13 June 2016
by James Massola
Greens' dummy spit over preferences as unedifying as it is hypocriticalGreens leader Richard Di Natale at Parliament House.
Deal making is alive and well in politics
And it proved that when you scratch the surface, the Greens can be just like the major political parties.
Yes, Senator Di Natale was right to say that the Liberals putting Labor ahead of his party was always the most likely outcome.
And yes, it's understandable the Greens leader – who has taken a few knocks this campaign as personal scrutiny has rightly increased – is disappointed with the decision because it will set his party back.
For example, the Greens' only lower house MP, Adam Bandt, picked up the seat of Melbourne at the 2010 federal election because he received Liberal preferences.
In 2013, the Greens would have picked up the seat of Batman if that arrangement had held and it will now be much tougher for the Greens to dislodge the accident prone Labor MP David Feeney.
In Wills, Grayndler and Sydney, Greens hopes are just about dashed.
But that's about as far as it goes.
The Liberal Party's decision to back Labor in the inner city has three dividends for Malcolm Turnbull; it allows the Prime Minster to take a "principled" stand against the "extreme" Greens; it allows him to wedge Labor, who cannot and will not put the Liberals ahead of the Greens in every electorate; and, it will please the Coalition's conservative base.
For Labor, it likely means it will hold its shaky inner city seats – at least for another term – and that the ALP can switch focus to Labor-Liberal contests.
Labor has already said it will back Liberals ahead of the Nationals in three three-cornered contests as a quid pro quo, and it may go further and back the Liberals ahead of Nick Xenophon candidates in South Australia, too – saving Jamie Briggs and even perhaps Christopher Pyne.
Deal making is alive and well in politics. For Senator Di Natale to pretend otherwise – he claimed he had had "no discussions with the Liberal Party" and "no discussion with the Labor Party about preferences" – defies credibility.
He railed against the "Coles and Woolies" of Australian politics, "coming together, to lock out any competition from more progressive voices, more independent voices".
And Senator Di Natale said he called Bill Shorten to demand an apology and that Labor "take down any of that misleading material, those billboards, the online advertising, the leaflets sent to people, lying about a potential deal" between the Greens and Liberals.
"Ignore the nasty deal between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. You preference according to your own desires."
Mr Bandt claimed, incredibly, that "this is the day that Labor sold their soul".
Sadly, he did not clarify whether he had sold his soul in 2010 when elected by the Liberal preferences he railed against on Sunday.
Senator Di Natale's claim is the political equivalent of a bait-and-switch; of course he hasn't been in those preference discussions.
That's what the party machine men and women who negotiate these complex preference deals do. And yes, the Greens get down and dirty like everyone else.
Those billboards and flyers? Accurate, until the Liberals made their decision on Sunday.
In fact, the Greens believed they had a good chance of winning Liberal preferences in their target inner-city seats – in exchange for damaging the ALP by running open preference tickets in the outer suburbs to boost the Liberals – as recently as last Wednesday.
In reality, Senator Di Natale's sad Sunday jeremiad was an exercise in hypocrisy; the Greens leader condemned a deal that just days earlier his party had hoped to break their way, not Labor's.
Would a Liberal-Greens preference deal, of whatever variety, have been "nasty"?
Oh, and it's still very likely that Labor and the Greens will, in the end, preference each other in the Senate in the hope of boosting the number of progressive voices.
Will Senator Di Natale condemn his own party for doing that deal with Labor, if that's how the cards fall in the Senate?
Don't hold your breath.
Of course if you don't agree with preference deals, you can always construct your own preferences on the ballot paper.