Yes, the Greens do compromise

Representatives of the Australian Labor Party have repeatedly accused the Australian Greens of being unwilling to compromise. Though this is obviously a self-serving argument designed to shore up Labor’s own support, it is so blatantly false that I felt compelled to set the record straight.

In negotiations with the Gillard Labor Government over climate policy, the Greens made the following compromises (and this list is probably not exhaustive):

  • The carbon price initially proposed by the Greens in January 2010 was a compromise, beginning as a fixed price of $23/tonne (an inadequate price based on a 550 ppm target) to break the deadlock until agreement could be reached on emissions targets.
  • The Greens guaranteed supply and confidence to the Gillard Government in exchange for initiating negotiations on climate policy.
  • The Greens agreed to not only tolerate, but guarantee in law for at least five years, Labor’s ridiculous compensation package, where the highest-polluting trade-exposed industries will get 94.5% of their pollution permits for free, diluting the $23 price to $1.27.
  • The Greens agreed to give free permits to coal power plants, with the only condition being that they continue to operate, effectively locking in their existence for years.
  • The Greens agreed to allow Australia’s emissions targets to be met by international offsets.
  • The Greens agreed to completely exclude transport from climate policy.
  • The Greens have accepted a Clean Energy Finance Corporation which will not be additional to existing policies, which will spend money on fossil fuels and fossil/renewable hybrid technologies, and may be too risk-averse.
  • The best that can be said about the final policies is they are flexible (in contrast to Labor’s original policy, which would have locked in failure), but that flexibility goes both ways.
  • The Greens’ presentation of the agreed policies has made them sound better than they are.

In the same negotiations Labor absolutely refused to budge on almost anything. There is a rumor they’re now reconsidering one of their few concessions, a floor price in the emissions trading phase for investor certainty, and they have dragged their feet on implementing several others.

Meanwhile, the Greens have kept in power a government which is getting away with:

  • using the carbon price as an excuse to otherwise ignore climate change;
  • recklessly expanding the fossil fuel industry, including a potential quadrupling of coal exports by 2020;
  • spending around $10 billion annually on fossil fuel subsidies;
  • cutting green policies;
  • planning to delegate its environmental protection powers to the states;
  • sabotaging international climate negotiations;
  • and passionately defending the fossil fuel industry against any attack.

Far from never compromising, it would be closer to the mark to accuse the Greens of compromising to the point where there is little left of their policies.

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