Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has seemingly rejected the possibility of Labor forming minority government after the next election, describing the Greens as “a party of protest” that does not belong in power.
Earlier in the week, Albanese insisted that Labor should govern in its own right.
The issue arose again yesterday after Albanese’s televised address to the National Press Club, when Greg Brown of The Australian asked Albanese why it would be unwise to strike a deal with the Greens that could make it easier for Labor to form government.
“We’re a party of government, they’re a party of protest,” Albanese responded. “I intend to lead a Labor government in its own right.” Only two of the last nine federal elections have resulted in Labor governments, one of which relied on the support of four crossbenchers, including Greens MP Adam Bandt.
Albanese’s comments echoed those of Penny Wong, who stated in March 2019 that the Greens were a “virtue-signalling protest party.”
The Labor leader reiterated his commitment to majority government, but stopped short of unambiguously ruling out a Labor minority government. “After the election, I intend to lead a majority Labor government, and have no intention, and quite clearly will rule out…” He then trailed off and changed tack. “The only coalition in this country is between the Liberal and National party, and quite frankly, it’s a mess,” he said. Despite Albanese’s assertion, a Labor-Greens coalition has governed the Australian Capital Territory since 2012.
The Liberal-National Coalition “has caused major problems,” according to Albanese, who criticised the amount of influence the Nationals wield over the Liberal Party.
Asked what the divergent values of Labor and the Greens were, Albanese was reluctant to discuss the Greens. “I have Labor values, Labor values that I was born with. When I came out of the womb, I came out with three great faiths: the Catholic Church, the Labor Party, South Sydney rugby league football club,” Albanese answered.
“Whatever difficulties I’ve had with those three great institutions and faiths, they’re still there today and they affect my values and who I am, which means that you value work, you value trade unions and you stand up for the party, which, unashamedly, is connected and grew out of the struggles of working people through the trade union movement,” he said.
“You recognise that you’re a party of government that’s about changing society and bringing people with you, not waiting for decisions to be made and then deciding whether you’ll protest against them or not,” Albanese added, in a veiled swipe at the Greens. “That’s not the Labor way. Labor’s about real change in the interest of working people.”
Albanese did not articulate any policy differences between Labor and the Greens.
Labor’s reluctance to govern in minority will be tested if neither Labor nor the Coalition manages to win a lower house majority at the next federal election. The Greens believe there is a strong possibility of the upcoming election resulting in a hung parliament, and the party is keen to hold the balance of power. “When the Greens share a minority government with Labor,” Adam Bandt wrote in a recent email to supporters, the minor party “can finally make [Labor] act on climate.”