The leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, today delivered a stinging attack on the Australian Labor Party, accusing it of ending a deal the two parties struck that allowed Labor leader Julia Gillard to take up the prime ministership, but stopped short of withdrawing her party’s support for the government.
Gillard relied on the support of the Greens to win a wafer-thin majority in the parliament following the 2010 federal election.
In a speech to the National Press Club today, Milne said the Greens would continue to vote with the government on budgetary issues and on any motions of no-confidence, despite a series of policy decisions that disappointed her.
“The Tarkine decision, the attack on single parents, the unwillingness to act on coal seam gas or the mining tax, fossil fuel subsidies. All those things send a very clear message that Labor’s priorities lie with powerful mining interests, not with the people and the Greens,” she said.
“What has become manifestly clear is that Labor, by its actions, has walked away from its agreement with the Greens and into the arms of the big miners.”
Milne said it was time to call a spade a spade.
“By choosing those big miners, the Labor government is making it clear to all that it no longer has the courage or the will to work with The Greens on a shared agenda in the national interest,” she said.
“By choosing big miners, the Labor government is choosing to no longer honour our agreement to work together to promote transparent and accountable government, the public interest or to address climate change.”
“Labor has effectively ended its agreement with The Greens. Well, so be it. But we will not allow Labor’s failure to uphold the spirit of our agreement to advance the interests of [Opposition leader] Tony Abbott.
Milne said the Greens would continue to guarantee supply, meaning it would not block the budget or the flow of any money bills, a move that could lead to the downfall of a government.
“We will not walk away from the undertakings we gave, not only to the Prime Minister but to the people of Australia, and that was to deliver confidence and supply until Parliament rises for the election. We will see this Parliament through to its full term,” she said.
“The fact of the matter is: our signatures mean something.”
Fall of parliament unlikely
Professor Anne Twomey, an expert in Constitutional Law at the University of Sydney, said that “at this stage, it is fairly unlikely that the Parliament will fall.”
“The Greens have stated that they will stand by their promise of maintaining confidence and supply. This means that they will vote for budget bills and against any no confidence motions,” she said.
“It is probably not in the interests of any party to bring down the government anyway, now that a forthcoming election date is known. All parties need to prepare and cost their policies, plan their advertising campaigns, book their advertising spots and organise their campaign budgets. Causing a snap election will cause difficulty for all of them.”
Professor Twomey said even if a member resigned from Parliament, “there will be a real question as to whether it is appropriate to hold a by-election so close to a general election.”
“Even if one were held, by the time it was determined, Parliament may have stopped sitting or could be prorogued by the Government, meaning its sittings would be terminated,” she said.