Today’s Greens-ALP deal (yes, right-wingers, now there is one!), in which the Greens commit to supporting the ALP forming government instead of the Coalition (as if there was ever any risk of them not doing that) and the ALP makes some concessions on issues that at first seem peripheral but that could, over the life of the next parliament, make a real difference.
The ALP are so much nicer when they don’t have the numbers to be arrogant. Look, here they are meeting with a smaller party! Just like they refused to do over the CPRS.
Now, there’s nothing on big issues like climate change, refugees or marriage equality – but the Greens have but one lower house MP out of 150, not seventeen (despite their 12% of the vote), and their Senate balance of power won’t commence until July next year. And Labor still has to successfully negotiate with three of the independents to form government – little would’ve been achieved by demanding policy concessions that would’ve driven the independents to the conservatives and put Tony Abbott in the Lodge. The Greens did the best that anyone could have with the hand they were dealt.
So, this is a list of some of the concessions, with my initial responses:
- A Climate Change Committee (depending on how constituted, a step forward)
- A full parliamentary debate on Afghanistan (it’s extraordinary that we haven’t had this by now)
- A commitment to work with the Greens on dental health care investment (about bloody time)
- Completion of a $20 million High Speed Rail study by July 2011 (about time, although the main rail infrastructure expansion that needs to be built is within cities, a state government responsibility)
- Legislating for truth in political advertising (I’ll be interested to see how that’s done)
- A Leaders’ Debate Commission (about time)
- Establishing a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner (not clear what this means)
- Establishing a Parliamentary Budget Office (definitely a good idea)
- Restrictions on political donations (depending on what restrictions, well beyond time)
- A move toward full three year governments (fixed three year terms? about time!)
- Specially allocated time for debate and voting on private members bills and a fixed and fair allocation of questions for Independent and minor party members in Question Time (imagine, a parliament actually debating issues rather than big parties sledging each other back and forth)
- Referenda for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and Local Government (I don’t see why this is important or necessary or really relevant to anything, but it doesn’t hurt)
- A commitment for reform to provide above the line voting in the Senate (WELL beyond time)
- Better processes for the release of documents in the public interest in both Houses of Parliament (sad that it took so long to get to this)
- Access to relevant departments, including Treasury and Finance & Deregulation for Greens election policies. (I can’t believe they were seriously denied this.)
So – a realistic agreement given the Greens’ current numbers and the present situation. I was originally a little disappointed not to have real movement on the substantive issues – but the reality is, neither big party was ever going to concede them while the independents were still at large, and while the Old Senate still has ten months left in it. More can be achieved after July, and more can be achieved when the Greens hold the balance of power in their own right. For now, this is probably as good as could possibly have been achieved.
But let’s be very clear here: none of these concessions would’ve been achieved if Greens voters had just voted 1 ALP. This is the strength of the 1 Green 2 ALP vote, demonstrated clearly before the whole nation. If more people had voted likewise, even more would’ve been possible – let’s hope that’s what happens next time.