Before I go any further I want to make one thing clear: I am NOT advocating for intemperate behaviour on the part of the Greens that would lead to continuing instability in the Reps. I think that would be bad for Australia.
Having said that, this is crunch time for the Greens. My premise is that Australian voters did two things, deliberately in 2010. They refused to place their trust in either major party; and they substantially increased their support of the Greens. I'm a great believer that nothing happens without a reason. I believe that the Australian electorate has given a mandate to the Greens - a mandate to show some real leadership in Australia. Whether the Greens choose to accept that mandate will determine the future of their support.
We reposed similar trust in the Democrats once. We believed their "Keeping the Bastards Honest" line and we gave them enough votes in the Senate to deliver on their promise. What did they do? They supported an unpopular GST, they negotiated with the Devil and delivered for the Devil. The electorate never forgave them and we can see the inevitable outcome now.
The same holds true for the Greens. We've given them our votes as a mediating force, as an opportunity for them to show real leadership. We haven't seen such leadership in this country since Paul Keating and Bill Deane - each in their own way - showed us leadership on things that were "right" but unpopular. They convinced us that we needed to accept and support things that were initially unpopular.
Federal politics is currently a moral vacuum. When I use the word "moral", I'm not using it in some trumped up Judaeo-Christian sense. I'm using it in a lower case, low key statement of our obligations, as humans, to ourselves and others. Neither Gillard nor Abbott are offering anything to the population in terms of moral leadership. Instead they have their stethoscopes firmly pressed to the opinion polls seeking for any advantage in their race against each other to the bottom of the cess pit. We are mired in the tip-toe politics of pragmatism and political advantage. Self interest is the order of the day along with short term political gain.
Meanwhile the train wreck that is increasingly Australian society continues.
Most concerning is the use of the politics of fear. In 1788 the First Fleet arrived here, sent from England and full of convicts. Transportation was driven by the disparity between the haves and have nots of English society and the fear, on the part of the haves, that the have nots would somehow hurt or harm them. The response on the part of the haves was a draconian legal regime and the transportation of even minor transgressors to the ends of the earth.
Unfortunate parallels are apparent in our society today. We hear this ongoing whining that society is not safe, tougher laws are needed, more jails...; we hear mining bosses forecasting the end of the world as we know it if tax rises by even a cent; ditto for a carbon tax or any attempt to curb and change our profligate use of hydrocarbon resources; refugees are vilified and cast as the devil incarnate. What is worse these fears are fanned and encouraged by the baying of the politicians from both sides of politics, seeking to harness fear for their own political advantage.
When was the last time a politician stood up and said things like: "Refugees pose no threat to this country and we should welcome them"; or "The community is safer than its ever been, more punitive laws do not contribute to community safety and we're not going to play that game"; or "A sensible mining royalty regime is critical to the future prosperity of this country, the miners are not contributing sufficiently and unless we change that we'll end up as a bankrupt hole in the ground".
On and on it goes. NOBODY at a State or Federal political level is providing leadership, nobody is seeking to help the populace understand real, complex issues. Instead we see politicians of all flavours chasing each other to the bottom.
Do we have the politicians we deserve? Are we increasingly a population of gutless, craven losers, focused only on small-minded self interest? Well the evidence on both counts suggests to me that the answer is yes.
However we are susceptible to listening to our leaders when they have something meaningful to say to us, and we did vote for the Greens and the independents in increasing numbers. That gives me hope.
So here's the challenge for the Greens and it's a tough one! I predict that if the Greens cannot find the skills and the backbone to step right up to the plate and provide vocal, moral leadership to this country, then we will treat them the same as we have treated the Democrats - as a waste of electoral resources. We have lots invested in the major parties, we're not prepared to trash either of them because we sense a need for the necessary electoral tension between them. Our "bet each way" always comes with the minor parties and we are quick to judge the success of our flutter and move on if it isn't working. That means that when we entrust our faith in a group like the Greens the stakes are very high for them. Their demise will take time, if it happens, because of the duration of Senators, but it will be inevitable if they don't step up.
If on the other hand, they step into the massive vacuum in public life in this country. If they start to show real leadership across a range of issues...then they may just have a future.
I hope they do, I really hope they do.