9 March 2024

Greens face disaster in October if they don't refocus on what matters

| Ian Bushnell
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Shane Rattenbury in the Legislative Assembly

Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury needs to pull his team together. MLA. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

An election year is usually when political parties hone their positions and try to get their messaging laser-sharp.

But the ACT Greens seem to have forgotten why they were so successful at the 2020 election and have so far produced a performance this year that is decidedly off-key.

Leader Shane Rattenbury has set the winning template for the Greens, with a focus on local issues, sensible sustainability and energy transition proposals, urban development in tune with the bush capital ethos and support for public transport and active travel.

His reasoned and pragmatic approach, even when articulating some of the party’s more ambitious goals, established the perfect tone for a highly educated and informed electorate.

In the ACT, there was no divisive watermelon politics of other jurisdictions and inability to work with the dominant Labor Party.

But in recent times Mr Rattenbury has had to mop up after some of his team have wandered off into fringe areas that won’t pay much of a political dividend or have a chance of success, shot themselves in the foot or indulged themselves in tired and unhelpful rhetoric.

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So far this year, we have heard calls for all advertising involving fossil fuel companies to be banned at sporting events, the ACT Government to divest itself of any investments to do with Israel over what’s happening in Gaza and claims that the government is in bed with developers and happy to sacrifice the environment to housing.

The grandstanding may play well in the Greens’ inner-north bicycle belt but is likely to put off voters who took a chance with them in 2020 or might be tempted in October.

In some cases, they simply got their facts wrong, such as the extent of ecologically sensitive land at risk in the Stromlo Reach development in Denman Prospect, or ventured into areas outside of what should be their scope, such as Gaza.

The divestment issue is always a perilous path and so it proved to be when Jo Clay and Emma Davidson had to fess up to owning small amounts of suspect shares.

The mea culpa amid cries of hypocrisy was humiliating.

Emma Davidson and Jo Clay

Humiliated: Emma Davidson (left) and Jo Clay fell foul of their own divestment calls. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

The grenades tossed at Labor and the developer over Planning Minister Chris Steel’s calling in of the Denman Prospect development were ill-considered, given the protections that the conditions will impose and the government’s commitment to preserve adjacent areas that are important.

Where there was a need for a measured and reasoned response, Jo Clay and Rebecca Vassarotti opted for histrionics and cheap shots.

What followed was more about the fraying partnership with Labor and the dysfunction in Cabinet than the merits of the call-in powers or the environment.

It was up to Mr Rattenbury to talk about the healthy tension in the governing partnership and that there would always be areas of difference to be managed.

As a Leader and an old head, he needs to bring his team together and remind them of what’s important and how they should present themselves to the electorate.

The Greens, with their grassroots democratic structure, have always given the impression of being a much looser collection of MLAs than their opponents, but if they wish to retain their numbers in the Assembly, some discipline is needed in order to stay focused and take a team approach.

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Too often it seems separate MLAs venture off on their own without any strategic plan.

As a result, it’s quite possible that the Greens could lose half their representation in October.

Labor is likely to pick up a seat in Brindabella after the departure of the disgraced Johnathan Davis, having only just missed out last time.

Emma Davidson has had a torrid term as minister and must be considered at risk in Murrumbidgee, while Andrew Braddock, who was behind the divestment disaster, must also be vulnerable.

Even the usually competent Jo Clay has let her performance slip and may struggle in Ginninderra.

In an election in which there should be a strong independent presence focused on local issues and a more competitive Canberra Liberals, the Greens need to refocus and polish that winning template.

The ACT Greens also need to remember that they are in a privileged position unique in Australia – in government – where they have actually achieved things and have the opportunity to achieve more.

They should not throw that away lightly.

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HiddenDragon9:11 pm 08 Mar 24

This article makes a good argument (if not for the same reasons) for the 2024 election being a repeat of the 2012 election, when the Greens were reduced to 1 member, after losing 3 of the 4 members they had in the previous 17 member Assembly (4 out of 17 being strikingly similar to their proportion in the current Assembly).

More likely, particularly if the various independent candidates work hard and have a bit of luck, the Greens’ vote will drop back towards 10% and they will get the 2 or 3 seats which that level of support would suggest in a 25 member Assembly – and still, more likely than not, have the balance of power.

I am not sure some of those coming out of uni are really grown up and capable of facing the real world like you apparently are Dieseldawg. Some of those I know should have listened to their inner inklings and pursued their own dreams rather than those of their parents!

Incidental Tourist6:45 pm 08 Mar 24

I liked original Green Peace focus on living in harmony with our Environment. When I was kid I even dreamed about sailing on Rainbow Warrior studying oceans.. But today’s ACT Greens have nothing to do with this dream. Indeed what are the legalisation of hard drugs, turning Bush Capital to concrete jungle, reduction of police on streets, lower education standards, more tax on everything, and a bunch of communist bankrupt policies like rent freeze are to do with Green Bush Capital?

The sooner we get rid of this useless clown the better off we will be. So let’s all vote him.into political oblivion for everyone’s sake.

The Greens made a commitment to vastly increasing public housing and immediately halved it in the agreement to govern with Labor. If the Greens want my vote they will need to commit to no entering a partnership with Labor otherwise I’m going independent. BJ is spot on – the Greens have done NOTHING useful for Tuggeranong (and neither have Labor)

After 16 years in the Assembly, Shane Rattenbury is losing interest and control. Always reasoned and well-focused, he is one of the most popular and smartest brains in the Assembly. I am in no doubts Mr Rattenbury intended to step down at this year’s election and hand over the reins. However circumstances and the shortcomings of those in his team have forced him to stay.

The ACT Greens are the most successful branch of the party in the country. At the last election, the ACT community showed their support by handing the party an unexpected, unprecedented and overwhelming result. With a dramatic rise in their representation and a soaring membership the party was rewarded with a new level of importance in the government and demanded and received a bigger share of portfolios. But once again they couldn’t help themselves but stuff the opportunity given to them. An inexperienced and underperforming lot that got too big for their boots, trying to present themselves as morally superior by focusing on petty and fringe issues. Those elected have made indefensible mistakes opposing anything that will raise their profiles just for the sake of being Green and being different.

A party that promised so much for voters has been an enormous flop and voters have lost patience!

I remember having similar ideologies to the greens, thought I could change the world. Then I left university to face the real world and grew the f#%ck up.

Jonathan Davis and Laura Nuttall both made huge initial promises about focusing on the people of their Tuggeranong community. But once in power they do nothing for their constituents and instead they focus their energies elsewhere.

What happened to improving public transport for Tuggeranong residents? What happened to holding the government to account about long promised infrastructure like the Ice Rink and Gugan Gulwan centre. What about addressing the areas falling education standards , housing issues and lack of facilities for Tuggeranong youth.

Mr Rattenbury is focused on pragmatic Greens solutions that the article mentions, but he is also hyper focused on delivering things for his inner north voters that keep him in power.

The Greens and Labor should be concerned about the new organised push from independents. It may not happen this coming election, but if they make headway, they will keep up the push and eventually drag the votes from all the parties. The only way the Libs will be in with a shot at government is if independents decide to help them form government. Messy though.

Canberrans are probably quite disillusioned with the current state of affairs, but I just can’t see the majority progressive voters here going down the Liberal path.

Greens are as the author notes, a bit wild and woolly these days.

Rattenbury is on the rocks as leader and if he goes watch the ACT Greens implode entirely, would be a sight to behold! So long #greensingovernment

GrumpyGrandpa11:26 am 08 Mar 24

And here is the problem that Andrew Barr faces. When you get in bed with The Greens to secure absolute control of the Assembly, you, as a government are tied/linked to their standards and their extreme views.

In my opinion Mr Barr would have been better to govern as a minority government.

I had great hopes for the Greens & voted for them a couple of times but they have morphed into woke ideologues impervious to logic or common sense.

Their EV policy & wanting to control rents without control of interest rates are examples of their inability to come up with rational policies.

devils_advocate10:41 am 08 Mar 24

I think they should double down on their plans to implement a rent freeze, ratchet up land taxes even more, implement minimum 10 star energy efficiency ratings on all rental properties both new and existing, the most draconian developer licensing regime they can dream up, block the new Molonglo land release and also see if they can ratchet up the deadweight costs imposed on urban infill projects. Also mandate tree planting on 95% of the surface area of all new developments.

Max_Rockatansky8:25 am 08 Mar 24

In addition, ACT Greens have spent months focusing on the war in Gaza, as per their recent motion.

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