Greens success spreads to Victoria, but they’re flirting with the Liberals

Labor Premier John Brumby is expected to hold on in the Victorian election on November 27. But attention is focused on The Greens, who stand a chance of victory in four lower house seats.

The federal election saw The Greens secure a 4.5 per cent swing in Victoria and their first lower house seat. The disenchantment with Labor over federal issues like same-sex marriage and climate change is fuelling The Greens’ rise at a state level too, as well as the lack of investment in public transport and bungles with the new Myki ticketing system.

Brumby has attempted to pitch left to respond to The Greens’ rise. In July he released a climate change plan promising to have 5 per cent of the state powered by solar energy by 2020 and to shut down one-quarter of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station. In late October he announced a $2.5 million package aimed at boosting the government’s credentials in supporting same-sex couples. Brumby promised to “review” the ban on same-sex couples adopting, but has refused to budge on his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The polls make a hung parliament, with The Greens holding the balance of power, a possibility.
But The Greens have failed to pledge support for a Labor minority government, and are toying with putting the Liberals in power. Greens candidate Brian Walters, the most likely Greens candidate to win a seat, told the ABC’s Stateline program:
“The Greens have supported a Liberal government before. We did that from 1996 to 1998 in Tasmania. All options will be open and we won’t shut any option off.”

Federal leader Bob Brown has backed the Victorian Greens on this, saying, “The Greens have always, in our history, talked with all sides about issues and we’ll continue to do so”.

This reflects that many key Greens members do not want the party to present a clear left-wing alternative to Labor, but would prefer to position The Greens as a moderate balance of power party.

But relying on parliamentary horse-trading to secure minor concessions will result in The Greens accepting other elements of government policy.

Supporting a minority Liberal government, given the legacy of privatisation and cuts delivered by the Liberals under Jeff Kennett, is a recipe for disaster.

The union backing for Steve Jolly’s campaign for the Socialist Party in Richmond also shows a principled left-wing stance can be popular. Jolly’s efforts to raise class issues and mobilise grassroots community pressure deserve the support of voters in Richmond.

But his decision to run an “open ticket” and refuse to preference The Greens is a mistake.
The Greens’ rise is applying welcome pressure to Labor on its left—however inconsistent The Greens may turn out to be if elected. A vote 1 for The Greens and 2 for Labor will increase this pressure—and should also be a signal to The Greens that their supporters will not accept any deal with the Liberals.

James Supple


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  1. So Solidarity is not advocating a vote for other socialists candidates in the Vic. election? What about the Socialist Alliance. Where do you recommend your readers place them? Below the Greens? Below Labor?

  2. Terry,

    As in the federal election, we are advocating a vote 1 Greens 2 Labor, except in Richmond where Steve Jolly is standing. As alluded to in the article our attitude is to support socialist candidates where they have real backing behind them and some chance of making an impact. We do not advocate a vote for candidates from either the Socialist Alliance, the Socialist Equality Party, the Revolutionary Socialist Party or other socialist groups when they stand candidates for their own propaganda purposes without any chance of presenting a credible electoral alternative.

  3. In relation to the Socialist Party campaign in Richmond, James says “his decision to run an “open ticket” and refuse to preference The Greens is a mistake.”

    Given the Socialist Party is yet to make any decision about preferences, the only mistake here comes from the author. A decision will actually be made by SP next week.

    Also perhaps James might like to ask his comrades in the Greens where they will be directing their preferences in Richmond.

    Will they preference the most progressive party on the ballot or will they preference the party of privatisation, roads and Hazelwood as they have done in the past?

  4. Re: The line about the greens failing to guarantee support to a labor minority government, is it the position of Solidarity that in the event of a hung parliament the greens should form government with the ALP, a party of privatization, a party under whom there have been a net loss of 80 schools in the last 11 years and a party whose ‘action’ on climate change can only be described as pathetic? Shouldn’t the greens, if they are seriously opposed to both the liberal and ALP agenda, refuse to support either party and refuse to support their anti-worker budgets?

  5. In relation to Kirk’s point: in a confidence motion in parliament about whether Labor or the Liberals form government you can’t simply abstain–you have to take a side. Otherwise The Greens–or socialists if they were in that position–could be accused of handing the Liberals power, who are still seen by most political workers as representing the class enemy. Solidarity is for the election of a Labor government, since the reality is only the Libs or Labor can take government. But of course we understand that they will implement neo-liberal policies and do the bidding of the ruling class. Saying we want Labor to take power does not in any way imply support for their policies or going quiet on campaigning against them.

    But there is a difference between supporting a Labor taking government and going INTO government with them in coalition ie taking government ministries or agreeing to tone down your criticism of a Labor government’s policies. The Greens should not do that (as they have in Tasmania and the ACT). In my opinion, in the event of a hung parliament what The Greens should do is say they will support Labor in confidence motions but guarantee nothing else–and judge every issue Labor raises on its merits.

  6. There is no reason – Technical or political – that Socailists, or indeed any ‘real’ left/progressive party should support or give power to either of the two big business parties.

    On the question of confidence motions, specifically in the case of the upcoming elections, there is no reason to support the ALP in a ‘no confidence’ motion. Refusing to give the ALP support in a no confidence motion does not mean the Liberals would be able to automatically form government.

    Socialists or Greens who held the balance of power could move a no-confidence motion in the Liberals following a no confidence motion in the ALP. This would force the ALP to take a position of either propping up a Liberal government or supporting no confidence.

    Either result would be an advantageous situation for Socialists to be in. In the case of a ‘grand coalition’ between the two big business parties working class consciousness would be thrown forward, with the opportunity for Socialists or left Greens to lead the opposition and build a new, left, working class force in Australian politics.

    In the case of no one being able to form government and a new election, Socialists would again have huge scope for exposing the system and glavanizing different layers towards a new force.

    Supporting even the Labor party would make Socialists or Greens subordinate to the big business agenda and totally undermine the work they have done in building their support base. There are scores of examples overseas, like the Irish Greens who have gone into coalition with one of the establishment parties and have had their support decimated, just to name one example.

    At the end of the day, genuine left or socialist forces should not give one iota of practical or political support to Labor. There is clearly no fundamental difference between Labor or Liberal and the job of left, working class or progressive forces is to expose this in order to move forward, not give creedence to ‘lesser evilism’ arguments.


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