A slightly longer version of this article first appeared on www.enpassant.com.au
So the Greens will sit on the cross-benches. This means they can criticise the Stanhope ALP Government without being locked in through Ministries to unpopular decisions. But their deal with Labor is, to put it mildly, fairly light on.
The swing to the Greens was a swing to the left and reflected anger with the ALP and its closure of schools, the inadequacies of the hospital and transport systems and a heavy handed attempt to set up a data centre and gas fired power station 600 metres from homes in Tuggeranong.
A variety of other groupings also gained a swing of around 6 percent, and they could best be described as right wing. None of them were elected.
While the electorate swung to the left, the two major parties, Labor and Liberals, swung to the Right with the new blood on each team being conservative.
The Greens, contrary to most analysis, are in my opinion a centrist party. They proclaimed during the campaign they were neither left nor right but out front for Canberra. Apart from the fact the environment is an issue on which they have great credibility, and one which will not go away, I would have predicted that this Green balancing between left and right (shades of the Third Way?) would see them self-destruct like the Democrats.
They might still, but at least we can say that the next four years with them on the cross benches in the ACT will test their capacity to balance between left and right and their ability not to lose their supporters as they do ‘pragmatic’ deals with Labor.
The Greens have no class analysis of society. They will be easy pickings for the capitalist class warriors from ALP and the Liberals.
Certainly the deal between the Greens and the ALP supports this view. It makes no great demands on the incoming ALP Government. For example one commitment from the ALP is to examine data centre sites for the ACT.
There is no mention of the ALP’s favoured Tuggeranong Data Centre proposal, a proposal which the Greens specifically opposed in the election campaign. Not surprisingly the Chief Minister is now saying the agreement does not rule out that Centre, and in fact the new Assembly should let normal planning processes proceed.
It may be that the Greens were naive in their negotiations. However it is also possible that this maybe the first of many Green sellouts.
The extra spending the Greens have extracted from Labor on housing is $10 m over 4 years. As a friend put it: “That’s $2.5m a year, or seven houses or 15 units a year. Disgraceful.”
The Greens have agreed not to revisit the issue of closed schools. The community is angry with the Labor Party about these schools, and the Greens have given the ALP a free kick to bury the issue by accepting this attack on the community as a fait accompli.
And then there are the token environmental concessions thrown in.
The Government will legislate a greenhouse gas reduction target for the ACT. That’s it? A target?
The ALP has also agreed to adopt a goal of guaranteed bus frequency of 30 minutes. A goal is not necessarily a reality.
There will be a 12 month trial of a levy on supermarket plastic bags in supermarkets.
The Government will Implement a ‘Plumber Visit’ program for low income housing to help reduce water use.
These are tokenistic commitments when you consider the ACT Budget surplus is more than $200 m.
It looks like Labor has got to keep Government in the ACT on the cheap.
This backtracking and mickey mouse concessions is occurring before the Assembly sits. What will happen when the ALP moves into full duchessing mode and the Greens are off on their study tours, being constantly wined and dined by the professionals? So what that the Greens will run a couple of self-important committees?
I fear the Greens will soon be chanting: “Four legs good, two legs better.”
It looks like the ALP host is already taking over the Green parasite.