‘Seismic shift’ in political narrative

Sunday, August 29, 2010
Greens lead candidate for the NSW upper house at the 2011 state election, David Shoebridge. Photo by Paul Benedek.

"It seems that the whole narrative of politics is going through a seismic shift”, said Greens lead candidate for the NSW upper house at the 2011 state election, David Shoebridge at an August 25 forum discussing the post-election political landscape.

Shoebridge told the meeting, which was organised by Socialist Alliance, that the result would impact on upcoming state elections in Victoria and NSW. In NSW, Labor is particularly hated.

"If people waited with baseball bats to get rid of Paul Keating, people are raiding illegal arms dumps to get rid of [Labor Premier Kristina] Keneally and NSW Labor!"

Given the federal swing to the Greens and the rejection of the major parties, Shoebridge argued that, in the upcoming state elections, "there is a chance to break down what is essentially rotating one-party rule … this is a chance for generational change”.

“But there has been a backlash”, Shoebridge noted, "against what are relatively modest policies [from the Greens]."

He said a media campaign against a 50% income tax and an inheritance tax, neglected to mention that the higher proposed income tax would only cut in at incomes above $1 million, and that the inheritance tax was proposed for estates worth more than $5 million!

“There will be a vicious campaign against the Greens”, he warned. “Note the Sydney Morning Herald article on supposed ‘tomatoes’” (a reference to Greens supposedly being “red all over”).

Socialist Alliance national convenor Peter Boyle congratulated the Greens on their result of more than 1.2 million first-preference votes. He stressed "this is a significant event, a shift to the left, with an exciting prospect of involving some of these 1.2 million people in progressive action”.

“For a long time”, he said, “the ruling elite could be confident that an election, while possibly changing the government, really wouldn't change much fundamentally. That has now changed.

“Beneath the spin, you can read the real fears from what the corporate leaders are saying — that a minority government will slow down their neoliberal so-called reforms.”

Boyle painted the context of the rejection of the major parties and the swing to the Greens at a time of ongoing economic crisis and the urgent challenge of climate change.

He also raised the need for systematic, democratic change. "The Greens win 11.5% of the vote yet get only one seat out of 150. Proportional representation is an easy argument to make. People are angered that no matter how they vote, the major parties win.”

Boyle said democratic change needed to go beyond parliament, and into strengthening the role of people’s movements.

He concluded by outlining what the Socialist Alliance believed to be a principled position for the Greens to take in such circumstances: “To offer to support a minority ALP government, agreeing to back supply and confidence, but otherwise remaining free to oppose any reactionary legislation.”

When asked about coalition governments, such as that in Tasmania formed between Labor and the Greens, Shoebridge said: "I think it would be political suicide to go into a coalition with NSW Labor in 2011. The thought of a Liberal government is just as unattractive.”

On the ALP-Coalition bipartisan policy in support of the Afghanistan war and occupation, Shoebridge expressed disgust at the lack of any discussion about Afghanistan in the election campaign.

“This is an unwinnable war”, he said, “and all we see from the politicians are crocodile tears, while soldiers keep dying. Opposing the war is something Greens are passionate about.”

When asked about Greens support for a carbon tax, Shoebridge argued: “We are not going to tax our way into a renewable future — that requires investment in renewables. A carbon tax can play a role in funding some investment and offsetting costs for households.”

On his likely election, Shoebridge said many people asked him, given the Upper House only sits for about 60 days of the year, what else would he be doing?

"I believe that the role of an elected Green is to spend as little time as possible in parliament, and the majority of your time in the community and bringing the community into parliament."

From GLW issue 850