Today’s Greens make their predecessors look sensible
11 March 2023
It was the formidable Labor finance minister, Peter Walsh, who first described the Greens as akin to fairies at the bottom on the garden. He held their idealistic and unrealistic ideas in complete contempt. In his view, the Greens’ way was a highway to penury, particularly for those on the lowest incomes.
He was also suspicious of their environmental methods, claiming, for instance, that the failure to maintain national parks by clearing, weeding and regular burn-offs would simply lead to devastating bushfires and an extraordinary loss of environmental benefits.
Fast-forward through the intervening decades and it would seem that the Greens have moved on from the bottom of the garden and are now flying in an entirely parallel universe where the practicalities of running a government completely elude them. Indeed, from today’s perspective, former Greens leader, Bob Brown, appears almost sensible; OK, at least he was living on Planet Earth when he was in parliament – at least most of the time.
Today’s cohort of Greens parliamentarians has less connection with the environmental movement – saving forests and endangered species, etc, (although they are obsessed with climate change) – and more connection with hard-left political stances. They support big government, high taxation, anti-capitalism and favourable treatment for all minority groups. Sadly, most of them can’t even spell freedom.
The Greens are now led by the unappealing Adam Bandt who comfortably holds the seat of Melbourne, home to woke types, students and some doctors’ wives. There is no prospect of Labor wresting this seat from the Greens and the adjoining ones are always at risk of being lost to some former teacher turned climate activist.
Of course, it’s been great sport watching the antics of Lidia Thorpe, former Greens senator for Victoria. For those in the Greens party room, it must have been like having a rabid dog running around, incapable of being controlled. Even though Bandt assures us he did everything he could to keep her in the party, one suspects that there were a few sighs of relief when she decided to quit and become an independent senator.
Even so, she probably continues to inflict damage on her former party through her opposition to the Voice on the basis it doesn’t go far enough – truth-telling and treaties are the only road for her – and her antics at the recent Pride March in Sydney.
What is the point of lying on the road and stopping the procession of a float? It escapes me, although she was evidently making a point about the brutal and discriminatory behaviour of the police force. Luckily, the attending police officers had no hesitation moving her on.
Thorpe has zero chance of being re-elected to the Senate as an independent, but she will be in office for some time still, creating mayhem and damaging the Greens – maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
But let me get back to the chasm that the Greens deliberately create by advocating much higher government spending while calling for all sorts of perverse measures, up to and including the banning of coal and gas projects. Without these projects, there is no prospect there will be sufficient revenue to fund their over-the-top spending aspirations.
The Greens’ wish list is close to endless: free childcare, free TAFE and university, free dental care, higher dole, higher rental assistance, more public housing, more public transport, more spending on government schools, more foreign aid and on and on it goes.
Unless you believe that government spending is costless and never-ending – OK, for a while the crazy advocates of Modern Monetary Theory held sway until the ugly face of inflation reared its head and the interest payable on government debt began to rise – the Greens cannot escape that perennial political question: how are you going to pay for it?
But here’s the thing: the main reason Australia is not completely in the fiscal dog-house is the surging company tax revenues from mining companies and high commodity prices. Now I know some Speccie readers are a little bit allergic to numbers, but bear with me if I point out a few simple facts.
Take iron ore, which is a mainstay of our budget. For every $US10 increase in the price of iron ore per tonne, there is a lift of $600 million in company tax receipts. The high prices of coal, both thermal and coking, as well as liquefied natural gas, have similarly led to rapid growth in company tax receipts.
At the time of the election last year, the Treasury expected company tax revenue for 2022-23 to come in at a tad over $90 billion. It now expects it to be $127 billion – a jump of nearly one third. Company tax revenue is now at an historic high which, in turn, is mainly because of the surging tax being paid by the mining companies so reviled by the Greens.
Talk about contradictory: it’s not just having your cake and eating it too; it’s about having the whole bakery. This underscores my conclusion that the Greens are now living on a different planet rather than partying at the bottom of the garden. They want to shut down most of the resource sector but think that government spending can be jacked up big-time.
And let’s not forget here that federal Labor already has substantial spending plans. Next financial year, it expects to spend $666 billion and in 2025-26, the figure is $729 billion, an increase of over 9 per cent in real terms. The Greens’ ambitions are in addition to this increase.
Don’t get me onto some of the other proposals from the Greens. The geniuses in the party think that imposing national rental controls is the answer to our housing rental crisis. The fact that the attractiveness of residential real estate for investors has declined is regarded as neither here nor there by them. And this is before the full impact of the higher cost of investment loans.
They also want to achieve net zero by 2035, think that the ambition of B1(Climate Change and Energy Minister, Chris Bowen) to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 is woefully inadequate and want 100-per-cent renewable energy by the end of the decade. In Bernie Sanders’ style, they think that ‘taxing the billionaires and big corporations’ will release oceans of revenue and a 6 per cent annual wealth tax is the way to go.
Walshy must be spinning in his grave; he would surely conclude that the dotty Greens of his era were sensible pragmatists compared to today’s loopy lot.