The Future Is Neither Red Nor Blue … It's Green


Ask a Labor politician, ‘What segment of the Australian population does your Party represent?’ They would probably answer something to the effect of, ‘We represent ordinary Australians’ not the ‘ordinary Australian working person,’ because, of course, the ALP would maintain it represents unemployed, disabled, and retired people as well as those Australians who are in the workforce.

If you asked a Liberal politician the same question, you would probably get much the same answer. A National Party politician might qualify their answer by saying, ‘We represent ordinary people in rural and regional Australia.’

All three politicians would be right. The ALP and the Coalition are feeding from the same trough of conservative voters. In spite of opportunistic attempts to differentiate their policies on currently fashionable big issues the Iraq debacle, terrorist attacks on Australia and Australian interests, global warming and climate change, and water there is no real difference between the parties. Neither Labor not the Coalition has any appeal to progressives.

The real dichotomy in Australian politics is not between ‘Left’ (code for ALP) and ‘Right’ (Liberals/Nationals), it is between conservatives and progressives.

There is an almost equal number of conservative voters rusted on to each of the two ‘major’ Parties who are most unlikely to change sides. A few conservatives swing between the two Parties, according to whim or some other perceived self-interest, and they represent the difference between being in government or in opposition.

The emergence of Christian religious Parties is not likely to alter the aggregate conservative vote, since it is most unlikely they are drawing adherents from the progressives but their second preferences are available to be bought by whichever of the two major Parties panders (and I use the word advisedly) most persuasively to their religious agenda.

In fact, the only real agenda of the religious parties is to stop waverers from drifting away from the conservatives and joining the progressives. They achieve this by propagating lies and distortions that brand progressives as the Antichrist.

Until recently, the progressives in the Australian population have been divided between the Australian Democrats and The Greens, usually with a flow of second preferences from one to the other. However, with the demise of the Democrats, their adherents must either switch to The Greens, or, more probably, a majority will return to the major Party from which they came.

I do not believe the progressives can count on a large increase in their supporters as a result of homeless Democrats migrating to The Greens. Since the era of Meg Lees, the gap between the Democrats and The Greens has widened. The Democrats have become decreasingly committed to the environment more concerned about social issues and being seen as ‘mainstream’, small-c conservatives.

Thanks to Scratch

In the latest Newspoll, voting intentions for the Federal Parliament give The Greens about 7 per cent virtually unchanged from the first preferences they gained in the 2004 election. Let’s be generous and say that, by next year’s Federal election, The Greens’ vote may have risen to about 10 per cent. Even this level of support will make no significant difference to the makeup of the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, The Greens would probably increase their representation and may even hold the ‘balance of power.’ But that will count for nothing as long as the ALP and the Coalition maintain their alliance of hostility towards Nature, and vie for the affection of the religious Parties.

Political discussion in Australia is slowly becoming more focused on saving the environment from catastrophic damage. Consequently, there is an incipient but real ground swell building that might eventually give The Greens an equal, one-third share of the vote.

However, the discussion has not yet reached the point where people recognise the coin has two sides heads we do catastrophic damage to the environment, or tails we greatly reduce our standard of living. There are no other choices. That realisation will come worldwide, although it will probably come too late for many on the planet.

Which brings us to the Stern Review. After a brief moment of euphoria believing an ex-World Bank economist is supporting The Greens it soon becomes apparent that the Stern Review is a pretty leaky vessel in which to embark on such a momentous voyage as saving the planet. The Review is fundamentally flawed because it promises continued economic growth while the world population increases by about 50 per cent over the next 40-odd years. That is, it pretends that we can have economic growth provided we clean up our act a bit.

But the present world population of about 6.3 billion people consumes 1.25 times the productive capacity of the biosphere (Global Footprint Network and WWF 2006 Living Planet Report). When the world population increases to 9-11 billion by 2050 and demand for resources, fuelled by the increasing affluence of developing economies, approaches the present-day level of consumption in already-developed economies we will need at least four biospheres to meet the demand.

To emphasise this point if everyone on Earth alive today had the standard of living we enjoy in Australia, we would be consuming 3.7 times the biocapacity of the planet.

But we only have one planet!

The truth is, for the biosphere to achieve homeostasis (or balance) as a system, the world population would need to be quickly reduced to about 5 billion people and then follow a further steady downward trend, as the level of demand rises in the developing economies.

At the same time, economic growth in over-consuming societies like ours must become steeply negative.

Read the WWF/Global Footprint Network ‘Living Planet Report 2006’, do the math, and tell me I’m wrong Please!

Are there politicians of any colour willing to tell us these inconvenient truths?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.