[Marxism] Australia: ‘Greenslide’ a shift to left — neither major party wins majority mandate | Green Left Weekly

glparramatta glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Mon Aug 23 23:14:35 MDT 2010


Tuesday, August 24, 2010
By Peter Boyle <http://www.greenleft.org.au/taxonomy/term/1073>
Rally for equal marriage rights, Sydney August 14, 2010. Photo by Peter 

By denying both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the the 
Liberal-National coalition an outright majority in primary votes and in 
House of Representatives seats, Australian electors voted “neither of 
the above” for the traditional parties of government.

This followed an election campaign in which the major parties conducted 
an ugly race to the right, most notoriously by scapegoating the few 
thousand desperate refugees who attempt to get to Australia on boats.

The effect of this race to the right was to promote racism, further 
breakdown community solidarity, and a bolster a range of other 
conservative prejudices on issues ranging from climate change to the 
economy to same-sex marriage rights. Important issues like Indigenous 
rights and Australia's participation in the imperialist war of 
occupation in Afghanistan were totally screened out.

However, there was also a reaction to this push to the right. The 
Greens, a party with a record of taking positions well left of the major 
parties on many critical issues enjoyed a 3.8% swing, taking most of its 
votes away from the ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had obtained 1,187,881 (11.4%) of the 
first preference votes for House of Representatives. Yet under the 
undemocratic system for lower house elections, the Greens only got one 
of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, that of Melbourne. 
There were a string of other once-safe ALP seats that came close to 
being taken by the Greens.

The contradiction between the size of the Green vote and their small 
representation in Parliament grows, suggests the need for a grassroots 
campaign for democratic reform of the electoral system. It is not 
democratic that the Nationals, who won a third the number of votes as 
the Greens, should get seven times their representation in parliament!

The power of corporate Australia to buy elections with massive donations 
and their domination of the media also has to be confronted.

The Greens won the seat of Melbourne with the open assistance of the 
Victorian Electrical Trade Union and many other militant trade 
unionists. This was an important break from the total domination of the 
labour movement by the pro-capitalist ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had won 1,266,521 first preference 
votes in the Senate election and socialist candidates, including the 
Socialist Alliance, a further 39,186 votes. The Greens look like raising 
their number of Senators from five to nine — giving them the balance of 
power in the Senate.

The progressive social movements, including the trade unions will be 
looking to these Greens Senators to offer strong support in the 
struggles ahead, no matter which major party eventually forms government.

The result after election night on August 21 was a hung parliament. The 
major parties are now desperately trying to negotiate agreements with 
three or four independents and the Greens MP to form a minority 
government, while the outcome in a number of seats remains uncertain. If 
a deal to form government cannot be made, the Governor-General has the 
power to call another election.

While the three independent MPs certain of a seat, Tony Windsor, Bob 
Katter and Rob Oakeshott, are former members of the conservative 
rural-based National Party, all broke over strong objections to 
particular aspects of the neoliberal agenda that has been pursued by 
both Liberal-National coalition and ALP governments since the 1980s.

Further, they have consolidated the hold on their seats by taking 
“community-first” positions on issues directly affecting their 
electorates. So neither major party can be certain of their support.

Newly elected Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, indicated earlier in 
the campaign that he would support a hypothetical ALP minority 
government but since August 21, he's been reluctant to be so specific. 
He told ABC TV's /7.30 Report/ on August 22 that the Greens were 
entering discussions with various parties and independents and “there's 
nothing on or off the table”.

Progressive independent Andrew Wilkie, a former Greens candidate, has a 
chance of winning the Tasmanian seat of Denison away from the ALP. He 
laid out a position, on the August 22 /7.30 Report/ on how he would be 
prepared to support a minority government:

“If I'm elected, the party I support will only be assured that I won't 
block supply, and that I won't support any reckless no confidence motion.

“Beyond that, it's all up for grabs. I will look at every piece of 
legislation, every issue and assess them on its merits. I think it's 
self evident what is reasonable ethical behaviour and what isn't. And 
any acts of lying and so on, I won't accept that and I won't support 
legislation in that regard.”

The Greens should make an offer to support a minority ALP government 
along similar lines because clearly a Liberal-National government would 
be a greater evil. However, entering or making any further commitments 
to a possible ALP government would trap the Greens in a conservative 
government that will be bad for the majority of people, bad for 
Indigenous communities, bad for refugees and bad for the environment.

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