If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich… Greens policy part 3!

Only three sections left to do!  Caveat: My head hurts like an absolute bastard.  Fortunately, I had a packet of Nurofen in the house and it’s working well.  Thumbs up, Nurofen. Okay, I’ve got my iTunes set to ‘Soft Awesome’: let’s roll!

Policy Category E: Human Rights and Democracy

This section is probably going to irritate me because it’s the section I care about the most.  Our conversations in the public space on this topic are woeful.  They lack the rich flavour of past debates.  We don’t have the epic speeches or inflamed pamphlets.  With that in mind, I’m not sure that my criticisms of the policies advocated by the Greens in this space won’t extend to a criticism of the discussion in general.  Thus, a lot of this isn’t going to be critical of the Greens’ position but the general lack in the debate.  Put simply, I don’t think other parties perform particularly well in this space either.

The Australian Greens believe that […]

3. Australia’s Constitution should express our aspirations as a community and define our rights and responsibilities as individuals and as members of the community.
4. Parliament is the central authority of representative and responsible government. — p58.

These are foundational issues and they set up the Constitution and Parliament as The Important Bits.  Should our Constitution express our aspirations as a community and define rights of individuals?  I’m of the view that it shouldn’t.  Constitutions should establish functional frameworks for maintaining effective governance.  Within the context of the Constitution, the society will express its aspirations and define the rights of individuals.  Why?  Because aspirations change.  The rights which are considered important and relevant change.  Constitutions are rigid documents and, as such, are not good vehicles for fluid and malleable aspirations. Parliament is increasingly demonstrating that it can’t handle the task of being representative.  Previous entries in this blog outlined Simpson’s Paradox showing why this has been the case.  This appears to be a particularly self serving belief (similar to ‘Gillard wasn’t elected PM by the People’ — the position of Prime Minister is not a popularly elected position and it’s a conceit of politicians to suggest that they do).

The Australian Greens believe that […] 7. Australia should become a republic with an Australian head of state. –p58.

Apart from Tony Abbott, are there any Monarchists left in the mainstream?  It seems to be a worryingly one-sided debate.

The Australian Greens will: 15. enact a Bill of Rights. — p58.

https://onlythesangfroid.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/all-of-the-boys-and-the-girls-here-in-paris/ https://onlythesangfroid.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/i-like-to-wait-to-see-how-things-turn-out/

The Australian Greens will […] 17. support the following electoral reforms […] constitutional recognition of the powers and responsibilities of local government — p59.

This is a dreadful proposal.  We are already ‘overgoverned’ in Australia and suffer the politicisation of governance.  I mean that word ‘suffer’ in the strongest possible terms.  Creating further levels of government is not a useful ambition.

[…]reduced numbers of by-elections by allowing casual vacancies to be filled by a member of the retiring representative‟s party — p59.

Except we don’t elect parties in elections: we elect candidates.  We ought to have the expectation that candidates will consider their electorates before their parties but, sadly, we know this is not the case.  Party politics is a political disease in Australia and we should be seeking ways to reduce its influence.  The Greens, it seems, disagree and want to treat seats in parliament like party play things.

[…]public funding of elections to eliminate private funding – p59.

I’m not certain that I want taxpayer money going towards election campaigns (if that’s what this means; else, I don’t know which private funds are used to hold elections…).

The Australian Greens will […] 18. uphold judicial discretion in sentencing, and repeal mandatory sentencing legislation. — p61.

This is a superb proposal.  I’m rather shocked that our system allows judicial discretion to be repealed through acts of legislation.  While I understand that it’s not unique to Australia, it is still outrageous.

The Australian Greens will […] 19. allow customary law and other cultural or personal factors to be taken into account by judges in determining sentences. — p61.

This is problematic because I don’t feel that customary law or other cultural/personal factors should influence the length of a sentence.  The justice system should provide an equal playing field: that’s lessened if some groups in the community are held to different standards of culpability.  Mind, I’m not speaking of people who have a real incapacity.

The Australian Greens will […] 22. increase funding to community legal centres as an adjunct to legal aid and private legal practitioners.  — p61.

I agree 100% with this.  It is an embarrassment that the poor routinely receive legal services of a quality less than those who can afford to pay snazzy lawyers.  The various state Bar societies should be nationalised and all barristers should be state employees.

The Australian Greens will […] 14. allow and encourage the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate alleged and potential human rights abuses in Australia, and comply with any recommendations.  — p63.

Any recommendations?!  Here’s a list of the current members of the UNHRC.  Do you really want Libya, China, and Cuba making recommendations to Australia about human rights?  Really?  Are you insane in the mind?

The Australian Greens will […] 19. ratify all United Nations Human Rights Conventions, including their optional protocols.  — p63.

Even the dreadful ones?  That’s the problem with most of these proposals: they’re so incredibly vague.

The Australian Greens will […] 21. oppose the death penalty in all cases and support campaigns for its abolition.  — p64.

My usual arguments in favour of the death penalty don’t hold here particularly well because the Greens also oppose — in principle — the use of prisons (preferring rehabilitation and the like).  Even so, it seems reasonable to believe that the Greens think that there will be cases of people being sentenced to life imprisonment.  If they do, then they’re happy for people to be punished by slow institutionalisation rather than give people a mercifully quick death.  Admittedly, I doubt that I’ll see any other parties say: ‘Hey, we’re okay with the death penalty and advocate for its reintroduction’, so it’s a bit of a non-issue.

The Australian Greens want […] 8. extensive structural reform to democratise the UN.  — p65.

Holy frijoles.  There is a good reason why there are a few big countries with permanent positions and veto power: it’s because you need to keep those countries engaged in the process.  It’s no shock that countries in the UN system ‘group’ together to create powerful blocs.  Do we really want a system where the ‘region’ (not all regions are regional, weirdly) with the most members gets what it wants?  Is that what the UN is for?

The Australian Greens will […] 35. seek support within the United Nations for a democratic process of self determination under autonomous governance in the West Papua Region. 36. support the rights of the Palestinian peoples to statehood through the creation of a viable state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, based on the pre 1967 borders and the right of all peoples in the region to peace.

So Indonesian occupation is bad, but Jewish occupation is good?  How does this work in the minds of the Greens?

The Australian Greens will […] 33. end the ANZUS treaty unless Australia‟s membership can be revised in a manner which is consistent with Australia‟s international and human rights obligations.  — p70.

… They’d do what?!  If somebody started saying this around the water cooler at work, you’d think they were insane.  Why, of all things, would you attack the ANZUS treaty?

The Australian Greens will […] 43. support positive reform of the military justice system and measures to reduce discrimination and harassment amongst ADF members.  — p70.

Okay.  At this point, the policy should have said something about the Greens position on the Australian Military Court.  It’s the number one issue of military reform regarding discrimination and harassment and the policy document is mysteriously silent.

The Australian Greens want […] 12. the level of Australian overseas aid increased to a minimum of 0.7% of GNP by 2010, as mandated by the United Nations, with provision for greater increases should natural disasters or conflicts requiring major humanitarian interventions occur. — p71.

By 2010, you say?

The Australian Greens want […] 14. a non-commercial aid program; aid must not be used as a means of subsidising Australian business. — p71.

An excellent idea.  For more on this, read Crikey’s articles here.

Policy Category F: Science and Technology

The Australian Greens will: 14. institute a funding program for scientific research that specifically addresses community needs and national goals.  — p73.

Eugh.  That made me cringe: why would you base your scientific research specifically on community needs and national goals?  Surely, you’d say: ‘What are the promising new research endeavours and how can federal funds help bring those endeavours into fruition?’  Else, we might was well set up ‘Scientific Idol’ and let people phone in their votes for which research should receive funds. No, that makes me cross.  Since when is it the role of the State to tell academics what to study?  Do you know why we need these funds so much?  Because we underfund universities.  Instead of making grants and whatnot, why not just inject those funds back into the tertiary education system?  Oh, because there’s not enough funds.  Silly me.

The Australian Greens will […] 20. increase funding to the Australian Research Council and abolish the capacity for the Minister to veto board decisions. — p74.

So much for their earlier position (on p58) that Parliament is the central authority of representative and responsible government.  The Ministerial veto power is to stop ARC from being too weird.

The Australian Greens will […] 32. make funding to the SBS and the ABC comparable to current per capita funding models for public broadcasting in the United Kingdom.  — p77.

Using the BBC’s annual report, we can work out how much this actually is.  The BBC’s revenue is 4,605.7 million pounds.  The population of the UK is 61,414,062.  Thus, the per capita funding to the BBC is 75 pounds.  75 pounds is about $130.  Multiply that by the population of Australia and we get $2,743 million for two stations.  Remember, that figure includes revenues which the BBC generates itself and given that the BBC gets funding from television licence as well as from the government, it’s unclear how much of that $2,743 million is expected to come from a Greens government.

The Australian Greens will […]

35. ensure that appointments to the boards of public broadcasters are subject to approval by the Parliament rather than the Prome [sic] Minister and Cabinet.  — p77.

Yes, because the ABC board isn’t political enough without it being a question for Parliament.  Golly hell.

The Australian Greens will […]

37. legislate to ensure truth in political advertising.  — p77.

Could you imagine the nightmarish legal battles regarding this?

39. phase out alcohol promotions from times and placements which have high exposure to young people – including banning TV advertising of alcohol between 7am and 9.30pm.  — p77.

Le whut?!  What sort of Nanny State are we after here?  And I’m not the sort of person who usually cries about Nanny States making this really weird.

Since when is the Greens the anti-fun party?

The Australian Greens will […]

40. ensure independent and transparent review of the ACMA website blacklist.  — p77.

I thought they were against the blacklist?  Admittedly, it’s hard to work out given the huge number of policies making repeat performances in later categories.  I must say, the Greens aren’t making it particularly easy to navigate their policy document.  Obscurantist, much.

The Australian Greens will […]

43. maintain the ban on parallel importation of books.  — p77.

Except we have historical precedent to help us here.  There used to be a similar ban on importation of music.  One of the outspoken opponents of it was none other than our current Minister for Environment and Misc., Peter Garrett.  Opponents were absolutely certain that it would spell the end for Australian music and Australian music retailers.  Lo and behold, it didn’t and now people can get their music less expensively.  Books are needlessly expensive because of this ban and it’s not helping anybody.

Policy Category G: Sustainable Economy

Sweet merciful Zeus, the last category!  Five pages to go: let’s rock it out.

The Australian Greens believe […]

3. the free market economy, by externalising the environmental and social costs of greenhouse gas emissions is creating the greatest market failure of all time, namely climate change.  — p79.

Ideological economics?!  In Australia?!  It’s more likely than you think.

The Australian Greens believe […]

7. sustainable, equitable economic progress is best achieved by government ownership of natural monopolies and new government investment in strategic assets.  — p79.

I’m not exactly quiet in my distaste for Libertarians (sorry Tory and Stephan), but even I’m left stunned by this.  The question here is why natural monopolies necessitate the requirement for government ownership.  For the life of me, I can’t think of a good reason.

The Australian Greens believe that […]

11. social, political and economic institutions must allow individuals and communities to determine their own priorities.  — p79.

Except climate change is market failure?  How is this in any way consistent?

The Australian Greens will […]

22. reduce inequities in the current personal tax system by […]

abolishing the 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate in order to increase funding for public hospitals  — p80.

I agree entirely.  Health services — like legal services — are not a valid commodity and private health insurance schemes cause unhealthy societies where people have to choose between their health and their wallets.  Health insurance schemes in the U.S. have bankrupted people and we’re eerily close to going down similar paths here in Australia.

[…] introduce a new top marginal tax rate of 50 per cent on incomes of $1 million or over. — p80.

Does it shock you that the demographic of the Greens voter base doesn’t typically involve the wealthy?  How is a 50% tax rate anything but punitive?  A person earning $999,999 will pay $424,849 in 2009-10.  If the Greens had their way, if that person had earned an extra dollar, they would have paid $75,150 more in tax.  That’s an expensive dollar!

The Australian Greens will […]

40. reduce Australia‟s foreign debt and foreign ownership through use of trade, financial and regulatory measures to ensure more productive use of foreign capital and strengthening of Australian manufacturing, recognising the need to support economies in developing countries.  — p81.

Wow.  Talk about spin.

The Australian Greens will […]

31. abolish the requirement for secret ballots before industrial action.  — p83.

I think unions are great, but non-secret ballot is used to intimidate people.  It took me a while to realise that self-interested groups were behind the opposition to secret ballot: union leaders wanted to ensure ‘solidarity’ through bullying.  Secret ballot protected individuals from stand overs.  It’s appalling that the Greens would oppose it.

The Australian Greens will […]

43. restore the right of all employees, including casual, fixed term and probationary workers, to challenge termination of employment where it is unfair, with reinstatement to be the remedy except in exceptional circumstances.  — p83.

If this were changed to ‘with compensation to be the remedy’, I’d agree entirely.  Reinstatement forces people into hostile situations.  Compensation is significantly fairer and acts as a deterrent to rogue employers.

The Australian Greens will […]

46. increase casual loadings to a minimum of 30% and introduce the ability for casual employees to convert to permanent part time work after 3 months of continuous employment, where employment is on a continuous ongoing basis. — p84.

Brilliant idea.  Casual employment should only be used to fill short-term gaps in employment.  Leaving people on casual rates for months and months on end is entirely unfair.

The Australian Greens will […]

12. remove Australia from existing bilateral Free Trade Agreements, where possible.  — p87.

Who the devil thought up this policy?!  FTAs have contributed enormously to the wealth of non-Anglophone countries.  Breaking down barriers to trade improves opportunities for wealth generation.  Why would the Greens oppose them?


13. enter into multilateral trade agreements, except where a bilateral trade agreement favours a developing country.  — p83.

A problem with this is situations where you want to apply sanctions to a particular country.  Imagine five countries join a multilateral FTA and one of the countries goes rogue and starts a campaign of genocide.  In order to apply trade sanctions on that country, they need to be removed as a party to that agreement.  That means more negotiations with the other countries.  It is much easier to just terminate your bilateral agreements individually.  There are no advantages to a multilateral agreement over a bilateral agreement, and multilateral agreements are more problematic.  So why change?

The Australian Greens will […]

17. prohibit the trade in goods that have been produced through the exploitation of children and other vulnerable people.  — p87.

Brilliant idea.  A better idea is to tax imported goods such that the average salary cost per item is equivalent to local minimum standards.  For example, imagine a product costs 38c in wages to create here in Australia but only 9c in wages in Libertopia.  That product should have a tariff of 29c.  It means you don’t get an advantage by cutting out local labour.

The Australian Greens will […]

22. support abolition of, unless radical reform can democratise, the IMF, World Bank and WTO. — p88.

Here I am on the third last page and I’ve reached some kind of nirvana: I’m no longer shocked by the outrageously crazy proposals of the Greens.  I have become desensitised.

The Australian Greens will […]

36. eliminate level crossings in urban areas, and ensure the presence of signals on all crossings in rural and regional parts of the national rail network.  — p90.

Yes, the Greens will protect us from the menace of level crossings

The worst part about this policy is that it was clearly derived from the hysteria drummed up by Today Tonight and A Current Affair.  Oh, they’re so dangerous.  I don’t know anybody who knows anybody that’s been injured due to a level crossing.

And there we have it.  90 pages of the Greens policies which are mostly vague waffle mixed with a few outrageously crazy ideas.  It’s sad that just about every single person who votes for the Greens at the upcoming election won’t read through that document, especially considering the conversations I’ve had with people lately about the Greens have revealed how little people know about the party they support.  Only one person knew that the Greens opposed reproductive cloning (which is a major issue for some people, including me), and that person wasn’t going to vote for the Greens anyway.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

2 thoughts on “If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich… Greens policy part 3!”

  1. Well, take one of your responses:

    ” […] introduce a new top marginal tax rate of 50 per cent on incomes of $1 million or over. — p80.

    Does it shock you that the demographic of the Greens voter base doesn’t typically involve the wealthy? How is a 50% tax rate anything but punitive? A person earning $999,999 will pay $424,849 in 2009-10. If the Greens had their way, if that person had earned an extra dollar, they would have paid $75,150 more in tax. That’s an expensive dollar!”

    Do you understand what a marginal tax rate is? The 50% kicks in OVER 1 million. They don’t pay 50% on the income below $1. If they earn an extra dollar, they’ll pay an extra 50c in tax, not $75,150.

    Still, there are quite a few policies in that list I don’t particularly agree with – and which I doubt will stay as the party grows. Lefty members of the party, people who’ve come from the Democrats or ALP as they’ve lunged to the right, will undoubtedly tinker with that document and get rid of the silly bits (abandoning ANZUS, indeed). The main support for the Greens now is not environmental, it’s progressive, but we’re looking for a party to represent the 30% solid progressive perspective, not the 2% fringe who made up the Greens when those parts of that policy document were designed.

    It’s a good point to raise to Greens members, though – it would be better if they joined those committees and fixed those elements before the next election.

    The thing is that where they’ve been attacked as “fringe” recently, it’s been on stuff that they’re entirely right on: harm minimisation, marriage equality, that sort of thing. The nuclear issue is something they have debated, and they see it as an expensive (and it is) short-sighted dead end. Most of the rest of those things you raise would surprise Greens members (and probably MPs) and once they realise they’re there I’m sure they’ll work to fix them. In the meantime, there’s buckleys of those being implemented.

    The priority for the Greens is climate change, followed by civil liberties (filter, marriage) and better funding of public services (education, health, public transport). They’ve got their work cut out for them on those; I doubt they’ll be seriously proposing to reduce Australia’s territorial boundaries.

    And I suspect that policy will be reviewed out of existence as soon as a majority of members and MPs become aware of it.

    1. Do you understand what a marginal tax rate is? The 50% kicks in OVER 1 million. They don’t pay 50% on the income below $1. If they earn an extra dollar, they’ll pay an extra 50c in tax, not $75,150.

      If that’s what they meant, that’s what they should have said. If that’s what it meant, you can’t determine how much extra they’d pay because you don’t know the flat rate before the bracket.

      It’s a good point to raise to Greens members, though – it would be better if they joined those committees and fixed those elements before the next election.

      I still don’t buy this ‘Oh, that’s just what they’ve said in writing. You shouldn’t only believe what they say vocally’ argument. It’s like a reverse Tony Abbott. If you don’t show enough respect to the electorate to present your policies accurately, how can anybody trust you with their vote?

      Out of charity, we must suppose that they mean what they say when they list these policies. If so, anybody who thinks scientific endeavours in reproductive cloning are worthwhile should refrain from voting Greens. If so, anybody who thinks that bilateral FTAs are a good thing (which they are) should refrain from voting Greens. If so, anybody who thinks that welfare policies relating to indigenous Australians aren’t correctly listed in ‘environment’ should refrain from voting Greens. If so, anybody who thinks that meaningful solutions do not involve creating yet more ministerial positions should refrain from voting Greens.

      And so on and so forth.

      It doesn’t matter what you think are the Greens priorities and policies. It matters what they say. That’s the problem with the Greens: very few people have bothered to find out what their policies are and their policies are unpalatable. The Greens vote is wishful thinking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: