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Cries of horse trading filled the air after the Greens aligned with the Coalition last week, but this will yet become the norm, and we all better get used to it.
Many hard-lined Greenies most likely looked on in disgust last week as their party came to the rescue of its long-standing ideological enemy, the Coalition. On a bipartisan scale, we all watched on as our “democratic” process was again reduced to a forced stalemate between the majors. A stalemate not necessarily born out of one side fighting for their own values, but rather, a desire to block the other. At the eleventh hour, the Greens jumped in and gave the Libs the numbers to get their legislation through. And to those who share my political leanings, I say, get used to it.
On the surface, those who religiously support the Greens probably felt betrayed. An alliance on almost any issue with the Libs (particularly the current hard-Right-leaning version of the Libs) is seemingly in contravention to everything that their party stands for. How could they possibly do anything to support a party that consistently and continuously spits in the face of the Greens’ position on important issues such as the environment or refugees. As a Greenie, I too felt a shudder when the headlines of an alliance began to spread across the digital newsstand.
Political horse trading is nothing new. In the current climate, it’s not only inevitable but realistically a necessity. Last week we saw Senator Nick Xenophon ostensibly fight tooth and nail to secure an extra 450 gigalitres of water to restore the health of the Murray River in his home state of South Australia, the state that rewarded his apparent loyalty to his roots with a place in the lower house for his party at the recent election.
Xenophon promised to block all legislation from the Libs until the dispute was settled.
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Within days, that blockade was gone as Xenophon gave the Libs the crucial votes they needed to pass the ABCC legislation (you know, that pesky little one that was so important that it was used to force a double dissolution) in exchange for a promise from the Libs that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan would be a standing agenda item at COAG meetings. The compromise also included extra scrutiny on the plan as it progressed. No extra 450 gigalitres of water in sight. But Xenophon had a new friend in a very high place – he may not have delivered the win for those from his home town that are responsible for giving him the power he now has; but rather, ensured that his political stocks in Canberra would continue to rise. Playing the long game? Perhaps…but in the opinion of many back home, an exercise in selling out for his own political benefit. The reason that horse trading has a bad name.
However, I contend that for the next four years we’re going to have to put our ideas of political partisanship aside, that idealistic feeling of a patch of grass that you can call your own, the private space where the Right-wing neighbours from over the fence daren’t stretch their barcalounger on. But, oh, they will, and likewise, the Right shouldn’t be shocked to find the Left helping itself to their pool privileges. I’m not asking anyone to get on, to join hands on the Senate floor, because that’s not what politics is, I’m merely suggesting that we eliminate the shock that arrives when someone crosses it.
The Greens seemingly saw the bigger picture and forced an outcome. On announcing the deal, Greens leader Richard Di Natale said: “We have seen the Green’s really clean up the mess that is of the Government’s own making”. As part of the deal, the Green’s negotiated $100 million in funding for Landcare as well as an arrangement that allowed backpackers to get more of their superannuation back.
— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) December 1, 2016
This isn’t an example of the Greens selling out by allying with their sworn enemy, this is the closest example we will see in the modern political landscape of the system working. The Greens didn’t agree to anything that was in contravention with their values; rather, they achieved something completely in alignment with their values by way of the Landcare funding, resolved a potentially catastrophic situation that could have decimated the tourism and agricultural industries and came out looking like the only player in the game that had any interest in a result.
Results-driven politics has been missing from our system for some time. As we saw with Labor’s positioning in this matter, results and outcomes now play second fiddle to one-upmanship and political point scoring. Bipartisanship and compromise have become the enemy rather than the goal. Labor are no orphans; the Libs have and will continue to play the same game in return. The relentless pursuit of a win more often than not comes at an incredibly high cost to those for whom our politicians are supposed to be working.
The result was welcomed by the National Farmers’ Federation; you know, those actually affected by the issue. It’s very difficult not to wonder whether Labor actually asked them or cared about what they wanted – or even what they would be satisfied with to put the matter to bed. Labor’s line in the sand was theirs alone.
So, to those out there who wear their Green badge with pride and are disheartened by their beloved making a deal with the Devil, I say you shouldn’t be. Whilst every other player was in the middle of the ground trying to punch each other’s lights out, your party grabbed the ball and kicked the goal. A goal that not only prevented catastrophe, but a goal that showed that there is at least one party out there that is happy to work with an ideologically opposed group to achieve a common goal; a goal not only common between them, but common with the public they are supposed to be representing.
That, quite frankly, is the absolute best we can hope for in the shambles that is left of our supposedly democratic political system.
Or in other words, take the horse to market, we may as well get something for it.