The Australian newspaper is on the warpath against The Greens and Left Senator Lee Rhiannon again.
The Murdoch rag famously called on voters to “destroy” The Greens in September 2010 and played a major role in attacking the Green-dominated Marrickville Council’s support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel in 2011.
Now journalist Christian Kerr has concocted a “reds under the bed” style scandal about a supposed meeting 40 years ago in 1970 between Rhiannon and the KGB, the notorious secret police of the former Soviet Union.
There was no such moral outrage from The Australian when Mark Arbib was outed as one of the US Embassy’s much more recent “best Australian informants” by WikiLeaks in 2010.
Unlike in Arbib’s case, there is no hard proof that Rhiannon, an activist against the war in Vietnam at the time, ever met the KGB. Rhiannon denies it, and has drawn attention to the fact that the story relies on parts of her ASIO file that are kept censored from the public, saying on her blog:
“An important question that emerges from Kerr’s stories is why and how this Australian reporter receives censored ASIO material about a Greens MP.”
Lamentably, The Australian’s campaign has been assisted by a new essay on debates between the right and left in The Greens in the nominally left publication The Monthly, “Divided we Fall”. The Australian usually does all it can to rubbish The Monthly and its star writer Robert Manne, but now they’ve become its biggest champions, republishing lengthy quotes from “Divided We Fall” from those in the right of The Greens who are critical of Rhiannon and the NSW Left.
Unfortunately the right in The Greens is no help in fighting of Murdoch’s onslaught. They have given Neighbour—and subsequently The Australian—plenty of ammunition to use against The Greens as a whole.
Following the onslaught against Marrickville Council’s support for BDS, some Greens have abandoned the idea of defending the boycott.
Three Greens MLCs in the NSW Parliament voted with the Liberals to condemn protests at Max Brenner outlets as anti-Semitic—dove-tailing The Australian’s criticisms. Max Brenner is a chocolate cafe that donates to the Israeli Defence Force’s notorious Golani brigade.
The essay details a NSW Greens State Delegates Council last December where members rightly moved to discipline the three NSW Greens MPs for publicly condemning BDS. It depicts this as if it was some kind of assault on individual freedom—never mind following party policy, or even more importantly, defending the Palestinians!
The Greens’ strength has come from their principled opposition to the slide right of mainstream politics. As the Labor Party capitulated to Howard’s attacks on refugees and the war on Iraq, huge numbers shifted allegiance to The Greens.
And as Labor has given up any commitment—even rhetorical—to redistributing the wealth of the 1 per cent, The Greens have stood for taking money away from private schools, covering hugely expensive dental costs via Medicare, and against the anti-union police on construction sites, the ABCC.
The Greens have made a reputation as the only major party that is willing to criticise Gillard’s race to the right with Abbott over refugees and that has consistently supported policies like same-sex marriage.
The Australian hates Rhiannon and her supporters in particular because they represent the social democratic potential of The Greens.
Rhiannon refused to cave into the right-wing media attacks over BDS last year and champions a vision of The Greens as a clearly left of Labor party.
She is known as an outspoken critic of the expansion of coal seam gas and corporate donations to political parties. On February 11 she fronted a rally opposing the expansion of income management in Bankstown. Last year she spoke out against Alan Joyce’s lockout of Qantas workers and she has recently lent her voice to the campaign against cuts at Sydney University.
This is in contrast to the pull towards pragmatism and respectability that leads Bob Brown and his supporters into seeing The Greens’ role not as a left force but as a party that can negotiate tiny concessions from Labor and appeal to conservative sections of society to win more votes.
While Rhiannon sees The Greens as a party of the left, the more conservative Greens, like NSW MLC Jeremy Buckingham, has said that, “We want to get outcomes, not just be this force that drags politics to the left.” That pull has led The Greens into backing policies like the disastrous carbon tax.
It’s the vision of a left alternative to the rightward shift in politics that The Australian wants to destroy. We can’t let them.