MUNGO MacCALLUM. The Greens remain political amateurs.

Lee Rhiannon is undoubtedly the disrupter, but in a sense the public fracturing of the Greens is largely the fault of her leader, Richard di Natale.  

He was the one who decided that it was time to move forward from the original concept of a group of protest and lobbying for the environment, and make it into a real political party, one that could compete on every level with its mainstream competitors.

The idea was both ambitious and admirable, but it has had unhappy, if entirely foreseeable, consequences: a real party inevitably develops real factions. And here they are, damaging the furniture and frightening the horses.

Somewhat belatedly, di Natale and his colleagues are preparing to manage them, but it will be a difficult task. The Greens emerge more or less spontaneously from the primeval ooze, fully formed as political activists but, initially, with no clear modus operandi. Having few parliamentary representatives they gloried in the fact that they were a mass movement, responsive only to the membership – if it could be defined.

In the beginning, they formed autonomous state bodies: when a serious federal leader in Bob Brown appeared, he attempted to merge them into a national organization, but it never really worked and the hardliners in New South Wales in particular insisted on their independence. Now di Natale is seeking to complete the process, which is where we are now.

The Labor Party is upfront about its factions: there is the right and there is the left, with those who do not play the game left to languish as the unaligned. The Liberals are more defensive: some, notably Malcolm Turnbull, deny that factions even exist, while his supporter, Christopher Pyne, openly celebrates them. When the Libs raise the subject, they invariably mention the broad church, and euphemistically describe the divisions as conservatives and moderates rather than right and left.

On this basis, the Greens should be called left and lefter, but they are more graphically known as the greens and the reds. The Greens are the descendants of Brown and his successor Christine Mills, the Tasmanian tree huggers: they are progressive, certainly, but are first and foremost environmentalists. The Reds demand wider and more radical social change.

Many of them are refugees from the previous communist parties and their sympathisers – Maoists, Trotskyists, Stalinists and other fringe dwellers. Some have mellowed, but a number – including Rhiannon – still see their real purpose is to smash capitalism. They reject di Natale’s ideas of compromise and negotiation.

Thus the bandaid of excluding Rhiannon from party discussions on contentious issues (and aren’t they all, for the Greens?) is probably unworkable and possibly breaches the Greens’ constitution, if any one can find it. An open split is a distinct possibility, and while that may not destroy the Greens entirely, it will certainly not encourage those hovering to support them and give them the extra votes they desperately need.

The optimistic view is that the Greens are going through political growing pains; after all Labor survived three major splits, and the conservatives have many times reframed their brand to accommodate the needs of the times. But they are the professionals; the Greens, for all their gains, remain enthusiastic amateurs, which is why Simon Birmingham gave up on them over the Gonski haggling.

The Greens may pose as political gentlemen and ladies, but putting them back into the ring with the serious players will take more than healing the current split.


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8 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. The Greens remain political amateurs.

  1. John Santolin says:

    Dear Mungo, how sad to see a seasoned Canberra commentator refer to the two big parties as “professional”. You kidding? Would you call the leadership sagas and debt management professional? Or are you uncomfortable that Aussies are rejecting cosy old style politics? Ah good old days.

  2. Cathy Depasquale says:

    I know a lot of people who vote Green and they are all ‘Nice White People’ who own their own house, probably have another one they are airbnbing but also like to be politically correct. The idea that they are left over psycho ex-commies is ignorant and pointless.

  3. barleysinger says:

    Go online and read the international Greens policies. They have always embraced far more than environmentalism. Your understanding of the party and its members is just sad. The Greens are the only political party in Australua that embraces post 19th century economics. Being about having a social conscience has always been on the agenda. They are what Labor would have been, had they not become neoliberal-lite (1/3 less decption and graft).

    So all this emphasis on social issues is not a shift in Greens policy. If anything the Riannon issues are a very direct reflection of how out of touch Di Natale is with the party members and elected reps. Right now Richard di wants to change a party rule; one that currently forces the Green members of parliament to vote in accordance with their constituents wishes. He wants them to be elected, and then dowhatever they like without any ramifications. Sounds just like the other parties doesn’t it?

    You see, they put the guy in for the “spin”, and he is not cut of the same cloth. Do you see him being arrested over his ethical stands? Nope. Not even at any protosts. The guy is far closer in ideology to this era of neoliberal Labor than he is to the Greens, but they wanted a guy in an expensive suit, so eone who looked good on camera, somebody to attract more moderate voters.

    The whole post Bob Brown era of the Aussie Greens, well it nearly got the party sued by the international Greens for departing from Green party policy. They changed national policy to reflect ideas known to be false. It was for the political spin… for populist politics. But – the people on the ground did not change. They have had issues with both of Brown’s sucessors. There has been an ongoing, rather quiet, holding action. A general r3fusal to stop publically adhering to the policies of the International Greens, while ignoreing the Aussie party policy shift.

    • barleysinger says:

      Pardon. That should say :

      There has been an ongoing, rather quiet, holding action. A general refusal to not adhere to the Christine Mills/ Richard di Natil shift in policy, while calling no direct attention to the fact that they actively support the policies of the International Greens, while ignoreing the Aussie party policy shift.

  4. Derek Napier says:

    Make yourselves useful Greens. No way will you ever Govern. But you could nudge Labor to reclaim their rightful place in the scheme of things. Sooner or later, OZ has to be reclaimed – own our sovereign assets; Nationalise our Utilities; knock over Freehold and replace with 100 year lease on property and land and restore a National Bank with Super Funds as seed Capital. You Greens settle for starting meaningful conversations. Consider a complete rewrite of the horse and buggy Constitution. Free Education for all would also be a major goal too. Redirect Defence purpose and spending. Make it a haven to train our young people in trades and emergency response teams, thus equipping our Society with job ready skills and a healthy purpose in life.

  5. Vanessa says:

    *Christine Milne

  6. Mark cresswell says:

    They are senators- states house of review. She is in the right

  7. Julian says:

    Thank you Mungo for your excellent observation; I had not realized just how far off the planet is Rhiannon and some of her N.S.W. mates.

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