Play to strengths to reclaim Green

View From the Paddock: Vote splitting follies


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Bryce Camm, Wonga Plains feedlot.

Bryce Camm, Wonga Plains feedlot.

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The upcoming Super Saturday by-elections are a perfect chance for conservative politics to turn the spotlight on rifts between political Left factions.

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There is much to read about the division of the conservative vote at both federal and state levels, countless analysis on the preference deals and vote splits between mainstream Liberals and Nationals and the plethora of sideline gigs such as One Nation, Katter and Australian Conservatives. 

My theory is that the ‘relaxed and comfortable’ Howard years have led to this growth. The policy successes of the Howard years have created a political failure, where many voters think good times will roll forever, allowing them to indulge in virtue signalling, such as environmental laws that don't directly affect them. 

It is high time we took a look at the divisions on the opposing side of the government benches – the rise of the Green vote and the divide between the traditional Labor Right and its growing Left faction.

There is undeniably a growth in the Green vote across the nation.

Since its formation as a unified party in 1992, its voting percentage has grown from nil to around 10pc of the national vote.

They were limited to being a third party adjudicator in the Senate, largely replacing the ‘keep the bastards honest’ Democrat protest vote.

What is evident is their movement into lower House legislature seats. Today they hold the federal seat of Melbourne, and nine lower house state seats – Tasmania 2, Victoria 3, NSW 3, and Queensland 1.

Last year, Greens federal leader, Richard Di Natale, stated the party would hold 25 federal seats within the next generation, making it a third force in the lower House where governments are formed, potentially requiring major parties to negotiate a coalition to form government. 

While most commentators scoffed, the facts are in front of us. There are seven federal seats where the Greens’ primary vote was above 20pc at the last election.

There are many examples where the fight is on between Labor and the Greens. We have witnessed the Queensland deputy Premier’s fight for the seat of South Brisbane and the by-election for the federal seat of Batman, now expected to be repeated in the federal by-election in Fremantle.

Worryingly, not all these seats are Labor ones. Queensland’s one Green state MP removed sitting LNP member, Scott Emerson from the previously blue ribbon seat of Indooroopilly.

Federal at-risk seats include Liberal strongholds of Higgins and Kooyong. Even within traditional National territory in Richmond, the Green vote grows. 

Newly-attracted Green voters largely seek progression on social issues, ignoring the extremes of Green economic policy. 

Why are these typically inner city, gentrified seats voting Green? In short, they are economically comfortable enough to have the option to.

Without having to worry about job or housing security, other issues become important to them, largely the environment, improved city living and social issues such as drug law reform. 

After the last 25 years of curriculum green-washing, it is clear everyone wants to save the environment and the debate seems to stop there.

It ignores other impacts, such as what ending coal mining will mean for the Queensland economy and its ability to pay for education and child welfare, not to mention the viability and liveability of regional towns.

Or the fact that if we let all the trees grow, the state will be covered in more timber than before white settlement.

Sensible environmental management is the message conservative governments need to get through to the populous.

Too often conservatives have retaliated against the rising extreme left with their own fights on social issues, most of which Australians have no issue with: think Cory Bernardi or Tony Abbot and the response to same sex marriage or refugees.

In proving their conservative credentials to an aging base, conservative politicians have gone hardline on these issues, further alienating blue ribbon-leaning newly minted Green voters. 

The challenge for the conservative side of politics is not to be drawn into a trap of fighting in foreign territory, but to play to its strengths of economic management to pave the way for better social outcomes.

The fact is that the Greens are a rag-tag bunch, a party of two sides; the extreme left, basket-weaving socialists, and socially progressive blue-blooded doctors’ wives in Paddington.

Personally I doubt the length of their political marriage. 

Conservatives should be highlighting that the Greens is the party that supports much larger immigration, higher taxes, reduced government support for private services in health or education and a universal basic income. Don’t tell the inner city, educated, elite that – they might choke on their latte. 

The ALP should also be called out for allowing itself to become captive to the left and adopting Green policies, shown by the Member for South Brisbane's championing of Queensland's new totalitarian vegetation laws.

Not be undone in his drift away from being an AWU shop steward, Bill Shorten has announced his own plans for federal tree clearing laws (given the Commonwealth’s well-known skill in managing land!), not to mention his  anti-Adani position. 

At some point, the party that was formed under the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine by a group of angry shearers will have to decide if it represents the working class or is chasing the social reforming latte set. 

These are the rifts in front of the Left that those on the conservative side of politics should be turning the spotlight on, as there is an opportunity to own the sensible centre. The upcoming Super Saturday by-elections seem like the perfect place to start to me!

 – Bryce Camm, Wonga Plains feedlot

The story Play to strengths to reclaim Green first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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