Hunter: Three-party system is a crossroads

ACT Greens leader Meredith Hunter writes: Andrew Hughes says that the Greens are not offering the policies of the “Coles and Woolworths” of Australian politics. I think that the community is becoming tired of the […]

ACT Greens leader Meredith Hunter writes:

ANU Academic Andrew Hughes writes in “CityNews” about the Greens and opportunities before us in the ACT, against the backdrop of a growing Green vote and an electorate that is looking for renewal.

Hughes made me reflect that over the past two years have seen some quite considerable changes in how business is undertaken in the context of a minority Government and a three-party Legislative Assembly.

The “New Paradigm”, much discussed after the hung parliament result of the Federal election, has been in full effect in the ACT Parliament since 2008 when Canberra elected seven Labor, six Liberal and four Green members. We have a situation where no one party can pass any law without the support of another party. On different issues the Greens have supported legislation from the Labor and Liberal parties, while other votes have seen the Government and Opposition combine to defeat Greens initiatives. These examples illustrate that, while The Greens take each issue on its merit, we have also demonstrated a commitment to stable and functional government.

In these two years, the Greens have been actively involved in law making in every area of policy. From our strong position against the sale of Canberra’s only hospice, to detailed work on energy policy in the Territory, we have shown that we are a party of not just ideas, but of action, and that we have a strong vision for Canberra’s future.

We have a full policy platform covering everything from governance, health, education and small business to local council issues like waste collection. The Greens progressive outlook has a place in economic, social and environmental policy making and we have brought fresh ideas into the ACT Parliament. Our policies do encourage a shift in thinking outside the usual parameters of the old parties, but we make no apology for that in a world that is rapidly changing and needs new ways of meeting challenges in areas such as transport, planning, energy, health and social cohesion.

Andrew Hughes says that the Greens are not offering the policies of the “Coles and Woolworths” of Australian politics. I think that the community is becoming tired of the “homebrand” policies of the old parties and are shopping elsewhere because they want something new and different.

Contrary to Andrew Hughes suggestion that the Labor and Liberal parties are “strong” in policy development, the Greens have surprised many with our strong policy focus and legislative performance. Indeed the Greens in the last two years have brought on more Bills and passed more laws than the Canberra Liberals. The Greens have successfully amended and improved Government Bills in every sitting. And importantly, through the Greens/ALP Agreement, we have delivered 42 reforms to improve governance and accountability to the Parliament itself.

The old parties have had to play politics a bit differently with the third team on the field; some of the political tactics that might have worked in the past are less effective without a majority. But even so, we have seen stalling tactics. The Government has refused to pass Greens or Liberal legislation only to bring on identical Bills of their own just months later. The Opposition, in the self-defined role as “keeping the Government to account” have tended to object and oppose policy changes, offering few policy alternatives. The political point scoring, bluster and gamesmanship, which turns so many off politics, is increasingly irrelevant in the Assembly.

The Greens have grown as a party and a movement, in response to the community’s desire to see forward looking policies and a fresh take on how politicians work to deliver real outcomes for people. Many of the issues that we have traditionally been known for, such as the environment and gay rights, have become more mainstream as community awareness has grown. But our own growth over the past decade has resulted in the development of a strong platform right across the policy spectrum.

There is no doubt that there will be challenges for the party as we continue to grow our vote, but I’m confident that, if the way we have responded to the challenge of balance of power in the ACT is anything to go by, we have a bright future in the political landscape for quite some time.

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