By Natalie Woodlock and Iggy Kim
On August 6, Tasmania's Liberal premier, Tony Rundle, warned that the August 15 state budget is not negotiable. Any attempts to change it, he said, would result in a new election. The next day, the Tasmanian Greens responded by dismissing the possibility of amendments.
The Liberal minority government's budget will step up the austerity drive of successive Labor and Liberal governments over the past decade. To pass, the budget needs the votes of the four Green MPs.
Tasmanian Greens leader Christine Milne has repeatedly stated her agreement with Rundle that political instability over the budget is bad for investment. On August 7 she took this one step further, arguing, "So far, this government has been more stable than the previous majority government and so we see no point in political chest beating. The Greens are about achieving reform through working cooperatively and constructively." The lessons of the 1989 Greens-ALP Accord seem to be lost.
Prioritising stability for pro-big business government over stability of employment and services for working people places the Tasmanian Greens in alliance with Rundle's attacks. Their earlier calls for raising taxes on big business to fund social services has now been revealed as empty rhetoric.
By fetishising a strategy of conciliation towards fundamentally opposed interests, the Greens have been hoodwinked into a profits-first agenda. This has been helped by their own (small) business-oriented vision of social and environmental progress.
The Green MPs have only two choices: to either support or block the budget. To even begin to implement a progressive program, they need to choose the latter.