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The Greens have great potential to initiate major reforms.

By Klaas Woldring - posted Thursday, 21 July 2011

There are several reasons why the Greens may initiate and achieve major reforms in the coming two years and beyond.

The Greens have the balance of power in the Senate and one MP in the House of Representatives. In Julia Gillard they have a PM who is a good negotiator and who realistically accepts reform proposals that might otherwise not even see the light of day. In the face of enormous media pressure and misinformation, she remains steadfast and calm.

The Green-ALP partnership arrangement and the present low electoral stocks of the ALP will require them to examine and often accept broader Green initiatives. The Hung Parliament provides additional progressive Independents' involvement, that could take policy and system reform well beyond the generally dreary adversarial fare dished up by the dying two-party tyranny of recent decades.


This could well become more than just a breath of fresh air. We should remember that the power of the Senate in the Australian political system is potentially considerable. The final paragraph of section 53 reads: "Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws."

Views expressed by conservative commentators recently that the "Greens have peaked," based on political history, might well be mistaken. Gerard Henderson's statement is premised on the view that the two party system will restore itself and absorb the positions of (temporary) minority parties.

The reality is that the two party system is in crisis and is unlikely to survive it. The current Opposition leader Tony Abbott is assisting in wrecking it, a historic event waiting to happen.

The adversarial Australian political system has clearly been unable to make use of an existing earlier consensus on the climate change question. First Rudd and then Gillard withdrew from the initiative in the face of parliamentary opposition and self-interested industries, while a majority of MPs were actually in favour of moving forward.

It is nonsensical and dishonest to accuse Gillard of a lie now because she promised not to introduce a Carbon Tax during the 2010 election. The election result, a Hung Parliament, made it necessary for either major party to enter into a partnership agreement to achieve a parliamentary majority. Gillard succeeded with the Greens and enough Independents. This is just another drawback of the two party system, but it meant that some of the election promises could not be maintained.

This precedent, to operate as an effective catalyst for reform, suggests that the Greens could also argue to have their existing policy for proportional representation adopted as soon as possible. It would obviously be both in the national and their own interest, especially if the Open Party List System is adopted (rather than MMP or Hare-Clark).


This requires the voter to just make one mark on a party list ballot paper to indicate a preference for a party and a particular candidate. A simple replacement of the 1918 Commonwealth Electoral Law, which grossly favours the major parties, would fix that.

Remarkably, Green parties in very many other countries have already benefited from P. R. mostly in continental Europe, but also in Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. With a PR system all the people's votes become meaningful. After the election a number of parties combine in a coalition based on a negotiated common platform, to ensure majority support in the parliament.

The political culture changes from adversarial to a search for common ground.A very lively PR debate is happening amongst Greens in the US and in Canada as well, especially in Virginia and Ontario.

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About the Author

Dr Klaas Woldring is a former Associate Professor of Southern Cross University.

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Related Links
Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency
Independent Australia
Republic Now

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