Labor has abandoned its values, the Greens hold firm
“Thank goodness for you.” “Labor are trashing everything for which I used to vote for them.” “Liberal and Labor - just different sides of the same coin!”...
“Final nail in the coffin for me, a “rusted on” ALP supporter.” “I’m definitely voting green at the next election, the other major parties are apparently morally bankrupt.”
These are just a handful of the comments we’ve received in the last day since the Gillard Government announced it was embracing a policy that even John Howard couldn’t get past his backbench: excising the Australian mainland from our migration zone to prevent refugees – vulnerable people fleeing for their lives – from being able to claim asylum in our beautiful country if they arrive by boat. When John Howard tried to do this, his own backbench revolted and, under pressure from the Greens, the community and his own party, he backed down. Tragically for refugees fleeing war zones and persecution today, it looks like Labor MPs don’t have the same spine.
Meanwhile, it’s only a few weeks since Labor and the Liberals voted together to slash support for single parents struggling to find work. What happened to Labor values?
The recent Labor budget update kept massive tax breaks for hugely profitable mining corporations but cut a program helping textile workers who’d lost their jobs get new ones. Labor has kept Newstart at such low levels that even the Business Council of Australia has said it needs to be lifted so we don’t drive people into poverty, making it harder for them to get back into the workforce.
Australians are looking around, scratching their heads and asking themselves what happened to the land of the fair go? When did we start caring so much more about this year’s profits, or about a Budget surplus economists say we don’t need now, than we care about looking after people? Since when is it OK to risk destroying the Great Barrier Reef, the Tarkine and other places that are too precious to lose in the pursuit of short-term mining profits?
Union leaders Tony Maher and Paul Howes have been running around the country recently complaining about the Greens as though that will fix Labor’s problems. But they should both be looking much closer to home to find out why their party has lost so many progressive voters forever. No-one knows what it stands for. Nothing is sacred.
While Labor has abandoned many of the most vulnerable people in our community, while it has turned its back on refugees, while it never really understood the need to protect the environment which sustains us all, the Greens have stood proud.
We have worked sensibly with governments time and again to get incremental progress towards a happier, healthier, cleaner Australia. In this term of minority government, we have supported some 300 pieces of legislation, often with very positive amendments, in passing through the parliament. We know how to compromise, but we also know when to stand firm. And history has a tendency to show that we were right.
With more refugee boats arriving day by day despite the government’s embrace of John Howard’s cruellest policies, it is now painfully obvious that we were right to say that “deterrence” does not and cannot work. When a person is fleeing persecution worse than we here in Australia can imagine, when they are willing to risk their lives on a leaky boat, there is nothing we can do that will “deter” them. Our only option is to give them enough hope not to get onto a boat – give them a safer pathway to a better life, either here in Australia or elsewhere in our region.
We didn’t have an easy time when we stood by our principles in June. But in the last 24 hours, having seen how low Labor is willing to stoop to be seen as harsh to refugees, people are realising that it wasn’t the Greens who wouldn’t compromise. It was Labor that was the real problem.
History is repeating itself here. It was when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard dumped action on global warming altogether in early 2010 that the community understood our decision to vote against a scheme that would have locked in polluting coal power for years to come. After a successful election campaign, we were then able to negotiate a far better climate action package, including a $10 billion investment in clean, renewable energy and an independent scientific panel at its core.
While Labor acts like the only jobs that matter are those in the mines, the Greens care about those jobs and all the others – and those without jobs as well. We see the reality of Australia as shown in census data just released, that only 1.8% of Australians are employed in the mines while 11.6% of us work in health care-related professions, 10% in retail and 8% in education and training.
The Greens have a clear-eyed vision of an Australia where we value school teachers and tourism operators, nurses and solar technicians as much as we celebrate mining magnates and casino owners. Australians know they can trust us and they know where we stand.
They can’t say the same about Labor.
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