Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green

The Australian Greens leader, Bob Brown, can probably relate.

After all, leading a minor party in a Western country that has a two party system (i.e. all of them) can be a tough gig. The major party's suck up all the media time, energy and oxygen, leaving precious few column inches or airtime minutes for you and your party to try and get your pitch to the electorate out. What media attention you do get is often unwanted, as it's along the 'These nutty freaks want to give ecstasy to our school children' type of slanderish media beat up.

Which is a shame. Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott having both decided to campaign with empty slogans and trivial promises, a la Kang and Kodos in the 'Treehouse of Horror VII' ep of the Simpsons:

there ought to be plenty of space available for other ideas.

So into this policy free zone come the Greens, who had their campaign launch last weekend. A brief smaple of their announced policies to date:

DENTICARE: Modelled on Medicare, the idea is to provide a cheap, universal dental care system across the whole country. Most people with any experience of trying to get dental work done know that it is either ridiculously expensive (private care) or subject to ridiculously long waiting lists (public). The effect of which is that a fair proportion of Australians just learn to put up with wonky teeth or toothache.

EAST COAST RAIL LINK: The proposal is to build a super fast, hi tech railway link between the major East Coast capital cities; Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Most people with any experience of driving along Deathn Route 1 (AKA the Pacific Highway) or Death Route 2 (AKA the Hume Highway) thant currently link these three cities would agree there’s some merit to this plan. Better for the environment than air travel and thats before we even consider how many people would be employed to build it.

CARBON PRICE: The Greens want a 40% reductionm in Australia’s carbon output below 1990 levels by 2020. Recognising that they have no chance whatsoever in getting this done, they have proposed a more modest alternative, to be negotiated with the enext government; a simple tax on carbon of approximately $20 per tonne, to be kept in place until a more comprehensive cap and trade system can be put in place.

This last one to pay for the first two, among a host of other progressive initiatives (which, if you think the above is a bit too radical for your taste, you’re probably better off not finding out about. Euthenasia anyone?).

Now regardless of whether you agree with these proposals or not, it has to be admitted that they are bold, constrcutive ideas with a bit of vision attached to them. Compare these ideas to what the major parties have come up with, policy wise, so far in this election. Summarised here:

COALITION: A solemn, weighty, heartfelt promise to ease the tax burden on Australia’s business sector by reducing the corporate tax rate by 1.5%. And a solemn, weighty, heartfelt promise to produce a paid parental leave scheme by inccreasing the corporate tax rate by 1.5%. And, oh yes, turning around the few hundred hapless refugees who wash up here each year and leaving them to drown at sea.

LABOR: An absolute rock solid committment to prevaricate and obfuscate and procrastinate and do as little as possible in any sector, other than copy the policies of the Rudd government. A Government so bad that Rudd himself was replaced before he could even afce the electorate. And, oh yes, copying the Liberals on refugees, population, environment and any other major issue that frightens people in outer metropolitan areas.

Even giving a short paragraph each is probably overstating the amount of content in the major party's policy positions. What they've announced to date has been little more than fiddling at the margins, subtle tweakings to to a society that they've obviously both decided is already A-Ok.

But despite being almost devoid of content, these Labor and Liberal policies will be subject to thousands of words of analysis in the printed media and thousands of hours of discussion on radio and television, as earnest talking heads sift through the details and try and work out if there are any actual differences between them. In the meantime, better, more foward thinking, more interesting policies from the minor parties, the Greens being just one among many, will whither and die on the floor of the rainforest, starved of sunlight and rain by the tall trees around them.

To quote 'Citizen Kang' again:

Kang: It's a two party system! You have to vote for one of us!
Man: He's right, this is a two-party system.
Man 2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.

Which us back to the beginning; whether you’re a small plant in the Amazon, or a muppet frog in the swamp or a geeky looking guy in the Asustralian Senate, it ain’t easy being green.

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