Tasmanian Labor-Greens coalition a mistake

Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim is heckled over plans to close 20 public schools. The plan was later dropped.

Socialist Alliance Hobart branch notes the recent expressions of disillusionment with all political parties in parliament in Tasmania.

The state government continues to disappoint with its lack of transparency when it comes to funding dodgy deals such as the proposed Aprin loan (now scuttled after Gunns chose a different bidder), with its inability to support the proper funding of public services such as education and health.

People have also felt betrayed by its inability to either protect our public forests or create jobs, its dodgy priorities (for example, funding race-tracks and football sponsorship while closing down Hayes prison farm), its inability to deal with the rising cost of living and the housing crisis, its inability to protect Aboriginal heritage, and its inability to put the environment and the community before Gunns when it comes to the Tamar Valley pulp mill.

We believe it was a mistake for the Greens to enter into a formal coalition with Labor to hold ministry positions and to become the junior partner in running and administering this government.

The Labor Party in Tasmania is corrupt and incompetent. As long as the Greens work closely with them their ability to stand true to their principles is hampered.

While they may be able to influence some decisions by being inside Cabinet, we think that their ability to be the voice of community campaigns inside parliament has been largely curtailed by this arrangement.

Where is the alternative budget putting forward a socially progressive plan? Instead the Greens have supported a regressive approach that includes restricting public sector workers' rights and cutting funding to essential services.

It would be far better if they could retain their independence on every issue, as Greens MP Adam Bandt and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie have done in the federal arena.

We note the recent call by Simon Warriner on Tasmanian Times to support independent candidates who are willing to run in the next state elections.

While we will support good independent candidates in some situations, we believe focusing on independents is a poor strategy.

Independents can hold widely differing views on issues and they can change their minds on anything once elected. They may be even more prone to the corrupting effects of political donations.

They cannot be held to account by any party or community and they do not foster the self-organisation and unity of ordinary people around key issues, which is very important in achieving long-term social change.

In our opinion, a much better idea would be to explore what key political principles may be possible for disillusioned people to unite around, and to begin a conversation about how these individuals and groups can work together in the lead up to the next elections.

An example of where this united campaigning approach is happening is in Wollongong, NSW, where activists and individuals have joined together to develop a common election campaign called “Community Voice”, with the aim of standing grassroots community leaders in the upcoming council election, on a platform of community democracy and sustainability.

By uniting forces, where there is political agreement on key issues, we can maximise campaigning resources and effectiveness, and put up a meaningful alternative at election time. The form that such an organisation could take would need to be negotiated with all who are interested, but key principles would be democracy and accountability.

We would suggest the following basic principles might be a good starting point:

•No pulp mill. Job creation in clean, green and socially useful industries.

• No coalition with Labor or the Liberals.

• Candidates and MPs would be recallable and answerable to their party membership. Transparency in government.

• Candidates and MPs would promote community participation in democracy and help build progressive grassroots campaigns.

• Money for health, education, housing and community services not Gunns, native forest logging, racetracks or subsidizing big polluters.

[This statement was released by Socialist Alliance Hobart on July 18. If you agree with these ideas an want to discuss them further email hobart@socialist-alliance.org.]


If the Greens hadn't been there, we would not have known about the Aprin loan, and would have been able to do nothing to stop it if we had - so I say Thanks to the Greens for what they do achieve, trying to keep the incompetent lot honest.

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