28 March 2011

Protesting too much

Labor strategists in NSW only embarrass themselves when they speak of campaigning, and there is nobody any more with any authority in Labor to impose STFU on these people. One would assume that journalists are giving them one last go-around for old times' sake (because they'd never be lazy; lazy journalism is against MEAA guidelines, so therefore it never happens). There is, however, one topic on which NSW Labor might be heard: how they did over the Greens.

In Marrickville, Labor gave Fiona Byrne plenty of rope by letting the anti-Israel motion go through council. They could not have dreamt that Byrne would be caught out trying to distance herself and embrace the idea at the same time. At an election where parish-pump issues and service delivery was at the forefront, nobody wants to hear any self-indulgent claptrap about East Jerusalem and Gaza. Byrne had a good story to tell the people of Marrickville about public transport and environmental issues generally. She faced an opponent who was neither a dutiful local member nor an especially formidable minister (relative to the jerks in the last government, she was a colossus; but in absolute terms, her policy achievements can be described as, um ...). Byrne blew it for the Greens.

In Balmain, Jamie Parker will probably win but will wear the sort of hounded look that Rob Oakeshott has increasingly borne: jeered at by the Liberals and shunned by Labor. Verity Firth seems to have roared back from the political dead, seemingly by denying her party affiliation and somehow convincing people to overlook her craven gutlessness over unflued gas heaters. The broadminded people of the electorate ignored the tut-tutting of the Murdoch rags over Matthew Chesher's adventures in pharmacology. It could have been worse: he could have been attempting to buy Horny Goat Weed.

Preferences are hard to map where preferencing is optional, yet some common sense can be applied. It's conceivable for people to vote [1] Liberal and [2] Green. It's conceivable for people to vote [1] Labor and [2] Green, or vice versa. It's almost inconceivable that anyone would vote [1] Labor [2] Liberal, or vice versa. The postals will favour the Greens.

Speaking of the ridiculous, here is hopefully one of Imre's last pieces on a subject he doesn't understand:
HAVING snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in one, possibly two, NSW lower house seats, the Greens now face the prospect of four years in the political wilderness without real power.

As opposed to all the power they had in the last term of Parliament? Surely the power to make Labor fight on two fronts counts as "real power"? The Greens are to NSW politics what the Sharkies are to rugby league.
Fronting the media to explain what was widely seen as a disappointing result for the Greens, lead upper house candidate David Shoebridge said the Greens could be proud of their effort.

"They focused their resources on those two seats. We stood up, we're still up, and we'll be in the counting for the rest of this week," he said. "There remains the possibility, in the NSW upper house, to get a majority to do things like call for papers."

This is precisely the sort of thing that the journosphere ignores in the hype of election time, but which is powerful in the actual conduct of Parliament. The Greens went into this election with one Legislative Council seat and came out with three. This puts them ahead already, regardless of what may happen in Balmain. A real journalist would explain what a "call for papers" is and why it matters.
Sydney University political scientist Rodney Smith said the Greens' Marrickville candidate, Fiona Byrne, had suffered from her difficulty getting to grips with the truth over her support for a boycott of Israel.

"It began to look like she was being a bit too clever by half by appealing to people for whom the boycott might be appealing, but at the same time saying, 'Oh no ... I don't support it'," Dr Smith said.

And since when do we at the Murdoch press start quoting pointy-headed academics other than Ian Plimer?

Byrne is not the first politician to talk out both sides of her mouth, but the fact that she was caught and went into a dither shows that she's second rate at best. Had the campaign gone on a bit longer she would have found herself beset by anti-Semites, never a good look for anyone.
He said that Mr Parker had struggled after the late entry of a rival independent candidate and former local mayor, Maire Sheehan, who directed her preferences to Labor.

Politics in that area is basically Labor vs Not-Labor. The Liberals never had a look-in until recently and the Democrats were sneered out of town early on. The various flavours of communist gave up the ghost during the '90s, during the gentrification of suburbs like Rozelle and Balmain with increased numbers of yuppies prepared to vote Liberal. The strongest Not-Labor of that time was a bunch of ex-Labor middle-aged women rebelling at the deals stitched up by Labor men. Maire (not a mis-spelling; pronounced "Moira") Sheehan was one of these, and became Mayor. Since then, she must have made her peace with Labor: at every election where Labor is in trouble, Maire Sheehan comes out and wrings her hands and considers running, and then a couple of media cycles later she nominates. Her effect is to siphon votes off this year's Non-Labor (formerly No Aircraft Noise, now NSW Greens) and funnel them back to Labor. Surely somewhere there's a journalist in Sydney who's awake up to Maire Sheehan.
Former NSW premier Bob Carr hailed Ms Tebbutt and Ms Firth as "heroes" of the election.


Carr has learnt the lesson of military history that disasters are celebrated officially. The two battles at which more Victoria Crosses were awarded by the British than any others were Blood River and Lone Pine, two terrible defeats. Carr seems determined to pull something from the rubble of his legacy and here they are, the bedraggled Tebbutt and barely alive Firth. He doth protest too much.
"It's now clear that the internal politics of the Greens are chaotic," Mr Carr said.

As opposed to the well-oiled machine that is Sussex Street in 2011.

From this it would seem that Bob Brown basically is "the internal politics of the Greens":
Labor has seized on the Greens' failure to win seats on Saturday to demand that Tony Abbott follow the lead of the Liberals in Victoria and NSW by refusing to pass the party preferences ahead of Labor in the next federal election.

"It is difficult to envisage a situation whereby the Greens would win a seat in the House of Representatives without Liberal Party preferences," Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said yesterday.

Easy, tiger: Bowen forgets that Victoria's Liberals kept Labor on tenterhooks last year before deciding against preferencing the Greens at the last minute. The normally unflappable John Brumby was well and truly flapped with his increasingly strident demands of Liberals to preference Labor. The new Senate, where the Greens have nine Senators whose votes are vital to get Gillard Government legislation through, has not yet been convened. Chris Bowen didn't get where he is today by going out too hard too early (unless he's rattled).
In last year's federal election, the Greens claimed the balance of power in the Senate and won their first House of Representatives seat -- Melbourne.

However, their failure to win seats on Saturday or in last year's Victorian election ...

In both states they have increased their representation. They do seem confined to the upper house, like the Democrats; and like the Democrats they are one big sell-out from a downward spiral of recriminations and oblivion. It's sloppy reporting to suggest that the Greens have gone backwards when they're ahead of where they were,
Yesterday, Mr Bowen said the results showed Mr Abbott had the power to determine the Greens' future in the federal House of Representatives.

"Mr Abbott goes on a lot about the Greens," Mr Bowen told the Ten Network's Meet the Press program.

"Well, it is up to him whether he'd preference the Greens or not ...

There are Liberal voters who preference the Greens: they're called moderates, Chris. All Tony Abbott need do is be true to himself and he will drive moderate Liberals away from the Liberal Party and toward the Greens. Neither Abbott nor Bowen are obliged in any way to give the Greens a two-year head start in building on their considerable progress in inner-city Australia.

Next year's election in Queensland will be fascinating as the state has experienced an array of eco-disasters. You'd expect the state's Greens to step up to a whole new level in seats along the Brisbane River, and in farmland resisting the encroachment of mines and gas wells. Bet they don't though: hacks like the ALP and yee-haw boofheads like Jeff Seeney will squeeze the Greens out of any elected office.

You could argue that the Greens are chokers, and that they'll be bereft after Brown goes. However, they've come a long way in a short time, and NSW Labor of all people ought not be jeering at anyone. They played Fiona Byrne off a break but if anyone is going to learn from this experience it will more likely be the Greens, not Labor.
... Heroes often fail
And you won't read that book again
Because the ending's just to hard to take ...
... But for now, love, let's be real.

I never thought I could act this way
And I've got to say that I just don't get it
I don't know where we went wrong
But the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back ...

- from If you could read my mind by Gordon Lighfoot


  1. sir drinksalot28/3/11 7:33 pm

    as someone who aligns with the right of the ALP I'd always preference a moderate Lib over a Greens candidate.

  2. You're spot on about Marie Sheenan. In the Glebe booth I was at, Sheenan HTVs were being habded out by a Young Labor uni student. She was very close to the Labor peeps, they even bought her lunch for her!

    I'd also interested in seeing the Greens when they are not facing sitting members with such strong local support. Labor could be one bad pre-selection away from losing Marrickville.

  3. hrgh, imagine if Tebbutt were ten years older ...

  4. sir drinksalot, do you live in Balmain or Marrickville?

  5. sir drinksalot30/3/11 7:08 pm

    no, I live in the seat of Melbourne (state and fed) and I preferenced Simon Olsen ahead of Adam Bandt and Luke Martin ahead of Brian Walters.