It would be fair to say both major parties are less than popular with most people. What other choice do we have? The Greens have some support. They get into the low teens when it comes to percentage of votes, but that will not get them into power. So how does a small party like the Australian Greens get into power?
I have a cunning plan.
The Greens probably have lots of research, but my guess is that their strengths would be seen as:
- Support for the environment
- The best people to do something about climate change
- Strong social conscious
When we come to their weaknesses, this would be my guess:
- Too idealistic
- No real experience in running the country
- Not economic managers
- Focus is only on the environment
The first thing the Greens need to do is to stop continually talking about the environment. It only reinforces the view that the Greens are a one issue party – even if they are. Sure it is nice to get your name in the paper, but if you want to be seen as more than just a single focus party, you need to play down the environmental PR.
Could the Greens ever do this? It would certainly get a lot of grass root supporters offside unless they can be convinced to see the bigger picture. Whilst the Greens do have views on non-environmental issues, they need to get these in front of Australia. They need to do the hard yards to develop and support comprehensive policies outside their perceived interest area.
Secondly, they need to present a vision of Australia that looks both attractive and achievable. What will we look like in 10 years if the Greens were in power? I am not suggesting this is the right line but think about a vision that goes along this line.
“It has been evident for many years that we cannot compete with low cost countries in mass market manufacturing. Be it cars or TVs or plastic plates, we do not have a high volume, low cost manufacturing advantage. We must accept that manufacturing will continue to decline as we continue down this path.
To replace that market, we need to invest more heavily is research and development, and translate that into producing high tech products that have more specialised markets.
That will require two things. Firstly the government must invest, or create an environment that encourages private investment, in new industries. The environmental area is one where we have some good research going on but we equally have opportunities in medical research and communications.
Secondly, we need to invest in retraining people currently working in dying industries to move seamlessly into growing industries.
This will require an investment of X billion dollars over the next 10 years. We will fund that amount by …..”
To me that sounds like a plan. I can see the sense in what is being proposed. I can see the reality in what is happening. It encourages me that somebody is thinking ahead further than the next election.
The next thing to do is to recruit a high profile financial figure to lead the economic debate. Imagine if Ken Henry joined the Greens as economic spokesman. Suddenly the Greens would be taken seriously from an economic perspective. He would be able to communicate the economic issues and explain in a convincing way why we should follow a certain path. I am sure he could propose all sorts of economic innovation that would leave both parties buried in lobbyists trying to protect vested interest groups by shutting down the discussion. Not only that, but he could do it in a way that made sense to the majority.
The minority may control the media, but the majority elect the government.
Ken not interested? What about David Gonski? What about some of the more visible economic commentators? Would love to see Ross Gittens as Treasurer.
Now to another story. Accept that the population sees the Greens as inexperienced in managing the country. They are. What if they were to put this proposition forward.
“We do not have the experience to govern, but Australia is looking for a third option when they stand in front of the ballot paper. They are sick of Liberals and Labor being the only two options to govern the country. The problem with inexperience is that you need to build up that experience and it takes time.
The objective of the Greens in the next election is to get a core of people into government who can improve their skills so they are ready to take over the reins at the following election. Vote Green this time and give the third party an opportunity to develop a credible alternative at the following election.”
In other words, ask the electorate to vote in enough members to provide a ‘team in training’. A core of people who will learn about their policy areas and become an electable government in three years time.
The risk is that people buy the story in such numbers, and give the Greens so much support, they win the first election. Thrown into leadership before they are ready. On the other hand no party may have a majority, and the Greens may find themselves part of a coalition with Labor.
In order to become a viable third option, the Greens need to show they are more than a one issue party. In other countries parties with similar views have named themselves things like social democrats to avoid the perception of singular focus. They have been able to build credibility and the perception they can lead a country.
Instead of trying to crawl forward a few inches at each election, the Greens need to rethink their approach. Set a long term (6 or 9 years) goal and work out what you need to do to achieve it. Perhaps this is next to impossible. People in the party today may think that even though they instigate the action, they may never be part of the success. Others may rise to take their place. It is rare to hear someone honestly say, “The party is bigger than me”.