Australian Elections

Green Left Weekly’s Simon Butler asked five Australian climate activists for their thoughts on the current state of the movement.

Phillip Sutton is the convenor of Melbourne’s Climate Emergency Network and co-author of the 2008 book Climate Code Red.

Adam Lucas is coordinator of Beyond Zero Emissions Sydney and lectures in the Science and Technology Studies Program at the University of Wollongong.

Now that we finally know who is going to govern our country; now that we know who is backing who and why; now that we’ve breathed a collective sigh of relief; now — right now — it’s time to mobilise!

It’s time to mobilise around what I’ve been muttering to anyone who’ll listen over the past few weeks: renewables, renewables, renewables.

Undoubtedly the best thing about the election result was that people — everywhere — were talking about politics.

Some of the discussion was about the hung parliament where neither major party won majority support. Because the result wasn’t clear, it gave everybody an opening to form and express an opinion about what should happen next.

Other parts of the discussion surrounded the sudden emergence of political issues that had been completely ignored in the “boring” election campaign. The war in Afghanistan is the best example.

Socialist Alternative’s Corey Oakley thinks many on the Australian left have got the federal election wrong.

There is nothing positive about the balance of power being held by four independent MPs and one Green, he wrote in an August 27 article on the Socialist Alternative website.

He said the left should be fearful of the independents, but some activists were wrongly celebrating the new role of these reactionary politicians.

The 2010 federal election campaign was notable as being one of the most tedious in the history of modern elections — at least the campaigns the two major parties dished up were.

The field of youth affairs was among the direst, with both the Coalition and ALP using young people as a political football to appeal to older and more conservative sections of the population.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott reconfirmed his status as an out-of-touch, patronising, old white man, encouraging young people to conform to conservative values.

In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election, legislation was passed against marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. The 2004 marriage ban became the catalyst for the development of a powerful protest movement.

This movement has won a series of important victories. These include the repeal of 85 pieces of federal legislation discriminating against same-sex couples, but not the repeal of the discriminatory marriage ban. Recognition of civil unions has been won in the ACT, after a five-year struggle.

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.

Green Victory I

The most striking thing about the Greens victory in the seat of Melbourne is not that it is their first lower house seat at a federal election.

More significant is that more than 11% of the vote for the Greens results in less than 1% of the seats. In theory, a party could receive 20% or 30% of the vote and get no seats whatsoever.

It is time that Australia moved to a more democratic proportional representation system where parties are represented in proportion to their level of support among the people.

Alex Bainbridge
Perth

The death of Lance-Corporal Jared Mackinney in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan on August 25 brought the death toll of Australian soldiers to 21 — 10 of whom have died since June. Mackinney was the third Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan in four days.

Defence minister Senator John Faulkner defensively admitted at a media conference the same day that Australians are increasingly questioning the near nine-year old war.

Brisbane Murri activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson made the following comments on July 8 on the anti-refugee policies of the two major parties.

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PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott are involved in a headlong race to the bottom of the political pile with their policies on asylum seekers.

There is no sign of humanity, no compassion, no generosity of spirit.

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