Alex Mitchell’s WEEKLY NOTEBOOK – Oz Greens step into the mainstream

“The fix was in” when Dr Richard Di Natale was elected unanimously as the new Greens leader.
The resignation of Christine Milne was sprung on the party’s Canberra representatives this week. It succeeded in sidelining deputy leader Adam Bandt, the Melbourne MHR who had been expected to succeed Milne.
But to the Tasmanian Greens, i.e. party founder Bob Brown, Milne and Senator Peter Swish-Wilson, Bandt is regarded as too left-wing. Milne’s parting gesture was to arrange the ambush of Bandt and the succession of Di Natale. Mission accomplished.
Not only has Bandt been sidelined, but the NSW Greens have also been kept out of the leadership despite their impressive presence in NSW politics.
At the March 28 NSW election, the Greens collected three Legislative Assembly seats – Jamie Parker (Balmain), Jenny Leong (Newtown) and Tamara Smith (Ballina) – and have six Upper House MPs, Dr John Kaye, David Shoebridge, Jan Barham, Dr Mehreen Faruqi and Jeremy Buckingham.
The sole Greens senator from NSW, Lee Rhiannon, was kept in the dark about Milne’s resignation and the lightning transition arrangement.
Ms Rhiannon is a formidable political organiser and networker. She has fought tirelessly to expand the Greens appeal to include trade unions, low pay, workplace rights, social equity issues and rorts in the election donations system.
The strategy of embracing a broader social platform is now irreversible and, if anything, Di Natale will consolidate it.
For her trouble, Ms Rhiannon has been demonised by Rupert Murdoch’s Australian with the help of poisonous leaks from her opponents among Green policy advisers and the ALP’s Socialist Left.

Natale to be tested

The words most frequently used about Senator Di Natale are “mainstream”, “pragmatic”, “consensus-driven” and “outcomes-oriented” and they tell their own story.
They are keynote phrases used by the Canberra Press Gallery and the editorial writers to mean that a particular politician is malleable and open to doing deals.
However, for the first time in two decades, the leadership of the Greens has arrived on the mainland with Di Natale from Victoria and his two deputies, Larissa Waters from Queensland and Scott Ludlum, Western Australia.
While Ms Waters is fulfilling a PR role for female votes and Ludlum enjoys wide appeal among young people enthused by the IT revolution, it is Di Natale who will be tested in the year leading up to the next Federal Election.
In the past the former Geelong GP has operated as a “loner” pursuing his own interests and developing his own publicity, e.g. his visit to last year’s ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Disharmony seems inevitable. Di Natale’s free-wheeling brand of individualism is at odds with the Greens’ philosophy of collectivism.
On the positive side, the Greens have wrested leadership control from the self-righteous tree-huggers from Tasmania, executed a generation change, introduced a collective leadership and broadened their platform to include jobs and training, defending Medicare (a Di Natale priority), supporting public education from pre-school to universities, a humanitarian policy on refugees and defending civil liberties.
The party’s membership and influence is growing and its candidates are of a much higher calibre than 10 years ago, while the other major parties seem to be attracting work-shy drongos looking for well-paid security.

Bolt from the blue

The mainstream media’s view of the Greens leadership change has been, well, bizarre with News Ltd’s Andrew Bolt leading the madness.
“Milne and Brown long fought to contain the rise of ‘watermelon greens’ – Green MPs who are actually socialists,” Bolt wrote.
“The ultimate watermelon is Lee Rhiannon, a former communist trained in the Soviet Union who backs a boycott of Israel and fights to protect the CFMEU, a construction union accused of corruption by the royal commission into trade unions.” (Daily Telegraph, 7 May 2015).
The paragraph is a mixture of fantasy, paranoia and demented bile which is the now-familiar character of Bolt’s scribbling.
His colleague Daniel Meers was even more deranged: “The move [replacing Ms Milne with Senator Di Natale] mirrored the Soviet Union after the death of Joseph Stalin, when power was shared by Lavrenty Beria, Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov.”
Memo to Mr Meers: Pull yourself together and seek help.

SBS rejects free speech

The sacking of Scott McIntyre by SBS managing director Michael Ebeid is an act of sheer bastardry and political opportunism (i.e. sucking up to Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Abbott Government).
McIntyre’s offence was to use his private twitter account to pass some harsh judgements on the obscene Anzac jamboree orchestrated by Abbott, the RSL and the media.
Turnbull took his displeasure to Ebeid demanding action against the talented soccer reporter. The result was McIntyre’s instant dismissal for debunking the Anzac myth in language which is almost tame by the standards of fierce speeches and articles during the two (failed) referendums on conscription during World War One.
The way News Ltd journalists joined the cry for his sacking was simply chilling. So much for “free speech” at Murdochville.
Turnbull gained popularity among the literati by defending photographer Bill Henson when he was under siege in 2008 by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, NSW Premier Morris Iemma, the NSW vice squad, the Daily Telegraph and Queensland’s Hettie Johnson.
That support has dissolved as a result of his direct involvement in the victimisation of McIntyre in a clear free speech issue.
Hopefully McIntyre will sue SBS for wrongful dismissal, demand reinstatement and walk away with a massive damages payout in compensation.

Bye bye Newspoll

Newspoll, a joint venture between Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd and advertising agency WPP, will shut up shop at the end of May with the loss of 26 jobs.
In future Murdoch’s Australian and his stable of tabloids will publish polling from Galaxy, an outfit run by long-time News Ltd servant, David Briggs.
In a joint statement, The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell [no relation] and the paper’s chief executive Nicholas Gray said Galaxy had “proven its credentials as a highly accurate polling company in both federal and state elections”.
It’s a wonder they could keep straight faces. Among journalists, Galaxy’s role is to supply sensational front-page headlines to Murdoch’s stable of tabloids.
The demise of Newspoll will be a blow to The Australian which is already lurching into Tea Party marginalia. As Glenn Milne, former political editor of The Australian, admitted a few years ago: “To make Newspoll count was to make The Australian count.” In her stirring 2013 book, The Stalking of Julia Gillard, political commentator Kerry-Anne Walsh rubbished Newspoll saying that “over the years The Australian’s editors, using its polls as its principal weapon, have worked deftly to erode the standing of governments or leaders they don’t like and don’t deem fit to govern.”

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