The last Federal Election is nearly two years ago, which means that the next one is not much more than a year away at best. The results of the last election were awkward and led to a negotiated settlement that took some weeks to patch together. The key in to that agreement was the green deal that essentially secured supply, and the passage of legislation through the upper house, so long as the government could get it through the lower house.
So the deal essentially gave the Labor Government Supply in exchange for the Carbon Tax. A win/win for both parties, if not for the electorate. With the deal in place Julia was able to leverage the independents for support, on the grounds that she offered the best chance of stable government, plus a few lollies she threw in the bag, including NBN deals, Hobart Hospital, and Poker Machine Reform (now abandoned – and it would seem that it was abandoned in practice rather sooner than it was announced.
The NSW Right faction is now canvassing opinion about preferencing The Greens last in the next election. Clearly they now recognise the Greens as much as a threat as an ally. As the Labor Primary vote slumps there is no doubt that the Green vote surges. Julia has staked a lot on the Carbon Tax, and is seeking to own it as a great step forward. In the lead up to the last election she did manage to say – as we will no doubt be reminded in the next election campaign ‘there will be no carbon tax under a Government I lead’ Interestingly she now speaks of it as a ‘price on carbon’. Of course the truth is ‘The Greens made her do it’. Part of the cost of office was power.
On the Asylum Seeker Issue the Greens have been no help at all. In a way that seems a bit unfair as they do seem to have managed to get it all their own way. We will support you if we have a Carbon Tax, however we can’t give any ground on Boat People as that is core policy. For the ALP the road to the next election looks like a highway to a hiding.
At one level it does not matter where Labor preferences the Greens and we are fairly certain we know what the Greens will do with preferences. The real issue for the Greens will be to manage the public perception. On the one hand they need to broaden the base of popular appeal, and present as a party who could be involved in Government.
I think that one of the mistakes that Julia made was not insisting on Green participation in Government. Had Bob Brown been the Deputy PM and Minister for Climate Change, they would have needed to be more actively involved in finding and forging solutions. The current arrangement allows then to be spectators, commemorators and referees, none of which helps the government.
The risks are in fact still quite high that the Government will not go full term. Craig Thompson is not out of the woods, and neither is Peter Slipper, whilst Andrew Wilkie‘s level of support has go to be risky after the dud way they have dealt with him. The Government is generally plagued with concern over major policy back-flips, and an absolute failure to do anything but announce in relation to Border protection and Asylum.
Whilst Julia wants to hold on as long as possible, it is my view that the longer she hangs in the more long term damage she does to the Party.