Greens thumb nose at the law

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The Greens, entrusted with the balance of power by the Canberra community to make laws, are not in a position to condone any form of breaking the law, says MICHAEL MOORE.

Greens Shane Rattenbury...  simply wrong when he refused to condemn the illegal action Greenpeace activists.
Greens Shane Rattenbury… simply wrong when he refused to condemn the illegal action Greenpeace activists.
THE Greens have really stuffed up! Just when it was looking like they were taking their role in the Assembly seriously and making sensible decisions, they demonstrate ignorance of political priorities.

The Greens are not Greenpeace. They are a political party with members in the Assembly. Sure, they have a great deal in common.  However, Greenpeace, including the Asia/Pacific arm, has regularly chosen to push its perspective to the extreme. The most recent example being the destruction of the CSIRO genetically modified (GM) crop at Gungahlin.

The Greens sit in the Assembly entrusted with the balance of power by the Canberra community to make laws that they expect us to obey.

They are not in a position to condone any form of breaking the law – even if they privately agree with the objective.

The ACT Speaker, Shane Rattenbury, is no longer an activist in a Zodiac putting himself between a harpoonist and whales. His priorities were simply wrong when he refused to condemn the illegal action Greenpeace activists who destroyed the CSIRO’s scientific research project.

If the Greens had a leader instead of a “convenor”, Meredith Hunter would be pulling Rattenbury back into line.

Greenpeace remains proud of the action. Its website carries a statement by campaigner Laura Kelly declaring: “We had no choice but to take action to bring an end to this experiment. GM has never been proven safe to eat and once released in open experiments, it will contaminate. This is about the protection of our health, the protection of our environment and the protection of our daily bread.”

No doubt Speaker Rattenbury agrees with these sentiments and was not prepared to condemn the action.

He was in a dilemma on two fronts – evidence-based policy and the rule of law. Only two days after the early morning Greenpeace raid, Rattenbury was lambasting Attorney General Simon Corbell and Opposition Leader Zed Seselja in his own press release for “their lack of commitment to evidence-based policy”.

Surely he can see the irony. The GM crop was an attempt to gather evidence to answer a couple of important questions – can crop yield and safety be improved by the development of new GM strains of wheat? The illegal act has now delayed gathering evidence by another 12 months.

The other part of the Speaker’s dilemma is that a higher priority, particularly for a member of parliament, is the rule of law. The Greens should be demonstrating to the community that they understand the priority of the rule of law for the maintenance of a democratic and civilised society.

The Greens are an integral part of making our laws. There are many people in the community who find Greens-initiated legislation an anathema to their own views. They have the right to challenge such laws using all the democratic tools, again and again if necessary. It does not allow the right to simply ignore or disobey them.

If the Greens think that GM crops are so abominable (as does Greenpeace) they should be working within the Assembly and the Federal Parliament to ban either experiments or the crops from Australia.

No doubt they are attempting to do so. If they cannot get the numbers in either place, especially as they hold such powerful balance of power positions, they should accept the democratic outcome. Accepting a democratic outcome means accepting the law.

This incident raises a momentous question for people considering voting for the Greens. Is a vote for the Greens a vote for a party wanting to dictate their view of the world or is it a vote for a party wanting to fairly participate in and influence the democratic process?

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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