Following the election, we’re facing an emboldened conservative government that’s being helped by an increasingly disappointing Labor party. In this article adapted from his speech to National Conference in Adelaide last week, Richard Di Natale talks about how the progressive agenda is ours for the taking.
By Richard Di Natale
I don’t believe in miracles, because if they were true, Scott Morrison wouldn’t be Prime Minister. If they were true, I would be writing about how the last six years of turmoil and division were finally over and about our plans for working constructively with a new Labor government to tackle the breakdown of our climate and confront economic inequality.
Instead we’re facing an emboldened conservative government again stacked with climate deniers, hell-bent on taking us down the US path with a permanent underclass of working poor, obscene wealth in the hands of a tiny and powerful few and a worldview that sees our natural world as something to exploit for corporate greed rather than protect for future generations.
Even worse, they’re being helped by a Labor party that seems to be taking all of the wrong lessons from the election and thinks that the way to defeat the Tories is by becoming just like them.
In the past few weeks Labor has voted with the Coalition to gut our tax system, turning their backs on 100 years of support for progressive taxation, as well as for opening up the Galilee Basin to more coal mining.
Earlier this month Anthony Albanese said the Greens were “stealing” Labor votes.
Well I’ve got news for him. Those votes don’t belong to him or anyone else, you’ve got to earn them. You know, I remember when the Labor Party used to sneer at the Liberal’s born to rule mentality! Then again, I remember when Labor supported wealth redistribution and taking strong action on climate change, so there you go.
It’s now clearer than ever that the Greens are the real opposition. We don’t believe one thing before an election and another thing after it. We understand that our job is to fight for the things we believe in and work hard to bring the community with us. It’s called leadership.
We did it during the election – campaigning hard on the jobs and opportunities that we will create if we transition to a clean economy – and we were rewarded by voters for it.
Despite being largely ignored by the mainstream media, 300,000 new voters supported us in the Senate. 1.5 million Australians voted for us in the House and another 1.5 million voted for us in the Senate, the largest swing of any party this election. That’s no small achievement.
We saw big swings right across the country and if we repeat this result at the next election, we’ll have a total of 12 senators and a good shot at balance of power in our own right.
We’ve also had a spike in new members joining the Greens straight after the election and another spike following Labor’s cave in to the Liberals on tax cuts.
We defied expectations and achieved our second best result ever so we should all feel rightly proud of our achievements. I know it was only possible because of a lot of bloody hard work from our members and volunteers across the country. I want to thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.
That’s what happens when voters know what you stand for; when you have a clear and unequivocal position on the climate crisis and you talk up your detailed blueprint for creating new jobs and industries in coal dependent communities. It’s what happens when you have a positive plan for addressing inequality that is developed collectively, informed by research and addresses people’s material concerns. When you make it clear that you will take on vested influence, make big corporations pay their fair share and stand up to corruption.
So where to next?
Climate change and economic inequality are only getting worse. Labor is backing away from its progressive roots and we know this government is running full steam to bring about their selfish vision of a dog-eat-dog Australia.
The moment is ours to capture.
I take a lot of inspiration from the recent increase in support for the German Greens, which has risen over a short period of time from a 2017 election result of nine percent to over 20 percent in the recent European elections.
In Germany, just like here, there is growing disillusionment with the traditional governing parties, and the Greens have become the voice in Parliament of a climate movement that is building right across Europe. They have been strong and vocal critics of far right parties that preach the politics of fear and division. They have also improved their governance and put years of infighting behind them.
They have had faith in their bold, progressive policy agenda. Like us they are the only party with a clear plan to tackle the climate crisis and economic inequality. Rather than seeking to chop and change their platform, they have pitched themselves as a trusted, stable and experienced party with a long term vision and clear, unequivocal principles.
I too believe in the bold, progressive platform that we took to the election. It was the culmination of many, many years of work to present a comprehensive, costed vision for all the big issues we know people are worried about. It had solutions to address the lack of housing, the privatisation of essential services and the extinction crisis, as well as a comprehensive jobs plan, a vision for the future of work and our biggest education package ever.
Our biggest challenge isn’t our policy agenda – when people learn about our platform they become our biggest advocates – it’s a communications and engagement challenge. Our task, now and for the next three years is to make sure that more people know about our positive plan.
This is a bloody hard task because we’re taking on some powerful vested interests. Just look at what we were up against this time around: a $60 million, 12 month campaign by Clive Palmer, a coal baron who got the government he wanted; relentless campaigning from the Newscorp empire and a Canberra press gallery more interested in the horse race view of politics than reporting on issues of substance.
Despite all of that our vote increased at the last election largely because people care about climate change and trust us to confront it. If we are going to continue to grow, we need to continue building our capacity to focus outwards and engage with people in meaningful ways, to keep building awareness of our future-focussed, evidence-based policies on all the big issues they care about.
Our research also shows that a barrier to people voting Greens is people’s desire to change the government and make sure their vote isn’t wasted. As extraordinary as it may seem, less than 50% of the community understands preferential voting. And it remains the single biggest reason stopping someone giving us our vote.
I can’t tell you how many times during this election I heard ‘I really like the Greens, so I gave you my second preference’ or ‘I support you guys but I couldn’t risk another term of this right-wing government’. We need to make sure more people know that by voting Green, they can double the power of their vote. That they aren’t just kicking out a rotten government, but also sending a message to Labor that we want them to be better.
Our final challenge to grow Greens support is to get our house in order and to continue to work together on our internal culture. The past few years have been turbulent ones and thankfully we pulled together when things were getting rough
But the fact is, we won’t reach our potential and shake up the political system unless we work harder to be the most-effective and united campaigning organisation that we can be.
It’s about how we treat each other, how we support volunteers and how we respectfully manage our differences. It’s about improving our governance and internal processes. It’s also about how we make space for different views and people from different backgrounds. We need to make space for supporters from all social or economic backgrounds, from wealthy barristers to factory workers, if we want to continue to build this movement.
Building a healthy party, with a strong, inclusive culture and tackling those big challenges that stand between us and further growth is a shared project. It can’t and won’t be done by a single person, by someone else. It’s one we have to do together.
What the recent election told us is that the country is more divided and more polarised than ever.
Reshaping our economy for the future is what can bring us back together towards a common purpose. It’s about building on our bold, transformative vision and the incredible opportunities at our country’s fingertips if we transition towards a clean, smart and caring economy that works for people.
Scott Morrison’s government won’t do it and it’s becoming clearer each day that Labor’s not up to it.
This agenda is ours for the taking. Let’s take it together.