Australasia first step in Greens going global
It’s a dirty word amongst most Green supporters.
But globalisation, of democracy, is essential if global climate action is to have the best chance of averting ruinous greenhouse gas concentrations.
Back in 2003, Green Party Senator Bob Brown moved:
That the Senate supports global democracy based on the principle of ‘one person, one vote, one value’; and supports the vision of a global parliament which empowers all the world’s people equally to decide on matters of international significance.
‘One value’ refers to monitory democracy, whereby voters get to do a little more that dutifully choose between lists of candidates decided upon by political parties, or their corporate backers.
Amalgamating the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Australian Greens would make a more durable statement than Senator Brown’s gesture in the senate, but the name would need a little work. For the purpose of this discussion, it will be Australia–Aotearoa Green Party.
Aside from sporting rivalries, Australia and Aotearoa have an abysmal record of ignoring each other’s affairs. By linking the Green parties, the media would be drawn in to making comparisons. For example, at the last Australian federal election, the Greens polled 13% of the vote, compared with 6.72% in Aotearoa, two years before. But thanks to Aotearoa’s fully proportional system, 6.72% of the vote yielded nine seats, compared with a miserly one federal seat in Australia.
Having said that, Aotearoa’s Greens short-changed themselves. Many supporters of minor parties use the party vote to express a preference for Labour or National, failing to notice they have totally failed to support their first preference. Excluding marginal seats and those with female or high profile major party candidates, Green voters gave away more than 12% of their party vote. In some electorates the percentage is much higher—in Rodney, at most, only 68% of those who voted for David Hay voted for the Green Party.
Curiously bucking that trend is Sue Kedgley, who was supported by 2523 fewer people than voted for the Greens in Wellington Central.
Regardless, the percentage of folk voting Green is but a fraction of the 45.8% who accept climate science—less than 15% of ’em. And although the Green Party is the obvious climate action standardbearer, it appears doubtful that it is willing or able to reinvent itself as such. Despite co-hosting Dr James Hansen’s tour in May, for example, there has been no reappraisal of the role of nuclear power.
In contrast, championing green growth, newly launched Pure Advantage in two weeks has already equalled the Green Party’s membership. This will stick in the craw of those wedded to the dogma that all growth is bad, but the reality is that there is a great deal of work to be done developing and implementing new technologies: The great green technological transformation.
Rather than drag Green parties kicking and screaming, it may be more productive for progressives globally to launch a ‘Global Climate Action’ party to contest national elections and drive the establishment of an international parliament. As it stands, the Green Party of Aotearoa is undecided as to whether it even wishes to govern. The Australian Greens have no such qualms, having helped drive through a carbon tax. Some analysts consider the tax will lose Labor the next election. If the tax is passed and Labor does lose, its likely that it will have been more to do with Prime Minister Gillard and Labor’s unprecedented unpopularity, than with its climate action. Either way, the more time that passes, the more evident it is that Dr Hansen was correct in his contention that fee and dividend is the only approach that voters will find palatable. The latest polling however suggests that ignorance of a less punitive option is bliss.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that many in the party believe the only honourable role for Greens is one of opposition. The public’s opinion of party politics is low—only about one person in five trusts political parties. And while a party no doubt thinks of itself as highly principled, the Greens lacked the integrity to support the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, because it is was National Party initiative.
This ritualised opposition for the sake of nobbling the other party is a throwback from the days of loyal oppositions. Few, other than those participating in the childish charade, are impressed by it. It is imperative that party politics is transformed into a collaborative activity. The competition at election time can be about increasing the party vote on the back of good work done in the previous term. Not, ‘they made a pig’s ear of it, we would never be that bad!’
In wartime, grand coalitions are enthusiastically embraced by the voters. Less than 1° of global warming, and overpopulation, is witness to one in seven going hungry and 11 million under-fives dying each year in developing countries. Even with rapid action on both fronts, the scale of death and destruction will likely overshadow the World Wars, which were finite in duration.
But the grandchildren of today’s voters and non-voters won’t easily forgive their grandparents, who like World War Two deniers of genocide, claimed to have not really understood what was happening—all too easy to watch those nightly images from East Africa, where 12 million face starvation, get a good night’s kip before losing one’s self in another day of business as usual.
Polling 6.8% to the Prime Minister’s 52.4%, Phil Goff cannot plausibly lead Labour to victory in the few months remaining until the election. As unpalatable as it might be to party politicians of other persuasions, National’s dream run is all to do with Prime Minister Key being seen as other than a politician. If after thumping Labour again in November he were to offer to include it in a coalition government, the cheering would rival the Rugby World Cup. Without recruiting non-politician leaders of their own, rival parties will remain on the sideline until Key retires of his own volition.
Leadership is but one requisite of decisive climate action. Another is involvement. Here, much can be learnt from California, that hotbed of citizen-initiated referenda. Despite Californians’ propensity to misuse referenda, including to bully homosexuals, the state is a standout regarding its reduction in energy consumption. And this can’t all be down to that other non-politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Californians are engaged in their democracy.
Meantime, along with the election of representatives in November, a two-part referendum on Aotearoa’s mixed member proportional voting system will take place. While it might appear progressive to review the voting system, the referendum is primarily a reaction to a litany of dishonourable behaviour of politicians. Not that the system is perfect; as mentioned earlier, voters struggle to appreciate that, other than in a few electorates such as Epsom, the only vote that affects the makeup of parliament is the party vote—the electorate vote serves as a dangerous distraction. Hopefully, for the progress of democracy, the system will be given a tune-up, rather than be ditched—none of the alternatives is remotely as faithful in ensuring the parties receive their correct proportion of seats. Ironically, the tune-up promised, if the system is retained, is not one of the referendum options.
Aside from the patent need to provide for preferential voting, and the need for referenda to determine broad brushstroke policy, much can be done to clean up party politics: Public campaign funding, direct election of prime minister and key ministries, the optional of ranking party lists, to name but a few. However, the greatest change needed is cultural. Folk immersed in the system generally fail to appreciate how utterly unconvincing it is to young people. And without the involvement of young people who tend to comprehend global warming far more readily than older people—the folk who vote—politicians will struggle to find support for significant action. A society that raised the drinking and driving ages while lowering to 16 the age of enfranchisement would signal rather more enlightened values.
But the palpable failure of democratic countries, to date, is their putting nationalism ahead of democratic globalism. The failure of nations to take meaningful climate action—and emissions trading schemes do not constitute meaningful action—underlines the paucity of global democracy, in the face of bullying global corporations. If Albert Einstein had been heeded in respect to global government, the Cold War might have been averted. Humanity may not be as lucky second time around.
An Australia–Aotearoa Green Party would be a start.
Or a fresh party: Global Climate Action.