In 2010, the then leader of the Australian Greens Party Bob Brown signed an agreement that would see his party support Labor to form Government and keep Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.
Yesterday that agreement ended, with the current leader Christine Milne accusing the government of walking away from the arrangement.
Political analyst and writer Zareh Ghazarian explains what the end of the agreement means for the Government and what’s next for Australian politics.
Greens leader Christine Milne’s announcement yesterday that the alliance between the Greens and Labor was over had more symbolic than practical implications for Australian politics.
Senator Milne vowed the Greens would continue to support the government’s supply bills and vote against no confidence motions in parliament. These two safeguards are crucial in the Westminster system (a parliamentary democracy as modelled off the UK) and mean that Labor will continue to remain on the government benches until the election later this year.
The original agreement between the Greens and Labor came into effect just after the 2010 election which resulted in a hung parliament. In a public ceremony, prime minister Julia Gillard and then leader of the Greens Bob Brown signed a deal that gave Labor the edge to form a minority government.
In the five-page agreement, several issues were stated as being of great importance to the Greens in giving their support to Labor. While Milne may say the government has now “walked away” from this pact, a review of the big ticket items it contained shows Labor appears to have largely held its end of the bargain.
The 2010 agreement states “policies which address climate change” should be pursued by both parties as a priority during Labor’s time in government.
Despite the electoral backlash, fuelled effectively by the opposition’s campaign, the Gillard government upheld this accord by implementing the carbon tax in 2012.
The political consequences have been great. Labor’s popularity slumped and questions about prime minister Gillard’s trustworthiness became a potent weapon for the opposition.
Milne may say, “the Labor government is no longer honouring our agreement … to address climate change”, but in the end Labor delivered on its promise to the Greens at great political cost.
A variety of suggested improvements to Australia’s political operations were set out in the “Goals” section of the agreement. These included establishing a Leaders’ Debate Commission which the government has taken steps to do.
It also sought to hold a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition in the constitution. This will not be achieved in full before September 14, but last week the House of Representatives passed an Act of Recognition that committed to a referendum.
Another goal was for the parliament to serve its full term. The prime minister has moved to ensure this by naming September 14 as election day.
Proposed reforms to electoral funding have Labor backing and are currently before the Senate.
Integrity of parliament
Tapping into community concerns about parliamentary accountability, the agreement between Labor and the Greens sought to improve the operation of parliament.