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Labor’s stoush with Greens intensifies

Senior Labor ministers join the effort to stand apart from the Greens.

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THREATS by NSW Labor to relegate the Greens to last on the ballot paper could be adopted nationally and cost the minor party the balance of power in the Senate.

As the Greens warned Labor that such a move would likely hand a Coalition government control of the Senate, officials outside NSW did not rule out following suit but would reserve a decision until closer to the election.

The push by the NSW Right is part of a strategy by Labor to differentiate itself from the Greens and restore its flagging fortunes.

While the NSW Left is likely to support the motion at this weekend’s state Labor conference, it will be demanding assurances that it does not mean a policy shift to the right.

”My only concern is someone using this to go further to the right,” said the NSW senator Doug Cameron. ”I don’t support that but I do have real criticism of the Greens. It’s all care and no responsibility for those guys.”

The West Australian Labor MP Melissa Parke, a member of the Left, said she too had problems with the Greens but the NSW Right was in no position to lecture given its own role in Labor’s demise. She said the assault was ”trumped up” to distract from the damage the faction had inflicted on Labor.

”The Mark Arbib-Karl Bitar model of doing business is what caused our problems,” she told

the Herald. ”Where Labor has suffered in the polls is when it has equivocated on its principles. I’ve got no interest in taking advice from the NSW Right.”

The NSW Labor general-secretary, Sam Dastyari, will move a motion to give the party the flexibility to preference the Greens last at the next federal election.

Labor tends to preference the Greens first but the Greens do not always respond in kind. Labor now reasons that the Greens need Labor’s preferences more than it needs theirs and Mr Dastyari’s motion, if adopted, will give himself and other party officials greater power when negotiating preferences.

The Greens have nine senators, three of whom will be up for re-election at the next ballot. At least two will struggle to be returned without Labor support, raising the possibility the Coalition or independents having the balance of power. The Greens warned that Tony Abbott could then easily revoke the carbon and mining taxes.

Many in Labor blame the government’s woes over the carbon tax on their alliance partner and are angry at the Greens’ intransigence on such policies as asylum seekers.

Some in Labor suspect the assault is to prepare for a return of Kevin Rudd who would demand the Greens’ support to soften the carbon tax by moving quickly to a floating price.

Mr Dastyari said his motion was about Labor taking back ownership of progressive issues.

”It’s not about abandoning that space” he said of the left. ”You can only do this in conjunction with winning over those voters.”

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