Editorial: Greens threaten two-party system

June 4, 2010
'It's a two-party system, you have to vote for one of us.' After the Greens’ record vote in the Tasmanian elections, the party

In recent weeks, the big mining companies have spent millions on propaganda against plans to make them pay more tax. But the results of a June 1 Newspoll showed they have hardly made a dent on public opinion.

Both big parties are losing ground, the poll said. Labor’s primary vote dropped two points, to 35%. The Coalition went down by the same margin, from 43% to 41%. But the bombshell was the record Greens vote — up four points to 16%.

This is not a new trend. Support for the Greens has risen steadily over the past decade.

But the recent surge in Greens support has coincided with the Labor government’s decision to suspend its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme for a further three years.

PM Kevin Rudd’s approval rating has plummeted since the suspension. His repeated promises to take urgent action on climate change have been exposed as a sham. Meanwhile, the Coalition under leader Tony Abbott has reverted back to the naked climate change denial of the Howard era.

April was the world’s hottest month since records began. The Arctic ice sheet is melting at a pace never seen before. Scientists say carbon pollution has made the world’s oceans more acidic than they have been for at least 20 million years.

Yet under Rudd’s watch, Australia remains the developed world’s worst polluter per person. Emissions have gone up. Twelve new coal-fired power plants are planned around the country. The government plans to more than double coal exports in coming decades.

In the face of the biggest-ever threat to humanity, the ALP and the Coalition plan to continue with business as usual.

The surge in electoral support for the Greens has also coincided with Labor’s introduction of harsh anti-refugee policies, such as suspending the processing of asylum claims of people fleeing Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Responding to goading from Abbott, Rudd has adopted Howard-era refugee-bashing rhetoric on “border protection”, alienating many of the voters who swept Rudd to power in 2007.

After the Greens’ record vote in the Tasmanian elections, the party now has a chance to break open the two-party system on a national level.

If an election were held today, the Greens would win the balance of power in the Senate. They could also beat Labor in inner-city lower house seats, especially in Melbourne and Sydney.

Sitting ALP members such as Marrickville’s Anthony Albanese, Sydney’s Tanya Plibersek, Melbourne’s Lindsay Tanner and Wills’s Kelvin Thomson, will be most worried.

They should be worried. They have backed the Rudd government’s do-nothing climate policy. They deserve to lose, so the rest of us can have a future.

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