Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It ain't easy being greenish

The usual suspects, led by Bob Brown and Australian Conservation Foundation, are pouncing on Krudd's overturning of Latham's 2004 Tasmanian old-growth forestry policy. But I really feel a reality check is needed here.

Not meaning to get stuck into Brown, a man I admire, or the ACF, but the fact is Latham's policy to boost protected areas cost Labor two seats in Tasmania. Before then, they had a clean sweep of the state's five federal seats. This new policy will win those seats back for them. It's smart politics on Krudd's part.

That's not to say I agree with the policy itself; as I've argued previously with regard to rice and cotton farming, there are certain industries that simply aren't practical or sustainable and should be gradually phased out of existence for the sake of preserving vital natural resources.

But Latham's original reasoning behind devising this policy was flawed. It was all about establishing Green cred on Labor's part and thereby appealing to Green voters - inner-city, skim latte gay homosexual types, mostly. You know, like me.

But the fact is, 3 in 4 Green voters preference Labor anyway, and they're not going to stop doing this based on this issue alone. Very few Green voters think, 'well I WAS going to preference Labor as I usually do, but since Krudd has announced this policy I think I'll preference the homophobic, climate change sceptical, anti-intellectual, anti-equal rights Bible-bashing wingnuts in the Coalition instead!'

Or, put simply, the typical Green voter is a much safer bet to preference (i.e. vote for) Labor than the capricious union bloke living in the seats of Bass or Braddon who'll completely piss on the party that actually believes in his organisation's continued existence, long enough to jump ship to Howard the moment he doesn't get exactly what he wants.

This is perhaps a smite harsh - we are talking about these people's livelihoods after all, even if they're centred on an industry I think should gradually be phased out (which I believe was what made up the $800m price tag of Latham's original policy, effectively buying them out of business). I guess you can understand why some of them went so far as to have their photo taken, beaming arm-in-arm with Howard, the man who is to blue-collar unions what termites are to Chippendale.

Still, Krudd has placated these voters; he's won support from the unions, forestry industry body and the Tasmanian Labor government and therefore has a show of solidarity where Latham had only fractured chaos. It's all part of Krudd's election strategy which, whether or not you agree with it, is working: take the left or left-leaning folk for granted and poach back swinging voters in marginal seats by focusing on the issues important to them. Labor's worst-case scenario is that they may lose a couple of inner-Melbourne or Sydney seats to the Greens - but that's a long-shot, and ultimately it's more important they win seats at a direct cost of the Coalition losing them (as they now will in Tasmania).

It's sad it's come to this, of course, but at crunch time you have to ask: Do you want to give Krudd and Labor a shot or do you really, really want to endure Howard for another three years (don't be under any delusions of a gracious handover to Costello, by the way) by sticking to pure principle? After nearly 12 years of Howard rule, the current political climate dictates that we cannot expect a Latham or a Whitlam-type to be our next Labor PM. The best we have to hope for is a centre-right leader to replace a right leader, hopefully drag the country back to some degree of middle ground in his first term and get swinging voters past the straw Labor boogiemen Howard and co are pitching in their desperate last-minute pitch to cling to power.

Then we can look at saving the trees.

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At 24/7/07 9:45 pm, Blogger Jeremy said...

Oh, the politics makes perfect sense. It's up to voters now - if there are sufficient numbers of voters who recognise that saving old-growth forests is probably a good idea, and accordingly vote 1. Green, then eventually Labor will have to adapt its policies to encompass those votes. At the next election... or, in the meantime, if the Green vote grows enough that Labor needs it to pass legislation, by forcing compromise.

All I can say is thank god for preferential voting. And thank god that we still have at least one progressive party for which we can cast our first preference.

Imagine if we lived in the US and were stuck voting for the Democrats. *shudder*

At 25/7/07 11:56 am, Anonymous Bazza said...

The time has come, for a strong message to be sent to the Libs and ALP.

Voters, especially GLBTI people, need to put aside their long held political party allegiance, and take a moral stand, on human rights and the environment.

At 25/7/07 9:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make absolute sense QP, whatever it takes to get rid of this current government.. Give me Rudd over Howard any day!!!

The reality is after 12 years of conservative rule we really can't expect gay marriage/ civil unions within the first term of a labour government.

Let me remind all that it took Blair in England eight years to introduce civil partnerships!

At 27/7/07 9:01 pm, Blogger TimT said...

I'm interested that you don't seem to see Costello as a centrist leader. Consider:

- He's made symbolic gestures for reconciliation (this is enough to win acclaim for Labor's 'indigenous affairs' policy);

- He was a supporter of the republic and constitutional change;

- He has constantly and consistently avoided associating himself with various government scandals: AWB, Tampa - heck, the media doesn't even try to tar him with the 'war in Iraq' brush. (Evidence of deft political manouvering on his part, obviously, but perhaps more than this...?)

I think this indicates his style of leadership really would be as a 'liberal' rather than 'conservative' right-winger.

(Obviously, this relies either on a handover of power from John Howard, or backroom politiciking by Costello and Costello supporters that would see him become the leader of the Liberal Party. But he's still the most likely next leader of the Libs, so definitely worth considering as a leader.)

All rather OT, I'll admit.

Getting back to your actual point, Rudd's policy doesn't seem so controversial: the brief of the Labor Party has always been to create better conditions for workers, not better conditions for trees, or whatever. There are environmental considerations that come into play, but it's far from obvious why they should be so overwhelmingly important in this case.

My take, anyway!

At 29/7/07 3:34 pm, Blogger Sam said...

From a personal perspective Tim, it's Costello's take on Teh Gay that makes me nervous about labelling him a centrist leader. When he essentially said a couple of years ago that equal rights had been achieved because 'we don't lock them up anymore', any hope I had that he may have as good form on other key social issues as he does on the republic, reconciliation etc went out the window.

Still, it's all relative I guess. I would accept that Costello's about as centrist as Rudd, if not more so, but I believe the left/centre elements within Labor can help keep Rudd in check better than the equivalents in Liberal can neutralise their lunar right Bible-bashers.


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