THE Greens have been attempting to carve out a space as the political party with a fresh, honest and forthright approach; to be recognised as the political party that can be trusted. In the ACT, the temptation for the local Greens to look better than they really are may just have proven too great to resist.
Trust in politicians continues to decline. An Essential Media poll in June found trust in parliament had dropped from 55 per cent of people in a year to just 22 per cent. Although this poll was focused on the Federal Parliament, it should be considered a devastating finding for all politicians.
It is a fine line between dishonesty and gilding the lily. Gilding the lily is about telling things in the best way possible – even when it means leaving out some of the less favourable details. It seems this has become standard fare for the Greens. It is a shame that political ambition has taken them across the line because they have many good stories to tell about their achievements.
With 100 days to go before the election, they released “100 things the ACT Greens have done for you since the 2008 ACT election” in which they listed some really important achievements and honest claims in which they can rightly take pride, but there are those that push the honesty stakes a little.
“Forced the tabling of the Treasury modelling and rationale for the failed UCIT merger”.
“Made changes to the law to allow owners of units and apartments to more easily implement sustainability initiatives around their home”.
“Amended the Liquor Act to give pub and club owners more warning before licence fees are changed, allowing better planning for small businesses”.
“Passed the Education Amendment Act 2008 to increase community consultation before any school closures”.
It is not possible for the Greens to achieve these things on their own. They are not a majority party and cannot “force tabling” without support from another party in the Assembly.
Similarly, they cannot make “changes to the law” without majority Assembly support any more than they have the power to amend the Liquor Act.
Some might suggest it is just loose wording, but there are examples where they have gone further. The Greens are in the parliamentary wing of government. They are not in executive government and therefore cannot make financial decisions.
The Australian Capital Territory (Self‑Government) Act 1988 sets out the powers that are the responsibility of the executive.
The Greens first three claims go beyond their power. They might have influenced – but they certainly did not provide “Almost $50m in increased funding for mental health services”, nor did they provide “a new library for the inner-south located in Kingston” let alone “increased investment in ACT housing”. All of these achievements are part of the role of government.
There is no doubt the Greens can claim to have applied pressure for these things – but claiming that they are things that they have “done” is not completely honest and such an approach amounts to deceit. This is the very thing that is undermining community trust in our political systems.
Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health.