Greens set back reform on climate change and refugees

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Former Prime Minister Rudd with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi, 2008 (Image via dfat.gov.au).

The Greens have correctly directed criticism at the cruel policies of the ALP and the Coalition on refugees in Manus and Nauru. They are also rightly critical of the major parties on climate change. But on both issues, the Greens have not been very helpful.

The Greens must bear responsibility for what we now see on Manus Island and Nauru and a decade of wasted opportunities in combatting climate change.

In the Parliament in September 2011, the Greens sided with the then Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, against the Malaysian Agreement, which, whilst not ideal, would have been a useful first step in curbing boat arrivals. That arrangement with Malaysia was negotiated with the understanding and broad support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Not only did the Greens side with Tony Abbott opposing amendments to the Migration Act to allow the arrangement with Malaysia to proceed, but they embarked on an unscrupulous bashing campaign of Malaysia.

With the collapse of the Malaysian Solution, boat arrivals in Australia increased dramatically. In September 2011, 319 asylum seekers arrived by boat. By September 2012, the number had increased to 2062. The Greens cannot be absolved for their populism and the consequences we now see on Manus and Nauru.

The Greens must also accept responsibility for the collapse in public support for effective action on climate change. In collaboration with the Coalition in the Senate, they opposed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) of the first Rudd Government.

If the Greens had supported the Rudd Government’s CPRS in the Senate in 2008, the issue of climate change would not have been fully "done and dusted" but we would be in a far better position on climate change than we are today. The Greens said that the CPRS was not good enough. So we got nothing at all and 11 wasted years.

As a result of the Greens joining with Tony Abbott, we have continuing confusion, no emissions trading scheme, no carbon tax and expensive and unreliable electricity supply.

The Greens have inflicted damage to Australia on both climate change and asylum seekers. Their actions on both these issues have set back real reform and decent policies.

As Gough Whitlam often said"only the impotent are pure".

John Menadue is a commentator, businessman and former diplomat. You can follow John on Twitter @johnmenadue. This article was originally published on John Menadue's blog 'Pearls and Irritations' under the title, 'The facts on boat arrivals that the media won’t face'.

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