What has happened to the Greens?

By March 26, 2018Australian Politics, Society

I have voted for the Greens for several years in Federal and State elections because they seemed like an economically and socially progressive party largely in tune with my views on such matters. However, now I am wondering what has become of them.

The rot started to set in when the Greens under leader Christine Milne blocked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s initial Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2009, because it supposedly did not go ‘far enough’. In knocking this over, the Greens voted with the Coalition twice in 2009. The second time, two Liberal senators crossed the floor to vote for the ETS, so it would have easily passed if the Greens had voted with the then government. It may not have been to their liking, but it was better than the alternative which, at that time, was nothing. After the demise of Kevin Rudd, Milne and the cross benchers then acceded to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s carbon pricing scheme after the 2010 election1. This led to a rapid decrease in carbon dioxide emissions, but when the Coalition won the 2013 election, that scheme was dumped and since that time, emissions have climbed just as rapidly as they had fallen2.

Next came the proposal from the Gillard Government to enter into a people-swap with Malaysia. At the time, under the Migration Act, this was considered invalid by the High Court in an overwhelming decision. Then Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, in his usual obstructionist way, refused to support the government’s bill to alter the Migration Act to overcome the difficulties with the High Court. Five years later, the idiotic Tony Abbott stated that he regretted not having supported the Malaysia solution3. At the time, the Greens condemned the Malaysia solution, and MP Adam Bandt introduced a motion into the House of Representatives condemning it and asking Gillard to call it off4. We now have had adults and children detained on Manus Island and Nauru since that time. Some have been there as long as 5 years. Whether the collapse of the Malaysia solution is one of the causes of this is open to debate.

During the Batman by-election campaign, Greens leader Richard Di Natale came out in an apparently desperate effort to woo conservative voters by attacking the Labor Party’s excess franking credit scheme5. This scheme is eminently sensible and will get rid of a lurk whereby shareholders will get a cheque from the commonwealth as a refund for tax they have not paid6. On top of this, there seemed to be some internecine brawling within the Greens, with leaks against the Greens candidate Alex Bhathal apparently coming from within the Greens7.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has decreased environmental protections for Australia’s marine parks, allowing recreational and commercial fishing in 80% of marine parks. Perhaps the worst affected area was in the Coral Sea, where, according to shadow environment minister, Tony Burke, purse seine, longlining and midwater trawling would now be allowed. The Labor Party have said they will attempt to disallow these changes8. Given that the Government’s proposal would decrease areas where no fishing is allowed without a permit, it was expected that the Greens would side with the Labor Party. However, the Greens, on advice from the Parliamentary Library, demurred.

One could forgive the Greens a purity misstep with regard to the ETS which given the extra bedding-in time, may have swayed business to accept it and convinced the Coalition to not repeal it. However, given Tony Abbott’s denialist (both political and scientific) tendencies, that may have been unlikely. The failure of the Malaysia Solution and the Coalition’s laughably expensive and incompetent refugee resettlement deal with Cambodia9 makes one wonder how the Malaysia solution would have worked, given the respective national governments were in agreement. Was this another opportunity lost because of purity, with the result that children and adults now rot on Manus Island and Nauru? The Batman by-election campaign seemed to be a ham-fisted attempt at grabbing voters; any voters. Capping this off with the apparent abandonment of large swathes of the Coral Sea indicates that the Greens have lost their way. They may also have lost me.


  1. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/milne-says-no-regrets-over-carbon-decision-20130904-2t53i.html
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/aug/04/australias-greenhouse-gas-emissions-soar-in-latest-figures
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/14/labor-gobsmacked-by-tony-abbotts-u-turn-on-malaysia-solution
  4. https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/greens-to-sink-pms-asylum-seeker-malaysia-solution-ng-56e0f459b279bb8b12dd190111e1f012
  5. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/greens-make-eleventh-hour-pitch-for-conservative-vote-in-batman-20180316-p4z4rd.html
  6. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/lying-about-imputation/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/mar/19/richard-di-natale-calls-for-purge-after-greens-defeat-in-batman-byelection
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/20/labor-vows-to-block-largest-removal-of-marine-area-from-conservation-ever
  9. https://theconversation.com/factcheck-qanda-how-much-was-spent-on-the-cambodia-refugee-deal-and-how-many-were-settled-68807



  • Jon says:

    They lost me federally years ago. Locally we have had the ridiculous situation of Rattenbury dictating govt policy on transport (in return for putting Labor into power) and loading up Canberra ratepayers with an enormous debt for something which only a tiny minority will derive benefit from. Rattenbury as we know has negatively geared investment properties along the tram corridor from which he no doubt hopes to make a significant profit. They are a bunch of unrealistic hypocrites without practical solutions to anything, both federally and locally.

  • Jim says:

    I agree with John. The Greens decision to reject Rudd’s ETS in 2009 was real head in the sand stuff. They did not seem to realise that half a cake is better than no cake. As Whitlam said, “only the pure are impotent”–this sums up The Greens. Bob Brown was the last leader of The Greens with at least one foot on the ground–I cannot remember who said this, but they were right. In the last Federal election, The Greens lost one of their two SA senators and the other one (Sarah Hansen-Young) was elected 11th out of 12 in the double dissolution–hence, in a normal senate election they would lose this seat as well. The Greens vote in the recent SA election was also down, but was strong enough to re-elect a member of the upper house. However, it is hard to judge future results because of the Xenophon effect–SA Best received about 18% of the Legislative Council votes and elected two members (out of eleven). The SA Best vote was essentially a protest vote against the two major parties. If Xenophon drops out of politics who knows what these two will do–they are there for eight years. I think that we would all agree that the deal with Cambodia was absurd, not to mention very expensive.

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