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Archive for July 2010

Are the Greens radical? Am I radical?

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Gerard Henderson is in his usual form in the Herald today with a slapdash article that basically says ‘the Greens are watermelons’. He dredges up the fact that the NSW Green senate candidate, Lee Rhiannon, was a member of a Stalinist party in her late teens and early 20s in the 1970s. Never mind any actual policies.

But since I am an open-minded (read: highly suggestible) chardonnay social democrat, the mention of all that Stalinism did slightly remind me of the fact that there are some super-earnest lefty believers standing around on King St in Newtown and outside Glebe markets every weekend. And sometimes you will talk to committed environmentalists who, if you press them for a while, will admit that their advocacy on climate change is slightly driven by that fact that it’s a chance to finally have a proper go at tearing down the military-industrial edifice that’s destroying the world. And I agree that saving the environment is good and sustainable living is great too, and getting out into nature is great, and we should preserve it, and all that is only more clear to me living (and travelling) in Mongolia, the only country more sparsely populated than Australia. But on the environment, and climate change in particular, I think nobody has said it better yet than UK comedian David Mitchell:

‘sorting it out is always presented as an opportunity or a pleasure… In fact, it’s just a thing, a really depressing thing, that’s happening… There’s also often slight undertones of disparagement of industrial pioneers… I want to see a global warming expert acknowledge that burning oil, and the various machines we’ve invented that burn oil, is brilliant, and it’s a real pisser we can’t do it anymore, but we can’t, because of facts… The alternative attitude is no more convincing than when Mum said “why don’t you kids have a race to see who can tidy their rooms fastest?”‘

Anyway that’s all beside the point. My original question was prompted by Gerard, and it was something like this: if Greens candidate Lee Rhiannon is now, or has ever been, a Communist, and keeping in mind that some of the various earnest characters on Sydney’s somewhat bohemian streets are probably Greens, are the Greens’ actual policies in any way Communist?

I am pretty sure not, but I felt like I should at least check. This was also because the final questioner, named Luke Brand, on Q&A last night at 50:15 (in what was otherwise one of the best Q&A episodes ever) was particularly and irritatingly ignorant. As he complained about the lack of ‘visionaries’ in Australian politics, he tried to sum up a common perspective on the Greens: “We’ve got the Greens saying no for the sake of saying no, just so they can save baby lizards and small tree frogs… Where is the forward thinking for this nation; the grand schemes to move forward, like high speed rail, like Snowy Mountains style schemes.” It then fell to Senator Christine Milne to exasperatedly explain that the Greens policy actually includes large scale public works schemes with a particular focus on high speed rail and a significant restructure of the tax take centred around renewable energy and carbon reduction.

In response to all this, the questioner, Luke Brand, said, “Show us some policy, Christine. Put it out there.” Luke Brand, the link to the Greens website is http://greens.org.au/, and their policies are at http://greens.org.au/policies. You should have a read! Instead of being an uninformed dick on live TV to a federal senator.

Anyway, I have now been to the website myself for some reassurance that the commies haven’t taken over. The results of my investigation into Greens policy are as follows:

  1. The first policy they list is “we are anti-GMO” (genetically modified organisms). This is minus points from me. Concerns about GMOs fall under the plausible but paranoid anti-industrial complex. From my understanding, some unpredictable eco-impacts are likely, but humans have been doing genetic engineering in the form of breeding crop varieties for thousands of years. Genetically modified crops reduce the need for pesticides, reduce land use, and reduce food shortages. Organically grown crops are lovely n’all, but unfortunately there isn’t enough landmass on earth to grow enough food to feed everyone without modern industrial farming. But other aspects of their policy I support – bans on DNA patents for example – so at least there’s something here for me. Still. Bad start. (Late disclosure: I came into this thinking I was probably mostly a Green voter). Three out of five crazy stars.
  2. Biodiversity preservation, rigorous environmental impact assessment processes, respect for traditional owners of the land, sustainable fisheries management, no logging of old growth forest. Tick tick tick. ‘No new coal mines’… well, if new coal mines are that bad, I figure the point of a carbon trading scheme or tax is to make them economically unviable. So I’d prefer that. But whatever. That’s one of those policies I can let slide as more or less symbolic. Slightly communist though. One star.
  3. Sustainable agriculture. Sure it all sounds good, subject to my rant under 1. One star. At this point I have realised the Greens have hundreds of policies on their website, so switching to a highlights package.
  4. Childcare centres: to be made non-profit by law, and wages to be raised. This is pretty communist stuff. I rather doubt if public or NPO childcare would be necessarily any better or cheaper than the current private providers. But their suggested progressive reforms to family tax benefit stuff are fine by me. Not something I know much about anyway. Two stars.
  5. Giving the vote to 16 year olds. Hmmm. I think this is a plain old error in judgment. In a theory of politics which I just invented (perhaps with some credit to Churchill), 18 to 25 year olds vote left-of-centre in higher numbers because they study at uni and live in the city and because they fall under the influence of their leftist friends who are (to make a vast and unfair generalisation) statistically more charming, interesting, sociable, clever and popular. Eventually the hard-working conservative voters we ignored in our 20s become rich in their late 30s and opinions swing around again because we all want to be invited to good dinner parties and yachts etc with people who actually own houses. But 16 year olds still live at home and just vote the same way as their parents. No stars for communism, just slightly whatever.
  6. Drugs: ‘harm minimisation’, and elimination of jail sentences for drug use offences. But no legalisation of marijuana? Sellouts. -3 stars for being old conservative fogeys.
  7. Climate change: the whole nine yards. I will defer to the judgment of Queensland economist John Quiggin on this one. While also saying that I generally agree anyway. Go geothermal! Go large tax take increases! Although I’m not that against compensation to power plants. The incentives are still there just the same, just with a bit less bankruptcy.
  8. Nuclear: no nuclear anythings. I am not particularly worried by this. I suppose there might be some cold fusion technology that is the bizness – I could get behind research aimed at nuclear power generation with no waste, and people sometimes say that’s possible. But generally nuclear plants seem to lead to the kind of awful irreversible permanent stuff that I don’t like, a bit like tattoos. Which is funny because Greens voters often have tattoos, according to my insightful use of stereotypes. Two crazy stars.
  9. Environment: I like the environment. I also like awesome toys, but sure, go for it Greens, protect the environment.
  10. Human rights: as a law graduate I generally am in favour of all kinds of abstruse deference to immutable rights etc and, based on my working career so far, pretty tough regulation of privacy. I am not sure about a human rights charter though, since I rather like Bob Carr. Still, given that democracy is going to the shitter with Rupert and 24 hour news, we probably need a human rights act. Tick.

Okay I am over this exercise now, I may continue it with more detail later. But in summary, I feel informed enough to say that the Greens are roughly as communist as I expected, ie about 27% communist. This is a level I can vote for. So far.

Written by Francis

July 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized