A breakthrough brings new challenges

August 28, 2010
Sydney, August 7. Photo by Matt Ward.

The federal election result was a breakthrough for all who dream of being liberated from the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee politics that has been foisted on Australia for many years.

By denying the major parties a majority mandate, and by swinging strongly to the Greens, the possibility for a very political future has been opened up.

Of course, there are many challenges ahead.

First, there are the negotiations with the major parties to get through. The principle here for the Greens and any progressive independent should be to put what's good for the community and the environment before the dubious objective of stable government.

Governments deserve to be only as stable as their actions merit.

But beyond that, there are many other challenges. The Greens have a record of taking progressive stands on many of the key issues of the day but will be tested in the period ahead.

As a “broad” church, the Greens' membership includes people with a wide range of political views. There are conservative Greens who believe that the objective is a greener, and perhaps more democratic, capitalist system. Others embrace more fundamental social change.

This won't be just an interesting ideological discussion for long: the huge challenge of the climate change emergency coinciding with a far-from-resolved global capitalist economic crisis presents every society with sharp challenges.

The biggest challenge in Australia is that of urgent and huge investment in renewable energy and a qualitatively expanded public transport system to break our suicidal dependency on cars and trucks.

Do we look to the capitalist “market”, which has totally failed? Or should governments make the urgent public investment now?

It is a practical question. It is the hesitations of the major parties, and even of the Greens, on this urgent choice that are ideological.

The leave-it-to-the-market ideology has its roots in the narrow self-interest of big business. It really means “leave it to the market so that we can make more whopping profits”.

And it is an ideology fostered and protected by the political war chests of big coal, big steel, big developers and big banks.

The Greens and any progressive forces that emerge in the next period will have to face up to the choice of staying within or breaking out of the big business, profits-first mindset.

Big business is alarmed at the outcome of this election and the possible threat it poses to its selfish agenda. During the election, we had a little taste of what it will do to frighten people back into the safe limits of Tweedle Dum-Tweedle Dee politics.

We've seen the rants about “reds under the beds” and more recently we've seen a ramping-up of media attacks on the independents.

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