There is a malaise afflicting Australian politics. The name of this malady is the ‘more of the same but slightly different’ policies pursued by both the ALP and the Coalition which has resulted in a lack of any real choice between the two.
At present, both parties rigidly adhere to neo-liberalist economic theory which further blurs the distinction, and rather than break away from the dogma of the Chicago School of economic theory whose application led to the Global Financial Crisis, prefer instead to woo the voter with pledges that their style of economic management is better than that of the opposition.
This in effect has left the voter with a choice between grey or slightly greyer.
At the heart of the problem lies the current notion of the ‘free market’ and privatisation which rather than fulfilling its ideals of creating greater competition, employment growth and consumer confidence, squats over the Australian political landscape like an Aztec god who demands that more and more sacrifices be made from those who can least afford it in order to funnel wealth to those who need it least.
It would therefore be logical to assume that a third political party whose ideals espoused a shift away from the current paradigm of economic fundamentalism and towards a more equitable distribution of wealth coupled with responsible environmental and foreign policies, would garner enough votes to establish a firm base from which to either govern within its own right or to establish strong checks and balances on the excesses of the major parties.
Sadly, this is not the case at present. The Greens, who are the best position to represent themselves as an alternative to the outmoded methodologies of the Coalition and the ALP, continue to maintain a low profile for fear of being painted as either latte sipping inner city dwelling politically correct socialists, or as tree hugging Luddites bent on a return to the Agrarian Age.
The Greens also suffer from the lack of strong leadership. With the departure of Bob Brown – who continues to hover over the party like the ghost of Hamlet’s father- Christine Milne has adopted the stance of the tawny frogmouth school of politics so favoured by Martin Ferguson, Jenny Macklin et.al.; which is to give an excellent impersonation of being a bump on a log, only revealing their presence when they occasionally open their mouth to squawk.
This leaves the other minor parties; Katter’s Australian Party, Christian Social Democrats etc…whose appeal is to a very narrow section of the electorate and who are unlikely to wield any real influence.
Therefore, the Greens need to take a stronger approach in putting their policies forward as well as a determination to field more candidates in the Lower House, rather than clinging to the Australian Democrats approach of remaining a minor party whose purpose was to ‘keep the bastards honest’.
The Democrats became politically redundant because they failed to appeal to the electorate on a broader base by refusing to clarify their policies and instead relied on appealing to undecided voters. If the Greens wish to avoid the same fate, then new approaches are needed.
As we move through the second decade of the new millennium, both the ALP and the Coalition remain mired in a mid twentieth century mind set and nineteenth century fundamentalist economic policies.
The Greens, who do have policies more suited to the twenty first century, seem unable or unwilling to become more vocal in putting their views forward presumably for fear of ridicule by the mainstream press, particularly News Limited, or for fear of alienating middle class voters.
Yet, it is this section of the electorate who crave change the most and would leap at the opportunity to vote for a party that would implement it.
If the Greens are to remain relevant as a third party and consolidate as well as expand their power base while working toward governing in their own right – or at least become a strong and effective ‘third party insurance’ against the moribund philosophies of both the Coalition and the ALP – then a higher profile and more pro-active approach are needed.
Rarely has there been a better time for political change driven by a progressive consciousness than there is now.