!

But supply and demand economics goes way above the idealistic head of Leong.

When the Australia Institute reviewed all Victorian political parties’ — including the Greens’ — state election promises on public transport, it concluded that “it was evident no party had based its promise around meeting passenger demand induced by population growth”.

So how did the modern party come to this?

Green Left Weekly reports that we have to go back to the 1990s when the original Greens members supported exactly the same population policy that Sustainable Australia does now: “stabilising” population numbers (hence the same call for lower immigration).

For fear of being branded racist — or perhaps even fascist — by the far left, the Greens cleared the path for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation by vacating the middle ground on immigration numbers. It allowed John Howard to double immigration (more customers and cheap labour) for big business while using the distraction of stopping asylum seeker boats. The Greens have been played like a fiddle on immigration.

Most people agree that the community division exacerbated by Hanson’s comments about minority groups is highly regrettable, and it certainly rails against Sustainable Australia’s inclusive values. But polling shows that the community is overwhelmingly opposed to Australia’s rapid population growth. If our political elites refuse to address issues of importance to everyday Australians, more and more will turn to political alternatives. Cue Pauline Hanson from stage right.

For political advantage, when it comes to immigration, all Greens politicians ever want to talk about is refugees. This is bizarre given the fact that refugees only make up around 10%t of Australia’s record permanent immigration intake of over 200,000 per year, and also given the environmental origins of The Greens. Sweeping 90% of the immigration issue and our growing population growth pressures under the carpet not only betrays sustainability principles, it builds legitimate community frustration.

The Greens should now join Sustainable Australia in calling for lower immigration, from 200,000 permanent migrants per year back to the long term average of 70,000. This would have no impact on our refugee intake, and indeed could make room for more.

I agree with Leong that fascism is no joke, but when it comes to the environment, it’s the Greens themselves that are threatening to become one.

Peter Fray

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