Tuesday, 5 July 2011

So the time has come when the barbarians have crossed the threshold and are now firmly seated within the chamber. As of yesterday the Greens' enlarged contingent - nine Senators in total from the country's third party - took their places in the Senate. Their first order of business, The Australian reminds us, will be carbon tax legislation. The national broadsheet said that the "emboldened" party made an "audacious bid" to secure for itself the position of Senate President.

Right-wing flack Gerard Henderson leapt from the gate with an opinion piece comparing the Greens' success with the performance of two other challengers to Australia's entrenched two-party system: the Democratic Labor Party and the Australian Democrats. Henderson works for The Sydney Institute, a right-of-cantre think tank, and is frequently to be seen growling menacingly on the ABC's Insiders program. He's an old hand at this sort of thing, but Bob Brown's claim that the Greens would supplant Labor in the future holds enough water to dampen Henderson's enthusiasm in this case. The fact is that the Right in Australia is struggling with the ascendancy of the Greens.

Labor is staying mum at the moment. A week ago, on the ABC's Q&A program, Labor's Anthony Albanese sat next to the Greens' Adam Bandt on the panel and the two were on their best behaviour. Albanese at one point carefully deflected a call to attack the ruling party's coalition partner. It was an interesting performance, and an instructive one.

But then here comes Henderson accusing the Greens of "hubris" - raising the sickle at the stand of tall poppies that have miraculously sprouted in the fecund field of Australian politics post-Rudd - and threatening the emerging party with doom. The DLP and the Democrats faded fast, he reminds us. The Greens need no reminding but you can hardly blame leader Bob Brown for crowing a little. Following Rudd's disastrous backdown on the issue of carbon pricing, the result in last year's federal election must have felt good to the 66-year-old environmental veteran. It's been a long road. Finally there appears to be the promise of movement on the climate front and, since Senators hold office for six years, little chance of the Coalition repealing any carbon price legislation once it has been passed by Parliament.

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