An ALP candidate, Clare O’Neil, writing in The Age, tries to make progressive voters reconsider voting for the only consistently progressive party in the national parliament, the Australian Greens:
By voting Greens, we diminish Labor’s ability to represent progressive Australians. This is the case for three reasons.
First, Labor will have to go in to battle against other progressives, taking resources away from the fight against the conservatives.
Second, losing inner-city seats threatens to take progressive voices out of the Labor caucus (such as Cath Bowtell in Melbourne, who will run against Adam Bandt on September 7, or Tanya Plibersek in Sydney, whose seat could be under threat). These are, or could be, MPs who will work from the inside to create real change.
Third, by endangering Labor’s ability to govern in its own right, we push Labor towards the centre, because the party is more likely to need support from conservative independents or Liberals to get its policies across the line.
Let’s deal with the two silliest ones before we address the one that has some sense to it (provided that you accept that the status quo of the two big old parties alternating majority government is all we can ever achieve so we might as well try to make the best of it).
Clare’s third and first points kind of contradict each other. In her reckoning, if Labor loses seats to the Greens, then for some reason it will have to move to the right (which is what Labor means by “towards the centre”) to appeal to “conservative independents or Liberals”. It’s not clear why the more Greens MPs in parliament, the more the ALP wouldn’t have to move left and address progressive concerns to appeal to the Greens MPs whose votes it would need to govern. Why is it that the ALP only has to change policy to appeal to people on the right? Don’t the votes of the Greens MPs count as much as those of “conservative independents”?
Simultaneously, according to Clare’s first point, if progressives start leaving the ALP for the Greens, it will have to pull back from its fight with the conservatives and allocate resources to winning seats back. From us, apparently, because it doesn’t appear to have occurred to Clare that maybe the way Labor might have to move to win progressive voters is to adopt progressive policy. No, apparently the way it will win those seats back is by continuing to advocate and adopt right-wing policy, but it will spend more money on trying to trick progressives into not noticing how right-wing it is.
In Clare’s bizarro-world, the more people who vote for avowedly progressive candidates who consistently stand for progressive principle, the more the ALP will have to lunge to the right to both win seats from left-wing candidates and to appeal to right-wing parties. Rather than, say, realising that there are progressive votes out there and it had better start representing them either to win back progressive voters or at least to work constructively with all these progressive MPs in parliament who can’t be silenced by “caucus solidarity”.
You know, just like how in order to win back the One Nation voters the Coalition became more lefty. Oh, wait.
Okay, so what of Clare’s one sensible point – that if lefties leave the ALP, both as candidates and voters, then the ALP will only be left with right-wingers? And that if we do live in a system where it must always be ALP majority government or Coalition majority government, then isn’t it better that at least one of those two parties has some lefties in it?
Well, it would be, if those lefties had any power. First point in response is that clearly lefties do not have any power in the ALP, which is why it’s been lunging further and further right since Hawke.
The second is that we progressives don’t actually want to accept this undemocratic, two-party system as the way things must always be. We don’t accept that just because the two big old parties have rigged the system in their favour we should just lie down and accept it. We’d like a pluralist democracy where progressives don’t get silenced in caucus before they even get to open their mouths in parliament. Where voters have a choice between more than just party that imprisons refugees against our humanitarian obligations A and party that imprisons refugees against our humanitarian obligations B.
And voting for one of the big parties is just a big vote for the status quo. Where that will never change, and the best we can hope for is that some lefties in the ALP occasionally sneak something vaguely progressive through when the Right are on holiday or have had a good lunch or something.
Voting Green is a vote that says – no. The system may be set out to disenfranchise me and other progressives so that our preferences are taken away and given to the big parties. The Greens may never govern as a majority in their own right. And I’m okay with that – I just want to be represented. I want to know that the person I voted for will vote for legislation I support and against legislation I don’t. I want to be confident that the candidate I vote for will not vote to lock refugee children in offshore camps, or for tax cuts at the expense of public services.
I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Faux lefties like Clare, who want the rest of us to give up and just hope that the ALP at some point does something we agree with, are part of the problem.
I think it’s pretty clear the best message you can send with your vote.