NEWS FROM THE FRONT DESK: Superficially, the Teal independents and the Greens seem very similar. But there are some deep differences between the two and you need to be aware of this.
Some people have said the Canberra press gallery is covering this election like it’s a footy game.
Will the blue team beat the red team? What does the opinion poll scoreboard say? Who kicked an own goal with the press conference gaffe?
The comparison is a little harsh – to sports reporters.
The sad truth is most of the analysis in the Murdoch and Nine papers on whether Ken Hinkley should coach Port Adelaide in the AFL next year is deeper and more nuanced than whether Scott Morrison should run the country or Anthony Albanese.
In this election, what matters is not who’s wearing a hard hat at the stage-managed campaign event or who’s wearing a clown hat. It’s not about who memorised a bit of trivia that can be easily Googled. And it certainly isn’t this week’s Newspoll.
What matters is the policies that will govern this nation – especially on climate change and on sustainability. But also social equity, because we know we can’t get meaningful action on climate without equity.
The two climate-focused choices
For the many people who are concerned about sustainability in the built environment, the obvious choices to vote for are either one of the “Teal independents” backed by Climate 200, or the Greens.
At their core, both the Teals and the Greens support action around the climate crisis and the environment.
So what’s the difference?
The Murdoch press might say “not much” – but that isn’t true.
The big differences tend to be in their attitudes towards (non-environmental) social issues and business.
The Fifth Estate will keep a close eye on the election progress. But for now, here’s our rundown of where the Teals and the Greens stand on policy – and where the big differences lie.
What do the Teals actually stand for?
Because the Teals are a collection of independent candidates, instead of an organised political party like the Greens, they don’t all share a uniform policy platform. Some of the candidates disagree on particular issues.
The general rule of thumb is that aside from climate issues they tend to support the types of social issues you’d expect a Liberal Party leader named “Malcolm” (Fraser or Turnbull) to agree with (at least when the latter Malcolm is not desperately trying to cling on to the leadership by his fingernails).
So beyond action on climate change, things like supporting the arts, public healthcare, Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians and an independent ABC are fairly popular priorities for the Teals.
In short, the kinds of policies that, in years gone by, you wouldn’t have been surprised to hear a moderate backbench Liberal MP speaking out on, in defiance of John Howard or Tony Abbott.
If someone like former Pearce MP Judi Moylan or Kooyong MP Petro Georgiou were entering politics today, they’d probably stand as a Teal.
Their other big policies tend to be in areas that matter to local communities. So, for example, the Teal senate candidate for Tasmania, Leanne Minshull, has perhaps the most detailed policy on the salmon farming industry of any candidate.
The big social policy divide
However, when we look at issues other than climate that are outside the usual small-l liberal shibboleths, plus sustainability and local issues, that the Teal’s policy stances can sometimes get a bit patchy.
As an example, let’s take a fairly uncontroversial issue: funding for public schools and higher education.
Just half of the 16 Teals list “education” as one of the headline, top-level priorities on their websites: Alex Dyson, Allegra Spender, David Pocock, Georgia Steele, Hanabeth Luke, Kate Hook, Rebekha Sharkie and Andrew Wilkie.
For the rest, education is either listed as part of some priority area, or not mentioned at all.
For Claire Ferres Miles in Casey, education is mentioned under increasing female workforce participation. Indi MP Helen Haines, who represents the Border Region around Albury-Wodonga, focuses on regional education and skills. Kate Chaney in Curtin wants education and training for a greener economy workforce.
Likewise, Boothby candidate Jo Dyer wants to mandate and fund a minimum amount of arts education for all primary school students through the Commonwealth state schools funding agreements.
Compared to many of the Teals, the Greens’ policies on education are very detailed and comprehensive. They include:
- investing $19 billion over the four years to make early childhood education and care free and accessible for everyone
- providing $49 billion to fully fund public schools, making them genuinely free for all students with the resources every student needs to learn
- abolishing all student debt and making lifelong education free for all
- raising the rate of Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy to $88 a day
- boosting block grant funding for universities by $5.5 billion
In short, if you like your climate politics served with a big green side salad of progressive social policy, then as a rule the Greens are what you’re after.
Meanwhile, on issues such as education, at least some of the Teals leave the door open to a future where you might ask, “they voted with the Coalition to support what?!”
Business, the economy and tax
The other massive difference – especially if you own or manage a business in the built environment sector – is in how the Teals tend to look at business and economic issues.
As an example, Dr Sophie Scamps, who’s running as a Teal in Bronwyn Bishop’s old Northern Beaches electorate of Mackellar, says she supports tax cuts – but they must be targeted.
“I support lower taxes for small businesses, however, I also support cracking down on tax avoidance by large multinationals so they pay their fair share,” Dr Scramps states.
“Australia has spiralling national debt, so I want to improve the budget bottom-line by ending wasteful, party political rorting of grant schemes and redirecting subsidies currently propping up fossil fuel industries to clean energy opportunities.”
In short, Dr Scamps seems to want a mix of tax cuts for small businesses and balanced budgets, alongside small-l liberal social policies and climate action. It’s really not that different to what Andrew Peacock or John Hewson supported when they were Liberal leaders.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the economy, business and tax, the Greens offer so much more on climate and social policies than the Teals.
For example, not only do the Greens want to bring back Kevin Rudd’s super profit tax on miners, but they also want a super profits tax for non-mining companies with more than $100 million in turnover:
“The tax would apply to their super-profits. Both Australian corporations and the share of a multinational corporation’s operations in Australia would be subject to the tax. The corporate super profits tax would apply to net revenue after deducting income tax and after making an allowance for a fair return to shareholders.”
The Greens also want a 6 per cent tax on the net wealth of Australian billionaires:
“To stop the billionaires shifting assets offshore, the tax would still apply to 90 per cent of their original wealth. This tax on just 122 Australian citizens would raise approximately $40 billion over the medium term to pay for the services and jobs that Australians need.”
There’s probably some green building developers and sustainable business owners who are having conniptions right now after reading those two tax policy ideas from the Greens.
But if you want your climate action to come with strong policies to deal with wealth inequality, then the Green’s policies will do that.
Who should you barrack for?
We’re not going to tell you you’re wrong for favouring one side over the other.
This isn’t a footy game. This is a choice about policies that you’re making.
If you’ve invested in or manage a sustainability-focused business, live in a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, and hold small-l liberal views on other social issues, then voting Teal makes a lot of sense.
If social inequality matters to you as much as environmental sustainability, and you want detailed policies to tackle wealth inequality, then the Greens are the best option.
Just don’t vote Teal if what you’re really after is Green, and vice-versa.
But who’s better on climate?
As for who has the best policy for dealing with the climate crisis? Recently, The Fifth Estate put together a list of our top election priorities.
We’re also pulling together a list of policies that organisations in the sustainable built environment sector are advocating for.
In the coming weeks, we’ll match these against the policy lists of the major parties. And see who has the best policies on climate action – so stay tuned.