PETER VAN ONSELEN: Greens leader Adam Bandt manages to do something rare with his grubby politics… but it didn’t last long

The Greens managed to achieve something rare this week: they brought the major parties together, albeit briefly. 

Peter Dutton and Anthony Albanese joined forces to attack Greens leader, Adam Bandt, for engaging in grubby political tactics by using the Gaza conflict to win votes for his party at the risk of stoking anti-Semitism and even violence. 

The PM said that Greens MPs and senators are spreading misinformation about the conflict in Palestine, calling it ‘unacceptable’. 

A number of Labor MPs have had their electorate offices damaged by pro-Palestine protesters, and Albanese’s own electorate office in his inner Sydney seat has been closed for more than six months now due to activists posing a threat. 

Dutton went even further, accusing the Greens of ‘condoning’ such attacks on MP offices, fuelling divisions in the community and undermining social cohesion. 

Peter Dutton (pictured left) and Anthony Albanese (pictured right) agree that the Greens are a disgrace

Adam Bandt (pictured) is accused of stoking violence and fanning division

Adam Bandt (pictured) is accused of stoking violence and fanning division 

But in response Bandt doubled down, declaring he ‘will not be lectured to about peace and non-violence by people who back the invasion of Gaza’. 

Bandt has even threatened defamation proceedings against the Attorney General Mark Dreyfus – who himself is Jewish – for critical comments he’s made about the Greens leader. 

Stripping the complex problems in the Middle East down to political slogans, designed to point score domestically about a conflict on the other side of the world, certainly shows that the Greens have borrowed from Labor’s ‘whatever it takes’ playbook. As unedifying as it is. 

It seems that the Greens are at the centre of plenty of political debates but at the heart of none of them. Choosing to appeal to a narrow corridor of voters who deliver the minor party the numbers it needs to jag seats in the Senate across the states, as well as win inner-city seats, from both major parties but predominantly Labor.

A party that only wins just over 10 per cent of the vote can do this courtesy of the senate’s electoral system and preference deals it makes with the major parties, in particular the Labor Party. 

Which is why the unity between Albo and Dutton quickly came to an end in Question Time today, when the Opposition Leader challenged the PM to intervene and insist the Greens get put last on Labor how-to-vote cards at the next election. 

Dutton also queried whether or not Labor would be prepared to use the support of the Greens after the next election to govern as a minority government. A fair question.

But the line of attack gave the PM the chance to turn these twin issues on Dutton. The PM reminded him that the Coalition doesn’t put Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party last, and Labor doesn’t govern in coalition with another political party – it’s the Liberals who do that with the Nationals. 

Whatever the failings of the current PM – and they are mounting across a host of policy areas – he is at his strongest when arguing over inside the beltway political issues. 

Anthony Albanese (pictured left) and Peter Dutton (pictured right) won't agree to preference the Greens last

Anthony Albanese (pictured left) and Peter Dutton (pictured right) won’t agree to preference the Greens last

That’s the territory Dutton moved into at the start of Question Time, before quickly moving onto other issues. 

If Liberals are serious about ostracising the Greens they need to start by not preferencing the minor party ahead of Labor in inner-city seats such as Bandt’s. 

Without Liberal preference flows the Greens wouldn’t win the seats it is slowly and steadily picking up in these areas. 

But Liberal strategists don’t want to do that, just as Labor strategists wont pledge to put the Greens last and not do senate preference deals with them in exchange for favourable preferences in lower house marginal seats. 

Which is precisely why the PM batted away questions on the issue. 

In other words, the major parties simply want to bash the Greens for their own political reasons. When it comes to practical follow through, there is none. Despite all the hairy chested talk. 

Meanwhile Andrew Giles survives as immigration minister, despite his buffoonery. The NDIS continues to be rorted, funds even being spent on sex workers and cocaine if you can believe that. And this week’s economic data reveals that for the fifth consecutive quarter we are in a per capita recession, with growth plummeting to just 0.1 per cent. 

Yet the Treasurer with trademark smugness still uses the floor of parliament to gloat about his performance. Patting himself on the back for his Budget when nobody else will. 

Thank god there are only two more sitting weeks before the long winter recess.