19 November 2023

Letter from the Editor: simmering tensions rising in the Labor-Greens coalition

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Shane Rattenbury MLA, Greens Leader and Member for Kurrajong

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury and Chief Minister Andrew Barr: after a long political marriage of convenience, there’s trouble in paradise. Photo: Michelle Kroll

We still don’t know exactly what happened between former Greens MLA Johnathan Davis and the 17-year-old who alleged they conducted a relationship that did not meet parliamentary standards.

At this stage, there’s no proof of illegal behaviour, although given the lack of clarity around the entire imbroglio, it’s probably a relief to the Greens leadership team that Mr Davis has resigned from both the Assembly and the party.

What is clear, however, is how tense the relationship between the coalition partners can be from time to time.

Greens leader and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says he investigated the allegations as soon as he became aware of them – and that’s the problem because MLA Emma Davidson knew about the allegations a good week before her leader did.

What Mr Rattenbury didn’t then do was inform the senior coalition partner about the mess, leaving Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry to find out when they started getting media enquiries on the subject. That didn’t go down well.

READ ALSO Second complainant comes forward with allegations about former MLA Johnathan Davis

It’s certainly not Labor’s problem – they were as much in the dark as anyone else. And given Mr Davis was a backbencher, not a minister, his resignation wouldn’t affect the functions of the Assembly in any meaningful way, so the Greens could argue they had no absolute responsibility to share the information before grasping the facts.

You may rest assured that political benefits were being reaped by Labor who, for once, had the opportunity to appear shocked and morally appalled by the allegations and the Greens’ internal processes.

The Greens have fired back, saying comments from Mr Barr and Ms Berry criticising the Greens’ process were”highly inappropriate” and the Greens leader was “dismayed” by their responses.

It’s an open secret that the coalition partners often don’t see eye to eye, and that was clearly on view this past week. That much was evident from the immediate shift towards commentary on the Greens as a whole rather than Mr Davis or even Ms Davidson.

Labor can’t govern without the Greens and is irritated by the fact they must rely on their junior partners for the numbers. They feel the Greens lack a clear understanding of how to run the Territory’s finances and the Chief Minister thinks Mr Rattenbury is let off lightly on policies and promises.

The view inside Labor is that it’s easy to be holier than thou when you are both part of the government but not ultimately responsible for it.

The Greens feel Labor condescends to them, gatekeeping all their ministerial portfolios. The constant niggle only worsened when the Greens won six seats at the last Territory election, significantly enhancing the power they can wield, albeit with inexperienced representatives.

It’s both a benefit and a curse for the Greens that they operate in the most progressive jurisdiction in Australia. At some level, their enduring presence in government becomes a near certainty and they harvest a Labor protest vote that the Liberals have failed to capitalise on.

But they also struggle to articulate a clear identity exactly because (unlike most other Greens elsewhere in Australia) they are in government and have been for a long time.

The Greens pitch themselves as honest brokers in the ACT and politicians of principle. But as the last week has shown, politics is a dirty business. Perhaps the Greens’ long run at having it both ways is showing some signs of strain.

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GrumpyGrandpa7:44 pm 18 Nov 23

Simmering tensions won’t stop Mr Barr from seeking to stitching up a deal to retain government in 2024 and protect itself against no confidence motions.

If The Greens really wanted to have some clout, they wouldn’t sign an alliance agreement, but where it suited them, vote with the Libs (or against the government) and hold the minority ALP government accountable.

The fact Davis resigned and left the assembly speaks volumes.

Rattenbury pushes policies that will not make the blindest difference so far as his global climate issues are concerned and along with Barr has the business acumen of a door knob.

The sooner both of them are relegated to political oblivion the better off we’ll be.

Have some moral principles ALP. This bunch of Communist fellow travellers and sympathisers that call themselves a Greens Party are the craziest bunch of nitwits on the Australian political scene. Yet the ALP in the ACT not only goes into coalition with these morons they actually give them ministry’s. At least the federal ALP doesn’t go that far (yet).

“The Greens pitch themselves as honest brokers in the ACT and politicians of principle.” Yeah, right, hahaha.

2005 – Greens MLA Deb Foskey was caught living in public housing on a $100,000 salary.

2016 – 3 serious and critical incidents occurred during the Greens 2016 election campaign.

2023 – Greens MLA Johnathan Davis accused of serious sexual misconduct with teens.

I could imagine Labor often feeling frustrated from being forced into a coalition with the Greens to maintain power. The Greens are nothing more than an eye-rolling mix of simplistic Tik-Tok credulousness and adolescent moral pomposity. Unfortunately that’s the makeup of the most pampered and wealthy end of Canberra’s electorate who ardently believe a credential-mill Arts degree actually makes them intellectually and morally superior. It’s excruciatingly juvenile and conceited, but par for the course in suburbs like O’Connor.

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