The recent ACT election ended badly for the Labor-Greens governing partnership, with a 4.9 per cent swing against The Greens and three seats lost. The result is an embarrassment to the strategy of the more moderate Greens, who argue that entering coalition governments with the major parties is the key to success.
Sole Greens MP Shane Rattenbury has now agreed to form government with Labor, after they agreed to legislate for gay marriage, to provide better social housing and light rail, and set a target of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
It is a welcome decision—but sadly it came after attempts to woo both sides as The Greens declared, “Our door is open to both parties.” That kind of flirting with the conservatives can only alienate The Greens from Labor’s working class support base.
The Greens now have an opportunity to learn the lessons of their last term. The issues in the ACT reflect the issues facing The Greens across the country. Their agreement with Labor last time had the effect of muzzling The Greens, drawing them into justifying hated neo-liberal policies.
Instead of looking to build grassroots opposition and pressure on Labor to improve public services they were drawn into parliamentary games.
The government attempted to give itself a progressive veneer through solar energy policies, but its latest budget included cuts of another 180 jobs in the public service.
Sadly the then ACT Greens leader was drawn into defending the government’s tax plans, which would see rates raised to allow the abolition of stamp duty, saying they were, “supported and hailed by many around the country… such as the Liberal Treasurer in NSW.”