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Opinion and Analysis

Finally! After five years of the Greens under his leadership, Richard Di Natale has called it a day, citing family reasons – the desire to spend more time with his two sons – which is a noble enough reason. This led to a spill of all leadership positions within the federal Greens party room, where Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, nominated and was chosen to succeed Di Natale. Larissa Waters and Nick McKim become co-deputy leaders (the latter after fending off challenges from Mehreen Faruqi and Sarah Hanson-Young).

In contrast to his predecessors Bob Brown and Christine Milne, who have a background in environmental activism and Di Natale, who hails from the professional middle class; Bandt is firmly grounded in the working class movements.

Also unlike his predecessors, who eschewed ideology in favour of a 'not Left or Right' approach; Bandt is ideologically Left-wing - emphasising the sort of politics much of the Greens support base has been calling for. However, will this change of leadership be enough to excite and re-energise a Greens base that has grown tired and disenchanted after the last five years?

 

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This Tuesday (Australian time), the Iowa caucus for both the United States Democratic Party and Republican Party will be taking place; which will kick-start a weekly schedule of Primary elections in each state to determine the two main candidates for President - an election which will take place in November.

There are some peculiarities about the US political and electoral system that are different to what we know in Australia, so let's break it down.

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Once again the Greens, and the experts for the matter, are correctly pointing out that the frequency of extreme weather events are linked to the climate crisis; and once again, conservative commentators are jumping over themselves outrage to lash out at the Greens insensitive.

However, the Greens are absolutely spot on to be linking the increased severity of bushfires and other weather events with anthropogenic climate change; and they should continue to shout this fact from the rooftops regardless of how 'insensitive' it may sound.

While it its true that bushfires occur relatively frequently in Australia within the context of human lifetimes (occurring often enough that plants in the areas most prone to bushfire activity have adapted to survive fires, while others still have evolved to require fire to germinate) - they were never as frequent or as extreme as they have been in recent years. Severe bushfire events were once a rarity.

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Union-busting goes up to a whole new level
By Matt Hrkac, 02 September 2019

The Morrison Government, emboldened by what was deemed to be an unexpected election win in May, as well as the controversy surrounding Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMMEU) Construction and General Division Secretary John Setka, has recently reintroduced the union-busting (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill, into Parliament; and it represents the biggest attack against unions and workers' rights and conditions since WorkChoices, introduced in 2006 by the federal government led by John Howard.

This same bill was rightly knocked dead in the previous term thanks to a Senate crossbench, amenable to the rights of unions to exist, holding the balance of power. However, following the May 18 Federal Election, the Senate is a lot more friendly to pro-business and anti-union, anti-worker interests. The Ensuring Integrity legislation was introduced to the House of Representatives, where it passed. While this was to be expected, it is noteworthy that Centre Alliance’s MP for the seat of Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, voted in favour of the bill. This is because Centre Alliance hold two Senate seats.

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Greens go ‘full Hockey’ on wind farms
By Matt Hrkac, 28 August 2019

The topic of wind turbines has been popping up in the news lately. The same arguments we’ve all heard before - “they’re a blight on the landscape”, they’re “dark satanic mills of the modern era”, they’re 'merciless bird killers'. Of course, these arguments against wind-farms are made by right-wing pro-fossil fuel interests; but now the Greens are jumping on this coal-laden bandwagon.

Back in July, former Greens federal parliamentary leader (turned prominent Left-baiter) Bob Brown came out in opposition to a proposed wind farm on Tasmania’s Robbin Island, saying that it could effect the “natural beauty” of the landscape and put in harms way “critically endangered birds”. He went as far as to compare the $1.6 million dollar development to the Franklin Dam, which Brown’s opposition to and campaign against in the 1980’s shot him into national prominence.

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Prepolls are now well underway for the Victorian State Election. The mood during the course of this election campaign has gone from one where it appeared that the status quo would remain to a mood, in the later stages, favouring the Daniel Andrews led Labor Party will comfortably retain government (or even increase its majority).

Although this is a government that could be better when it comes to questions on law and order as well as public ownership of vital assets; the Andrews government, at least on social issues, has been the most progressive government in Victoria for a number of years and is arguably the most progressive state government in the country.

This is a government that has scrapped religious instruction in schools during class time, it has introduced a raft of measures aimed at improving the rights of renters, it has legislated a permanent ban on fracking; with the aim of enshrining this ban in the state constitution, it has introduced protest buffer zones around abortion clinics and has also introduced safe injecting rooms as well as expanded the Safe Schools program. Priority TAFE courses have also been made free.

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Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam

Victoria is the most progressive state in the country, no question about that. It has also been the most electorally successful state for the Greens in recent state and federal elections. They have held the federal seat of Melbourne since the 2010 Federal Election, added the state seat of Melbourne as well as Prahran to their lower house representation in state parliament at the 2014 State Election, and recently gained Northcote in a by-election in 2017. The party is close to gaining at least two others; Brunswick and Richmond.

However, could the fire that delivered them these significant wins be starting to smoulder?

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There was once a time when racist, divisive and discriminatory commentary would be condemned by many viewers and readers of the establishment media.

There was also a time when the racist utterings of Pauline Hanson were rightfully shunned by the same media.

Those times are long past. Now, these outfits use racist commentary as click bait to boost their readership pool.

Channel 7’s Sunrise, for example, routinely give Hanson ample airtime to spout her dangerous rhetoric — free of any sort of criticism by the show’s hosts or condemnation by the public.

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Colleen Bolger, Stephen Jolly and Sue Bolton The 2018 Victorian State Election is fast approaching and candidates are being actively preselected by all of the main parties. However, it is the formation of the Victorian Socialists, which comprises of City of Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolly, City of Moreland Councillor Sue Bolton and lawyer Colleen Bolger - an unlikely alliance of Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative - to contest the Northern Metropolitan Region in the Victorian upper house that has roused some serious attention from the Left. 

The Victorian Socialists may be the 'new kids on the block' (albeit comprising of long established organisations), but they have caught the imagination of both traditional Labor supporters and Greens supporters alike like no other formation has and it has also drawn in a number of Left-wing independents and trade unionists into the fold as well. Within just a few days of the group publicly announcing its formation and intention to register as a political party, it got the required 500 members. This was achieved with minimal mainstream media coverage and was largely driven by social media. The fledgling organisation now has over 800 members and it has filed its paperwork with the Victorian Electoral Commission to formerly register as a political party.

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It's time for Richard Di Natale to resign
By Matt Hrkac, 02 April 2018

It has become more than evident that current Federal Greens parliamentary leader Richard Di Natale is failing to make an impression on progressive voters, many of whom see him as out of touch and as a propagator to disunity within the Greens. It isn't just soft Labor-Greens voters, people who once were warm to the Greens; people who are within the Greens are also scratching their heads over some of Di Natale's decisions, as are people further to the Left who would otherwise sympathise with the Greens.

I am thoroughly on the record as being a supporter of Di Natale becoming the Greens federal parliamentary leader. I did not see the now infamous "the Greens are the party of mainstream progressive voters" quote, one of his first statements upon assuming the leadership, as a statement that would cause so much disunity. Instead, I incorrectly saw it as a unifying statement: that he would seek to maintain the current base of support as well as expand that base to reach out and bring over new support - people who live in regional areas (the party was already making inroads into some rural areas) as well as working class people more broadly. Critics however were ultimately correct in broadly interpreting that initial statement as anything but unifying, but instead as a chase towards the centre, as a means of driving out the more leftist elements of the party and to pitch to small l liberals.

When Di Natale first became leader of the Greens, he was based in my home town of Geelong. Those who know Geelong know that it is very much a solidly working class city. Here was the opportunity for Di Natale to use his position and new found influence to actually reach out to a new layer of voters prosecute a case for why working class people should vote for the Greens. Instead, despite having the option of at least maintaining a presence in Geelong, he chose to close up shop and base himself in Melbourne in an office that is arguably more difficult for constituents to find and access off the street than his original. In hindsight, despite how little it may seem, this decision was probably his first big mistake he made as leader of the Greens.

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