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Election washout: The Greens need to stay focused on the environment 

Senator Richard Di Natale Greens
Senator Richard Di Natale. Photo: Kate Ausburn via Flickr

CONTRIBUTOR: The “climate election” has delivered a harsh lesson for those of us who believe that we are indeed facing a climate emergency. After recent alarming scientific predictions and destructive weather events, one would think the Greens would be in the box seat for gains. 

However, more startling than the result for Labor is the fact that the Greens have increased their representation by only a piddling 0.4 per cent on the 2016 election results. This is a damning repudiation of their policy platform and their approach to advancing the climate cause within the Australian electorate. 

Given the passion demonstrated by the school protesters who recently made their views heard around the country, the Greens lacklustre performance is also a direct challenge to young voters and emerging voters who want to see Australia play a constructive part on climate in the world community. 

Who else but the Greens can a young person turn to for an unambiguous climate platform? Yet the reality is that the Greens party has ensured that it remains a moribund, marginalised fringe player in Australia’s political discourse. It is doubtful that it will ever be more than that until it embraces the hopes and aspirations of the broader Australian community. 

Yes in 2017, the Greens got a state member in Queensland, however, the vote for the party has gone nowhere in Victoria and Tasmania. 

In New South Wales, the state party managed to hold on to most of its vote but lost two representatives in the Legislative Council. The election last week was not a generalised plebiscite on the Australian public’s appetite for climate action per se, but rather their willingness to embrace a range of policies that offered action at significant cost.

Despite Richard Di Natale laying the blame on the Coalition’s “ultra-negative tactics and millions received in big corporate donations” that stood in the way of Green gains in the federal election, the fact is that the Australian polity has clearly demonstrated its self-interest priorities. 

I don’t doubt that in general, the average Australian wants to do the right thing for our climate and our world. They just don’t want to be losers as a result.

I do not believe that the Australian psyche has generally been infected by denialism. Rather, I think that unwillingness to broadly embrace the Green’s policy message is reflective of a denial of proffered solutions that do not adequately acknowledge the incredibly difficult challenges of living in the 21st century. 

Climate action cannot be reduced to a zero sum game for ordinary voters. The difficulties faced worldwide in gaining traction for climate action is proof that we desperately need climate champions that offer nuanced, aspirational but achievable climate policy. This is a very difficult task, both practically and psychologically. 

There is only one issue that binds all the rings of power, to use a Lord of the Rings analogy. Without a healthy environment, our economy, social fabric and place in the world are all at risk.

The Greens have tried to strategically broaden their remit, with a cross-sectoral policy platform. I would argue this attempt at a broad platform has diluted the centrality of their key green purpose. As a result, they have opened themselves to charges of political extremism and placed them at the outer fringe of Australian politics. 

There is only one issue that binds all the rings of power, to use a Lord of the Rings analogy. Without a healthy environment, our economy, social fabric and place in the world are all at risk.

I believe that the Greens platform must be refocused. They will never be a third major party to challenge the entrenched duopoly of Australian politics. 

In order to cut through all the conflicting influences and interests in climate and environmental policy, the Green should stop trying to generalise their reach by trying to be economic or social science advocates. 

Rather they should stick to their core purpose and offer a viable mainstream advocacy for doable, broadly acceptable climate and environmental action for those of us that see this issue for what it is – the greatest moral and existential threat we currently face. 

The solutions to climate will come from new, emerging technologies

While the fossil fuel and extractive industries wedge Labor in the conflicting pincer between climate and jobs, the solutions to climate will come from new, emerging technologies. 

We need a climate advocate that will not only “keep the bastards honest” as the Democrats used to say, but will attract and represent an enlightened future of Australian jobs and industry.

Jack Haber is an Architect and property development professional. He has been engaged with environmental issues since the 1970s and is a shareholder in timber building products business Tecbeam, that offers a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel construction.


Spinifex is an opinion column open to all, so called because it’s at the “spiky” end of sustainability. If you would like to contribute, we require 700+ words. For a more detailed brief and style guide please email editorial@thefifthestate.com.au

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Comments

6 Responses to “Election washout: The Greens need to stay focused on the environment ”

  • John Newton says:

    The four pillars of the Greens are:

    Ecological sustainability

    Good economic management means taking care of our earth — not treating our most precious resources like a giant business in liquidation: ‘everything must go!’. The levels of pollution in our atmosphere mean that business-as-usual will no longer work if we want to avoid dangerous climate change. The future for Australia can still be a prosperous one if we build our economy on green principles rather than short-term self-interest.

    Grassroots participatory democracy

    Real progress comes when enough people believe it is possible to make a difference and decide to do something about it. All Greens members and supporters are driven by the desire to work towards a better Australia. In contrast to the two old parties, which are run by executives in head office, the Greens involve members in key decisions and our campaigns are powered by thousands of ordinary people volunteering their time, skills and support.

    Social justice

    Many of the social problems we have today — crime, discrimination, disease, poverty — could be dramatically improved if we focus on eliminating extreme inequality in Australia and across the world. The Greens believe that it should be the priority of all governments to alleviate poverty and to extend opportunity to all members of society.

    Peace and non-violence

    Australia’s foreign policy should be based on dialogue, diplomacy and cooperation, not aggression. Trying to prevent or counter violence with violence itself will not work. The Greens are committed to peaceful and non-violent solutions locally, nationally and internationally.

    All are indispensable.You can’t just dump one or two or three.

  • Sandra Hawkins says:

    The Greens have the policies but are not given coverage in the media unless it is to compare them to the far right. They are not invited to leader debates. They certainly don’t have the advertising budget of the other parties and won’t take donations from fossil fuel companies and the like. The Greens are always talking up t a just ransition and new emerging technologies.
    Perhaps you haven’t been listening.
    I’m pretty sick of the Green bashing that goes on before, during and after elections and disappointed in the fifth estate for doing more of the same.

    • Tina Perinotto says:

      Thank you for your comments Sandra. It’s an old debate. Should the Greens be focused only on climate to the detriment of social issues? I agree we need a just transition or so it won’t be a stampede for survival that leaves the less fortunate in our wake and will actually undermine our efforts.

      But in the face of our climate emergency, many people will be asking the same question as our contributor. The Greens need to step right up to the front of the crowd and be more visible than ever. Their messages are not getting through. Yet it’s hard to single out the Greens for special victim status after what the Murdoch press and right-wing extremist social media have done to a major political party. It’s been a shameful campaign of outrageous lies and fake news and it’s worked: the Labor Party looks on its knees right now. Next Murdoch and mates are going after the ABC and about to decimate it.

      .The Greens along with every other socially progressive, climate-friendly group on the planet is under attack. We need to make these issues the centre of discussion and debate so we can find a way through.

  • Paul Meleng says:

    I agree in general. They need to be tough minded advocates of ideas people can understand, with real practical proposals like advocating a successful carbon pricing approach like the Fee and Dividend of Citizens Climate Lobby, like Regenerative Agriculture, like all the great sustainable cities work that is going on. Let Adani etc go…it will resolve itself in the end. It will become another case of ” told ya so ” as companies lose money on it. Leave out the social cutting edge stuff that worries people who would otherwise be open to the environment message. leave it to the cause activists to persuade the whole body politic. Read the winds of whole society change a bit better and roll forward with it. Call out truly dodgy deals. Insist on truth and integrity, which everyone agrees is needed.

  • Paul Meleng says:

    I agree in general. They need to be tough minded advocates with real practical proposals like advocating a successful carbon pricing approach like the Fee and Dividend of Citizens Climate Lobby, like Regenerative Agriculture, like all the great sustainable cities work that is going on. Let Adani etc go…it will resolve itself in the end. Leave out the social cutting edge stuff , leave it to the cause activists to persuade the whole body politic.

  • Corruption & the greed for money are strong in Australia. By the time the people realise their mistake in voting liberal, it will be too late to stop TEOTWAWKI !!!

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