Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

‘Outsiders and ratbags’: the Greens will struggle without Bob Brown

The exit of Bob Brown raises an interesting issue for the Australian Greens. Now the party’s charismatic founder has gone, what will happen to the party? Does it have a long-term future, and if so, what…

Bob Brown says The Greens could form a future government, but they may have peaked already. AAP/Lukas Coch

The exit of Bob Brown raises an interesting issue for the Australian Greens. Now the party’s charismatic founder has gone, what will happen to the party? Does it have a long-term future, and if so, what kind of future?

There has long been a place in Australian politics for one minor party, that acts as a safety valve for those who are not happy with the state of politics. But that party does not have to be the Greens. If political circumstances change and another charismatic figure emerges a new party could well emerge to challenge the Greens for this role.

Three party politics

The Democrats became the first of these third parties in 1977. They had their heyday in the early years of the Howard government. For a time, it seemed possible that One Nation would also assume that role. But in past few years this role has been taken over by the Greens.

All of these parties were founded by a charismatic leader – Don Chipp for the Democrats and Pauline Hanson for One Nation – and came to be associated with that leader. This may partially explain why both the Democrats and One Nation are no longer significant political players.

All of these parties share an old-fashioned form of economic nationalism in which the state plays an important role. They have appealed to a particular constituency which feels that the two major parties are not really serving their interests, and that politics has failed them.

One could argue that what caused the emergence of third parties, and has sustained them, was Bob Hawke’s post-1983 economic reform, supported by both the major political parties, which sought to make Australia a more competitive and productive country.

Hence the desire, manifested in their economic nationalism, of minor parties to return to the “good old days”.

A limited appeal

The Greens are both the environmental party and the party of the big state and increased government control. This can be seen in many of their policies, for example their policies on education.

Their appeal is necessarily limited because the sort of constituency that they attract are those who do not like politics as practised by the major parties. They are the natural home for outsiders and ratbags. In this sense they are an “anti-political” political party.

This means that their appeal cannot rise much beyond 15% of the electorate. Hence they are very attractive to many young people who have problems with the major parties, and who do not yet feel that they are part of the political system. Green policies on education, that students should pay less and the state pay more, are attractive to this group. The Greens also appeal to academics who also feel somewhat alienated by the political system.

The end of the Greens?

One thing, I believe, is certain. The Greens will not become a major party unless they cease to be the Greens.

Major parties have to appeal to the broader Australian community and there is no indication that the Greens are capable of evolving in this way. What Bob Brown achieved was to make the Greens the unchallenged third player in Australian politics. It was a considerable achievement.

But they have now reached their peak. My feeling is that the best they can do is to maintain their level of support. However, the case of the Democrats may indicate that once the minor party in Australia peaks, the fact that it cannot go any further may be a sign of its ultimate decay.

Whatever the case there is no doubt that the Greens will miss Bob’s charisma.

Join the conversation

122 Comments sorted by

  1. John Carney

    Web Developer

    Your "parallels" are wildly divergent. One Nation only had a niche appeal and never really looked like a serious "third party" contender to anyone that was paying attention.

    If, as you say, the Democrats peaked in the early Howard years, then why does Bob Brown's departure represent a high water mark for the Greens? Don Chipp left the Democrats long before Howard took office.

    The Democrats' downfall was not a simple matter. The GST deal saw them lose a lot of support, but the fact is the Greens had been on the rise for a while anyway.

    report
    1. Michael Carroll

      Student, UWA School of Law at University of Western Australia

      In reply to John Carney

      John I would love to be able to agree with you about One Nation but as a young voter in Queensland when they had 25% of the popular vote the scary reality was that they were indeed the serious third party in that State. Happily they were actually a bunch of ratbags with serious cooperation deficits and they rapidly imploded with many of those who one parliamentary seats under the party banner rapidly defecting or losing their seats. Still, there was a couple of years...

      In the larger political spectrum of course you are correct - their narrow focus was not the stuff of success.

      report
    2. John Carney

      Web Developer

      In reply to Michael Carroll

      Perhaps niche was not the right word. What I meant was that it seemed unlikely that One Nation's QLD success would be repeated nationally, and even early on the party seemed quite unstable.

      report
    3. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to John Carney

      That's true John, and it raises a point about the Greens (indirectly) that I think the article didn't address accurately.

      IMHO, and experience with these things, the idea that the Greens are for "ratbags" is becoming a bit passe. Maybe back in the 70's, 80s, 90s. But even amongst 'conservatives' people are catching on that this Climate Change business is serious and relying on the whims of a quite frankly corrupted political establishment is not going to help anyone. Thus over this timeframe…

      Read more
    4. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      p.s obviously the greens aren't that old but the movements they arose from are

      report
  2. Michael Block

    Idler

    I must be a ragbag because for the life of me I can't understand how the German Greens could still be 'The Greens' and have been in coalition government federally and be in power in Baden-Wurttenberg currently. Germany, particularly states like that are hardly a hotbed of radicalism. Perhaps the opportunity for the Greens here is that they are the only alternative to 'business as usual'. You may have noticed the high level of disenchantment in the electorate, surely it represents an opportunity for the Greens without them having to sell their principles and become just another 'me-too' economic rationalist party in the pockets of big business?

    report
    1. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to Michael Block

      Gregory I'm interested in your thoughts about why the Greens have flourished in Germany particularly after the death of their charismatic leader, and what's so peculiar about Australia that the Greens are doomed to the margins here. Surely it can't be because Germany has more outsiders and ratbags?

      report
    2. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Michael Block

      I haven't actually said that they are doomed to the margins or, in fact, made any definite predictions. We cannot predict the future. But what I am saying is that political parties are umbrella organisations that contain a range of groups, some of which may not have much in common. This is also true, to an extent, of the Greens. To become a major party requires a party to be able to attract at least 30% of the population. The Greens still sit about 10% to 12%. To get to 30% they need to broaden…

      Read more
    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Greg,

      "But they have now reached their peak." Nah not predictive at all mate... just wishful thinking I suspect.

      The best thing the Greens have going for them isn't Bob Brown (now retired) it's Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and interestingly Barnaby Bombastus Joyce and Warwick Truss.

      But you're dead right - none of us can predict the future. And a few of us even have trouble predicting the past by the look of it.

      report
    4. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      30% of the population, or benefit from preference deals. This is the biggest hurdle for the Greens, who unlike the Nationals won't benefit from preference flows. This isn't surprising as there's a bees dick difference between Libs and ALP these days. Like all duopolies, they try to preserve the status quo with the facade of competition. As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." Why should it last forever here?

      report
    5. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Michael Block

      Polled 34% in the Federal elections hereabouts as I recall, and came in second after the ALP.

      report
    6. Michael James

      Research scientist

      In reply to Michael Block

      Alas, the big difference is the electoral systems. Here the Greens have three times the HoR vote than the Nats yet only one seat. If they had a roughly proportional share, it would be 17 seats and lo, more people would take them more seriously and consider them worthy of their vote. Look at the recent Qld debacle--when things get so partisan the voters tend to over-compensate and swing wildly one way and minor parties suffer because voting for them is considered a waste.

      So the real question is not why/how the German Greens have gained more power but why the Anglo democracies have such dysfunctional two-party systems that clearly no longer serve us well.

      report
    7. Timothy Wong

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      An analysis which is purely numerical and "geometrical"

      Until and unless you can describe the relationship between political party appeal and concrete historical reality, you will get nowhere.

      Just one example:

      Guy Standing's recent book "The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class" which describes the growing job - and more broadly, existential - insecurity of neo-liberal employment and life.

      See especially the policy proposals in the final chapter of his book which go beyond merely attempting to remedy this problem and may go some way toward making a "better society"

      As the Greens are the only party in the parliament who oppose neo-liberalism, they may become the party who can devise policies that may take us into the future.

      Cf the ANZ's unilateral interest rate rise. Who spoke today for the "ordinary person"? Andrew Robb or Christine Milne?

      Political analysis depends upon *historical* circumstance which can't be understood by ethereal number-crunching.

      report
    8. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Michael Block

      If you mean primaries for 2010 for the Greens, I dunno about 34% but it was enough to put a huge dent in the 'consolidation of the major parties'. Enough for neither major party to win the election outright. And with the exception of polarising forces (usually more prescient at the state level) the trend is away from the major parties in general.

      Another interesting feature of 2010, a huge upswing in donkey voting. Some have put that down to Latham's comments in the lead up, and they may be correct. On the other hand, people were probably thinking of doing that anyway and hearing him say it might have simply justified it....they could well have changed their mind otherwise and voted Green, or Katter or something else than donkey and lib/lab.

      Point still made, Lib/Lab lost the election equally.

      report
    9. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      34% in primaries yes - admittedly only in a couple of polling stations but still second ahead of the Coalition. Not enough overall to win the local seat but hardly a fringe party!

      report
    10. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      My colleague Stephen Brown who co-authored an article on the famous Cunningham by election that was won by a Green argues that Greens are basically well educated and affluent which is why they are concentrated in Austenmer and Thirroul in the Illawarra. Certainly poorer areas are much more likely to support Labor. The Greens are definitely well heeled.

      report
    11. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      "Austenmer and Thirroul"

      I wonder which one's Ratbag Town and which is Outsiderville?

      Actually, Coledale returned a higher percentage of Green votes than Austi. We're going to need another name...

      report
    12. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Well heeled apart from students and those under 21 who aren't well heeled at all. The interesting thing in Melbourne is just how well the Greens poll in 'well-heeled' electorates, if this continues they'll be a threat to both factions of Liberal-ALP in those seats

      report
    13. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Thirroul and Austenmer are now considered affluent? I must check the latest ABS data because last time I looked....

      report
    14. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      FYI that doesn't really matter. The stereotypical artsy/uni suburbs are usually Greens strong holds, true, but every man and his dog knows that artists and students are usually quite poor. Even with million dollar price tags on housing the median income of a suburb can be well below the national median, and/or equivalent to "blue collar" and "high unemployment" suburbs. Some greens-dominated suburbs are like that. And their voters don't always own, or live in said expensive houses....or work as middle class professionals on six figure salaries.

      report
    15. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      Have you checked house prices in those areas? Even Bulli is now expensive. Yes these areas attract middle class professionals from Sydney often of a Green hue. These northern areas are quite different from the rest of Wollongong. The further south you go, with certain exceptions, the more Labor the area is. The other interesting thing is that Greens are not only often well off, they also tend to be Anglo. Certainly ethnic Wollongong does not vote Green. I went though the list of Green candidates at the last NSW state elections and found them to be overwhelmingly Anglo, even in the Western suburbs. Found one or two Arab women but no other ethnic names. This was odd as both the Liberals and Labor ran a lot of ethnic candidates. The Greens may be the last bastion of Anglo Australia.

      report
    16. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      Artsy types, students, lecturers, tradies, software engineers, nurses, teachers, architects, lawyers... all Greens voters. Honestly I suspect if we took a poll we'd find the "ratbags and outsiders" in the majority!

      report
    17. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Without discounting the huge amounts of ethnocentrism and indeed, racism, still present in contemporary Australian politics, I would like to point out of few flaws in your arguments.

      First of all, people don't always vote for the person who has the same background as they do. It tends to help but I wouldn't suggest it as a pre-requisite. After all, we do have a political system that is still predominately male and anglo-saxon, and indeed, christian, in it's representation and power base despite…

      Read more
    18. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      I wonder how 'ratbag' and 'outsider' is really being defined here? We can make all sorts of assumptions about that. Scruffy hippy types?

      I dunno. What's your in-group? If someone doesn't fit it, they are the outsider. So maybe the author is an outsider to greens voters and maybe a bit of a ratbag for implying what ratbags and outsiders are...

      You know there are people of all walks that vote differently. I've known tradies that voted Lib. Labor. Green. Donkey. Pirate. What matters to you? Who is telling the story? Which candidate does the person relate to? People swing. Just cause there's a percentage pattern don't mean it's the same people doing it every time...and so on.

      report
    19. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Correct me if I'm wrong here but I didn't think Hungarian was Anglo.

      report
  3. Roger Lamb

    logged in via Twitter

    The Greens may not become a major party, but they will not vanish either. This is because the green movement which the Australian Greens represent locally is an international movement - which is not leaving town soon, especially as environmental problems become more obvious and more clearly damaging even to short term interests. Settle in for a long spell of The Greens.

    report
  4. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    Idealistic rather than realistic sums up Greens supporters. They have a weltanschaaung which makes people who like "The Sound of Music" seem like hard-headed pragmatists.
    An inability to understand the motivations of people, economic illiteracy, living in an area with very few trees and a high salary, or lots of trees and a very low salary, an iPad, an iPhone or at least three of three of these if accompanied by incurable romanticism and a desire to pass laws against any disagreement seems to sum up most Green voters.
    Let me know if you fall outside these categories.
    I will apologise.

    report
    1. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Philip, you talk about being idealistic as if it's a character flaw. If fighting for what you believe in is somehow less valuable that fighting for what you are paid to believe or what the focus groups tell you to believe in in then we are truly in a sorry state.

      Perhaps you can expand on how Greens fail to understand the motivations of people.

      report
    2. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to John Carney

      Philip's line about the Greens is very effective. It's the party line trotted out by each faction of Liberal-ALP and it works very well as most people are happy to accept these assertions at face value without ever reading any Greens policy for themselves. Philip only forgot the line about pixies at the bottom of the garden and it sounds like either the ALP party line or singing from the Alan Jones hymn sheet.

      report
    3. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Michael Block

      Well, to give a concrete example in support of Philip - if now is not a good time to return the budget to surplus - when the economy is strong - when would be? Or does it not matter?

      report
    4. John Carney

      Web Developer

      In reply to James Jenkin

      How is this question relevant? Not dismissing your question, mind you, I just fail to see the connection.

      report
    5. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, alternatively we can reframe the question, "given the finite nature of the resources boom, if now is not a good time to use fiscal policy to invest in a 21st Century transport, energy and health infrastructure, when would be? Or does it not matter and let's just leave it to the markets to determine given their track record so far.

      report
    6. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to John Carney

      Both branches of Liberal-ALP are obsessed with a budget surplus, to what end? It certainly benefits the macroeconomic picture but adds little material advantage to the lives of ordinary citizens and is no investment in the future whatsoever. An alternative to racking up an impressive deficit would be to increase taxes on the only wealth generating part of the economy at the moment and invest the money in physical and human infrastructure that provides immediate and future benefit for all. This doesn't mean enormous deficits or public debts if we increase taxes selectively on the mining industry.

      report
    7. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Michael Block

      Advantage of a budget surplus? Ask a Greek pensioner.

      report
    8. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Mathew Carter

      I did indeed. Thank you for correcting me.

      report
    9. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Another strawman Philip, as if the only alternatives are between a huge unsustainable deficit and a surplus. What is responsible about accumulating a ever increasing surplus and tolerating a degraded public infrastructure? Clearly there's a market failure here as the private sector hasn't jumped in and fixed it.

      report
    10. Craig Somerton

      IT Professional

      In reply to Michael Block

      Market failures? Surely not!

      I was led to believe that markets were rational, informed, efficient and infallible. If I listen to the economic rationalists, we should open every industry to privatised market forces because governments are inefficient and can't be trusted.

      Yes, the free market and privatisation works wondrously; except of course if you're a car manufacturer and need government handouts, or a miner and need rail or port infrastructure and subsidies, or perhaps a bank who has…

      Read more
    11. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Incidentally nobody seems to be able to tell me how much of the European public debt is accounted for by the public bailout of the prolonged private debt binge that led to GFC Pt 1.

      report
    12. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Michael Block

      If someone actually knows the answer to this question I'd be interested to hear it too. I suppose it depends on which model you are using and the compatibility of data.

      Uhm, there was a guy from the UK who spoke at OccupyLondon/LondonSX who is a former investment banker and he may have commented on that in his video.....Simon Dixon. There appears to be more than one YouTube video up about that.

      report
    13. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      "You dirty commie-nazi Green voter!"

      Too many threads Emma - I thought you were referring to me.

      Has anyone sourced me a composting toilet yet? I'm really not kidding.

      report
    14. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Compliance and regulations, Peter - compliance and regulations.

      Having said that, despite my decades of experience with composting, it's not an area I'd be totally game to go DIY on. The neighbours ain't that far downwind and I'm all too aware how bad stuff can stink if something goes wrong.

      (Mind you - the worst-ever stinky thing I've done was in a science lab. Funny story for another time. Google "butyric acid").

      report
    15. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      But thanks anyway for the link - looks like an interesting site.

      report
    16. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      That's legend Peter I'd never even heard of the things before Lorna mentioned it earlier...will look at the idea

      Lorna maybe I was/ take it as a compliment. I'm not big on the L/R BS but I am rather sick of the misdirection that goes on. At least the Greens have policies (stupid or not)....instead of core and non core promises. So I sometimes make a little joke here and there to let off some steam.

      report
    17. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      Emma, I'm delighted to have brought the concept of composting toilets to your attention - my evening has not been wasted! Seriously. I'm frequently facetious but not in this instance.

      For the record, I prefer "soil-enhanced" to "dirty", but I'll cheerfully admit to being, as Peter so perceptively put it, a "lazy bugger".

      While we're still vaguely on the important topic of fecal matter, I'd like to point out a book written by another UOW academic. I liked it anyway:

      http://books.google.com.au/books?id=xc9-AAAAMAAJ&q=feed+or+feedback+book&dq=feed+or+feedback+book&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dUuNT_ynH4LeigfcsM32DA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA

      report
    18. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Fecal matter IS important, regardless of if it's coming out of someone's mouth or the usual.

      I read that article Peter posted immediately, and I must say, how very retro. I seem to recall this being the modus operandus in the traditional outhouse era.

      Nonetheless it's rather impractical in my current circumstances, but when these change, I will be looking to automate the concept in some fashion. You know, without feeding the fishes.

      After all, like you, I am a "lazy bugger". Why write letters? Got email!

      Gah! And there is no google e-book currently available for that one...Gutenberg? Torrentz?

      report
    19. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      One of the central concepts in Duncan Brown's book was the physical movement of nutrients (in food and later in feces) from one part of the biosphere to another. In the hunter-gather days, people deposited their nutrients on the land they'd collected them form. These days, nutrients travel from farm soil into cities, whence they must be disposed of - as you say - into the sea.

      Obviously, something has to close the loop so fertilisers have to be applied to farmland. One big fat deal is phosphorus…

      Read more
    20. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Sorry if that was tasteless. I thought it was hilarious but not everyone appreciates toilet humour...

      report
    21. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      I know we are drifting well off-topic here but in another sense perhaps not. Yesterday's ratbag is tomorrow's mainstream thinker. Like the ratbag notion of the Fair Go and Arbitration or votes for women.

      The only newspapers I now read cover to cover are The Land and the local bush weekly. This week's edition carries the story of a local old bloke who'd been advised to put 5 bags of double super per acre onto his paddocks for years. Initially the results were astounding... the grass exploded…

      Read more
  5. Craig Somerton

    IT Professional

    So the argument is that; people who don't want to see our society sold-off wholesale to private hands are outsiders?

    Those willing to fight for accessible healthcare, dental services, education and workers rights are evidently part of a lunatic fringe?

    That people who care about the long-term sustainability of our environment for future generations are extremists, or alarmists intent on destroying jobs?

    What about those who yearn for a more egalitarian society or who don't want to be…

    Read more
    1. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Craig Somerton

      FYI This comment is EXACTLY what I meant earlier about people going green over perceived or actual issues with integrity.

      I have heard this time and time again. And recently, from former hardcore ALP and Lib voters too. "Surely anything is better than the BS we're getting now" the one difference is Craig, you're saying you have voted Greens for 15 years. Outside of that, same sentiment....

      report
  6. Michael Block

    Idler

    Gregory I've been thinking some more about your article and I think that you've missed an important point. Whilst Bob Brown is undeniably a charismatic leader and the clearly identified public face of the Greens, the Greens differ from the other parties in primarily being a party of ideas. I found this quote helpful in understanding the power in this:
    “We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught. He can be killed and forgotten. But four hundred years later…

    Read more
  7. Gideon Polya

    Sessional Lecturer in Biochemistry for Agricultural Science at La Trobe University

    A seriously flawed analysis at the core of which are the assertions "Their appeal is necessarily limited because the sort of constituency that they attract are those who do not like politics as practised by the major parties. They are the natural home for outsiders and ratbags. In this sense they are an “anti-political” political party. This means that their appeal cannot rise much beyond 15% of the electorate.Hence they are very attractive to many young people who have problems with the major parties…

    Read more
    1. John Bennetts

      Engineer

      In reply to Gideon Polya

      Very positive, Gideon P, but there are still some policies which are at the heart of Green philosophy which I find difficult to agree with.

      I'll only mention one, but it is going to count more and more against the Greens as climate change continues to bite and the urgency builds.

      Unintelligently stated, 1970's style antinuclear policy which is accepted as a matter of faith has no room in a carbon-damaged yet still energy poor world, yet the Greens have shown no tendency of which I am aware…

      Read more
    2. Katrin Steinack

      Research Manager at The University of Melbourne

      In reply to John Bennetts

      John, I don't think your arguments on the Green's "1970's style antinuclear policy" hold ground - in particular when referring to "the very expensive failed experiment of the Germans". According to a report released by by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,783314,00.html), renewables accounted for fully 20.8 percent of Germany's energy production during the first six months of 2011. The change to renweables has created (and continues…

      Read more
    3. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to John Bennetts

      John, put aside for another day the question of whether nuclear power has a practical role to play in reducing emissions, I find it interesting that on the basis of this single area of policy disagreement you would discount the Greens. I assume that there are also areas of major disagreement that you have with the business as usual parties, do you also discount them as well on the same basis?

      report
    4. John Bennetts

      Engineer

      In reply to Katrin Steinack

      The Germans are going backwards fast regarding coal usage and their off-shore wind projects are horribly late and devoid of access to the network due to lack of transmission. Their experience with green power has been an expensive failure.

      report
    5. John Bennetts

      Engineer

      In reply to Michael Block

      I expected more from the Greens, so my disappointment in their failures regarding energy policy is deeper. Note that I am not praising any of the other three recognisable parties in federal government.

      Australia's inability to implement an effective climate change response is scandalous. As one of the world's richest nations we remain at the top of the table of carbon emitters. If Australians cannot get on top of this issue, there can be no hope for the world as a whole, yet the Greens, the…

      Read more
    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Bennetts

      Double or nothing John? Still reckon there's a free ride out there somewhere . coal, gas, oil, atoms ... something to leave us "working" at a desk, driving our cars and having our kiwifruit flown in from Peru. No problem too great, no risk too much... nothing that can't be solved by a bit of concrete and somewhere to dump the waste.

      The other night on TV I watched a farmer up in Queensland pumping water out of the Great Artesian Basin from 1.2 kms down. I say pumping but the stuff was spewing out under its own significant pressure. He was complaining that the water that was spattering and hissing out of his pipe was too hot for anything immediately useful at 97 degrees C.

      Can one of you geological or engineering types tell me why on earth we are having such trouble with developing geothermal power in this country when we have this sort of business happening under our feet. What's the problem?

      report
    7. Roger Lamb

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Bennetts

      Re John Bennetts' earlier: "...the Greens have shown no tendency of which I am aware to encourage debate and rational consideration of the only technology which has been shown to safely reduce national carbon emissions (France)."

      Debate and rational consideration of any topic is what we should all be about, of course. And, could be, the Greens have not exhibited the tendency with respect to nuclear technology. I suppose many of them, myself included, have had discussions, read hopefully relevant literature, and come to their/our own conclusions. As, evidently, has John.

      But that's not to say there shouldn't be a wide public discussion. I expect there should be.

      All participants would have to realise at the outset that there are strong things that can be said - for and against - on each side of the debate. Otherwise rational people are to be found on both sides. Annoying, perhaps, but a fact - and an ethically special sort of fact at that.

      report
    8. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to John Bennetts

      It's odd that you hold the Greens to a different standard than the ALP-Liberal Party. Wahtever path we take to 21st century energy infrastructure, it's unlikely that we can put all our eggs in 1 basket, whether PV, CST or nuclear. In any case with no nuclear energy industry or infrastructure in this country, even if Greens were enthusiastic supporters, it would take a generation to get up and running at the scale required. In the meantime we should do nothing just because you don't like the Greens opposition to nuclear power? If you leave it to Lib-ALP we will do nothing other than 'business as usual'.

      report
    9. John Bennetts

      Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I've had a few comments here and been received civilly. Better make this my last for this thread.

      Water may indeed be warm as it exits the Great Artesian Basin. Not warm enough to drive a steam turbine and not in sufficient volumes for a commercial water turbine. So what?

      The hot rocks action was aimed at rock well above 200 degrees C. Several corporations have tried and failed, along the way consuming close to a billion $A of private money and a similar amount of our public money. Further…

      Read more
    10. Michael Block

      Idler

      In reply to John Bennetts

      ...well apart from supplying 20% of their power requirements it's been a terrible failure! So terrible that they plan to be major investors in Desertec.

      report
    11. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Gideon Polya

      Gideon,
      I note that you describe yourself as a cessional lecturer. I have heard of a sessional lecturer.
      I note that you have used this moniker/ role/title on a number of blogs.
      I must admit admit my ignorance.
      Is a cessional lecturer one employed or allied with Prince Leonard of the Hutt River principality.
      http://www.principality-hutt-river.com
      Are you funded by Prince Leonard, and if a new declaration of war happens, on whose side do the loyalties of a cessional lecturer lie?
      http://www.hutt-river.org/history.htm

      report
    12. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Bennetts

      Thanks Jeff,

      My understanding of geothermal design was that they are closed systems - ie don't rely on a large volume of water but employ a "closed loop". I would have thought that water emerging from the ground at minimal pressure just under boiling was suggesting a rather interesting potential source of baseload power myself. But I don't know enough to realise how silly that obvious idea might be.

      report
    13. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Phillip - that's your best response to an excellent argument?

      We'll take it then, that you have nothing of substance to refute anything Gideon has actually said.

      report
    14. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Michael Block

      Not to mention some of the flaws in contemporary economic thinking which suggest that if it's not profitable yesterday there's no point in making the investment today. i.e. quick bucks do not maketh sound investments.

      For example, let's look at our now arch-enemy, fossil fuels. Before the the industrial revolution, if you said to somebody that using anything other than a horse and cart was worth investing in, they'd probably laugh at you. "My goodness me, so we have to dig up the coal, then…

      Read more
    15. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      This is going to sound really dumb to someone who actually knows what they're talking about, but I do ask this as a serious question. Why does the temperature matter?

      I understand that turbine systems rely on water pressure, and if the artesian water comes up under high pressure anyway, then surely even old tech watermill systems could harness the energy? Kind of like wind power only it's water...?

      report
    16. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      I've done a bit of work with solar thermal systems and I would have thought that even 97 degreeC was a rather handy temperature especially if one could play with the pressure a bit. Just seems a strange idea to just leave the stuff to cool down before giving it to the cattle.

      We need to find a few people who don't realise it's completely impossible. Seems a lot of inventions come from people who haven't had the benefit of being taught what cannot be done.

      report
    17. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'd tend to agree, Peter.

      I'm reminded of childhood images of North Sea oil platforms, with the flares burning off gas. I think since then they've found ways of collecting the gas - and I'm willing to be they regret all that gas they allowed to go up in smoke.

      report
    18. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I was asking more from a technical point of view, ie. making the darn thing work.

      But you raise an interesting point. If we're going to dredge the Artesian we might as well maximise what we use with it. Let's be honest here, though....is Australia, ecologically speaking, even a good place to raise cattle? Cotton? Corn? Rice? Maybe if we grew more sustainable crops we'd need to drain less of the Artesian than we already do. On the other hand, a pump in the ground might cause less damage…

      Read more
    19. Philip Wakeham

      Storeman

      In reply to Gideon Polya

      Gideon, like many people you are making the same mistake of lumping the Labor party in with the Liberals. Rest assured that there is a real difference. As a blue collar worker who had to deal with Workchoices I can attest to that. I like what the Greens stand for too. I agree that we are hamstrung in addressing climate change by fossil fuel interests clambering to maintain the status quo. All the while our land is slowly sinking beneath the waves like the Titanic. Perhaps we should build a replica of it to remind ourselves of our own foolishness. Heaven forbid we spend our money on one of these newfangled solar power stations, or giant wind turbines, or very fast trains, or hospitals, or schools...

      report
  8. Greg Horgan

    The Bush Philosopher

    I think this is a rather narrow minded view about what may or may not happen. I think you underestimate the change that is taking place at grass roots levels. For almost a century now there has been an unchallenged view - pushed by political commentators and the media - that there are only two choices.
    I think the time is close when the tipping point will be reached and then there will be three and given the Greens consistent message and future focus, you might just find that they will be that…

    Read more
    1. Philip Wakeham

      Storeman

      In reply to Greg Horgan

      Greg, these are indeed admirable thoughts. However, there is a problem with the Greens becoming a major third force in Australian politics. They will take by far the majority of their votes from the Labor party. As much as many try to tar them with the same brush as the LNP, there is a massive difference, believe me. Don't get me wrong though, I like what the Greens stand for too.

      report
  9. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    Two points:
    The policies of governing political parties, worldwide move to the centre leaving room at the edges for 15% parties. There's less politics needed in the 21st century in developed nations (except the US) because so many issues have been dealt with.
    The New Zealand Greens weathered the sudden death of one leader, Rod Donald, and the retirement of the second. (The NZ Greens have two leaders male and female- it works)
    And right now they have well over 10% of the NZ public's support.

    report
  10. Alexander James Turnbull

    Student

    wow its not a good look when you can find more intelligent analysis from Marxist Left review, than a peer reviewed academic. an elementary. article at best.

    report
  11. Dan Cass

    Lobbyist for the forces of good at Dan Cass & Co

    Greg should be congratulated for not repeating his slur that the Greens are like Nazis [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/the-rise-of-the-green-wowser/story-e6frgd0x-1226076657891].

    However I question his motive for not conforming to Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies.

    Ultra-conservative relativists like Greg have said scandalous things about Bob Brown, but now he has left the leadership, they are suddenly contradicting themselves and raising him up as a hero.

    This instant…

    Read more
    1. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Dan Cass

      Dan,
      I thought that the purpose of The Conversation was to engage in rigorous discussion of the issues of the day not to use it as a medium for ad hominem abuse. Does this mean that I can expect another phone call from you?

      Greg

      report
    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      So, Dan's factually-based, referenced critical comments were 'ad hominem abuse', while your rather far-fetched analogies between Nazi eugenicists and the Greens, made without any substantial evidence, were somehow rational?

      report
    3. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I would just point out that the review to which Dan refers was written by someone who is neither a political scientist nor an historian,ie has no real expertise in the area, and was particularly nasty. Anyone who has ideas that are different gets used to such things as an occupational hazard. But to call opinions expressed in a review as 'factually based' is simply wrong. You can judge the evidence from my other article and we may disagree in good faith. But in any debate or discussion it is important that we separate the person from the argument.

      report
    4. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Strewth Greg,

      Are you actually suggesting that the only people capable of commenting on your ideas have to be members of the arcane brotherhood of historians? Talk about playing the man. Did he get it wrong? If so, it should be easy for a fella steeped in political science or history to set him straight. But that's not what you are saying.

      One of the excellent things about the Conversation is that it takes ideas out of the journals and libraries and puts them up on show where even humble orchardists like myself can have a think about them ... the court of public opinion if you like. It breaches the walls of the ivory towers.

      And Greg, your testimony - both evidence and conclusions - on this matter is - as a beak would say - unreliable.

      report
    5. Dan Cass

      Lobbyist for the forces of good at Dan Cass & Co

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, to be fair to Greg, he did refrain from making the 'greens are nazis' slur this time (or it was edited out by The Conversation?).

      Your substantive point is important; The Conversation is lifting the quality of debate, from all participants.

      Someone like Greg seems to feel the need to maintain a higher quality of evidence here than he would use in the Australian or Quadrant, where the editors would encourage him to fabricate history, to bash whatever 'culture wars' target is in vogue at the time.

      I find Greg's values unpleasant, but it is interesting to have conservatives take the Greens and environmental issues seriously for a change.

      report
    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Greg, that review was critical, but it was not unreasoned or nasty, being based on an analysis of your text. Dan offered that review and also invited readers to make their own judgement of your published material from 'The Australian'. This is at least some kind of evidence, whereas your commentrs in The Australian article were intemperate and indeed nasty and were not supported by a scrap of anything even vaguely resembling evidence.

      report
    7. Megan Clement

      Deputy Editor, Politics + Society at The Conversation

      In reply to Dan Cass

      Hi Dan,

      Just to let you know, we did not remove any statements about the Greens and Nazis during the editing process.

      Best wishes,
      Megan

      report
    8. adrian dodd

      Communications

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Bahaha. "Neither a political scientist nor a historian". Are these the only people who can read? You really do fulfil the position of "academic" - not relevant don't you. I'm with the other commenters who believe you to be hypocritical and refusing to stand by your previous ridiculousness.

      report
    9. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I'm happy to let people read my book and the review and then draw their own conclusions. That's what rational people do. However you should not draw any conclusions if you have not read both.
      There is little opportunity in an 800 word article to present a lot of evidence. You found no evidence because you did not like the argument. All I can point out is that I have been teaching about Nazi Germany for many years and I do have a fair knowledge of the topic. The same is true of Australian politics. I can draw my conclusions and if you disagree that's fine with me.

      report
    10. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to Dan Cass

      Dan,
      Please do not abuse the editors of journals and newspapers. That is not how rational discussion is conducted. I find that it is how one behaves, not their opinions, that demonstrates their character.

      report
    11. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Peter Staudenmaier and Janet Biehl's 'Ecofscism: Lessons from the German Experience' has been around for years. You'd be aware of it, for sure. They conclude that the mixture of nationalism, issues of personal and national identity and 'homeland' constructions of 'nature' can provide a pretty volatile crucible within which latent fascist tendencies can arise. That conclusion, however, is very far from your tarring The Greens with the ecofascist brush on the intellectually sloppy basis that because…

      Read more
    12. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Gregory

      Fair point but I don't think abusing anyone is rational discussion. Nor is appealing to authority. Yes, I would consult a geneticist if I had a question about genetics, and so on. But we also live in an information age and there are plenty of dunny cleaners who have a great deal more insight into Australian politics than a lot of the hogwash I've seen journalists pump out these days. Not saying yours fits that bill, as I am not familiar with your writing, but I am making a more general point about the state of the industry/profession, and the importance of applying all the rules of logic and not being to choosy about that. Feel free to have a go at my fallacies by firing at will.

      report
    13. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      Brain fart - what I should have realised is I've only read this article of yours, Mr Melluish. And yes I have some issues with it pointed out elsewhere. Anyway you get my point about appealing to authority and all that.

      report
    14. Timothy Wong

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      In which case the Eco fascist party on the political landscape is Bob Katter's Australian Party.

      Nationalistic autarchy, White Christian social conservatism, blood and soil.

      report
    15. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Timothy Wong

      I think that is right Timothy. Watch that space and, personally, watch out for people singing 'The Ballad of Lambing Flat' coz they're still out there.

      report
  12. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    Oh dear... so history runs on little rails does it ... what was always will be... nothing changes?

    This notion that we have a two party system and the odd "ratbag" disenfranchised fringe party bubbling along at 15% being outraged isn't just silly it's plain wrong factually.

    A swamp of conservative parties before Menzies... free traders, protectionists, even some proper liberals, the DLP, the Nats in their various identities, the Democrats (who perhaps alone fit the author's characterisation…

    Read more
  13. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thanks to Dan Cass for placing this author and article in perspective. I always react with scepticism when people start to disparage "ratbags and outsiders" because there is a long and honourable tradition of ratbaggery and outsiderism in Australia. My own family members were ratbag enough to think they could make a decent life here; they did so as members of the IWW, homosexuals, pacifists turned decorated servicemen, equal pay campaigners, feminists, unionists and environmental campaigners…

    Read more
    1. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      I've long aspired to become a ratbag. Does this mean I've made it?

      report
    2. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Phillip, I see when you have nothing of substance to say, you attack peoples' typos. Can you stop please, it's boring us all rigid.

      report
    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      I think Mr Nolan meant the wobblies... the International Workers of the World ... a deeply subversive outfit of socialists and anarchists from the early 1900's on ... still about a bit apparently. The forces of decency and greed gave them a serious hammering via the private armies of Pinkertons and gangsters that were employed as industrial relations consultants in the steel plants and mines of the US of A. Taught Peter Reith everything he knew.

      Woodie Guthrie was an enthusiast - as was Warren Beatty in the flick "Reds" when he pretended to be John Reed

      Either that or these Nolans were members of Italian Women Writers - which is unlikely given the typos and the surname.

      report
    4. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Ratbags tend to be self defining Lorna. However, public support for The Greens will be sufficient until you launch out on your own project.

      I've a fondness for gardening ratbags myself including Peter Cundall (militant gardener, household name, environmental activist, communist electoral candidate) who has been replaced on Gardening Australia by another ratbag of such appearance and manner that many people would decline to get into a taxi driven by him. Australia, where immigrant ratbags flourish amidst the veggie patch! Clearly, we're on a roll.

      report
    5. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      As an immigrant from the frozen Far North (like Peter Cundall), I don't think it's hard to see why ratbags would be magnetically attracted to gardening in Australia. Where I was born, gardeners rarely have to wonder where to hang the bananas to ripen. Mostly they wonder what to do for the 6 months of the year when nothing sodding grows.

      report
    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      I'd reckon that attempting to garden in the arctic wastes of the UK ... squeezing through a six month window of opportunity ... is a perfect grounding in ratbaggery Lorna. Welcome to the club in this ratbag nation.

      On the wharves of the town I grew up in the wharfies would drop a line down through the timbers and hope they caught something small enough to be hauled up through the cracks. It was called "loony fishing". A truly noble tradition of ratbaggery.

      report
    7. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Ah, Lorna, then you should familiarise yourself with the advanced state of ratbag gardening in Havana and Cuba more generally where the collapse of the USSR broke their dependence on oil and reinvigorated the use of bullock drawn ploughs. Their are many honourable pathways to ratbaggery including Ormonde's deviant fishing.

      report
    8. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      "you should familiarise yourself with the advanced state of ratbag gardening in Havana and Cuba" - I found out about that a few years ago. Inspiring stuff! I understood it had a lot to do with actual food imports from USSR - and that fresh fruit and veggie intakes rose dramatically due to the gardens.

      I planted the odd subversive garden in the Frozen North before I left. It's just a hell of a lot more fun in this climate!

      report
    9. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Good heavens. A guerilla gardener on her way to a PhD! Watch out or the AFP will be knocking on your door. Your Ratbag Certificate is in the mail.

      report
    10. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Thanks Peter and Anthony!

      Can't help wondering now - what if the "ratbags and outsiders" actually outnumbered the rest? Did I mention that the Greens polled 34% and came in second in a location not a million miles from Professor Melleuish's place of work - one well-known for having lots of trees, high incomes and a significant proportion of the population employed in education.

      34%.

      Ahead of the Coalition.

      That's either one serious ratbag anomoly or the Greens are starting to be recognised as a centre-Left party (thanks to the ALP shifting Right and leaving that spot vacant) with progressive policies and a social conscience.

      report
    11. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Shhh! Don't use your real name if you're not going to do something other than worship at the altar of the money gods. Shame on you for spending time thinking, instead of just spending...

      report
    12. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Emma Anderson

      "Shame on you for spending time thinking, instead of just spending..."

      They're going to have to fatten up the APA significantly if they want me to do any spending :)

      Not that I don't ever buy anything. If anyone's got a composting toilet for sale I'm your woman. Ratbag indeed!

      report
    13. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "a deeply subversive outfit of socialists and anarchists"

      Wow - sounds like some peoples' idea of the Greens!

      report
    14. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      It's rather ironic that the cult of the convict and the bushranger is upheld as almost heroic while attempts at challenging the status quo (and all it's very well evidenced pit falls) are considered rat baggery and outsiderism.

      As I recall, Ned Kelly wasn't just a murderer and thief, in his mind he was responding to actual discrimination - religious and classism directed at his family - in his era. Yet if non murderers and non thieves attempted to do the same thing now, we'd be all like "that ratbag! that outsider! pish posh, we're egalitarian mate'

      `end income management in the northern territory` `bridge the gap` `let's celebrate MABO day`

      I wonder how much ire I'll get for saying that...

      report
  14. David Leigh

    logged in via Facebook

    I feel this analysis reflects the views of the Liberal party, as portrayed by Mitch Fifield on the Murdock News Channel this morning. It is almost scripted word for word and I am just waiting for Tony Abbott to echo the same message across the media on the evening news. I am not sure if the article was sent to Liberal headquarters for vetting first or that Mitch Fifield read The Conversation before commenting this morning. Either way, the article is a loose interpretation at best and a total misreading…

    Read more
  15. Rob Crowther

    Architectural Draftsman

    Here is a reason why people might be attracted to the greens.

    The ANZ lifted rates.
    Robb said good on the ANZ, its the Governments fault.
    Abbott came out against his minster, whooooooooooooooo, conflict, whoa.

    Not really.

    It’s a stunt. The now the media are going to jump on that. They get double air time to say the same thing.

    The greens do not do that.

    report