… and we’re up to The Australian Greens!

Full disclosure, here: I had already decided to hand out how to vote cards and possibly scrutineer for the Greens before reading their current policies (on the grounds that it is possible that there might be a smaller party that I prefer, but if so, they won’t be bothering with Wills, which is a very safe Labor seat). Having read their policies, I have not changed my mind. Senate preferences in Victoria flow to the Democrats, the Sex Party, the Radical Independents, the Secular Party, the people from Crikey.com, the Socialist Alliance (not the communists), and then to Labor. Which, of course, is where their preferences will end up, because none of the other parties before Labor are likely to get more votes than the Greens, and indeed, the preferences pretty much serve solely to demonstrate that they are Family First’s worst nightmare. Though the bottom of the ticket is reserved for the Citizens’ Electoral Council, the Climate Change Sceptics, and One Nation, with Family First occupying a positively friendly slots 50-54 out of 60. Incidentally, this pattern seems to have been followed more or less across all the other states, often with Labor placed directly above Liberal, just to show how dissimilar they find the two parties…

The Greens have grouped their policies into Agriculture and Natural Resources; Care for People; Climate Change and Energy; Environment; Human Rights and Democracy; Media, Arts and Science; and Sustainable Economy. I have to admit, while I am not precisely a one-issue voter, my interests are fairly narrow and tend to concentrate themselves in the Care for People and Human Rights Categories, and this is where I feel the Greens really shine. I actually find it fairly difficult to get really interested in the environmental stuff (which I note is represented by three of their seven categories – yes, they have broadened their policies, but it’s clear where they started from) – I know I should, and I compost and convert to solar, and use greenbags, and grow my own organic, heirloom veggies, but this is as much to benefit me financially as anything else. I know that without the environment there will be no people to care about, but it’s still too abstract a thing for me. But not for the Greens, so here goes:

I don’t even know where to start. There’s too much for me to summarise here. Basically, they are in favour of conservation (sea and land), keeping ecosystems viable, and managing water and other natural resources. Climate change, while having a section all of its own, is also mentioned here, particularly in the context of increasing bushfire risk. Interestingly, they also say that ‘the cultural knowledge of indigenous people as the original custodians of land and sea must be recognised’ and that the land and sea rights of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders should ber supported. Their policies include education, incentives to promote sustainability in industry (and phasing out tax breaks and policies that promote pollution, waste, etc), protecting all of Australia’s different environments, implementing fuel-reduction burning strategies to help prevent bushfires, and, my favourite “implement shared management agreements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop meaningful employment in natural resource management.”

I really like the way they are looking at what has been done in the past to keep Australia beautiful (sorry), or at least sustainable, though I question whether a population as large as ours can really be usefully compared to the Aboriginal populations supported by this country in the past.

They also have policies to protect biological diversity, coastal management… oh so many policies. I’m sorry, I am really not going to read through all of this in detail, because it goes for 16 pages, not counting Climate Change *or* the bit about Natural Resources, and I’m tired and still have another 17-odd political parties to read through. Suffice it to say that they are very, very thorough, and there is an emphasis on trying to work with existing landowners and business to improve things, rather than acting punitively and from above.

There is one policy I’m slightly dubious about, and that’s in the area of Animals. It goes without saying that I am in favour of the humane treatment of animals, but there are a couple of policies in there that I suspect would not do much for medical research, in particular ban genetic engineering involving animals, including reproductive cloning.

I’m not sure what they think they mean by genetic engineering of animals, but I’m fairly certain that the breeding programs used to develop mouse models of disease would be affected by this. I’m also a bit concerned about the rules regarding exporting animals only to countries whose animal protection laws are as good as ours – we regularly exchange mice with institutes overseas, and this is done with close attention to animal ethics rules, but an institute’s animal ethics committee is not necessarily reflective of animal welfare rules across the country. I can see problems arising from this.

On the other hand, I’m very pleased to note that their principles and policies relating to population do make a point of taking into account the fact that this potentially impacts on the rights of women, on matters such as immigration, distribution of wealth, and even conditions and wages of workers, and I very much like the fact that their policies include both funding for reproductive health and an increase in overseas aid directed towards the poorest (who are often women), focusing on ‘clean water, sanitation education and high quality accessible health services, including sexual and reproductive health services’ No global gag rule for the Greens.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

The Greens, are in favour of Sustainable Agriculture and Fair Trade agreements and against GMOs. And do I even need to mention that they are anti-logging? Again, there is a lot of discussion of the fact that sustainable agriculture does, in the long term, benefit farmers by ensuring that there *is* a long term in which to farm. There are a number of policies providing incentives and assistance for farmers moving to more sustainable agricultural methods, and a lot of talk about community consultation – the Greens are often seen as anti-farmer, or at best, as city-slickers with no idea about the country, and I think they are trying to counter this perception.

Climate Change and Energy

Oh God, why did they have to put all their environmental policies together? Why? I’m sorry, I really do care, but this is really not my forte and I’m going nuts here.

Anyway. Not surprisingly, the Greens feel that Climate Change is currently the greatest threat to the world in generally. Among other things, they want to get us down to zero net greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and by no later than 2050, with a minimum 40% reduction in emissions by 2020, and a minimum 30% increase in use of renewable energy by this time. These are all good things. While they don’t actually use words like taxes and fines, it would appear that, in addition to incentives, there will be penalties for businesses that fail to reduce their emissions. The Greens want to ban public funding for new coal mines, but again make a point of saying that they will “develop a plan to assist affected communities in the transition from dependence on coal mining and coal-fired power stations, given that global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will inevitably reduce the demand for coal.”

Definitely trying to give their environmental policies – which are not merely more detailed but far more stringent than anyone else’s – a friendlier, more human touch.

Ooh, and no GST on public transport! I’d be even happier if they wanted to extend public transport – I suspect they do, but this is not explicitly stated so far.

The Greens are also anti-nuclear. No surprise here.

Caring for People

At last! Policies that I have a chance of being able to comment on intelligently!

In the area of health, the Greens want to extend and support medicare (with incentives to doctors who bulk-bill), and include dental care. They want to increase funding for mental health care, with 24-hour community mental health services, and fund preventative health. They want to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver accessible, culturally appropriate, community controlled health services. This is the really big one, if they can do it – Aboriginal health in this country is an absolute disgrace, and paternalistic measures only make things worse. They want to extend the Phamaceutical Benefits Scheme so that chronically-ill people who are not on Disability Support can get their medications cheaply or for free. Abortion is to be legal, safe and free (i.e., just like all other health care), and access to a full range of birthing services is also to be provided. They also want improved labelling of food (an excellent idea, but one that is going to drive me, personally, right around the bend – I’m having enough trouble labelling my sweets as it is).

The Greens are not in favour of legalising drugs. They say this right up front, because they get accused of this at every election. They are in favour of research trials and evaluation of policies, as well as free information about substance use, especially for young people. In general, they appear to support a harm minimisation program, with better access to counselling and rehabilitation, as well as making drug substitution treatments and drug-related counselling available on medicare. They also want to ban all tobacco advertising and ban donations from tobacco or alcohol companies to political parties.

And they are pro-public schools.

Oh, I give up. I’m not going to summarise every page of this document, or this will end up being 50 pages in its own right. Basically, if you know my opinions on health, education, refugees, affordable housing, parental leave, feminism, discrimination, industrial relations, gay marriage, disability, carers, and Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, you pretty much know the opinions of the Greens. I like all their evil, pinko-commie-feminist-greenie policies. I like them a lot.

I don’t know if they are economically viable, but I’m willing to give them a pass on this for now, as nobody, not even the Greens, expects them to form a government at this election or even the next one. They are, however, growing into themselves – there has been a definite progression over the last decade or so during which their base has become broader and the party as a whole has become less of a weird, out-there, socialist-alliance kind of party. I’m voting for them, because I think we need a few more voices of conscience in government – I’m hoping they will have the balance of power, or at least some kind of real weight in the new government, so that we don’t totally forget our humanity.