LIKE a bad marriage, the relationship between the Labor Party and the Greens has soured to the point of complete dysfunction.
For nearly two years Julia Gillard has attempted to make the alliance work, at great political cost to her government.
Now, NSW ALP secretary Sam Dastyari says the Greens should no longer automatically get preference deals with Labor given their recent behaviour on the asylum seeker issue.
Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes and Labor powerbroker goes further in his The Sunday Telegraph column today, decrying the Greens as a toxic force in our democracy that should be completely rejected by the Labor side.
Why so passionate?
Because the Greens have made it completely clear their deal with Labor is worth less than nothing.
Greens leader Christine Milne appears to have no compunction in crippling any hope of a solution to the government’s greatest problem: the widespread community concern about asylum seekers risking their lives on boat journeys to Australia.
The Greens’ pig-headed intransigence will cost more lives.
Julia Gillard has a right to feel miffed — and she must now acknowledge that she erred badly in forming an alliance with the Greens back in September 2010.
Back then, when she secured Greens’ lower-house support by promising to introduce carbon pricing, in direct contradiction of her election promise, the Prime Minister must have anticipated a rocky ride.
The Greens’ then-leader Bob Brown promised to ensure supply and oppose any motions of no-confidence in the government from other parties or MPs.
Gillard’s side of the bargain was the carbon tax.
The Greens got what they wanted.
But all Gillard got was a massive political headache.
Her popularity has copped a hammering.
And the huge political capital invested by her government in getting it through has not been rewarded by the Greens.
They have done her over on the asylum seeker issue.
The first clause of the agreement the government and the Greens signed back in 2010 says: “This agreement establishes a basis for stable and effective government”.
The Greens’ refusal to compromise on the issue, which has effectively aligned them with Tony Abbott, makes a mockery of the agreement.
Waves of rickety asylum seekers boats are coming in unprecedented numbers, and will continue to, because people smugglers know the current government is impotent.
Every rational Australian agrees the issue must be urgently solved to avoid more people dying needlessly at sea — but the Greens, despite the display of tears, don’t seem to care.
When the carbon tax bill passed in November last year, Senate leader Eric Abetz said the Labor Party had sold its policy soul to the Greens for the sake of staying in power.
In hindsight, Julia Gillard might well agree.
She might have thought it was essential to get the Greens involved in her minority government — but the truth is that the Greens were never going to go with Tony Abbott, on that topic at least.
Gillard should have white-knuckled it, accepted that the momentum for carbon tax was completely gone by the time of the 2010 election, and kept the Greens in their rightful place — as a minority party, not a part of the government.
Responsibility for election comment is taken by the editor, Neil Breen, 2 Holt St, Surry Hills 2010