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Greens Party Liberal Deal 2016: A permanent shift in Australian politics

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Green Party politics has never appealed to me. Never more so than with Senator Lee Rhiannon’s ascendancy here in New South Wales – she is an unapologetic, former activist for the Stalinist party of Australia and hence an apologist for the Soviet Union. Her presence in the Australian Senate is an insult to all of those millions of victims of communism, a totalitarian ideology for which Lee Rhiannon worked so hard and then morphed into the Green Party, without any public explanation.

Rhiannon admitted on a Radio National program to James Carleton that her missing six months in the Soviet Union was spent at an advanced course for Western Communists at the Lenin Institute

Some years ago, as I first ventured into the social media, I was astonished when my confrontation with Comrade Rhiannon on the barely-rating ABC program, “Capital Hill” achieved more than 50,000 views. Probably it was because during my confrontation with Green Party Comrade Senator Rhiannon, I produced a once bestseller by Emeritus Professor of psychiatry Sidney Bloch and British author Peter Redaway on the abuse of Soviet psychiatry and torture of political prisoners.

This televised confrontation led to me making the uncomplimentary observation that the Green Party number 1 NSW Senator at this election – who, thanks to the PM’s Double Dissolution election, needs only 7.5% of the vote to achieve a second term – that her politics resembled that of Elena Ceausescu, the executed wife of the executed and unloved Romanian dictator. One would never have thought it possible, but my old friends from the Spencer Street Soviet, as The Age was called in its latter years, then published a half-page picture of Rhiannon and Ceausescu to accompany an account of my remarks.

The Greens were mortified. It was bad enough that I said I preferred the Liberals over the Green Party at the last election. Senator Bob Brown publicly threatened me at the last election that he would “send me out to grow cabbages” – a presumed amusing reference to re-education through agricultural labour.

Finally, on my way to Economy Class, I was confronted in the Business Class section of QANTAS, where the Greens always sit, by Senator Ludlam that because of the picture of Senator Rhiannon and Ceausescu in The Age that “I was being sent to Coventry” and no one from the Greens would ever speak to me again. They haven’t. I haven’t missed them much.

The Green Party, may not all be ex-Stalinists but with their secret conferences, their cult-like isolationism in Parliament House, and other behaviours, they certainly seem to have adopted Stalinist methodology. Yes, Senator Di Natale cultivated a groovier image on the front page of GQ in his black skivvy and sockless loafers, but let’s put appearances aside.

Labor regards the Liberals as opponents but the Greens party as our enemy.

Perhaps some of the difference can be ascribed to differences in the culture and background of the two parties. The Greens Party draw their activists and MPs from the high-income university graduate pool of the usually Anglo-Saxon upper middle class. For them, financial security means the luxury to pick and choose one’s political battles, to demand nothing less than the absolute and to pursue concerns removed from the day-to-day experience of ordinary working Australians. Of course, these are generalisations, but I’m attempting to distil the difference between the cadre of the two parties, and to a lesser extent their voters.

By contrast, the outlook of the average Labor voter is informed by a lack of any such luxury. Labor voters may work in jobs they do not enjoy or compromise on household spending because they know they have to make ends meet. They focus on job security and wage levels not because they are morally deficient and don’t care about refugees or whales but because they do not have the luxury of not worrying about money.

Labor people understand that you can’t get everything you want all the time, that life is hard, that we need to make choices and accept trade-offs and compromise. With all the charm of spoilt trust-fund children, the Greens Party leaders make no such concessions to reality.

Coming as they do from a position of privileged irresponsibility, the Greens Party make an art form of rejecting compromise. Governing a nation of 24 million people requires finding common ground and, occasionally, accepting an imperfect result for the greater good.

Yet the Greens Party have a track record of cynically rejecting constructive dialogue and compromise. Whether in their rejection of Labor’s Emissions Trading System or their refusal to work with Labor and Liberal politicians on a Bill to provide marriage equality if they cannot take sole credit for it. They claim to support working people yet pay their own personal nannies a pittance – in breach of employment standards – and exploit idealistic young people in an “internship” scheme that is little more than working for free.

They oppose measures that would allow our police and security forces to monitor potentially violent extremists and other threats, yet do not even open their own party processes to the most basic media or public scrutiny,

They oppose military intervention for even humanitarian purposes, yet call for snipers to kill dogs on the beaches of Tasmania.

They claim to have evolved on questions of the Middle East, yet continue to preselect people who advocate openly for the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement against Israel. Without the faintest idea of the historical allusion of commercially boycotting Jewish businesses.

Green Party call for openness and transparency in politics, yet close their party conferences, preselection ballots and even their Parliamentary leadership contests to the media and the public. What other party would the media allow to get away with that?

They decry the effect of money in politics, yet accept the largest donation in Australian political history - $1.6 million from Graeme Wood. And they then claim with a straight face that they’re “different” from the other parties.

They’re different alright.

They oppose all vital national security legislation. All. They want death taxes, their policy is to close all zoos and basically no border control, even after 1000 people drowned en route to Australia.

And they want Liberal preferences to get elected to our national parliament.

Enough context. Back to the main game of the 2016 elections – the Green Party-Liberal deal. Let’s start with the “conventional wisdom” of one of Dr Henderson’s favourites, and mine, Tony Jones.

A month ago on ABC’s Lateline, Jones interviewed the Green Party’s new leader Richard Di Natale on the Liberal-Green preference deal, where our Sydney ABC heavyweight repeated the misunderstanding of many journalist ‘illuminati’ about this crucial sub-story of this election:

TONY JONES: Do you categorically rule out any preference deals with the Liberal Party in any of these key contested seats: Sydney, Grayndler, Batman in Victoria and New South Wales and the others you talked about already?

RICHARD DI NATALE: Oh, Tony, we've already said that we won't be preferencing the Liberal Party ahead of the Labor Party in any seat in the country. We just won't be doing that. We'll do what we've always done, and that is, our local branches will make those decisions, as they've done over a number of elections. You won't see any change in that. You'll see them overwhelmingly recommend preferences to the Labor Party. In some seats they'll decide they like neither of the candidates and they won't recommend preferences to anybody.

Of course, the Green leader Di Natale was not answering the question of substance, even if the question was so obtuse that it allowed him to easily dodge. The Green Party boss wasn’t ruling out doing a preference deal, he was only ruling out directly preferencing the Liberals. Of course, it’s common sense that the Green Party never planned to directly preference the Liberals – as Adam Bandt announced yesterday for the inner-city – doing so would alert their Green voters that this ‘Vanguard of the Proletariat’ had got out a little ‘in front’ of the masses.

How will the proposed Kroger deal with the Green party work? It means the Liberals will preference the Greens ahead of Labor in Wills & Batman, Grayndler and Sydney because there the Liberals are running ‘dead’ in those four electorates. As a result they will run third and their preferences will be distributed. So Michael Kroger may well decide who gets elected in Wills and Batman on Liberal preferences – Labor or Greens, Feeney and Khalil, two of our most formidable Labor moderates, or two Green Party drones. Liberal How-To-Votes are traditionally are followed by 70% of Liberal voters.

Senator Di Natale has continually dissembled to the media that the Greens have no pact with the Liberals. He told Barrie Cassidy on Insiders last Sunday that branches control preferences. One Green defector, Osman Faruqi, immediately responded on Twitter that Di Natale himself drafted the Victorian Greens constitution which gave the state executive that power. There is a word for such a media claim (it rhymes with tyre).

Di Natale’s Greens plan to run ‘open tickets’ in marginal Labor seats like Chisholm and Bruce, and marginal Liberal seats like Corangamite and Dunkley. This will lower the percentage of Green preferences flowing to Labor. This apparently innocent change may be sufficient to defeat Labor candidates in these marginal seats. The Greens will get their Liberal preferences in Sydne, Grayndler, Wills and Batman, and the Liberal Party would be rewarded by ‘open tickets’ in the outer suburbs; Bruce, Chisholm, Corangamite and Dunkley. Tony Jones again displayed his fundamental misunderstanding of this Greens’ political manoeuvre.

TONY JONES: So, what does that mean for a seat like Grayndler, for seats like Sydney, the ones we're talking about with high-profile Labor candidates? Are you going to preference Labor in those seats or are you gonna do the pragmatic political thing and try and defeat them with whatever means you have, including not running any preferences at all in those seats?

RICHARD DI NATALE: In seats like Labor and Sydney - sorry, in Grayndler and Sydney, we will be preferencing the Labor Party ahead of the Liberal Party. I'm very confident of that.

Given that Grayndler is a Green-Labor two-party contest, where the Liberals will run third, the Greens’ preferences are irrelevant, as they will not be distributed. So once again an ill-informed ABC host gave the Green Party a free kick and Di Natale had an opportunity to escape again on national TV and pretend he is not doing a deal against Labor. They are not interested in ‘keeping the bastards honest.’ The Green Party want to, as they repeatedly say, replace centre-left (Labor) with far-left (Greens). It’s a power grab.

And the media has too easily allowed them to deny the preference deal by talking about something else. Adam Bandt dedicated an entire press conference to this diversion yesterday to announce the Greens would preference Labor in the inner-city, pointing to Batman and Wills, where their preferences of course won’t be distributed.

Psephologist Peter Brent, who used to work for The Australian, asked incredulously on Twitter, “Greens think they can pull wool over journos' eyes by announcing prefs to ALP in seats those preferences won't be distributed. Surely not.” I can’t respond as well as ex-Green Osman Faruqi, who said “have you read the news mate? This stuff always works.”

The new it-boy of political journalism, Buzzfeed’s Chief Political Correspondent Mark Di Stefano, certainly didn’t get it when he asked his followers after the presser, “Does this put the conspiracy to bed?” Not even a Political Editor on the politically switched-on Twitter all day could ask the right question – if the Greens are preferencing Labor in the inner-city, what about all the Liberal-Labor contests that count in the outer suburbs – Corangamite, Dunkley, Chisholm, Bruce, Deakin?

Barrie Cassidy got closer, without fully drawing out this toxic pact:

BARRIE CASSIDY: Are you though in negotiations with them on preferences in the sense that you'll run an open ticket where it suits them and they you'll help them?

RICHARD DI NATALE: So Barrie, we've already said clearly we are not gonna preference the Liberal Party in any seat in the country. We've also said that we'll do what we've done in elections for as long as I can remember, which is that our branches and state parties will make decisions about whether they preference the Labor Party, or if they don't like either candidate, whether they don't make a recommendation about preferences. It's what we've always done and it's what we'll always ...

BARRIE CASSIDY: That's the open ticket, but you'll do that strategically, won't you?

RICHARD DI NATALE: We've done that for every election including the last election when the Liberal Party and the Labor Party joined together and we will make sure that we allow our branches to make those decisions. And - but ultimately ...

BARRIE CASSIDY: But it looks as if you're taking the decisions - whether you're doing it at the branch level or not, you're doing it in a way that will help the Liberal Party.

RICHARD DI NATALE: Not at all. And in fact, the only reason the Labor Party have a chance of governing is because they will benefit overwhelmingly from Greens preferences. There are a number of seats in this election that wouldn't be won if it wasn't for the preferences of the Greens that Labor now have the opportunity to win.

The Greens have identified eight short to medium-term target seats ‘by 2026’ – Batman, Wills, Melbourne Ports and Higgins in VIC; Grayndler, Sydney and Richmond in NSW; and Fremantle in WA. The Greens continually proclaim that they can’t match it financially with the big parties (ignoring the fact that they received the largest single donation in Australian political history) – but remember this – Labor and the Coalition are contesting every seat – most of them seriously. The Greens say they are contesting eight (nine including their held-seat of Melbourne), but are really this election focused on gaining less than that. They received this public funding, which they can concentrate entirely in those nine seats:


Now let me turn to the Liberals:

Three years ago, on the eve of the 2013 election, Michael Kroger, in his capacity as a former powerbroker of the Liberal Party, went on Sky News to denounce ‘rumours’ that the Liberals would do a deal with the Greens to defeat me in Melbourne Ports and return Adam Bandt in Melbourne. “I wouldn’t do a deal with the Greens under any circumstances at all,” Kroger said. Kroger called it a “dirty deal” and said it wouldn’t be worth winning Melbourne Ports on that basis.

In July 2011, Fairfax reported his quote that “Putting the Greens last should be an article of faith.” In 2010, he told Leigh Sales on Lateline, comparing the Liberals helping elect Adam Bandt in Melbourne in 2007 with Ted Bailieu’s preferencing Labor in the Victorian state seat in 2010, “There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with what happened in the seat of Melbourne. There was a lot of internal opposition to any thought of giving preferences to the Greens and Ted Baillieu and David Kemp and Tony Nutt made absolutely the right decision.”

This 2016 election, Michael Kroger, now Victorian Liberal Party President, is the architect of his own ‘devil’s pact’ with the Greens. This time, all the indicators are the Liberals will preference the Greens in Labor-Green contests where the Liberals run third, including in the Melbourne seats Wills and Batman – and possibly Grayndler and Sydney in NSW – and in exchange, the Greens will run ‘open tickets’ in marginal Labor-Liberal seats, including Labor-held Chisholm, Bruce and Melbourne Ports. Dr Di Natale protests, including most recently on Q&A, to innocent voters that the Green Party ‘never preference the Liberals’, yet the Green Party in fact know these ‘open tickets’ will lower Labor’s vote in those crucial Labor-Liberal marginals, like Chisholm and Bruce and help elect Tories. All is fair in love and politics, but can the Black Wiggle please cut the bullshit.

Anthony Albanese, Labor’s feisty member for Grayndler, outed one of the Green hard-liners – his Greens Party fundamentalist in Grayndler, Jim Casey. Casey told an audience of far-left activists in Sydney he’d prefer Tony Abbott as PM to Bill Shorten, because a re-elected Tory Government would more likely spark civil disruption and bring down capitalism!

We will not enter into a coalition: Albanese

I always thought that Michael Kroger would have abhorred an opportunistic deal with the Greens political party on principle. He understands these arrangements, which empty real political differences of all substance. Surely Liberal voters are diametrically opposed to the Greens Party on all matters political, socio-economic and national security. Most people believe that ultimately there must be some ethics in politics and this Liberal-Green deal undermines all that Liberals hold dear.

The Liberals’ second longest-serving Prime Minister, John Howard has been warning against such a deal since 2010. He told me at the ASPI security conference in Canberra in April that he opposed such a policy. He told Paul Murray on Sky, 25 May, “The Greens are the real extremists in this election… (They) are not in Australia’s interests”. He’s right. Why wouldn’t anyone on the right or centre-right reject the idea that the Liberal Party should preference a far-left party over a centre-left party? Greg Sheridan, The Australian’s respected Foreign Editor, accurately recounts that there has been virtually no discussion of foreign policy during this election. All the while, the issue of aggressive Chinese foreign policy, especially in the South China Sea, where 60% of Australian trade and 50% of the international maritime trade freely transits is becoming more and more divisive and dangerous. What is the Green Party response – abandon ANZUS.

What are the serious policy differences that ought to mean that Liberals avoid this preference arrangement? Firstly, serious Liberals will remember that even after the tragedies in France and the escalating atrocities of Daesh, including the lone-wolf terror attacks in Parramatta and Endeavour Hills in Melbourne, the Greens political party has opposed every serious piece of counter-terrorism legislation. All four tranches passed over the last 18 months, with the co-operation of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, voting with the Government in the Senate, after inserting privacy amendments and sunset clauses.

In September this year, even before IS/Daesh terrorists killed 140 people in the streets of Paris, Australia began bombing Daesh HQ in Raqqa, Syria following earlier Parliamentary support. But Greens MP Adam Bandt insisted that the Greens Party opposed even highly restrictive aerial bombing of Daesh military targets in East Syria. Greens Party Senator and Deputy Leader Scott Ludlam followed suit, declaring, “our only contribution [to Syria] being to fan the military flames.”

Just a week ago in Sydney, Di Natale told The Lowy Institute the Green Party denounces our bedrock security alliance with the United States. How is that going to wash with the Liberal party base, or indeed, with the majority centre of Australian politics? Only The Australian’s Greg Sheridan examined the substance of Di Natale’s address. He said in a column titled “Faustian deal will damage Liberal brand”, this:

“Greens leader Richard Di Natale’s attack on the US alliance makes a mockery of Michael Kroger’s idea that the Liberals preference the Greens ahead of Labor in the election,” Sheridan argued. As if to poke us all in the eye, the Green Party Leader concluded his cameo on Insiders with the same emphatic point attacking America, saying nothing about China.

Last year, new Green Leader Richard Di Natale claimed that Israel being a Jewish state was “not conducive to a two-state solution.”

ABC psephologist, Antony Green, estimates that Green ‘open tickets’ have historically been worth 3% of Green votes to the Liberal party. The Green party leadership is cynically using the naiveté of their supporters to help return certain Coalition members to office. The effect of these ‘open tickets’ reduces Labor’s 2PP. Kroger knows this, Turnbull must also. How can any serious person concerned with the economic future or the security of Australia support the prospect of a far-left party supplanting a centre-left party?

ABC psephologist, Antony Green

Malcolm Turnbull, unlike Mr Howard, is sitting on the fence. Does he think so little of political beliefs and differences that he would be complicit in this Green-Liberal deal? That there are no sincerely held differences on politics, just game playing? If Michael Kroger instructs Liberal voters to preference the far-left Green Party in Batman and Wills, Mr Turnbull should follow the advice of his mentor, former Prime Minister Howard, and rule out this plan.

It is sheer Chutzpah for Malcolm Turnbull to rail against the prospect that Labor would agree to a Labor-Greens coalition in a hung Parliament (Bill Shorten has ruled it out), while his agents negotiate actual deals to give the Green Party a ‘leg-up’. Ironically, Kroger, in trying to justify the deal, told Sky recently he saw no reason to preference Labor anymore because of eroding support for Israel in NSW Labor. His solution then is to punish Labor by defeating two of Labor’s most pro-Israel Victorians – David Feeney in Batman and Peter Khalil in Wills and helping elect anti-Israel Greens instead.

I implore Liberal voters in Wills and Batman, Sydney and Grayndler to ignore Michael Kroger’s dictate and preference a responsible centre-left party, Labor, over the irresponsible, far-left Green Party.

What about Labor?

The worldview where there are no enemies on the left portray the Greens Party the slightly more idealistic cousins of the ALP, or harmless lefties with a bit of an obsession about the environment.

Confrontation over the years has forced the Labor Party to realise that this is a fallacy. We have spent too long indulging the Greens, not wanting to attack them and expose the unreality of their agenda and the fundamentally anti-worker nature of their outlook. But the majority of Labor’s serious people now recognise the error of this approach. We share nothing of importance in common with the Greens Party. We are the party of working people, while they are a party of hard-Left extremists drawn from the elite classes of Melbourne and Sydney’s inner cities. I would postulate that there has been a genuine seachange of hardening of opinion in Labor towards the Green party. You see it every time the disciplined Anthony Albanese refers to them as the Green Political Party.

I acknowledge that in our last term of government, Labor did make the error of entering into a parliamentary alliance with the Greens. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this mistake was the determination to never repeat it – once bitten, always warned.

The Labor Party might be a lot of things… but we won’t be entering into any deal with the Greens Party ever again.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has comprehensively ruled out any form of coalition with the Greens Party. I support him in this, absolutely. Because of the internal cultural change in Labor, it’s almost superfluous to say any such arrangements in the future would happen without my co-operation or vote.

However, without the benefit of such hard-earned wisdom, I fear that the Liberal Party are on the verge of making a similar mistake. Across Australia – including in my seat of Melbourne Ports, the Liberal Party are poised to enter into a deal with the Greens Party for preferences at this election.

It would be an error of disastrous proportions – for the country.

Put aside the obvious clash of ideology and principle that such a deal would represent. Put aside the rage, the outright revolt that such a decision would prompt from the branches and membership of the Liberal Party.

Obviously, I want Malcolm Turnbull Coalition defeated – that is my top priority. But substantial Green presence in the House of Representatives is the worst possible result as a long-term outcome of the Federal Election. It will permanently shift the political goal posts to the left. Whatever its flaws, Australian democracy and our country are in a substantially better position than virtually anywhere else. In an era of a rising China (hopefully peaceful) we need a body politic that will encourage the world’s principal democracy the United States to stay engaged in this part of the world. The last thing we need is the Green Party plan to entrench a neutralist, pacifist Australia sending precisely the wrong signals of pre-election kowtowing and appeasement at a time in which we need to show quiet resolve working for peace and building our defences and strengthening our traditional alliances in an uncertain strategic future.

Opinion polls are tight. No one can foretell at this stage who will win the main electoral battle. Meanwhile, in Melbourne Ports, Batman, Sydney and more, a side battle is being fought that may drag Australian politics much further to the Left. All Australians will be affected in the long term by this. It is not as some press gallery cynics portray a post-modernist tactical ploy, all political parties being as bad as each other. A fateful ideological door is being opened by a person who should know better. In battleground seats like Wills, Batman, Grayndler, Sydney, Bruce, Chisholm and Melbourne Ports, the future direction of our political system might be decided. Voters have a clear choice, even though the Greens are trying to obscure it.


Green's boycott 'bigotry'

A GREENS candidate for an inner Melbourne seat has been accused of “bigotry” for boycotting a political forum organised by Jewish groups.

Stephanie Hodgins-May announced she would not take part in a Melbourne Ports candidates’ debate because one co-host was Zionism Victoria. The electorate boasts one of the largest Jewish communities in Australia.

The organisation said last night it was “deeply disappointed” by the “ill-informed prejudice” of the candidate.

Ms Hodgins-May said she withdrew because of Zionism Victoria’s political views such as “labelling the UN as a nuisance and sham”.

“As someone who worked at the United Nations, I no longer wanted to participate under those circumstances,” she said.

Zionism Victoria represents more than 50 groups that support Israel, including Australian Union of Jewish Students, Mount Scopus Memorial College and socialist Zionist youth movements.

sitting Labor MP Michael Danby lashed out at his opponent for her “shameful” withdrawal and demanded she be sacked by the Greens.

“The Greens’ boycott of the Jewish community shows their deep and intractable antagonism towards the Australian Jewish community,” Mr Danby said.

He said about 71 per cent of Melbourne Ports’ Jewish residents had family in Israel.

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