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eat your greens

Pub: Sydney Morning Herald

Pubdate: 19-Nov-2009

Edition: First

Section: News and Features

Subsection: Opinion

Page: 17

Wordcount: 855

Wake up, Greens, and savour the organic pork belly


Beside our lavatory sits a book called Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen. It’s my fault. In a weak moment I ordered the thing for its impeccable provenance and rave reviews. But I forgot the first rule of mail-order: reviewers can be wrong.

So the book now doing bathroom duty (before recycling) turned out to be an earnest tome with no photographic food-porn – like what’s the point, actually? – printed in monochrome green on recycled stock as thick and humourless as Stasi toilet paper, which suddenly gives me an idea…

That’s form. As to content, throughout it spells chili as chile, for political piquancy; suggests short films on global poverty to delight your guests between the sorbet and the quinoa-stuffed cabbage, and generally proffers recipes so marrow-freezingly vegan as to make yucca chowder sound like comfort food. Yucca chowder?

And this, broadly, is the trouble with the green agenda. No jokes.

OK, OK. So climate change isn’t funny – though hearing Nick Minchin call global warming a left-wing plot to de-industrialise the world always makes me laugh, albeit in a slightly saurian way. Partly because it’s clear, as long as green parties allow themselves to be identified as socially radical they’ll remain as unelectable as carrot coleslaw.

Take Clive Hamilton. Hamilton should win next month’s Higgins by-election, but he won’t. Intelligent, articulate, likeable, knowledgeable and passionately principled he is exactly the sort of politician we need; exactly the sort you’d expect to appeal to the milk-and-honey classes of Toorak and South Yarra. Not that we have class in Australia, of course not. But if we did, Clive Hamilton, AO, should be just the Higgins type.

Yet he won’t get in. One, he’s not local – not even Victorian, in fact, but from the Sydney suburb of Canberra. Two, he wrote Affluenza, which is unlikely to have flown off the shelves into the small rooms of the Higginbottoms. And three, he’s a Green, while Higgins is the padded highchair, prewarmed by Holt and Gorton, from which Costello spat his dummy.

Some have even questioned the Greens’ wisdom in running Hamilton, who needs the Higgins-burghers “to think of themselves first as Australians and second as residents of Higgins”. This urging to transcend the particular is rather a Hamilton theme. The idea that small, individual actions can save the day is so wrong, he says; it’s dangerous, reinforcing a trust in solar-panel salvation when climate change is “manifestly a problem that needs government intervention”.

This is why the Libs feel so threatened they’re spontaneously combusting, as the world warms. Climate change is a problem crying out for what they (and indeed, I) fear most; big, strategic government.

In the 2007 federal election the Greens – despite their perceived radicalism – were a clear third force. In the 2007 state election, in several electorates (Marrickville and Balmain but also Vaucluse) they ran second. Rudd himself was elected on a climate change platform, faux as that looks now.

Conservatives like to deride Greens as anti-democratic. In 2007, though, while the Nationals (who now, weirdly, support the coal lobby over farmers) reaped 10 lower house seats with just 6 per cent of votes, the Greens’ 8 per cent of votes yielded no seats at all. How democratic is that?

Since then, green shoots are everywhere, and I’m not talking Global Financial Crisis. At council level, Green representation grows every election; last month’s NSW Local Government conference unanimously resolved to pursue solar power rather than coal-fired.

It’s a hot issue, energised by Australians’ knowledge that while we are now the world’s worst per capita CO2 polluter, we also have the world’s best solar sites. (With new molten-salts storage technology, a mere 225 square kilometres of outback could supply 97 per cent of NSW’s electricity needs). There is also geothermal potential, like South Australia’s new Paralana plant.

With 80 major solar-thermal plants being built around the world, the US Energy Department predicts solar will be price-comparable with (heavily subsidised) coal inside a decade.

Nuclear, meanwhile, is shrinking. The 2009 World Nuclear Industry Status Report, commissioned by Germany – where solar employs more people than Australia’s entire coal industry – shows nuclear becoming so costly and dangerous that, from a 1980s world peak, “27 of the 31 countries operating nuclear plants [last year] maintained or decreased their share”.

Yet still Peter Garrett, once our most famous anti-nuke campaigner, insists on digging up more uranium to sell. I reckon it’s that red dress they put on him, just like they put it on Cheryl. It may look slinky but really it’s a strait-jacket designed to keep his Doc Martens where they fit best, in his mouth.

The irony is that the Green agenda is a naturally conservative one. The Liberal Party professes commitment to “preserving … the environment for future generations” but is stacked with small-brain Minchinsaurs.

So maybe it’s time the Greens lost that radical edge – replaced the yucca chowder with, say, organic pork belly – if only so the Toorak Tories can do the decent thing and vote Hamilton in. That way the Greens get the lower house seat they deserve, and the country gets that rarest of creatures, a pollie with principle.


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