Green reds under the bed?

July 31, 2010
Lee Rhiannon.

What do right-wing columnist Gerard Henderson and Australian Workers’ Union national secretary and ALP factional player Paul Howes have in common? A visceral hatred of Greens and socialists.

As the already widespread disillusion with politics-as-usual deepens, the Greens have a chance of holding the balance of power in the Senate after the August 21 poll.

This is grist to the mill for the right-wing commentators.

Henderson sounded yet another furious warning in his article in the July 27 Sydney Morning Herald titled “Radical roots seep through at the heart of Greens”.

He urged people not to vote for the former Greens NSW Member of the Legislative Council Lee Rhiannon, who is standing for the NSW Senate, on the basis that her family were long-time members of the Communist Party of Australia.

Henderson also raised alleged political positions Rhiannon took in the 1970s in support of the Soviet Union.


Voters are not being asked to elect Rhiannon on the basis of her parents politics or what she allegedly thought four decades ago.

Rhiannon has an impressive and long record as a campaigner for social justice and environmental protection. She has also spent 11 years in the NSW parliament scrutinising the two major parties and pushing more just policies.

These included support for abortion rights, an end to coal mining and wood chipping in old growth forests, and the banning of corporate donations — to name just a few.

Rhiannon’s record as a campaigner, not just a parliamentarian, stands out. Along with other Green MLCs, she has attended and spoken at many refugee rights and anti-war rallies.

No wonder she’s not a favourite with Henderson.

Henderson quotes from Howes’ column in the July 25 Sunday Telegraph and a recent interview he did on Sky News in which he warns that the Greens were being infiltrated by reds “trying to take over the inner city branches of the Greens”. This slanderous invention is rich given the branch-stacking record of the NSW ALP right.

Howes was a socialist when he was at high school, before following his parents into the ALP. He now heads a large right-wing controlled union.

But Howes’ past doesn’t worry Henderson — because Howes is leading the charge against left-wing Greens.

But the problem for Howes and Henderson is that red-baiting doesn’t work as well when the two major parties are so badly on the nose.

It’s more than half a century since the heyday of Cold War-inspired red baiting — the act of denouncing, or persecuting an individual or group for real or imagined left-wing sympathies. It doesn’t work these days like it used to for right-wing US Senator Joe McCarthy.

The online poll at the end of Henderson’s article on the SMH site asked: “Will you be voting Greens this election?”.

There were two choices: “Yes, the major parties are virtually indistinguishable” and “No, some of their policies are still too radical”.

Such polls are not scientific, but the fact 47% said they would vote Green — despite the redbaiting —shows many readers did not buy Henderson’s lie that the Greens were “anti-jobs”.

One needs only look at the Greens policies to see that the party is campaigning for the creation of many new “green jobs” as part of a transition towards 100% renewable energy.

In an election marked by the frightening similarity of the major parties’ policies, Howes and Henderson’s efforts to sow fear with a 1950s style “reds under the beds” scare campaign just isn’t working.

The reds are around — just not under any beds.

[Pip Hinman is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Grayndler in Sydney’s inner west.]

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