Seeing red - and Greens

Bookmark and Share Ideas & Liberty | John Roskam
Australian Financial Review 11th January, 2013

If someone vandalised a windfarm, Greens leader Christine Milne might feel a bit different about the virtues of civil disobedience. Likewise if someone sent out a fraudulent press release about Wotif, and the company's share price fell 8 per cent. The founder of Wotif, Graeme Wood, donated $1.68 million to the Greens.

At one level, Milne's response to the stunt that caused the shares of Whitehaven Coal to fall 8.8 per cent and which wiped $314 million from the company's value, is extraordinary. As a democratically elected politician she can criticise laws and advocate they should be changed, but defending breaking laws is in an altogether different category.

Milne said the stunt was "part of a long and proud history of civil disobedience, potentially breaking the law, to highlight something wrong". It would be interesting to know what other laws Milne believes should be broken in order to "highlight something wrong".

Jonathan Moylan is no Gandhi, Emily Pankhurst or Rosa Parks. For Milne to put Moylan, the environmental activist who impersonated an ANZ Bank employee and issued a fake press release claiming the bank had withdrawn funding from Whitehaven, in the same category as those who have fought for basic human rights reveals an ignorance of history and a complete lack of perspective.

Milne will soon discover that advocating civil disobedience can quickly get quite tricky.

There are lots of people who feel strongly about lots of things. In our system of government the way we decide the limits of what a person can do about things they believe in strongly is through the ballot box.

The Greens have been enthusiastic supporters of proposals to regulate the media and limit freedom of speech. Many people feel such proposals are "wrong" and have no place in a country like Australia. Keith Windschuttle, the editor of Quadrant,  said of the potential laws last year that if such an "oppressive scheme is ever implemented, we would feel compelled to defend the long tradition of press freedom by engaging in civil disobedience. While ever I am editor, Quadrant  would not recognise the News Media Council's authority, we would not observe its restrictions, and we would not obey its instructions, whatever the price."

No doubt Milne feels just as strongly about stopping coalmining as Windschuttle does about defending freedom of speech. It's unlikely, though, that Milne would come out and defend in this case Windschuttle's right "to highlight something wrong".

At another level there's nothing extraordinary at all in Milne's defence of what Moylan did. It's just another example of the ridiculousness of the Greens. After all, this is a party whose former leader addressed himself to extraterrestrials and who supports "One World Government". On the very rare occasions when the media applies any scrutiny to the Greens, their supporters rush to cry foul. After the ABC's Chris Uhlmann dared to ask Bob Brown about how the Greens proposed to replace the revenue lost if Australia's coal industry was shut down, GetUp! launched a petition complaining about the ABC.

The policies and behaviour of the Greens would all be something to laugh about if it wasn't for the fact that Julia Gillard relied on the Greens to make her Prime Minister, and that she relies on the Greens to get her legislation through the Senate.

The relationship between the Greens and the Liberal Party is a lot more interesting. The Greens have their sole representative in Parliament's lower house because at the 2010 federal election the Liberal Party urged Liberal voters in the seat of Melbourne to give their second preference vote to the Greens rather than the Labor Party. The justification for the Liberals' decision was tactical.

The decision a few months later of the Victorian Liberal Party to do the opposite and preference the Greens behind the ALP at the Victorian state election is credited as being one of the reasons Ted Baillieu won government by one seat.

When Milne this week took it upon herself to decide who can and who can't break the law, she again revealed the Greens' extremism and their attitude to things like the rule of law.

She has also given the Liberal Party yet another reason to preference the Greens last at this year's federal election, and so eliminate the Greens from the lower house.