The Politics    Thursday, March 28, 2019

One Nation vs the Greens

By Paddy Manning

One Nation vs the Greens


Comparisons between the two parties are unfair

Extremism is in the eye of the beholder, but the federal government should be careful when drawing a false equivalence between One Nation and the Greens, because one party is grounded in reality and one isn’t. One Nation is openly racist, it wants to wind back Australia’s gun laws, and its short-lived representatives are a policy-free zone pushing fringe conspiracy theories. The Greens have a history of long-serving MPs, and a policy platform developed over decades that includes serious action on climate change and inequality, and which promotes acts of tolerance like legislating for marriage equality, supported by two-thirds of Australians. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls the Greens “a real, serious danger to Australia” he is using nicer words but saying the same thing as James Ashby who, in the first instalment of How to Sell a Massacre, called the Greens “f*cktards”. It is the same false equivalence that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton drew in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, when he equated Fraser Anning with Richard Di Natale, and in doing so simply showed where his own sympathies lay, and revealed his own extremism.

Morrison needed to use his authority as prime minister to send a clear message that One Nation would be preferenced last, everywhere. Instead, he has opened up a difference with his partners, the Nationals, left the door open to playing footsies with One Nation preferences in Queensland, and tried to virtue-signal along the way by taking a swipe at the Greens. “I’m not going to equate the Greens with one of the mainstream parties in this country, which is the Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the National Party,” he said. “So I think we have made our position very clear on that.” Well, clear as mud.

Comparisons between One Nation and the Greens have a long history, and one of the quirks of that story is that party founders Bob Brown and Pauline Hanson first rose to speak in the Senate and the House of Representatives at the very same minute of the very same day in 1996. Guess who got all the media attention?

Former Labor minister Lindsay Tanner, who retired before his Melbourne seat was won by Adam Bandt, was one of the first to pick what was happening with the two parties, and in a recent interview told me that “One Nation and the Greens are essentially mirror-images of the same political trend”.

“The fundamental political topography of modern Western societies is being completely reshaped under the existing parties,” Tanner said. “The existing parties cannot survive in the longer term in the form and shape we understand them.” He added that they “are still built around the fault lines of 50 years ago. The real issues that divide Australians today now split the major political parties down the middle and both of them are struggling to sustain their broad churches.”

The future is most obvious in European countries like Poland, Tanner said, where two major political forces have emerged – one urban, middle class, socially progressive, internationalist, pro-multicultural, non-religious and pro-market, and the other less educated, rural, older, pro-religious, xenophobic if not racist, obscurantist and paranoid. “They’re the two long-term political configurations that are in the process of emerging in Western societies,” said Tanner. “What is unclear is how our existing parties will morph into those two dominant strands.”

Today in Crikey Bernard Keane writes [$] that One Nation practises the “paranoid style” of politics, and quotes Pauline Hanson: “Time is running out. We may have only 10 to 15 years left to turn things around,” she warned in her 1996 maiden speech. “Wake up, Australia, before it is too late.” A whole 20 years later in her maiden speech in the Senate, she offered a similar diagnosis. “If we do not make changes now, there will be no hope in the future.”

Worryingly, almost exactly the same criticism could be levelled at the Greens’ language on climate change and environmental collapse – the same alarm bells have been ringing with the same urgency since at least 1972, when The Limits to Growth and Edward Goldsmith’s A Blueprint for Survival put their finger on the exact problem we are now facing. This is worrying because one party is wrong and one party is right. Immigration is not an urgent threat to Australia – it has enriched the country. Climate change really is a threat to Australia, which is the driest continent on earth and among the most coal-dependent.

The Greens are a danger to the thermal coal industry, that’s for sure. Announcing their climate policy today, the party set emissions targets of 63–82 per cent reductions by 2030, to get to net zero by 2040 (10 years earlier than Labor), and flagged a phase-out of coal exports by 2030 – which is the biggest contribution by far that Australia could make to emissions reduction globally, easily exceeding our own estimated emissions of ~1.5 per cent of the world total. Di Natale this morning told RN Breakfast that the party’s approach was “based on science, not on the politics of the day”. Extreme? Extremely rational.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers


“America will always be important to the security for Australia, but if I am prime minister I welcome the rise of China in the world. I don’t see … China as a strategic threat. I see it as a strategic opportunity. What I want to see is greater mutual understanding between all of us.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten makes amends with the Chinese community on WeChat after former NSW Opposition leader Michael Daley’s racist comments surfaced last week.


“We have an Australia rich in diverse faiths and cultures. And you are a bold new part of our 21st-century landscape. Indeed, seeing your new home shine brightly in the centre of this city, it is a perfect fit for our contemporary Australia.”

Federal Labor MP Julie Owens at the launch of the Church of Scientology’s new Sydney headquarters, in 2014.

The Number

The number of submissions to the House of Representatives economics committee that chair Tim Wilson has effectively written himself, according to analysis by Guardian Australia.

The Policy

“As a member of the Australian Federal Parliament I agree … to speak and write in a manner which provides factual commentary on a foundation of truth about all issues being debated in the community and the Parliament.”

From the parliamentarians’ code of conduct, signed by all Labor MPs, which sets the bar impossibly high.

The list

Rapture gathers a couple of Koffee’s previous singles together with a new song, ‘Blazin’, and the EP makes a strong case for the present-day vitality of reggae, a genre that has been overshadowed in recent decades by global enthusiasm for its flashier musical cousin, dancehall. Not that Koffee herself sets much store by genre boundaries, or personal limits. ‘I want to try it all,’ she told music website Reggaeville last year. ‘I want to impact the world.”’ ... All hail the new teen spirit.”


“The toppling of a senior Catholic cardinal for child sexual assault no doubt deserves media attention. But we cannot let the news itself suck the oxygen from other critical issues facing survivors. Namely, the uphill battle they continue to face in seeking fair redress for the abuses perpetrated against them.” 


“Hanson speaks freely without regard to consequence, detail or even reality. No one is more attracted than her candidates, who then use the ‘open mic’ the party provides to riff on Port Arthur trutherism, or Aboriginal IQs, or ugly single mothers, or LGBT mind-control devices, and then get disendorsed or go off in a huff. Policies pass the pub test, but not a test anywhere people are sober.” 

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.

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