Greens will need to be pragmatic and get their hands dirty

Ian Bushnell 25 October 2020 33
ACT Greens

The ACT Greens celebrate the 2020 ACT election result. Photo: ACT Greens.

The ACT Greens have been on cloud nine for the past week but now it’s time to come down to earth and face the reality of having a role in government and the political grind of the Legislative Assembly.

They passed the first hurdle last week by opting to be in coalition with Labor instead of exerting pressure from the crossbench.

There is much more to be achieved by being inside the tent, as leader Shane Rattenbury has shown.

Part of their electoral success – and they should be careful not to overstate it – stems from Mr Rattenbury’s results-driven, common sense contribution to Cabinet, a record that has given the party valuable credibility.

Outside Cabinet, Caroline Le Couteur also worked hard on legislation and raising key planning and housing issues.

There is no doubt that they have pulled Labor towards clearer policy decisions on transport (light rail) and climate change and energy (renewables) to the point where Labor is reaping the electoral benefits of these popular decisions and making them their own.

READ MORE: Gordon Ramsay loses Ginninderra, Greens lock in a record six seats

The ACT Greens, unlike their counterparts federally and in other jurisdictions, have middle of the road appeal, and typically in a place like Canberra have attracted talent with the experience to do well in the Assembly.

They have been here before, from 2008 to 2012 when four Greens, including Mr Rattenbury, occupied the crossbench, only to see that electoral support evaporate.

Hare-Clark giveth and taketh away, and can be both generous and cruel. The Greens should remember that overall the party polled roughly 13.5 per cent for their six seats, while the Liberals at 34 per cent have had to settle for just nine.

This time around it appears that the Greens have taken votes off the Liberals, those who may not be happy with Labor but find something in the Greens’ message about planning, the environment and climate change.

This newfound support could easily disappear if the Greens let ideology distract them, forget the spade work and don’t achieve practical results, something the Liberals have failed to learn.

They will need to be pragmatic and be willing to compromise, because 100 per cent of nothing is nothing.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr was quick to remind them that Labor is the very senior partner, especially with 38 per cent of the vote, and that a second minister was not an immediate given.

Mr Barr said he would not want to throw someone in the deep end but that may have been just early positioning.

But the Greens will state their claims to have that extra say in Cabinet, with Rebecca Vassarotti or Emma Davidson capable of doing the job.

Labor is not so flush with talent that they can deny a Green that opportunity, particularly after losing Gordon Ramsay.

In fact, the experienced and proven Mr Rattenbury could well be the new Attorney-General.

The luxury for the Greens this time is having a team that can share portfolios and the work, and make more of a contribution. And that will also mean, for those outside of Cabinet, holding government to account and siding with the Liberals if need be.

READ ALSO: Stunts and slogans: Coe’s campaign was just a house of corflutes

In many respects it’s an extension of an experiment that is peculiarly Canberran because there is no love lost between Labor and the Greens elsewhere in the nation. But it’s a model that others outside the ACT are observing closely.

Its success at an ACT level will be judged on practical outcomes, not symbolic gestures, by an electorate that is savvy and sophisticated but still wants the rubbish picked up on time.

The Parliamentary Agreement to be hammered out should reflect that and set ambitious but realistic goals in housing, getting light rail done, securing the ACT’s energy needs and sorting out the waste management mess.

One thing is certain – it won’t be business as usual for Labor in the Assembly.

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33 Responses to Greens will need to be pragmatic and get their hands dirty
ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 5:20 pm 06 Nov 20

I hope the Greens do something about the removal of street trees occurring due to “planning decisions”.

Spiral Spiral 9:17 am 29 Oct 20

One challenge for the Greens both in the ACT and Australia wide is their views on Australian manufacturing.

The COVID crisis and recent actions by China haveaised awareness on this country’s reliance on overseas manufacturing.

There has been a lot of noise made about restarting the Australian manufacturing industries.

Most likely this will just be noise and very little real action will be taken.


If it does go somewhere, there will probably be an impact on our Greenhouse gas and other pollution emissions.

We have been very happy to outsource our manufacturing pollution to other countries.

Are we willing to take that back onshore?

Where do the Greens stand on this?

Will they be pragmatic and get onboard with increased emissions to help protect us from a belligerent China?

Or will they push a line that environmental considerations override national protection?

The ACT doesn’t have much industry and probably never will, but there may be an opportunity to establish some here.

Where will the Greens stand on this issue?

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 8:34 am 27 Oct 20

I look forward to seeing what they achieve

Jill Lee Bee Jill Lee Bee 7:51 am 27 Oct 20

Oh look as long as they don't Rob the tax payer blind and manage to turn up to work once a year, they'll be beating the fed govt 150 percent

Chris Hobbs Chris Hobbs 10:53 pm 26 Oct 20

Time will tell. If they are pragmatic and able to adapt their ideologies to actual plans and policies, it will be an interesting term to witness.

However, if they just chap on about trees and do nothing more, then they deserve the lazy tree hugging status they have endured for so long.

Action speaks louder than words and by god, people are sick of words.

    Chris Hobbs Chris Hobbs 10:14 am 29 Oct 20

    Will ACT residents benefit from 30% canopy cover by 2045 from a massive tree investment, yes! Will we need to remove some old and inconvenient placed trees in the process, of course!

    I'm not shortsighted and believe if we are to be sustainable, then compromises need to happen. At least the ACT Gov have a climate friendly plan to keep the city cool, maintain sustainable population growth, reduce emissions whilst being 100% renewable. We are lucky to have this compared to the federal government's plans

    Come on, as a human being, knowing that by 2100 we may not even exist as a species, compromising for a sustainable, healthy future is not all our responsibility?

David Brown David Brown 8:31 pm 26 Oct 20

They got disaffected votes from people fed up with both majors. If the Libs can find a moderate leader and develop some sensible policies, I expect the Greens vote to return to normal.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:30 pm 26 Oct 20

Most of what we’ve seen from the ACT Greens in the last few terms of government has been fairly standard stuff from the policy agenda of the international green/left movement – applied, at times, in a cookie-cutter way, with limited real recognition of and adaptation to local circumstances, and backed-up by the standard slogans and talking points. In that respect, they have been a bit like the local franchisees of an international chain of vegan eateries, head-quartered in the Pacific Northwest or northern Europe, with a menu and marketing which is very familiar, wherever in the world you find them.

This term presents an opportunity to move beyond that, and housing may be the most promising area for genuine local policy innovation, given the flexibility available to a government which combines state and municipal responsibilities.

By comparison, extension of light rail is essentially about finding several billions in an already stretched budget with other pressing priorities to meet, and comprehensive renewable energy solutions rely on technological breakthroughs which are always about to happen (and have been for at least the last decade, or so).

steve2020 steve2020 2:14 pm 26 Oct 20

Having seen enough evidence despite some contradictions in data and agenda based scientific misconduct, I do have concerns about the environmental impact of industries. The downside of environmental protection is that the business dealings are then given or moved to countries and places that are not as restrictive. That’s an issue that could be thought upon. I believe land, water and environment management are important issues.

It’s a long story for The Greens from the Tasmanian logging protests. What I find that is very concerning about green politics are the inclusion of non-environmental issues or ideologies that have been brought on or imported, such as haphazard open borders that contradict the environment stances, and health and safety stances of Labor and somewhat Liberal too, and self-serving racial and minority identity politics, which have become just as disturbing as the narratives of far parties on the other end of the spectrum, i.e One Nation, that suppress and disrespect the rights and identities of cultural groups, and inadvertently increase discrimination.

    Spiral Spiral 4:09 pm 26 Oct 20

    Yes, you would think that the Greens would be against all immigration in an attempt to reduce or even reverse our population growth. The less people in Australia the better it is for the environment.

    Instead they seem to be determined to let as many people come here as want to.

    They should be completely against hunting of endangered species, instead of strongly supporting it.

    The Greens seem less about the environment and more about their view of social justice these days.

    That doesn’t mean that everything they do is bad, just that perhaps their name no longer represents their goals.

    ssek ssek 4:38 pm 26 Oct 20

    Don’t forget the thinly veiled communism.

    dolphin dolphin 8:21 pm 02 Nov 20

    huh? the Greens might be many things – but they are certainly not communists!

A_Cog A_Cog 1:51 pm 26 Oct 20

The future is full of (more) failure and incompetence. Rattenbury has:
– Run the jail since 2012: ACT has the highest rate of recidivism in the nation (by alot); 30% of inmates are prescribed opioids (other states roughly 1%-2%); overcrowding and violence persists.
– Held the Mental Health portfolio since 2016: still not up and running; among lowest access nationally.
– Supported a Barr Govt strip-mining society, with actual public transport (buses) being reduced city-wide, worsening schools performance, worsening hospital performance, 18-month surgery wait times (supposed to be 12-months at a maximum), declining access to medical specialists, lowest level of policing nationally, enormous public housing gap and wait-times…

All these hipster projects in the CBD (bikes, scooters, murals, blah blah blah) are wall-papering over the widening cracks, and the Greens are central to all of it. What’s the old saying? “Democracy gives the people what they want, until they just can’t stand it any more.”

michael quirk michael quirk 11:58 am 26 Oct 20

The increase in the Green vote is a result of their genuine commitment, unlike the major parties to address climate change. They pride themselves on basing decisions on science and social justice.

They need to review their policies in the light of changes including lower population and employment growth, increasing debt and improved battery storage technology. In particular they may need to prioritize expenditure between housing, health. community services , bus based public transport and light rail. A commitment to evidence based policy would suggest, in the current economic and social climate, whether light rail delivers enough benefits for it to have a higher priority than other needs including bus-based alternatives including high capacity electric buses on the inter-town public transport route. Such decisions would be assisted by information from the 2021 Census on housing and transport choices.

Henry Kivimaki Henry Kivimaki 11:43 am 26 Oct 20

Who in their right minds would vote for greens? Theyd better throw their dark and dangerous aspirations in the bin pretty quick lest ruin besets in.

Martin McMaster Martin McMaster 11:36 am 26 Oct 20

yeah what idiots. Anyone who doesn't do what I do must have rocks in their heads.

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 10:34 am 26 Oct 20

Good article. Can they stick to their principles and compromise at the same time? What can they do about Labor's long standing habit of promising a race horse and delivering a donkey? And the liberals can go back into a coma for another 3 and a half years.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 1:07 pm 26 Oct 20

    Alice Paris I was wondering how long you would take to respond.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 9:13 am 29 Oct 20

    Alice Paris I think people need to talk to their MLAs and let them know how the feel about various issues. I certainly will be if I can find them.

    Alan Hopkins Alan Hopkins 8:38 pm 02 Nov 20

    Alice Paris you know that isn't true. please don't lie

    Alan Hopkins Alan Hopkins 10:41 pm 02 Nov 20

    Alice Paris my apologies if my response was a little sharp. I generally like to engage without descending into rancor. My point is that your statement that the greens and labor have exactly the same policies is simply false. There are many differences in a whole host of areas, this is easily verifiable. If you were referring to a specific policy then you should say so, rather than a sweeping, and wrong, statement. I'm unsure what point you're trying to make on the urban heat island. The greens have been strong and consistent advocates for public open space, high levels of energy efficient buildings and expansion of native tree plantings across the urban area.

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 9:17 am 26 Oct 20

Labor-Greens tried to build housing on Higgins oval and now Kippax oval will be sold....

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:05 am 26 Oct 20

Standby for mandatory tree-hugging, a Tesla in every garage and regular brownouts.

    dolphin dolphin 8:30 pm 02 Nov 20

    what boring, tiresome nonsense (although a Tesla in every garage would be nice :)).

    if you want to hug a tree – feel free if it makes you feel better

Steve Ulr Steve Ulr 9:03 am 26 Oct 20

Yup. All good to say things when you are not in the seat. Now you are. I think it was a great wake up call to the major parties, let’s hope they can put Canberra on the map for being intelligent about the environment and harnessing the economic opportunities it presents.

Katy Did Katy Did 8:58 am 26 Oct 20

While we wait for every little green space within sight to be filled by an ugly block off flats. Roll on developers ‘field’ day🥺

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 9:15 am 26 Oct 20

    Katy Did Labor-Greens tried to build housing on Higgins oval and now Kippax oval will be sold....

    Katy Did Katy Did 10:10 am 26 Oct 20

    Apparently the Greens infill plan is too much even for Barr who says it goes too far. What a shame-The Greens have two competing agendas-one to ‘green’ the country (plant more tree canopies etc) and then ‘infill’ to save energy on developing greenfields.

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 10:15 am 26 Oct 20

    Is the Canberra Greens plan, to sell all ovals to fund a tram line??!!!! Ha ha.

    Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 10:34 am 26 Oct 20

    Why do people keep voting for them? They forgot what trees are years ago.

    Alan Hopkins Alan Hopkins 8:37 pm 02 Nov 20

    Katy Did really?????? who are these communist greens??? where is their open pledge to communism? what is this real agenda? prey - let us in on this secret conspiracy to fool a gullible public...

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