Rob Idol reckons the Greens, with their new leader Richard Di Natale, may hold the key to solving some of our grey political issues.
The Greens. The name alone can polarise the voting population of Australia. They represent different things to different people. For the conservatives, they represent the ideological arch-nemesis. The tree hugging hippies who will stop economic progress by any means necessary.
For the populist Leftists, the Labor Party are strange bedfellows. Whilst they operate in the same ideological playground and act as a frequent schoolyard ally, they also represent a strict parent; they’ll support you, but only as long as you don’t drift too far from the core of their belief system.
For the middle ground swing voters, they represent a bit of an unknown. Recently, they have been the preferred third option. Not necessarily due to any major connection to their policies, but because sometimes anything is better than the other two, not to mention that their message is one with which many people can find some level of congruence. I’m sure they have won a few guilt-assuaging votes in their time.
From a social and environmental point of view, I find them very appealing. They fight tooth and nail for things that I believe in, but haven’t had the courage to fight for myself . However, there have been many times in my adult voting life that I’ve found them wanting in terms of offering a truly balanced option. At times, they have seemed extremist.
They weren’t able to hold my vote. I still believed in much that they did, but I experimented with different priorities as I struggled to search for balance between idealism and pragmatism. I had just become quite entrenched in the full time working world. Suddenly I could see how the effects of federal economic management could affect myself and those around me in a very real way. In a management role, I had to fire people for the first time due to economic uncertainty and market conditions. Suddenly, my idealistic agenda became secondary to my growing understanding of the economic machine. In my eyes, its necessary evil became apparent, and try as I might, I could not see the Greens as a viable option in this arena. Whilst their intentions were good, their grasp on the financial practicality of the greater population was in my eyes, lacking.
Yet here we are again. I may not be apathetic anymore, but crippling frustration with our government is pushing me towards the enticing relief of surrender. I’m finding it hard to find anything appealing in the current Government or Opposition; at least in their current format or under their current leadership.
On the 6th of May 2015, the man described by Bob Brown himself as the Greens “next strongest hope” was elected unopposed as Parliamentary Leader of the Greens after Christine Milne’s unexpected resignation. Senator Richard Di Natale was a noticeably different offering. An ex-footy player with Italian migrant parents; a doctor with a Masters in Public Health who grew up in the city, but has now made the country his home.
On the surface to many, Di Natale appeared like he could be the bridge to the middle. He could relate to the traditionalists whilst also attracting the next generation of progressive thinkers to the party. His demeanour thus far in the position has certainly suggested that his mandate is well beyond issues of pure environmentalism; a man that the conservatives could hardly accuse of being a tree hugging hippie. The lines between the trees and the suits might just be starting to blur.
He has argued strongly and effectively on human rights issues, he is committed to renewable energy, both as responsible human practice and as an opportunity for increasing economic growth. Di Natale has made a lot of sense to my ears so far, but he has a couple of burning problems.
For the Greens to truly become a viable third option, they are going to have to walk a very fine tightrope. A tightrope that both major parties in this country are consistently falling off. If they are to attract the conservatively-minded, they will need to fine-tune a balancing act between their true left heart and economic nous to effectively influence the running of a national economy in a positive way. The Australian public have incredibly long memories when it comes to their politics, and a vote for the Greens has a lot of stigma attached; it’s a branding issue that might limit their reach.
At the same time, any shift that the Greens make simply can’t be at the expense of their core ideologies. To alienate their traditional voters would be political suicide; not only would they lose votes from those who had supported them religiously, but they would earn the mistrust of the progressive thinkers they seek to attract. With the global Green movement now making serious progress linking the environment (and social policies) with the economy, the Greens may be able to avoid cutting off their nose to spite their face.
The first step, either way, is to show us what they are made of.
They need to develop strong alternative policies to prove their legitimacy as the potential solvers of our incredibly grey issues. We desperately need a legitimate third party in this country, so the landscape is perfect for them. There is a real opportunity to convince the conservative public that Green is no longer a dirty word; that it can represent progress and optimism rather than extremism. So the challenge is laid out; I’m hopeful that they can convince me and others that idealism and pragmatism can exist in harmony.