The Greens and the ETS

Lately the efforts by the ALP to attack the Greens over their failure to support the ETS seem to be stepping up, no doubt it is in preparation for the upcoming election, with Labor fearing that the Greens may pose a threat in certain lower house seats. Often this takes the form of trying to group the Greens together with the Coalition and Family First in their opposition to the legislation (including in a ridiculous piece by Bob Carr in the Australian recently), though I doubt that efforts to lump the Greens with the climate deniers will have too much influence on the main target  – ALP voters who may consider voting Green thanks to Labor’s failure to take action on climate change, so for this audience the argument is a little more subtle. The idea is to paint the Greens as holier than thou idealogues whose hearts may be in the right place on the issue but who would never comprise on principles and agree on action that would actually work in the real world. Frankly, this is a load of bollocks. The Greens took a position which would, were it not for the extreme positions of the major parties, be considered as mainstream. It was the Greens who were largely following the recommendations of the independent report commissioned on the issue, while Labor largely ignored it, and meanwhile the Coalition, post-Turnbull, were off in loony communist conspiracy land. What’s more, there are always people saying that the Greens had a chance to do something, they could have made a start on tackling the problem but were such purists that they wouldn’t negotiate and voted against it. For a start, the Greens can’t be blamed for lack of negotiation. They put in the work, they told Labor exactly what they didn’t like and offered amendments – but Labor chose not to negotiate. The Greens have been quite open about why they could not support the bill as presented – it’s not just that it wouldn’t achieve much in the first place (which would still leave open the claim they should have voted for it at least to support the principle), it was, as they pointed out repeatedly, that it would “lock in failure”. It wasn’t going to be a good first step because it prevented any further steps. You can get the full story from Senator Christine Milne’s site here.

At Crikey, Tim Hollo (adviser to Christine Milne) suggests that Labor’s strategy all along was to deliberately keep the Greens out of the picture on this issue for political reasons, which really seriously undermines the argument that if only the Greens had been more realistic about it we’d have an ETS already.

So in summary, claims that

    • The Greens don’t really want action on climate change, and
    • The Greens wouldn’t negotiate with Labor on the ETS.

    are straight out rubbish, and

    • They should have voted for it to at least do something.

      is at the very least arguable, and it’s not just the Greens themselves who would argue with it. If the Greens had voted for the ETS, I imagine that at some point in the future they’d be criticised for naively voting for bad legislation (which did not reduce emissions) just because they wanted to look like doing something for the environment!

      There’s plenty of room for argument over what to do about climate change, but cheap political point scoring of the “you didn’t vote for the ETS so you don’t want action on climate change” is not helpful.

      While preparing this post I saw an excellent article in the SMH by Ross Gittins which has many anti-Greens comments of the sort discussed above in the comments section.

      3 replies on “The Greens and the ETS”

      1. Peter Hollo says:

        I kinda feel like the main reason Labor is attacking the Greens over this, like this, is the usual reason Labor attacks the Greens: they’re terrified of losing seats to them.
        Lindsay Tanner could well lose his seat to the Greens, and he knows that, and he was on the ABC earlier in the week… ah, here it is:

        The important thing is that progressive Green voters need to understand that underneath all that overblown windbaggery and rhetoric is a sinister purpose, and that is not to defeat the conservatives, it is to defeat the Labor Party

        …and an equally self-serving article in the SMH from March.

        Of course, Greens taking seats and votes from Labor does not “split the progressive vote” like it does the US. The Liberals may send preferences to the Greens sometimes, but few Greens would send their preferences to the Liberals. But a) it makes Labor’s job harder and makes the usual mockery of having a “mandate” to do whatever the fuck they want, and b) Lindsay may lose his seat.
        It is a shame that usually the more left-wing and progressive Laborites are usually the ones threatened, but it’s absurd & stupid to expect the Greens to just say “Ah well, fuck it, we don’t want Labor to lose, so we’d better just shut up shop!”

        And yes… “locking in failure” is something Labor does not want the public to hear and understand, and by and large the media’s helping them.

      2. Stu says:

        It’s kind of funny how the Liberals like to claim that the greens are just a wing of the ALP, and meanwhile the ALP whinge that they aren’t.

      3. […] Greens didn’t support the ETS. Already dealt with previously – but in short: you want action on climate change, so rather than vote for the Greens you are going […]

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