Labor – Green skirmish. A view from inner suburban caffelatte land.

It started with Paul Howe’s article in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph.  It has now snowballed into a full media storm. The great ALP-Green skirmish.

It is an interesting viewpoint from where I sit (or live).  I live in Northcote, which is your typical lefty inner suburban Melbourne lefty suburb.  Working class, and with plenty of migrants up to twenty years ago, but now almost all gentrified with mainly anglo tertiary educated professional people.

And the microcosm of my suburb, and of my municipality (Darebin) and my Federal Division (Batman) says a lot about the changes and subsequent friction that is occurring between the ALP and the Greens.

Northcote was Labor as Labor can be.  It was one of the safest seats in Australia for the Australian Labor Party, which has held the seat for all but six years since 1910. However, at the 2010 election the Greens overtook the Liberals on preferences and came second against Labor, reducing the seat to a “fairly safe” Labor seat. Just look at the swing to the Greens in the last Federal election:

This was partly due to the wave of Green votes in the south of the electorate (where Northcote is located).  Northcote is very similar in its housing and population to suburbs such as Brunswick and Fitzroy which are recognised as areas with the highest Green vote in Australia.

But the swing to the Greens was not uniform and the next table tells the story:

In inner city Northcote the Greens are doing really well, outpolling the ALP, but back in the more brick veneer north, in Preston  where you still have plenty of migrants and fruit trees and tomatoes in the backyards the ALP still reigns supreme (and the failure of the Greens to capture these voters is why they won’t replace the ALP. But that’s another story).

Here we have the dilemma of the ALP in a nutshell.  In the south the tertiary educated progressive voter (which in many cases is also quite affluent) who is concerned by climate, refugees, same sex marriage etc. has left the ALP.  While in the north you have people who most likely feel that these are peripheral issues, and perhaps they see the ALP dealing with them as a irrelevancy as they are more concerned with things such as electricity prices and pensions.  Also I may speculate that while I can’t see areas like Preston moving anywhere near the Coalition, this may be a different story in other parts of Australia.

Drag0nista made a very interesting observation that those who seems to think that the ALP needs to win progressive voters back off the Greens to win, are mistaken. They need to win back disaffected Labor voters who are parked with the Libs or others/independents.

If Drag0nista is correct, right wing strategists of the ALP may have decided that it is better to gain votes by distancing themselves from the Greens in middle suburbia than retaining them in the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.  Perhaps they have decided that if inner seats become Green it is a price to pay if the ALP gets votes elsewhere.  Because the first thing I got from Howe’s article was that he really didn’t ‘get’ the inner suburban Green voter.

If Howe thinks that by thinking the way he does in that article he is going to reclaim the green voter in the inner suburb he’s seriously mistaken.  The Green voter in the inner suburb is a different type of voter that was encountered before.  They have had enough of the ALP chasing the so called ‘Western Sydney Battler’ vote and feel abandoned.  While I thought that the Greens are wrong in not giving the Malaysian solution at least a go for a limited amount of time, they are politically right in not wavering from their position.  Remember when the Democrats made a deal with the Coalition to introduce the GST?  Arguably the GST was better for their changes, but it did really hurt them electorally.  I think that for some voters not voting for either major parties, with their inevitable compromises and policy changes gives them some sort of moral superiority, any compromise would be seen as a betrayal.

There are also two main weaknesses in Howe’s argument.  One is that he may rant against the Greens, but he fails to ask why the Greens have arisen in the first place.  Why did people who voted ALP, or were even members decided to go for the Greens?  I think the ALP needs to ask that question.

The other is that while he mentions the DLP, and Lang etc. these were internal splits in the Party. The Greens arose from a grassroot movement and as such it is a very different phenomenon, and one that due to this may have much more momentum.

Personally I have voted ALP and Greens in different elections and I will continue to do so.  I like and dislike aspects of both parties, but as a NVL (Never Vote Liberal) person I don’t have a lot of other choices if I actually want to cast a vote.  I just hope that we won’t witness long decades of the ALP and the Greens squabbling while the Coalition is in government.


Filed under Politics and Current Affairs

7 responses to “Labor – Green skirmish. A view from inner suburban caffelatte land.

  1. Alex

    Interesting analysis. Given that the Greens have only just overtaken the libs, how did the preferences split (you only put up the 2PP figures)?



  2. As much as I hope for the Greens to be pragmatic, I do believe there’s truth in your statement that they could suffer the fate of the Democrats were they to compromise their position. The Greens are different from the main 2 parties because they have a clear, articulated policy position on most issues. This gives them ideological strength, but it also robs them of flexibility – their policies are there for the world to see in black and white, and any breach would be there, in black and white.

    So for the same reason that they sometimes frustrate me, I have to admire them for being clear about where they stand. Can you say the same for either the Labor or Liberal parties?

  3. Alex

    Cantbeeffed, would you admire “ideological strength” on the part of an avowedly right-wing, anti-immigration, xenophobic fascist party?

    Being clear on where you stand is a great way of copping out from doing what’s needed to progress.

    • I probably would, people give lip service to Voltaire’s famous quote, few actually live it. Would you believe that, as a gay man, I have no problems with homophobia? As long as their views don’t impinge on my freedoms, I have no issue with it. Throughout my career I’ve worked with people who are homophobic. For the most part, it’s not an issue because it hasn’t affected the way they interact with me on a professional level. That’s all that counts. People don’t have to like me, they don’t have to be comfortable with my life, my views, my politics or anything else. As long as my interactions with them are constructive, it’s all fine. They are entitled to think and feel the way they do. As long as it doesn’t eventuate in adverse actions for others, what’s the harm?

      You know what I really loathe? When people pretend to be ‘cool’ about it. Homophobia has become unacceptable in the mainstream, so people who are homophobic hide it. It doesn’t stop how they feel, but they get very, very good at not letting it show. And that makes me uncomfortable, because I don’t know whom I can be open with and whom I can’t. I don’t like being lied to, I’d much rather people be allowed to be honest so that I know where I stand. The same way some practising Christians I work with are very closeted about their religion because they fear being ostracised. That’s just awful.

      Political correctness is just as Orwellian as any other orthodoxy. People should be judged by their actions, not by their opinions and beliefs. Just because you repress something, doesn’t mean it’s no longer there. I prefer things to be out in the open, rather than secreted away,

  4. Doctor Paul

    Preston North-East sits right on the border of Reservoir, which is the real heartland of rusted-on Labor (and of migrants and backyards with fruit trees) in Batman. Some of the booths further south in Preston seem to be going the way of Northcote, Thornbury, Fairfield, etc.

  5. Pingback: No Crap App: w/b 9 Jul 2012 « No Crap App

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