Why a loyal Greens voter jumped ship.

Published in the Northern Star on Wednesday 29 October 2014

I can date the beginning of my disillusionment with the Greens to the middle of 2009 when they voted with the opposition and some independents in the Senate to defeat the Rudd Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme. The Greens condemned Rudd’s ETS as “too timid” and took the all or nothing approach; as a result we got nothing. There was an opportunity to claim some symbolic moral high ground, that as one of the world’s worst offending nations we might have been prepared to play a leadership role in finding a way back from the brink. The Greens may have even dealt themselves a loftier political position, the job of driving incremental improvements to the ETS and shaming offenders. It was a lost opportunity for the Greens and for me a former Greens voter, my affections began to sour.

But that’s not bad enough. In 2010 the Greens handed Julia Gillard the poison chalice, namely, the Greens’ ‘less timid’ ETS. If she still wanted to be PM, she would be forced to break a solemn, on-the-record promise not to introduce an ETS. So, just as she was about to set sail into uncharted territory as our first female PM, facing a misogynist opposition leader, then later a barrage of shock jocks and just about anyone who wanted to insult her or women generally, the Greens supplied the ammunition to take her down.

Her perceived integrity in tatters, she was unceremoniously chucked out, it was a Greens ‘own goal’. The Abbott Government came in, the ETS went out, we were back to square one.  Didn’t the Greens see that coming?  We now have less environment protections than we would have had if the Greens had voted for the Rudd proposal back in 2009.  Who knows what kudos and respect the Greens might have earned in the intervening five years of constantly keeping carbon emissions on the political agenda and actually driving change instead of just talking about it.  

Despite all this, it is the Greens obstructionism in the local rail trail debate that is the final straw for me.  We have an opportunity to have a lucrative world-class rail trail, it just doesn’t seem right that the Greens would come out against it. The rail trail is not and never was an alternative to the train; it is an alternative to ending up with nothing, though the Greens continue to propagate the notion of the rail trail as a train killer.

After just a quick look at the Greens’ own policies you’d swear the rail trail would have the Greens written all over it.  They could instantly recast themselves as heroes, the party that secured the rail trail and all the social and cultural benefits for the community, the business opportunities in tourism and hospitality, the jobs and the $75 million in funding that comes with it, but will they stop flogging a dead horse and hitch their cart to something achievable instead? It seems not!

Instead of throwing their weight behind the rail trail, Greens spokesperson for transport Dr Mehreen Faruqi says it costs 50 times more to build railway infrastructure in NSW than it does in VIC as though it was a conspiracy.  If my correspondence with former Greens candidate for Lismore Andy Gough is anything to go by, the Greens are basing this statement on the example of the Bairnsdale to Melbourne line, which was closed between Sale and Bairnsdale in 1993 and reopened in 2004. The Bairnsdale line however has few curves, no flood plains, few river bridges, no mountain ranges or tunnels and few if any permanent speed restrictions. The East Gippsland Rail Trail on the other hand has been successfully established on the original extension from Bairnsdale to Orbost, which was not reopened due to the difficult topography, the degraded infrastructure, changed demographics and defunct industries, similar to the Casino to Murwillumbah line. 

The Greens have dodged all the hard questions about the real costs, safety standards and convenience and ignored the very sensible recommendations for future rail services as outlined in the “Cross Border Transport Taskforce” discussion paper, 2007. The glaring differences between the Bairnsdale example and our corridor leave unanswered questions about the honest representation of the facts, not at all what I would have expected from the Greens.

So just like the mainstream political parties to whom the Greens were meant to be a genuine alternative, they now seem fully engaged in conventional political spin aimed more at media exposure for the Greens’ candidates than anything substantial for the constituency. Despite all the rhetoric about carbon emissions and trains, there is no ETS, no train, and no prospects to the contrary.  I’m desperately hoping for my faith in the Greens to be restored, but I’m not holding my breath. How disappointing!

William Jeffery

Reply 29 October

Dear Will

Thanks for your email and apologies for sending a half-finished email just then.

I just wanted to acknowledge your email and let you know that I will respond more fully shortly.

Kind Regards

Mehreen

Dr Mehreen Faruqi

Greens NSW MP

 

2015 has dawned and still no reply has been received.