Sitting in the Senate during a late night session recently, resting my eyes and losing concentration, I wasn’t sure which Senator was speaking when I caught the following snippet: “Why are we allowing multinationals to strip our nation of its natural resources?”
My first thought was, it must be the Greens. But when I opened my eyes I realised it was One Nation.
A couple of nods later I heard a lament about how the Budget provides “more money to open up gas fracking across our cherished farmlands.” One Nation for sure, I thought, but no. This time it was the Greens. (What gave it away was the speaker’s boast of being a “vanguard” of the people.)
Later there was a complaint that petroleum resource rent tax collections are too low, and that we should adopt a system of royalties paid on production. I guessed it was still the Greens but no, it was One Nation.
With my eyes closed and drifting off again, I then heard: “Both here and around the world, people will no longer stand by and allow governments to continue flogging off public assets.” I thought it must have been One Nation still banging on, but I opened my eyes and realised it was now the Greens.
There was then a promise to impose penalty rates, a complaint about political donations from mining companies, and a demand for a change in legislation to ensure that the multinationals pay their ‘fair share’ of tax in Australia. I haven’t checked but I think these three comments were from the Greens, the Greens, and One Nation respectively, but perhaps it was the Greens, then One Nation, then the Greens. I can’t be sure.
One Nation’s loathing of the Greens is palpable, and when the Greens spit their disgust at One Nation, I almost catch some of the spray because I sit right between the two. But what amazes me is, whenever they’re not pointing fingers and directing bile at each other, their policies are often the same.
The Greens and One Nation both opposed the trans-Pacific Partnership, even though that deal would have been a boon for Australia’s beef, sugar, rice, dairy, cereals, wine and seafood industries. They have the same policy opposing genetic modification – the technological revolution in crop production that is currently filling your pantry and feeding the world.
They both oppose coal seam gas – the stuff that has almost singlehandedly rescued manufacturing in America and offers huge benefits to our householders and manufacturers if only we could get it out of the ground. Both are flatly opposed to mining in certain agricultural areas, even though the jobs, tax collections and long-term returns for Australians are often far greater than from agriculture.
Both support the re-establishment of a publicly owned and controlled bank, as well as public ownership and control of water infrastructure, electricity companies, telecommunications and gas companies, and argue that these businesses should not be run for profit. All of this despite decades of evidence that government businesses deliver excessive costs, poor service and increased burdens on taxpayers.
Both support inland rail despite the terrible business case for it, and both their tax policies are underpinned by conspiracy theories and littered with vague references to taxing “speculation”.
Both the Greens and One Nation insist the age pension should be increased, that multi-million-dollar houses should not be taken into account when determining who gets the pension, and that there should be no further increases in the pension eligibility age. One glance at the Government’s debt and deficits shows that both are peddling false hope.
I am not the only Senator to get the Greens and One Nation muddled up. Senators from across the Chamber regularly make the mistake of referring to Senator Hanson-Young as Senator Hanson or vice versa. This confusion is not just because of the similar names; if a Senator at the far end of the Chamber is railing against multinational corporations or other foreign scapegoats, there is a good chance it will be Hanson the Younger or Hanson the Older.
And yet, despite their similarities, these Senators are not bosom buddies. The history of the far right and the far left is that they tend to loathe each other. This is fortunate, because on the odd occasion where they cooperate with each other to get their way, the consequences can be diabolical. Let’s hope One Nation and the Greens hate each other for years to come.
David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats