Lessons from the (Modern) Prince, Part 4: Understanding the Greens in Tasmania
April 12, 2010
Following a fortnight of uncertainty after the 2010 Tasmanian election, the Greens Party led by former advertising guru Nick McKim, have flexed their muscles to effectively appoint the ALP as minority governing party.
This act by the Greens Party came after both major parties refused to negotiate with the Greens, and made this a part of their election pitch during the campaign. The end result, Labor 10 seats, Liberals 10 seats, and Greens Party 5 seats, saw the Liberal Party get more votes overall than Labor. During the campaign, with the threat of a hung parliament – no realised – both Liberal and Labor said that if there was a tie in seats, the party with the most votes would be given the opportunity to form government.
Denied the ability to negotiate with Labor or Liberals over ministerial portfolios or policy, and apparently ignored by the Governor over the last week, Nick McKim and the Greens Party announced that they would support a Labor government:
Nick McKim announced via a southern newspaper today that his party would offer support to the incumbent government by not moving or supporting motions of no-confidence in parliament unless there was evidence of gross malfeasance, maladministration or corruption.
Their decision of course is entirely opportunistic and unprincipled. But that’s fine. Because the Greens Party, like all modern political parties, are principally concerned with gaining and exercising power. And luckily Machiavelli can help us decipher the Greens Party’s decision.
This article is a part of Project 52 – one post per week for the year.
Whenever those states which have been acquired as stated have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold them: the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you. Because such a government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot stand without his friendship and interest, and does its utmost to support him; and therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than in any other way.
In this case, the (modern) prince is the Greens Political Party. Acquiring a state in this case is gaining significant political power over the political processes in Tasmania.
“…there are three courses for those who wish to hold them: the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute…” The three options open to the Greens Party after “acquiring” Tasmania were:
- Ruin them: The Greens Party could have continued to hold both Labor and Liberal to ransom, and perpetuate the political stasis in Tasmania, where no major party could effectively govern. The Greens Party would have benefited by keeping both other parties in a state of crisis, able to topple either (or both) at their whim, unless both supported each other. Obviously, this was the least politically acceptable for the Greens Party – who’ve already been damaged by accusations of blackmail, and holding Tasmania to ransom.
- Reside there in person: This was the Greens Party’s preferred option – the modern equivalent of having a place in the ministry with a formal arrangement. The Greens wanted to exercise power from within the government. That’s why Nick McKim constantly said he wanted to negotiate. He desperately wanted to reside within cabinet, and control the government and the governing party from this powerful vantage point.
- Draw a tribute: The final option – the one that we can see today – is for the Greens Party to choose another party (Labor) to govern, then extract political concessions. Nick McKim is hoping that Labor will be so beholden to the Greens Party that he will be able to exercise political power over the government without being a minister in cabinet.
The upshot of this is that twelve years of Labor continues in Tasmania. As in South Australia, it’s time for Labor to go back out to the community and reconnect – it did after all experience a large swing against it. The disaster that would have been a Liberal government is averted.
Unfortunately, Labor is now at the mercy of a ruthless, opportunistic political party under the leadership of Nick McKim. It must be wary of its vulnerability to the Greens Party, and forge its own path.