The NSW Coalition must be thanking its lucky stars Labor is navel-gazing about how to confront a challenge to its left flank from the Greens.
The risk for Labor is the more it tries to appeal to inner-city Greens voters, the more it alienates the mainstream majority of voters in the suburbs who do not share the Greens’ post-materialist values. It is a classic wedge. Labor’s “light green” inner-city candidates campaigned on asylum-seeker rights, gay marriage and cycleways. Labor was once the party of workers and was motivated by economic opportunity and social progress. Chasing Greens voters is a dead end for Labor. The real danger is losing votes on its right flank. The Coalition is Labor’s real enemy.
The Greens are a hypocritical fringe party. Many of their voters send their kids to private schools while lamenting funding for public schools. They want a fairer tax system while negatively gearing an extensive property portfolio. They worry about coal-seam gas mining thousands of kilometres from where they live. They enjoy trains, trams and buses close to the CBD but complain about motorways designed to alleviate congestion for commuters who can’t afford inner-city homes trying to get to work from the outer suburbs. Many are clueless about Greens policies to close Sydney Airport or introduce death duties. The Greens put emotion before sound policy.
As Labor debates how to deal with the Greens, it is preparing to expel Martin Ferguson for talking sense on power privatisation. Mr Ferguson is a former ACTU president and federal minister, and hails from a prominent Labor family. His comments during the election campaign lashing Labor’s fear-mongering were motivated by his concern for workers. He recognised the economic benefits for the state and for consumers. “I’ve done nothing but express a consistent policy position that in the end will mean lower energy prices for the traditional base that the Labor Party is supposed to represent,” he told The Australian. It says a lot about Labor that it would rather go Green than represent the interests of those who were the reason for its existence: working-class voters.