Here's a little article by the respected Gerard Henderson which touches on a few ethical considerations re the Greens and the upcoming election:
Senator Bob Brown gave some good advice to voters last week. Asked about the preference deal negotiated between the Greens and Labor, the Greens leader declared he agreed "with those people who last time ignored the preference directions from all the parties and put their preferences where they wanted to". Brown said this is what he did.
The Greens leader is much admired among journalists. With the obvious exception of Leigh Sales on Lateline, few reporters drew attention to the disingenuousness involved here. The Greens negotiated a deal to direct preferences to Labor in the Senate, and in most of the marginal House of Representatives seats, in return for ALP preferences in both the Senate and the House. This will almost certainly ensure that the Greens will exercise the balance of power in the Senate after July 1 next year.
Yet Brown is dismissive of the very agreement likely to ensure a forthcoming key role for him in Australian politics. That aside, Brown has established a useful precedent. It is widely accepted the Greens have a chance in this election of winning seats in the House. The most likely prospects are the inner-city seats of Melbourne (where Cath Bowtell has Labor preselection after Lindsay Tanner's resignation), Sydney and Grayndler. The latter two seats are being defended by Labor ministers Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese respectively.
The Liberal Party has no hope of winning seats in inner-city Melbourne or Sydney. Nor do the Greens have the support to win an absolute majority. The Greens can only win if they receive Liberal preferences - which is likely to be the case.
It is here that Brown's advice has value. It would make sense for Liberal voters to place the likes of Bowtell, Plibersek and Albanese ahead of the Greens, irrespective of what the Liberal Party machine directs. The Liberal Party is closer to the left of the ALP than to the middle-class radicals who control the inner-city Greens.
Labor remains favourite to win the election despite the narrowing of its lead in some opinion polls. In any event, a surprise Coalition victory would not be dependent on the Greens winning inner-city electorates from Labor. Moreover, in the event of a hung parliament, the Greens are more likely to support Labor and Julia Gillard than the Coalition and Tony Abbott.
The only way for the Liberals and Nationals to stop Greens' victories in the Senate is to maximise the Coalition vote. As the Australian Workers Union national secretary and Labor Party faction leader, Paul Howes, has pointed out, the contemporary Greens are conflicted. There are Greens such as Brown and senator Christine Milne, who are primarily environmental activists. And there are Greens such as NSW Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon who are inner-city left-wing political activists.
Howes declared in The Sunday Telegraph that the Greens "party is being infiltrated by many whose commitment to the environment is questionable, and who are more focused on turning the Greens into a left-wing, socialist-style party".
Earlier, on the The Contrarians program on Sky News, Howes referred to Rhiannon as coming from a family who were "lifelong members of the pro-Stalinist Socialist Party"
. He went on to warn about the ex-communists and socialists "trying to take over the inner-city branches of the Greens".
Nationals senator Fiona Nash has the third spot on the Coalition's Senate ticket in NSW. Assuming Labor wins three Senate quotas and the Coalition two, the sixth vacancy will likely be contested between Nash and Rhiannon. Here the occasionally soft Coalition types can learn from the tough-minded Howes.
So far, Nash has said little, if anything, about Rhiannon. Sure Rhiannon's resume contains scant material about her radical past. However, the details are set out in Mark Aarons's The Family File, the author's account of his family's long-time membership of the Communist Party of Australia.
Rhiannon is not responsible for the fact she is the daughter of long-time CPA operatives Bill and Freda Brown (no relation to Bob Brown). But she is responsible for continuing the family's tradition as a young adult. In his book, Mark Aarons, the son of Laurie and Carol Aarons, says the Aarons and Brown families tolerated the excesses of communist totalitarianism up until the brutal invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968. Then the communist movement split. The Aarons family stood up to Moscow but the Brown family adopted the position of continuing Stalinists and formed the Socialist Party of Australia.Mark Aarons fell out with Rhiannon in the 1970s when, he claims, she refused to condemn the invasion of Czechoslovakia or the shooting of workers by the Polish communist dictatorship. He writes: "I could not conceive of someone of my age and experience supporting Moscow's policies."
Already there is evident tension between the Greens leadership in Canberra and Rhiannon. This is likely to increase if she wins a Senate vacancy. Howes understands the anti-business, anti-jobs agenda of the radical Greens is contrary to Labor's stance. You have to wonder how long it will take the Coalition to wake up to the fact that the best way to defend Nash is to expose Rhiannon's middle-class radicalism.
Gerard Henderson is executive director of The Sydney Institute.