By Andrew Calleja, Socialist Party Melbourne
During the euphoria that swept the Victorian Greens in the aftermath of the 2002 Yarra City council elections, incumbent Green councilors were at pains to explain that their party was progressive but with a capitalist ideology. It seemed that the Greens had become the party of many disaffected ALP voters.
Indeed Electrical Trades Union State Secretary Dean Mighell joined the party after years of ALP membership. By the Victorian State election later that year the Greens with a record membership had become popular enough to send a shudder through the ALP camp, with the loss of the seat of Richmond a reality. In the end the ALP retained Richmond but Gemma Pennell went within 900 votes of unseating Dick Wynne.
Move forward 18 months and Greens membership has stalled on the back of ALP resurgence and dissatisfaction with the way the party has handled itself in local government and other forms of public office. Dean Mighell is again a member of the ALP and the Green vote is expected to be steady rather than spectacular at the upcoming federal election.
The Greens greatest short fall in inner city Melbourne has been its lack of innovation in dealing with social issues. None more so then its response to the shortage of affordable accommodation. The Greens have buried their collective heads in the sand on this issue, possibly because of the perceived lack of votes in advocating for those most at risk of homelessness.
Instead of lobbying the Commonwealth, or the state for greater public housing access, the Greens have been busily trying to divert the issue from the streets of inner city Melbourne. Their call to close down crisis accommodation centers such as Ozanam House, Hanover and Flagstaff in favor of regional centers reeks of seeking to put the problem out of sight and therefore out of the minds of inner city residents.
The support of a plan to extend park benches, put more lighting in public parks, provide public laundry facilities and install lockers with keys available from outreach workers is short sighted at best and lazy at worst.
Voters must critically analyse the underbelly of the progressive face that is the Greens and not give away any blank cheques at the upcoming federal election.