Dumped Greens play it cool in bid to rile Labor

Rosemary Bolger
Rosemary Bolger

EITHER Nick McKim and Cassy O'Connor took a Valium on Thursday, or the Greens are remarkably unfazed about getting booted from the governing table for good.

The minor party has enjoyed two seats at the cabinet table for the past four years. 

Not only were the two Greens ministers sacked on Thursday, they were delivered the news that would seemingly relegate them to the crossbenches permanently.

Now that Labor has bowed to pressure from its own rank and file and followed the Liberal Party's lead in ruling out any future deals, the Greens have been consigned to the sidelines for the foreseeable future.

So what was the two Greens' reaction to this double blow? 

``No hard feelings,'' said Ms O'Connor. ``I know politics is a bruising business and I know you've done what you think is best for your party.''

Not angry, but disappointed for Tasmania, was as far as Mr McKim would go.

 ``There was no personal acrimony,'' he said. 

For her part in the break-up, Ms Giddings - despite having just sacked them - refused to be critical of her former cabinet members, saying she was proud of the past four years of ``good government''. 

The pleasantness of it all was enough to have you reaching for a bucket.

It's not just the media that was hoping for a few more fireworks.

There are many Labor and Greens supporters who would have liked their representatives  Leg 2to lay into each other to cement the split.

Internal polling shows the difference between maintaining the status quo until the election and divorcing the Greens was up to five seats for Labor. 

Almost 50 per cent of traditional Labor voters said they would desert the party in March unless there was a clear split. 

But now the divorce papers have been signed, it's not as if it's an automatic boost to Labor's fortunes. How many of those voters are prepared to forgive and forget the four-year alliance and help Labor hang on to those extra seats depends entirely upon how believable the split is.

Spearheaded by the Premier, who less than a year ago said she would ``absolutely'' have Greens in cabinet again, that's not an easy task. A few choice words about her former partners in government wouldn't go astray.

So what's stopping them?

The Premier's hands are tied. If she was to criticise the decisions of the Greens now, the immediate and legitimate question would be  Leg 3why didn't she do something about it at the time.

From Labor's perspective, it would have been ideal if the Greens had have gone ballistic. And that's presumably exactly why the Greens are doing the opposite.

Anti-pulp mill campaigners are frustrated Mr McKim appeared so blasé during the week about the proposed legislation to protect the project from legal challenge - the key to Labor's strategy to cement the wedge between the two parties.

Mr McKim and Ms O'Connor's calm reaction about it all might seem a little baffling but strategically it's a good ploy for the Greens. They might not have come out swinging, but they are still the only party opposed to the pulp mill so moderating their language doesn't really cost them any votes.

And it denies Labor the dummy spit they desperately want.

If they can keep their cool for the duration of an eight-week campaign dominated by the divisive pulp mill it will be impressive and even more frustrating.


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