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Campaign Notes

Liberals are dancing with the devil

4 June 2016

9:00 AM

4 June 2016

9:00 AM

Three years ago, on the eve of the 2013 election, Michael Kroger, in his capacity as a former powerbroker of the Liberal Party, went on Sky News to denounce ‘rumours’ that the Liberals would do a deal with the Greens to defeat me in Melbourne Ports and return Adam Bandt in Melbourne. ‘I wouldn’t do a deal with the Greens under any circumstances at all,’ Kroger said. Kroger called it a ‘dirty deal’ and said it wouldn’t be worth winning Melbourne Ports on that basis. Three years later, Michael Kroger, now Victorian Liberal Party President, is the architect of his own ‘devil’s pact’ with the Greens. This time, the Liberals will preference the Greens in Labor-Green contests where the Liberals run third, including in the Melbourne seats Wills and Batman – and possibly Grayndler and Sydney in NSW – and in exchange, the Greens will run ‘open tickets’ in marginal Labor-Liberal seats, including Labor-held Chisholm, Bruce and Melbourne Ports. Pretending to their naïve supporters that ‘they never preference the Liberals’, the Green Party in fact know these open tickets will lower Labor’s vote in those crucial marginals. Worse, they cynically abuse the intent of their voters by assisting the return of a conservative Government. Some Greens hard-liners are candid about this – Greens candidate for Grayndler, Jim Casey, told an audience of far-left activists he’d prefer Tony Abbott as PM to Bill Shorten, because a re-elected Tory Government would more likely spark civil disruption and bring down capitalism! I thought that Mr Kroger was a conservative’s conservative who would have abhorred an opportunistic deal with the Greens political party, because this is one of those arrangements that empty real political differences of all substance. Even as a pragmatist, he must also fear it will backfire. Liberals are diametrically opposed to the Greens on all matters political, socio-economic and national security. Ultimately there must be ethics in politics.

John Howard thinks this Liberal/Green pact is a terrible idea, and has been warning against such a deal since 2010. He told me at a security conference in April that he opposed it. He told Sky’s Paul Murray ‘The Greens are the real extremists in this election… (They) are not in Australia’s interests’. Why would anyone on the right or centre-right accept the idea that the Liberal Party should preference a far-left party over a centre-left party? One need go no further than the Green’s long-standing ganging up against Israel to see the ideological inconsistency. Malcolm Turnbull, unlike Mr Howard, is sitting on the fence. Does he think so little of political beliefs that he would be complicit in this deal? If Kroger instructs Liberal voters to preference the far-left Green Party in Batman and Wills, Mr Turnbull should follow the advice of Howard and rule out this plan. It is sheer Chutzpah for Malcolm Turnbull to rail against the prospect that Labor would agree to a Labor-Greens coalition in a hung Parliament (Bill Shorten has ruled it out), while his agents negotiate actual deals to give the Greens a ‘leg-up’. Ironically, Kroger, in trying to justify the deal, told Sky recently he saw no reason to preference Labor anymore because of eroding support for Israel in NSW Labor. His solution then is to punish Labor by defeating two of Labor’s most pro-Israel Victorians – David Feeney and Peter Khalil – helping elect anti-Israel Greens instead. Liberal voters in Wills and Batman should ignore Kroger’s dictate and preference a responsible centre-left party, Labor, over the irresponsible, far-left Greens. Serious Liberals will remember that even after the tragedies in France, Parramatta and Endeavour Hills, the Greens opposed every serious piece of counter-terrorism legislation. In September, even before Isis killed 140 people in Paris, we began bombing Daesh HQ in Raqqa following earlier parliamentary support. But Adam Bandt insisted that the Greens oppose even highly restrictive aerial bombing of Daesh targets in East Syria. Scott Ludlam followed suit, declaring, ‘our only contribution [to Syria] being to fan the military flames’. Surely Comrade Kroger cannot forget Ludlam’s pronouncements condemning the joint US–Australia military exercises, or his attack on Israel as a rogue state? Last year, new Greens Leader Richard di Natale claimed that Israel being a Jewish state was ‘not conducive to a two-state solution’. Just last week, di Natale told The Lowy Institute the Greens denounce our bedrock security alliance with the United States. How is that going to wash with the Liberal base, or indeed, with the majority centre of Australian politics? Only the Australian’s Greg Sheridan examined the substance of di Natale’s address. In a column titled ‘Faustian deal will damage Liberal brand’, he said: ‘Greens leader Richard di Natale’s attack on the US alliance makes a mockery of Michael Kroger’s idea that the Liberals preference the Greens ahead of Labor in the election.’ ABC psephologist, Antony Green, reckons that Green ‘open tickets’ have historically been worth 3 per cent to the Liberal vote. The Greens leadership is cynically using the naiveté of their supporters to return the Coalition to office. The effect of these ‘open tickets’ may be to reduce Labor’s 2PP, winning votes for the Liberals. But the Greens want to turf out as many Labor MPs as possible to achieve their long-term plan of supplanting us. How can any serious person concerned with the economic future or the security of Australia support the prospect of a far-left party supplanting a centre-left party? Opinion polls are tight. No one can foretell at this stage who will win the main electoral battle. Meanwhile, a side battle is being fought that may drag politics much further to the Left. This will affect us all in the long term. It is a fateful ideological door that is being opened by a person who should know better. In battleground seats like Wills, Batman, Grayndler, Sydney, Bruce, Chisholm and Melbourne Ports, the future direction of our political system might be decided. Voters have a clear choice.

 

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