The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences
Edited by Andrew McIntyre
Andrew McIntyre of the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs wrote the introduction to this 145 page collection of 22 short pieces on the policies of the Greens. He pointed out that the lack of commentary on Green policies has been an extraordinary failure of our media. This is probably because for a long time they were regarded as a single issue party and too small to matter outside Tasmania.
McIntyre referred to a piece by Paul Sheehan last year in a local newspaper that blew the whistle on the range of policies and he concluded that “The Greens are a fraudulent brand…It is simply not a party preoccupied with the environment”. That comes through loud and clear from the contributors in this collection, especially the ones that examine the actual as opposed to the “good intentions” of Green environmental policies.
McIntyre explained that this book aims to fill the gap in public debate on the Greens with a dispassionate appraisal of the likely outcomes of their policies, or at least a selection of the major policies, given that there are 43 policies in five broad categories. Some of the policies have over 40 points giving more than 1000 policy initiatives and statements, so a deal of care was required to allocate topics to the authors.
The focus is on the practical consequences of the policies. At the launch there was a lot of discussion about the type of people who join the Greens, the hard core of activists and all the others who just vote for them – the demographics, attitudes, values, motivation, etc. None of this appears in the book.
McIntyre concluded that the Greens have an uncontrollable urge to spend, regardless of opportunity costs and cost-effectiveness, and to control through legislation and regulations, without any appreciation of the way the world actually works. The ultimate irony is that the environment itself will suffer from their policies.
Chapter 1 The Constitution: An “Alice in Wonderland” view of democracy and rights. By James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland.
The chapter begins “The naivety of the Australian Greens’ constitutional reform policies are matched only by the bad consequences they would engender…”
Allan notes that the Greens frequently refer to democracy, democratic structures and democratic decision-making but practically all their most cherished aims like a bill of rights and the republic do not enjoy majority support and they would seriously undermine the democratic institutions that exist at the present time, especially those that are impacted by UN declarations.
Any bill of rights would take decision-making power on certain issues away from elected members and give it to unelected judges. Besides, the devil is in the details on these things and those who are concerned about the kind of human rights and speech codes that we have in Victoria would have to be terrified by the kind of regulations that would be delivered by the Trade Union Party and the New Communists. [that is not Allan's language].
The outcome of chaining ourselves to the chariot wheels of the United Nations is equally disturbing. Allan pointed out that the Sudans and Zimbabwes of the world sign up to rights-related treaties couched in the vaguest abstractions but then a committee comes along later and tells us that a section of the Rights of the Child prohibits spanking. Nobody expects UN declarations to bother the governments in the Third World but the Greens will insist that we have to honour them.
The last two points that Allan noted are transparently self-serving – proportional representation in the House of Reps and lowering the voting age to 16.
A final point of my own, the kind of democracy that the Greens envisage is about control by the majority which is merely a recipe for some kind of tyranny. We really need to control political power by minimum government, limited under the rule of law.
Chapter 2 Economics: Good intentions versus self interest. By Sinclair Davidson, Professor of Institutional Economics at Melbourne Tech and a Senior Fellow at IPA.
This chapter evaluates the stated policies on the Green website, bearing in mind that they may propose differently from what they proclaim, “no different from any other political party”. That is a timely reminder to Green idealists that the pure intentions may not survive for long in the real world of politics.
Davidson pays tribute to the Greens for getting up front with principles and policies that are concrete, definite and well specified, “their candour is refreshing”.
He notes a lot of motherhood statements, like institutions that “allow individuals and communities to determine their own priorities”.
Other principles are problematic, like describing climate change as a “market failure”.
They support industry policy (picking winners), extensive government ownership, progressive taxation, higher company tax, shifting from consumption tax to income tax, and draconian regulation in the labour market (see other chapters on this).
These are all wish lists that need to be examined in terms of their consequences, especially the way they impact on the incentives of enrepreneurs and business at large. Such an examination would be devastating.
“The Greens stated economic policies are fundamentally naive. They have no notions of opportunity cost…Governments cannot simply decree that economic conditions must conform to the wishful thinking of idealists”.
Chapter 3 Economics continued: How to lower living standards and perpetuate poverty. By Alan Oxley, head of ITS Global, consultants on global issues.
The top and bottom line of this chapter is that Green policies would lower Australian living standards and at the same time the developing countries would be denied the opportunity to lift their people out of poverty.
Domestic policies would divert investment into unproven industries, reduce the production of commercially viable products for export, reducing the ouput of manufacturing and resource industries.
The changes in international trade would undermine the push for worldwide free trade that was established after WW2. Their policies on global economics are contradictory, lacking coherence and economic literacy. We would withdraw from current Free Trade Agreements and withdraw from negotiations with China, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
They set goals like “decent standards of living for all” and “eradication of poverty” but all economic policies are subervient to “ecological sustainability”. Oxley pointed out that the UN Rio Earth Summit in 2002 agreed that economic growth and environmentalism need to proceed together, and that objective is quite realistic in light of the mass of literature on free market environmentlaism which the Greens and the left generally have never contemplated.
Oxley then noted the “environmental transition”, comparable to the demographic transition of birth rates, predicated on reaching a threshhold level of enonomic development.
"In Australia they want to restructure manufacturing to move towards a “low carbon” economy, neglecting both the history of previous attempts to manage and direct industry policy and the cost of meeting environmental guidelines that are based on the moonshine of climate change alarmism".
They would institute a New Protectionism in Australia and also use our trade policies to bully other nations into adopting the kind of “environmental protection” policies that they favour. That would harm developing nations and their people by withdrawing the rights of small nations to enjoy the benefits of comparative advantage accorded by GATT to stop large and rich nations from bullying small and poor ones.
Chapter 4 Education 1: More spending, less choice and further state control. By Greg Mulleuish, Associate Professor of History and Policits at the Uni of Wollongong, (Athens on Kembla).
The leading features of Green education policy call for
1. Generous funding of the public sector.
2. Removing funds from the private sector.
3. Imposing rules on the private sector which severely limit its autonomy.
4. Public funding to focus on teachers salaries, smaller classes and more staff development (read “time away from the classroom”).
5. Abolish university fees and forgive HECS and Fee Help debts.
In the way that the Green IR policy reads like a trade union wish list, this reads like the wish list of the trade unions in the public education sector.
Apart from the absurd cost of the wish list, it would stamp out diversity in education, leaving the private sector to the tiny core of seriously rich and privileged while everyone else would be denied freedom of choice among the range of providers. It reflects more than anything the wants of the inner city middle-class professionals, especially school teachers, who represent the main constituency of the party. That should ensure that it has no future in the outer suburbs.
Chapter 5. Education 2: The fight against independent schools. By Kevin Donnelly, Director of the Education Standards Institute.
This chapter reinforces the message of the previous chapter, that the Cathlic and independent schools are in the cross-hairs. As for the Greens concern about democracy, Donnelly notes that the folk are flocking to the private sector in education, though economic hard times may have slowed the flow.
Donnelly reported that the rate of per capita funding runs around $12.6K for public schools and $6.6K for private schools. Agitators constantly harp on amount of Commonwealth funding to private schools, neglecting that the overwhelming bulk of funding comes from the States. They also ignore the effect of the socioeconomic status SES funding model which reduces the funding to schools like Melbourne Scotch College and MLC in Kew to the order of $2.5K.
My beef on this point is that the SES model is a bureaucratic nonsense. All private shool students should attract something like 85% of the average cost of public schooling to the institution, no further questions asked.
Donnelly also noted the desire to enforce policies that “celebrate diversity” in lifestyles on private schools, regardless of conscientious objections that the management and the school community may have.
Chapter 6 Energy: Clean energy and the nuclear phobia – a parody of de-industrialisation. By Alan Moran, Director of the Deregulation Unit in the IPA.
There are 51 points under Climate Change and Energy, with 35 more under Nuclear.
Starting with Nuclear, their phobia turns on three points: nuclear weapons proliferation, waste disposal and the “US nuclear war fighting apparatus”.
They want a complete stop to uranium mining in Australia, with a third of the worlds known supply.
They don’t want us to dispose of the world’s waste despite ideal conditions to do so.
Of course they don’t want us to have nuclear power and Moran regards this as an academic matter because a carbon price over $30 would be required for nuclear power to compete with coal at present. This probably comes from the stalling of R&D in the US, I would have expected nuclear power to be making huge strides in affordability, even with the most rigorous safety standards.
Moran notes that the Greens have managed to establish “nuclear-free zones” in some inner city areas, even some which contain hospitals. One wonders if they would contemplate vandalism of diagnostic and therapeutic radiation services like the people who destroy GM crops?
Getting back to the major topic of Climate Change. This has become the wrecking ball of Australian politics, having claimed a PM and two Opposition leaders, to be followed by the ALP, the economy and household budgets.
In their view we have only 10 or 15 years to address the crisis and prevent catastrophe.
1. A 40% emissions cut by 2020 and zero emissions by 2050.
2. Massive tightening of energy standards controlling the goods & services we buy.
3. 30% of energy from renewables by 2020.
4. Much higher energy prices (without hitting the poor, [which will be most of us. Ed]).
Moran suggests that houshold energy costs will tripple in the long term, quite apart from the impact on our industry structure with all the costs that implies.
It would be helpful to get a ballpark figure on the deadweight cost of the regulations and cognate agencies that will have to be put in place for both the energy production and the carbon tax collecting and policing sides of the new energy regime.
I like this bit. “The Greens continue to see a carbon tax as part of a productivity-enhancing tax reform”. In the same way that the Fair Work Act is a contribution to productivity?
Chapter 7 Family: Family, sex and drugs – the unintended conseqences. By Wendy Francis, Queensland State Director of The Australian Christian Lobby.
The Greens want same sex marriage, also full access to adoption, fostering, AI etc. This is an issue which I think is worth about a minute a day because after the end of discrimination against defacto and same sex couples in tax, welfare, super and inheritance etc nobody is suffering pain and disadvantage for want of same sex marriage.
In a world with far too much genuine suffering and disadvantage, the same sex marriage push looks awfully like progressives getting in the face of conservatives for the hell of it. It also wedges libertarians who are infavour of deregulating the system but if they want my assistance to push their barrow they had better sign up to classical liberalism and help to push mine. So there!
They want all women to have access to legal, free and safe abortion, including unbiased counselling. Francis noted that about 80,000 Australian babies were aborted last year. It would be good to know how many would be averted if the women did get unbiased counselling. It would also be good to know how many would be averted if couples used contraception which is pretty freely available these days. Too much to ask?
Years ago I was involved in the Abortion Law Reform movement and decided that equal attention should be paid to prevention. I persuaded the NSW Humanist Society to affiliate with the Family Planning Association which was providing free contraceptive advice in disadvantated parts of town including Wollongong (Athens of the South). There was a hitch when we found that the FPA was also called The Association for Racial Hygeine, a relict of the time it was formed during the Eugenic Scare a century ago. Anyway in 1971 I joined the Board of the FPA with a group of Point Piper matrons who were in charge. Later the FPA was captured by waves of feminists, each more radical than the last cohort. But we digress.
Francis points out that there are several downsides to abortion and the victims can include the mother, father, and grandparents. All the same it is not hard to envisage abortion as a last resort, it would just be helpful if the two fanatical camps that scream at each other in the US would take a cold shower and encourage the young people to think about unintended consequences.
There is also a huge shortage of babies for adoption, hence the import of babies from overseas to adopting couples. Francis cites a figure of 61 Australian babies that were available for adoption in 2009. If only 5% of abortions were converted to adoption by counselling, some 4000 couples would get a gift that they longed for.
The Greens want to de-criminalise adult sex work and legalise brothels. Apparently this is a classical case of unintended consequences because Francis claims that states that legalised licenced brothels experienced a surge of illegal brothels. Francis approves of the Swedish legislation which outlawed prositition on the ground that it is exploitation of women. Libertarians may frown on libertines but it is a long step from there to banning consensual sex for money.
Francis indicates that the Greens want to allow the regulated use of cannabis for specified medical purposes. That is a reasonable position, after all we have a narcotic, methadone, used to control and manage addiction that started with street heroin. Unfortunately Francis did not write a word about that particular proposal but wrote two pages to point out the adverse consequences of recreational cannabis use. That is all good stuff and it needs to be better known. It is presumably written to warn us off a softening of attitude towards cannabis. “Thus any decision to reclassify cannabis sends the message that it is a ‘soft’ drug”. Well on a scale that includes all the other illicit drug, cannabis is a soft drug. It has been effectively decriminalised (which makes sense) and the need for more effective health interventions has been recognised and energetically met in NSW at least.
In conclusion I think that the position of the Greens on these issues is simplistic but not especially alarming.
Chapter 8 Health: A nanny state will keep you healthy…if you are an animal. By Aniello Iannuzzi, of the Australian Doctors Fund.
Consistent with their basic aim to have the government take over everything, the Greens want to re-engineer the way we think about health into the framework of rights rather than self-reliance and self-improvement. Motherhood statements and defective ideas about the way the health system works round out their manifesto.
After the full government takeover of the entire health system we would have to accept whatever the government provides. But Iannuzzi points out that the private health system is a strength in the current system. It permits choice on the part of consumers and it facilitates innovation and efficiency on the part of providers. The Green policy to eliminate the private health insurance rebate is the first strike against the private sector.
He notes that the Greens have to cater for two very different types of people to get votes. These are the “doctors wives” and the hard Left. That results in two versions of Green policy, so the soft and cuddly part that appeals to the doctors wives is up front in advertising campaigns and sound bites while the hard Left policies are in the fine print.
The up front bits contain a lot of motherhood statements about preventive health, access, high quality care, rights and bulk billing. For the Left we find “detailed, radical social policies that are anti-human, anti-religion, anti-tradition, anti-family, revolutionary and directed towards total government control of our lives”.
Chapter 9 Housing: How to make housing unaffordable and the environment worse. By Bob Day, former National President of the Housing Industry Association.
The Greens address three main areas:
1. providing affordable housing.
2. eliminating housing-related poverty.
3. changing the urban landscape to meet social and environmental objectives.
1. stop urban growth
2. urban consolidation
3. more building regulations.
Bob Day insists that the Green policies would produce the exact opposite of their objectives.
Starting with affordable housing, the problem is not building costs which have hardly changed in real terms in 30 years [courtesy of the highly efficient contractor system which is under threat from the Fair Work Act]. The problem is the escalating cost of land as a result of the desire to resist “urban sprawl”. Day traces this to urban policies dating from the late 1970s, prior to the Greens of course but entirely consistent with their current policies.
Day cites work by Professor Troy dating back to 1966 on the economics of urban consolidation to argue that it is cheaper to provide new infrastrucure to service cheap land in outer suburbs than to upgrade existing inner suburban infrastructure. He also notes that people overwhelmingly prefer the traditional house and garden to unit or apartment living when they first set up a family.
He didn’t mention the strata titles acts, kicked off in NSW in 1963 which immensely facilitated urban consolidation. See my book The Australia and New Zealand Home Unit Handbook and this paper on some problematic aspects of the legislation.
The additional Green regulations would add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new house, covering (1) six-star energy rating, (2) noise attenuation, (3) water management devices, (4) disability access, (5) other environmental considerations, such as building materials. Obviously some people would want some of the extras but that should be their decision.
Day concludes that the policies would be disastrous for buyers and the economy, which makes sense but he also claims they would damage the environment itself, which I don’t follow.
Chapter 11 Industrial Relations 1: The 1960s brown cardigan fantasy of industrial relations. By Grace Collier of Industrial Relations Consulting.
If only it was a fantasy! The title is a bit misleading because it is happening. It is the wish list of the most destructive trade unions in the nation, packed into the Fair Work Act.
"Worded so as to sound progressive and fairly reasonable the Greens ‘ IR policies represent the rolled gold standard of renegade union officials seeking total control over the community…The authors of the policies appear to be the trade union officials from the ancient socialist Left of the labour movement."
[The next chapter puts more flesh on the bones of the authorship and the influence of those trade unions on the Greens].
After some sugar-coating of motherhood statements (standard operating procedure for all parties) they roll up their sleeves, get their bowyangs on and get down to serious business. Wages and conditions are set at three levels.
1. Minimum standards to be legislated.
2. A second layer of entitlements to be set by industry-wide awards above the minimum, determined by conciliation and arbitration before a tribunal of ex-trade union officials. [not the wording but the intention].
3. A third layer of industry-wide entitlements negotiated a trade unions.
It is all about trade union power, coercion and an uneven playing field. Back to the 1970s.
To facilitate the process of getting the results that the trade union wants the Greens would dispense with the need for secret ballots before strike action (why bother with the views of the workers), eliminate common law actions against trade unions and repeal the law that prohibits secondary boycotts (refusing to supply goods or services to unrelated businesses).
The conditions established by the unions cannot be varied downwards or even upwards by agreement between particular managers and workers. That would represent a break from solidarity. It might also demonstrate that voluntary agreemnets between adults could provide win win outcomes that are better for the workers than the union deal.
So far so good, but it gets better. The Greens demand that businesses provide the outcome of “full employment and job security for all”. At the same time the boss must ensure that “the objectives of profitability and efficiency should not override social and ecological objectives”.
The Greens want to end flexible working arrangements for casuals, reinstate draconian overtime rates and eliminate the six months probationary period.
If an employee dies in a tragic accident in the workplace, the other employees could expect to lose their jobs as their employer would most likely be jailed for the crime of “industrial manslaughter” (a Greens invention). This is the current NSW OHS situation in spades.
To address the non-existent gender pay gap we will have a National Pay Equity Standard with tribunals to make orders to deliver pay equity. The legislation and cognate organisations to control thuggery in the building industry will have to go.
Possibly anticipating some problems for business to survive under this regime, or maybe just as a matter of principle, the Greens will prescribe “a combination of government job creation and industry policy to achieve full employment and job security for all who seek employment”. Well that is a relief.
Chapter 12 Industrial Relations 2: A dangerous wish list from the major unions. By Ken Phillips, co-founder and Executive Director of Independent Contractors of Australia.
This chapter explaines that the details of Green IR policy were effectively dictated by three unions. These are the Electrical Trades Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. These unions have formed a partnership with the Greens by the simple expedient of funding them.
The Greens began as a grass roots organization with all the problems of precarious finances and dependence on volunteer labour. This changed for the Greens about 2007 when the unions came to the rescue. Since then about $750K (declared) flowed into the coffers, and also a labour force to help contest elections. To gauge the potential value of that assistance, the CFMU has almost 100 paid staff.
The other part of the jigsaw that Phillips explains is the balance of power among the Labor factions. Those three unions have for a long time been the heart of the ALP Left. In broad terms the Catholic Right and its union backers contests with the Left and the hard Left to direct ALP policy. Hawke and Keating presided over a period when the Right and Centre of the party kept the left under control (no small achievement). Much the same balancing act was achieved in NSW under Carr, in Victoria under Bracks, in SA with Rann and in Queensland. That did not mean that the Left ceased to exert influence but they yearned for more power and they saw that a strategic alliance with the Greens could be helpful.
That alliance has succeeded beyond their dreams and after the 2010 elections the big payoff was always going to happen after July this year. Three major targets will be work safety laws, the construction sector and self-employed people.
It is noteworthy that PM Gillard was prepared to intervene on an ad hoc basis to correct some of the more absurd early outcomes from the Fair Work Act which actually disadvantaged workers. Since the Greens are now in charge she will not have the same amount of wriggle room when perverse outcomes arise in future.
Evil effects are emerging from the new regime, especially in productivity, but much worse is to come as various “poison pills” work their way through the system and the union leaders learn how to exploit them.
“Significant amounts of small business activity will be supressed.”
Chapter 14 Resources: Agriculture – An outdated view of Australian farmers and how to get less from more and increase costs. By David F Smith, Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne.
The Greens are apparently out of touch with the reality of Australian farming and their perception of widespread erosion and degredation of Australian farmland due to bad farming practice is shared by many people. All of their general principles are motherhood statements about good land management and the handling of animals. “Most of their policies boil down to calls for what is well-established practice”.
The concept of sustainabilty is over-played. Some practices can be sustained and many cannot because the farming environment changes. The appearance of a devastaging aphid wiped out the lucern that supported a thriving sheep industry on Coonalpyn Downs in SA. If a solution is found quickly enough that form of farming may be sustained, otherwise it will not. The land is not rendered useless, but it has to be used differently.
The Greens seem to think of farming as rigid, whereas it is dynamic, open to change and evolving. Farmers attend field days to hear of new things emerging from research…So most farmers have “kept up” to the present day with so much zero-till and precision agriculture, computer models for decision-making etc.
The Greens are perverse in the new things they want to see, like biofuel (causing food shortages in the Third World) and things they do not want to see, like Genetic Modification of crops. This is pure Luddism. Species have always evolving by genetic modification and selection, so the moratorium on GM is intellectually obtuse.
Green forestry policy is not consistent with the aim of protecting good farmland. Apart from some old growth forests that need to be set aside there are forests that could be used for mixed purposes but the Green insistence on taking timber from plantations means that good cropping and grazing land is being put under timber.
Their ignorance is revealed in a document which claims that Victoria was once 85% forest (and we have cleared most of it). The Mallee, the Wimmera and the basalt plains were not under forests in recent centuries.
The Green policy makers in this field appear to be out of date in their thinking, addicted to small-scale farming, inconsistent in their policies across the range of rural industries and completely out of touch with modern farmers.
Chapter 15 Natural Resources: Forests – Can’t see the wood for the trees – literally. By Jim Hoggett who has an extensive career in the public and private sector including the Commonwealth Treasury.
“Stripped of the usual Orwellian doublespeak", their policy thrust is to:
1. End logging in public and private native forests.
2. End virtually all timber exports.
3. Restrict timber production to existing plantations and “farm scale” plantations.
The policy flies in the face of environmental sustainabilty (a key Green concept) but it has been largely achieved already. Australia has 147 million hectares of forest cover which is 19% of our land area. Not all is potentially harvestable and the actually harvested area is a minute fraction. Fires eliminate most of the forests that are lost, for example the 2002-03 fires consumed 2.9 million hectares, equivalent to 50 years of logging.
Forest conservation reserves cover more than 20 million hectares. Limited timber production is allowed on 9 million hectares of suitable public forest, with only a tiny fraction actully logged. In the four major timber states the balance of logging and regeneration is sustainable because plantations (as opposed to native forests) provide three quarters of wood production. This comes from 1.3% of the total forest area.
Consistent with the fashion of the times, Hoggett notes the unprecedented surge in regulation in the forests [see the same in the fisheries in the next chapter]. He refers to Acts, codes and guidelines referring to vegetation and fauna, surface water, slopes, soils, rock outcrops, indigenous and heritage sites, fuel reduction, firefighting, feed and nesting trees, tracks and roads, health and safety, use of equipment and much else. “Greens’ policy is now passionately addresed to a non-problem – unsupervised access of the timber industry in Australian native forests”.
The result of locking away forests which used to be productively used does not actually enhance their quality because that depends on good management. Without management exotic plants move in, like lantana and bitou bush, likewise feral animals. And the fires that consume the fuel that accumulates in the absence of controlled burning. Hoggett describes this as the elephent in the room, unmentinable in Green policy. The result is entirely predictable, like the mega fires of 2002-3. You could probably add the Victorian fires of recent memory, where Green councils refused to allow residents to take precautions.
The mega fires introduce an element of destruction of soil, wildlife and trees that far exceeds the impact of fires that burned in the past under the management practices that keep the level of fuel in check. They are a major unintended consequence of Green non-management.
Thanks to the stranglehold on forest production we starve in the midst of plenty. Domestic wood production peaked in 2000. “We export wood products worth $2.3B and we import $4.5B with the gap widening. We tap the forest resources of areas of the world that have a far greater need for conservation than we do”.
Hoggett explains that the Green policy on forests is an anachronism which produces several perverse effects – in conservation (the mega fires), in economics, in human enjoyment of the forests and the destruction of small rural communities like Trowutta in far NW Tasmania. He refers to the success of Green PR and politics with effective and well funded publicity, raising funds from conflict rather than conciliation. Their message is simplistic. The media play along because conflict and demonstrations make news, not patient explanation of the complexity of the situation. The Greens bear none of the costs of their failed policies.
Chapter 16 Natural Resources: Marine – Hypothetical solutions to imaginary problems in the marine environment. By Walter Starck, a retired marine biologist with wide experience of coral reefs around the world.
"They presume problems do not exist, propose solutions without regard to cost and consequences. An undefined ‘precautionary principle’ appears to be the major underlying doctrine."
If the same amount of caution had been exercised in the past, Australia would never have been discovered by Europeans, let alone colonised. Quite likely the Greens think it was downhill all the way since 1788.
Contrary to the list of threats that keep the Greens awake at night, Starck suggests that the state of the marine environment here is the best in the world. For example the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is in pristine condition, despite the protestations of the PM that it is being damaged. The commercial fishing rate around the reef is limited to 9 kilos per square km per annum, contrasting with surveys that suggest a well managed reef can sustain 15 metric tonnes per square km per annum. Some precautinary factor operating there!
On the national level, we have the third largest fishing zone in the world and the second-largest shelf area, so we have the largest per capita fishing area in the world and we also have the lowest fishery harvest rate in the world. We import 70% of the seafood that we consume, with the volume and price of imports on the rise. The situation resembles forestry: we import products from more heavily exploited resources elsewhere.
"Our fisheries are indeed in decline but not from overfishing. It’s from the most costly and resstrictive management in the world and the Greens want to make it even more costly and restrictive."
Starck noted the health benefits of extra fish in the national diet and hazarded a figure of billions of dollars of health costs per annum that could be saved, along with enhanced quality of life.
Not content with the excellent status quo the Greens want to hugely extend the already very large areas of Marine Protected Areas. This can only be described as absurd and its places a lot of limits on the very large number of people who enjoy recreational fishing. Surprisingly these people have yet to find a voice as an interest group. Room for some lobbying there!
The plum for the Greens would be the largest no-take Marine Park in the world in the Coral Sea. “With the additional protected areas desired by the Greens we would be approaching two thirds of the global total of protected areas with all of our contribution being where it is least needed.”
Chapter 17 Natural Resources: Water – The wooden spoon of water policy? By Alastair Watson is a feral economist. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that. He is a Melbourne freelance economist.
Watson describes water policy in Australia as a shambles and that probably applies to all the parties, not just the Greens. This is an area of policy where I am almost completely adrift and so be warned that I do not trust my own judgement in summaring this chapter.
Water policy is complicated by some natural factors, especially the variability of rainfall both across the country and from year to year. Then there are the overlapping political jurisdictions and finally the conflict of interest groups, especially the interests of upstream users versus the would-be downstream users, also the conflict between farm use and urban/industrial use.
We seem to have moved from an era where big dams were favoured despite warnings from the likes of Bruce Davidson, the agricultural economist, to a situation where Green-driven interests have resulted in no dams where they could have been useful. This chapter reads like a “plague on all your houses” critique of water policies. The reliable constant from the Greens is their reliance on government controls regardless of possible market-driven solutions and their willingness to put their concepts of conservation (and the threat of climate change) in front of other considerations.
Chapter 20 Science: Over-funding, ethical frameworks and exercises in the politically correct. By Garth Paltridge, previously at the Uni of Tasmania, he is at present a Visiting Fellow at the ANU.
Paltridge was disappointed to find that the tendency to higher education among the Greens did not translate into originality or critical thinking on science and technology. Possibly their education is in the wrong fields.
The starting point is an increase in R&D expenditure to at least the EECD average % of GDP. Paltridge expressed the opinion that Australia is already punching well above its GDP weight due to excessive pure research, a problem recognized and corrected more than two decades ago with the formation of industrially focussed and successful Cooperative Research Centres. [I would like to see a discussion between Garth Paltridge and Terrence Kealey]. Certainly Paltridge disputes the “more is better” assumption, due to the need to consider quality as well as quantity. He has no time at all for the measure of PhD production as a useful measure of quantity.
He blames the over-supply of research scientists for a disastrously cometitive “publish or perish” syndrome which sacrifices quality in the rush. Maybe things have got worse; the publish or perish syndrome was identified when I was a very junior graduate in the 1960s but he has been closer to the action in the meantime.
He has serious problems with the assertion that the government has to develop the ethical framework in which research is conducted. This is a sick joke as the “science is settled” mantra from the government demonstrates. The obsession with ethics committees has got out of hand, one of the health areas in NSW was so fussy about this matter that research was gravely handicapped. It seems from his precis of the Greens document that I would find it unreadable, like the stuff on the “important role of the government in the development of scientific knowledge”.
The attitude of the Greens to the development of scientific knowledge is displayed in their stance on nuclear energy and GM. Let me out, I can’t take any more!
Chapter 13 Media: What you want may not be what you get. By Graham Young, founder and Chief Editor of On Line Opinion.
The policy is supposed to be laid out in three sections, principles, goals and measures, but Young finds that it reads like a long shopping list of aspirations and measures without discernible priorities.
He is amazed that the NBN and Telstra are never specifically mentioned but they offer generalities about equitable communications infrastructure across Australia.
In their principles, media diversity is “a right for all Australians”. A goal is “diversity of opinion and ownership of media across Australia”. In concrete terms this translates into more culture to be provided by the ABC. One clear promise is to “make funding to the SBS and ABC comparable to current per capity funding for public broadcasting in the UK”. Currency movements complicate this equation but at $1.55 AUD to one British pound this means a 50% increase in funding for the ABC and SBS.
One of their policies is “truth in political advertising”. Another, representing a capitulation to the ALP after some initial resistance, is to advocate net regulation provided that it is “transparent”.
In view of the dim view that the left have on media barons, Young was hoping for a more aggressive stance on the licencing arrangements for broadcast media which give large powers to media proprietors with little cost.
This chapter gives the impression that apart from favouring “diversity” and government controls (without noticing a potential contradiction) and additional funding for the ABC there is only a lot of waffle in this area of policy.
Chapter 10 Indigenous Australians: A deaf ear to indigenous needs will guarantee more disaster. By David Price worked in Aboriginal education and public administration for more than 20 years.
David Price is married to Bess Nungarrayi and they have been working in partnership with outback Aborigines for many years. Bess achieved her 15 minutes of fame as a result of a twitter from the Larissa Behrendt saying “I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.” The crime of Bess Price was to see value in the Northern Territory intervention.
The Greens do not support the NT intervention. In June 2008 there was an anti-intervention rally in Alice Springs. The leaders included Jane Clark, the local Greens State candidate and Barbara Shaw, a Greens Federal candidate in 2010. They stood by while the national flag was burned with rousing applause.
One of the speakers invited Bess Nungarrayi to take the stand but Barbara Shaw refused to allow her to speak. David Price regards that as a true indication of the Greens’ conception of democracy and diversity of opinions.
The leading Green slogans in this area are “Compensate the Stolen Generation”, “End the Intervention” and “Close the Gap”.
Price is scathing on the compensation issue. He is aware of some people who probably deserve compensation but others are glad they were taken because they did well “but we don’t hear much about them”. Some of the “stolen” had two non-white parents but they are never mentioned. Price insists that the Greens have over-simplified and trivialised a complex story and atempts to provide compensation would create more injustice and division in the community,not to mention perpetuating the “victim” mentality.
On the intervention, the Greens do not want to know about any positives and the views of local residents, mostly women, who are in favour because they see benefits. “The Greens don’t talk to these people, they systematically ignore them”.
Closing the gap is bipartisan policy. How do the Greens see the way to go? They want constitutional recognition of prior occupancy and also sovereignty (which is treated harshly in the chapter on National Security). They appeal to UN conventions on Rights of Indigeous Peoples with guidelines on “retaining cultural practices”. In the context of the deeply institutional violence against women and children in some of the remote communities, such appeals can only be regarded as obscene.
"We live in a county where a fourteen year old girl can be threatened with a shotgun and raped by a middle-aged man and then hear a white judge tell the court that the perpetrator didn’t know that what he did was against the law".
They appear to offer no concrete suggestions to make progress with the very real problems in health, education and housing. Price is bemused by their policy on employment and enterprise. They refer to the impending degredation of the economic base of the Indigenes due to climate change but hardly any remote communities have an economic base and attempts by the likes of Noel Pearson are systematically opposed by the Greens.
Chapter 18 Population and Multiculturalism: Immigration, integration and crime. By Ketherine Betts, adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at Swinburne University of Technology.
There are 63 sub-points under this heading but Betts reports that some of the big questions such as the desirability of Big Australia have gone missing. She notes that the population has grown at reord levels in recent years while transport, housing and other types of infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, power and water services are struggling to keep up. The inclusion of schools in the list is rather odd given the recent surge in school building projects.
She notes that the Greens used to have a policy of limited population but since about 1998 that concern has been displaced by consumption patterns, women’s rights, international human rights, refugees and global social justice. No mention of population numbers. “It is also silent on infrastructure”. Possibly they are determined to avoid the charge of “green racism” which was directed at people who called for reduced immigration to keep the population down to a “sustainable” number.
So the limited, sustainable” population is out while multiculturalism is definitely in. The question is whether they support the kind of multiculturalism that is akin to motherhood or the kind that feeds on the public purse, while it creates career paths and political advantages for the favoured players. “Motherhood” multiculturalism does not need to be talked about and it calls for no policies at all. It just happens. So you have to be wary of the motives of people who have multicultural policies, however benign they appear. The Greens say that cultural diversity enriches us and should be celebrated. All kinds of cultural diversity? Surely not. There are some indigenous cultural practices (noted in the previous chapter) which are barbaric and should be illegal. Some barbaric practices are imported and the same applies. Some are just undesirable like binge drinking among young people and the role of women in some Islamic subcultures and these we hope these will fade away as the people grow out of them.
They seem to be quite relaxed and comfortable with the situation where a lot of newcomers do not learn English, obtain employment and integrate by taking on board the mores of their new society. How much they should be expected to assume an Australian identity is an open question, but at the very least we can expect some give and take. We had better learn from the British experience where ethnic ghettos assumed dangerous proportions and tolerance towards minorities morphed into capitulation to intolerance from newcomers.
Chapter 19 Refugees: A cruel, discriminatory and unjust policy. By Mirko Bagaric and Peter Faris QC.
This chapter demands a post of its own because it goes far beyond criticism of the Greens to attack the Convention Related to the Status of Refugees (as an anachronism) and the whole set of priorities and procedures which apply in our handling of refugees. At the same time the authors argue for a much larger refugee intake but on quite different criteria from current practice.
This material originally appeared as a series of posts on the blog Catallaxy. I have not yet read this chapter with the attention it deserves to provide an adequate summary.
Chapter 21 Security: Ditching our sovereignty for the UN’s theatre of the absurd and other stories. By Ted Lapkin, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne.
This is a good chapter to have at the end because you can go away with your head spinning in disbelief at the capacity for Greens to live with absurd and contradictory ideas. Bob Brown gave the game away recently when he said we should be thinking about a world government, it could even be based in Australia, one vote one value. Does that mean that a Taliban, an illiterate peasant in Somalia and the arsonists in Hackney are entitled to the same say in our affairs as we have?
Lapkin explains that the Greens are hostile to the notion of national sovereignty in our Constitution. They believe that we should fall in with the wishes and rules of international assemblies and committees. Their Global Governance platform calls for a renewed committment to multilateralism to solve the problems of the world. But cut them some slack, given their defective policies on forests, fisheries and conservation (their home ground) you can hardly expect them to do better in addressing the problems of the whole wide world.
The platform translates into a plan to elevate the authority of the UN General Assembly while reshaping the UN to reflect a far-Left worldview. The power of veto would have to go from the five major players in the Security Council and ultimately the Council would be absorbed or become completely subservient to the Assembly (which Lapkin aptly describes as the theatre of the absurd).
Lapkin uses some hard-hitting language to describe the depradations and incompetence of UN peace-keeping forces which have brought the orgnization into disrepute. He could have said as much about UNESCO and other agencies which have become over-populated by well-paid and corrupt incompetents, [as described by Shirley Hazard] (with exceptions of course).
The Green antipathy towards sovereignty in general, and for Australia in particular, does not apply to the Indigenes. This is where the full nutty flavour of the Green fruitcake is apparent. Lapkin describes this as “pretty much a flag-waving, chest-beating exercise in Aboriginal jingoism”. ATSI people must be afforded “the right to self-determination” which on the usual meaning of the term calls for sovereignty and self-government.
Thus the Greens appear to be advocating a policy of indigenous secession that involves the establishment of a politically independent and sovereign Aboriginal state on formerly Australian territory. [location unspecified]…a demand rendered all the more bizarre by their simultaneous insistence that Australia should sacrifice its national independence on the altar of the all-mighty UN.
Moving on to the more mundane matters of defence and foreign policy, they want greatly reduced spending on the military, so we rely on the umbrella of the UN to be the “global organization of conflict management, peace-keeping and nuclear disarmament”.
Tell that to the people of Rwanda and Darfur.
They want to ditch the ANZUS alliance and strike out with an “independent foreign and defence policy”. Though defence policy will be rather limited if the forces are further reduced.
The International Relations platform insists that “all people have a right to self-determination” [but what happened to our sovereignty?] but they do not have a word for the Kurds or the Karens in Burma and other less-known minorities that Lapkin instances.
But the very best comes at the end with a section headed Double standards on Israel.
"The Greens policies towards Israel reek of double standards and rank hypocrisy…The perniciousness of the Greens’ Middle East policy is simply one facet of a warped worldview that is both immoral and dangerous. It is frightening enough that Bob Brown is in a position to influence Julia Gillard’s policy on economic and environmental policy. But to allow the Greens to come within a barge pole’s length of Australian foreign and defence policy will constitute a clear and present danger that none of us can afford."