Monday, October 19, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Labor and the Greens
In NZ and the ACT, the two parties have shown they can work together

Image of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Image © David Rowland / AAP) and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr (Image via Twitter)

It is unthinkable in Australia that a Labor leader with a majority in his or her own right might nevertheless choose to govern in a coalition with the Greens. It is all the more remarkable that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – after a thumping win on Saturday that delivered her party a majority in parliament for the first time since the country adopted proportional representation in 1996 – was yesterday declining to rule out continuing in coalition, most likely with the Greens. “I have been a consensus builder,” Ardern said, “but I also need to work with the strong mandate Labour has been given.” Certainly, the NZ Greens, who also picked up seats, are hoping to be invited back in. “We are stronger at the end of our first term in government than we were at the beginning,” the party’s co-leader James Shaw told Guardian Australia. In some ways it’s a similar story in the ACT, where Labor’s Andrew Barr was returned to government on Saturday, and the party will almost certainly govern with the Greens, led by Shane Rattenbury, who has served as minister for climate change over the past term. It will be the fourth term of government for the two parties. Basically COVID-free and already running on 100 per cent renewable energy, the ACT is like a mini New Zealand, with proportional representation in its electoral system and no Murdoch press to colour the debate. 

At a press conference yesterday, Chief Minister Barr said he would remain in the job until the next election in 2024. He declared that his deputy, Yvette Berry, was his logical successor, and ruled out handing over the deputy chief minister’s role to the Greens. On the back of a strong result in Brindabella, Barr said the result had “busted the mythology” that Canberra’s southern suburbs were a Liberal stronghold. 

The ABC’s election analyst, Antony Green, said the Greens were the surprise of the poll, jumping from two seats to as many as six in the 25-seat legislative assembly. Rattenbury – who has played a significant role as a member of the former COAG Energy Council, holding out against the federal Coalition’s backsliding on climate and energy policy nationally – said that the Greens would want more of a say. “I think it’s a real opportunity for us to be a part of the cabinet process and work with government agencies,” Rattenbury told The Canberra Times. “Obviously, there is also strength in us sitting on the crossbench as well, and that will form part of the conversation we have with Labor.”

Elsewhere in Australia, when the Greens have formed the balance of power or entered into a coalition with Labor, there has been an electoral backlash afterwards. Federally, there was a backlash against both parties after the experiment with a minority government under Julia Gillard, which ended in 2013, and in Tasmania there were swings against the Greens after forming the balance of power or coalition governments with Labor in 1989–92, 1996–98, and 2010–14.

The ACT has bucked the trend, and the Greens said it was the first time the party had a swing to it, after being in government. Tim Hollo, the executive director of party think tank the Green Institute, thinks it is the first time anywhere in the world that a Greens party has won a fourth term in government. Hollo worked on the ACT Greens campaign as convenor of volunteers and was the party’s candidate at the new lower-house seat of Canberra at the last federal election. Hollo says the party’s strong showing was due partly to continuing concern about climate change, heightened by the city’s experience of being blanketed in bushfire smoke for two months last summer. But he also said it was due to a constructive relationship with Labor in the ACT, where the two parties took complementary positions and did not seek to damage each other. “People don’t like to see the Greens and Labor attacking each other,” he said. 

It wouldn’t work everywhere. In Queensland, right now, Labor and the Greens are slugging it out in an increasingly nasty battle in Brisbane’s inner-city electorates. But the successes of Labor and the Greens in both the ACT and New Zealand point to the potential for a different, more consensual and less combative relationship between the two parties, showing that it’s possible to take the fight up to the Liberals and the Nationals. 

“Senator, I agree with you … I want to get to the bottom of what happened … I’m trying to clean it up.”

Department of Infrastructure secretary Simon Atkinson, after being asked by Labor’s Penny Wong if employees in his department had attempted to cover up the government’s $30 million purchase of land near Western Sydney Airport (a deal that the auditor-general said “fell short of ethical standards”).

“The bloody-mindedness is unforgivable. There’s been a callous indifference in Victoria, from the government, to the loss of jobs and to the plight of small business.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attacks Premier Daniel Andrews over Melbourne’s drawn-out emergence from lockdown.

The new path out of lockdown
After more than 100 days of strict lockdown, Victorians finally have a new path out of restrictions. It signals a more gradual easing than the government originally hoped. Today, Osman Faruqi on the story behind the slower path out of lockdown and where the risk now lies.

The number of state and federal elections in the past decade (including the upcoming Queensland election) in which the Murdoch press has backed the Coalition over Labor, according to former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

“A re-elected government I lead will introduce legislation next year to provide for the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying. This will be a conscience vote for all members of my team, and I hope all parliamentarians.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promises that Queensland Labor will introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation if re-elected.

The list

“In a year when reasons for laughter have been in pretty short supply, Clarke and Dawe’s mix of biting satire, impeccable timing and onscreen chemistry have been sorely missed. One can only imagine what they might have said about the prime minister’s trip to Hawaii while the country burned, and about politicians of all stripes posturing over the Ruby Princess, hotel quarantine and the aged-care system. Dawe feels the absence, too.”

“The usually reliable Newspoll last week delivered a bombshell as unexpected as it was unwelcome to its Murdochratic media proprietors. The script was supposed to deliver yet another win for Scott Morrison’s invincible government. The blockbusting budget had been unveiled to gasps of astonishment and applause, at least to the writers and readers of The Australian. The headlines were ready to go: another crushing blow to Anthony Albanese and his quasi-socialist insurgents. Actually, it wasn’t all that crushing.”

“The expanded use of final departure visas marks an escalation in the federal government’s systematic dismantling of Australia’s refugee apparatus. Those in the medical and refugee sector see these visas as a last move in a war of attrition … Having largely closed offshore detention, the government is now taking apart the architecture of its onshore program.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and 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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