Happy Balance of Power Day!

01 July 2011
"I for one welcome our new Greens overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a tweeter, I could round up others to toil in their tofu mines." - Twitter user citizen_cam

Well, Australia's problems are solved; today the Greens take the balance of power in the Senate. Alternatively, if you listen to the loony right, the sky will fall in (it hasn't yet, but it's not 11am yet) and this will "ruin our once great nation" (so many things have happened to "ruin our once great nation" according to conservatives, that it's a wonder that there's anything left of a functioning democracy at all - which they seem bent on destroying anyway). The Herald Sun have already gotten in on the doomsaying in unintentionally amusing ways.

What It All Means is not that the Greens are running the country. However, the Government won't be able to pass legislation through the Senate without Greens approval, if the Opposition tries to block said legislation. Hopefully this will see some real, effective measures in improving environmental and social justice measures passed through parliament. Those of us on the Greens side of politics can only shake our heads and laugh ruefully when it's claimed that the Greens and Labor are in some sort of alliance. The evidence speaks for itself; does anyone honestly think the Greens are in favour of offshore asylum seeker processing, let alone the cruel, expensive and inhumane "Malaysian solution"? The ALP has taken Greens support for granted for too long, even as they clamour to present the electorate with the smiling face of Howard Lite. Now we're in a powerful bargaining position in our own right, I'm cautiously optimistic this will come to an end.

So who are our new "Greens Overlords"?
  • Richard Di Natale - a former GP and Drug and Alcohol clinician from Geelong. He's worked in India on HIV prevention among drug users and has two Masters degrees in health.
  • Lee Rhiannon - former member of the NSW Legislative Council, journalist, zoologist and founder of the Coalition for Gun Control.
  • Larissa Waters - an environmental lawyer from Queensland.
  • Penny Wright - a solicitor and mediator from SA. She's worked as a Dispute Resolution Practitioner with Relationships Australia and is a former campaigner for human rights and the environment.
None of the new senators have a particularly high public profile, with the exception of Lee Rhiannon - or as she's often referred to, the controversial Lee Rhiannon. Ms Rhiannon has acquired something of a national profile in recent times for, along with the NSW Greens and in conflict with the national Greens, supporting the Israeli BDS boycott. This puts her at odds with Bob Brown, whom she has been touted as a possible successor to. Whilst I'm sure those who seek to discredit the Greens will try to turn this into "internal warfare threatening to tear the Greens apart", it's nothing of the sort and some disagreement can be a good thing. As much as we all adore Bob Brown, it doesn't benefit anyone for the Greens to be a personality cult. A true, functioning political party nurtures future leaders and accepts differences in opinion. We need to face the reality that one day, Brown will no longer be leader, and if we're to build a sustainable future we need to be expanding our horizons now. (It does seem like blasphemy to say this, though).

So I'm looking forward to seeing what transpires over the next few months. As well as ending offshore processing and introduction of a carbon tax, I'd like to see the banning of open-toed bootie shoes and TV ads containing the phrase "as a mum...". Hey, I said I was optimistic.


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