Tasmanian Times


McKim’s Federal bid? Power and pain of being Green


NICK McKim, the Tasmanian Greens leader and the nation’s first Greens cabinet minister — has flagged a potential move into federal politics, fuelling speculation about Bob Brown’s future.

Seen as a moderate or “light Green”, with a strategy of trying to shift the party to the political centre, Mr McKim told The Weekend Australian the speculation about a move to Canberra was “legitimate”.

“Would I have a career in the Senate? The short answer is, I don’t know,” he said.

“I’m not going to rule it out because I don’t believe in placing limitations on me or anybody else in life.”

Mr McKim said he was committed to taking the state Greens — who have two ministers in cabinet under a power-sharing deal with Labor — to the next election, due by early 2014.

But he kept his options open beyond that. “I will take the Greens to the next election down here so long as my partner and colleagues want me to,” he said.

A former advertising and public relations copywriter, Mr McKim has at times taken a markedly more moderate stance on forestry issues than Senator Brown.

He believes compromise “is not a dirty word” and wants the Greens to be seen as more of a “propositional” rather than oppositional party.

Once eyed by some in Labor Party circles as a potential defector to the ALP, Mr McKim has been open about wanting the Greens to focus more on issues of importance to the political centre, particularly concerns over household budgets.

However, he remains committed to rationalising the number of schools and cutting $190m from education spending following a collapse in state budget revenues.

“If we (the Greens) believe we want to be the government one day, which I do, you have to map out a pathway to that occurring,” Mr McKim told The Weekend Australian. “And part of that pathway is showing we can . . . be part of making some, at times, unpopular decisions.”

Full story, The Australian HERE

AUSTRALIA’S first government to feature Green ministers — a great experiment in “co-operative politics” — has become as much about sharing pain as sharing power.

A little more than 18 months since Tasmania’s Labor-Green alliance government was formed, the historic marriage is strained, if not yet quite as rocky as the island’s wild west coast.

For a while, the alliance, which installed two Greens in cabinet, as well as a parliamentary secretary, was a triumph of latte and Lycra diplomacy. Then premier David Bartlett, whose self-declared “deal with the devil” on April 21 last year allowed Labor to cling to power after the election of a hung parliament, could be seen cycling and sipping coffee with his former opponent, Greens leader Nick McKim.

However, the high levels of trust and mutual respect built up in this remarkable bromance evaporated with Bartlett’s departure in January. His replacement, Lara Giddings, is committed to the alliance — for now at least — but not the cosiness. Seeking to differentiate Labor from the Greens, Giddings is not averse to throwing metaphorical bombs at her alliance partners. And the fire is increasingly being returned.

Giddings is demanding her Green colleagues get their hands dirty as the government slashes $1.4 billion from its budget to avert a financial crisis. The strain, as Greens ministers cut education and human services, alienating constituencies, is showing.

This is not the first Green-backed minority government in Tasmania. But it is the first time here or anywhere in the nation that Greens have presided over major portfolios — McKim is responsible for a $1.3bn education and skills budget, and his partner and fellow Greens MP, Cassy O’Connor, for the difficult human services portfolio. The initial triumph of getting Green bums on ministerial seats has been short-lived. Labor claims not to have known the parlous state of Tasmania’s finances at the time the alliance was formed.

But by the beginning of this year it became apparent that the aftermath of the global financial crisis was hitting the state harder and for longer than thought. Revenues from state taxes and GST collapsed by $1.7bn compared with the forward estimates.

Both Giddings and McKim tell Inquirer they believe the alliance will hold, at least until close to the election due date. However, both are keeping their options open.

Giddings won’t rule out an early poll. “You have to be open to all options all the time,” she says. “But where I sit right at this point in time, I think we are on track to last the four years, which is what I think we need to do.”

McKim won’t rule out abandoning the alliance if Labor pushes ahead with new export woodchip facilities.

“That is an anathema to us,” he says. “It’s an old-style business model. It’s the sort of thing that has set up the (timber) industry for the kind of crisis we have now and we would view it as pouring good money after bad.”

He refuses to flag his punches but makes it clear the Greens see forestry and woodchip exports as fundamental issues.

“We’ll see how this develops and make our decision on the basis of reality — we’ve made our position very clear,” he says. “Whatever decision we make will be a decision for the (Greens) partyroom, not just me. There is as yet nothing to consider. Any political arrangement needs to be viewed and reviewed in the context of things that are happening at the time.”

O’Connor has publicly expressed her dismay at the situation, responding to vitriol on the Tasmanian Times website recently: “We’ve had to shoulder real responsibility and some days, just personally, my back aches from the weight of it,” she said in a frank post.

“Especially as I know there are those whose values I share who are furious with us for taking this plunge. Those who really believe we have been corrupted.

“There are semi-regular calls for us to pull the pin, but can the Greens walk away now? What are the real choices here? A fresh election and likely a Liberal majority government?”

Full story, The Australian HERE

ABC Pic, from HERE

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Dr Kevin Bonham

    November 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Re #28 the purpose of the discussion re dictionaries was to rebut your false suggestion that the difference between “convince” and “coerce” is a matter requiring “the dizzying intellectual heights of a Bonham”. Having submitted such a suggestion you have no valid basis to complain about me rebutting it, and your “hijack” suggestion is therefore nonsense.

  2. Karl Stevens

    November 21, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Interesting Dr Bonham is allowed to hijack the thread into a discussion on dictionaries and semantics but when I asked what would Cassy do in Canberra the comment did not see the light of day. Anyway, how is Tomas going with his new blog? How about calling it the ‘Obedience Blog’ Tomas? That would be very helpful for other public servants learning how to tow the line.

  3. Simon Warriner

    November 21, 2011 at 10:12 am

    re 25, its a party organisational dynamic, Bob. Dogs bark, chooks cluck, and party politicians become addicted to power. It has to do with their failure to understand conflict of interest, and it will never, ever change.

    Expecting anything else from them is entirely insane. We need to direct our votes elsewhere.

  4. Dr Kevin Bonham

    November 21, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Small correction re #21 it would most likely be Adam Burling not Wendy Heatley who would take Nick McKim’s place if he did not complete his term, unless for some reason Burling chose (read: was convinced) not to stand.

    The papers that would be thrown to determine the recount in that case are simply those votes that were 1 Nick McKim, as he was elected with over a quota. We know that 36% of these go directly to Burling (mainly because he was the endorsed #2) with 22% going directly to Heatley. Some of the remaining 42% would exhaust in the recount so Heatley would need a better than 2-1 flow of those not exhausting to win the recount. That is unlikely. In the original cutup Heatley did outpoll Burling on preferences from minor Greens (1186-813) and on direct leakage from other candidates (268-227) but flows like that while strong are not enough. It’s amusing to note that 6% of the recount would be votes that were either 1 McKim 2 Giddings or 1 McKim 2 Hodgman 3 Giddings. Votes like that are very likely to exhaust as soon as the voter runs out of people they have heard of.

    Could be a rather big deal if it does come to pass, because Heatley’s electoral form guide is generally pretty good while Burling’s result as endorsed #2 was poor.

  5. Bob Kendra

    November 21, 2011 at 1:17 am

    #21 Looks like a pretty astute prediction. You can see it in McKim’s face and his hand gesture. The photo is a portrait of calculation and ambition.

    The Dr Bob Brown that I loved was not the same person as the pragmatist that continues to give a nod and a wink to Gunns’ pulp mill by endorsing the vision for Pulp Tasmania encompassed in the IGA. In so doing Brown abandons his struggle for social justice along with meaningful empathy for Northern Tasmanians.

    Before the usual warning from Greens supporters not to invite majority Liberal government, please remember that dis-endorsing the IGA does not amount to a parliamentary vote of no-confidence and need never force an election. Instead, disapproval pulps the social licence and therefore the mill and throws the forestry debate back to square one – which is just where it is needed.

    The ambitious and pragmatic McKim will be a fitting replacement for the tired, pulp-supporting Brown who should have retired before besmirching his life’s work. News Limited may even applaud the change of guard.

    McKim will take the green out of Greens and into the wilderness the way that Meg Lees took the Democrats when she presumed that power was more important than keeping the bastards honest.

  6. Russell

    November 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Re #21
    Can’t argue with that.

  7. Dr Kevin Bonham

    November 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Karl, the time to investigate the difference between “coerce” and “convince” is the time it would take you or anyone else to look the words up in a dictionary, even an online one. The word “coerce” implies the use of force or threats or other forms of compulsion to achieve an aim, and its application to Tomas’s comment is clearly ludicrous. No dizzying intellectual heights required here – if you don’t know what a word actually means then either look it up or just don’t use it.

    As for your “12 Tasmanians” scenario if you need to use such implausible examples to try to make the case I suggest you leave it to others. That’s irrespective of whether your example is valid, which I suspect it is not, but can’t be bothered contesting it in detail given its far-fetched nature.

  8. hugoagogo

    November 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Now Tomas (#9), one of TT’s (perhaps unintended) roles is to permit space for the embittered to discharge energy, that which might otherwise have been used to paint placards or bother the local member.

  9. mpd

    November 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    If you look at it from the perspective of their interest and not yours, it makes perfect sense for Mckim to take over from Brown at the next federal election. Nick could resign his State seat well before the next State election, citing that “it wouldn’t be fair to the Greens or to Tasmanians” not to give the job his undivided attention. He can easily afford to, with Cassie still on a ministerial salary and perks, and he would avoid the ignominy of electoral punishment of the Greens which is inevitable at the next State Election. With Bob retiring, Nick is an absolute monty to take his place in the Senate as Bob’s annointed successor. That just leaves poor Wendy Heatley with just a few months to take Nicks place and take Nick’s heat at the election.

    From Bobs perspective, it makes sense too. The Greens will lose their balance of power with the Conservative tide at the next election. Why not retire at the height of your power to forever remain the deified and dignified elder party statesman, responsible for none of decline that follows and indeed be a beacon for the “good old days when we stuck to our principles”.

    Win, win!

  10. Ian Rist

    November 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Re # 12 Tomas couldn’t start his own blog it would reveal who he really is…………
    Stick to the local Tassie politics Nick you are more suited, besides most of Tasmania wouldn’t trust you now in a Federal arena.

  11. Mike Bolan

    November 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Nick McKim’s support for ‘unpopular decisions’ etc. as forming an essential part of preparing for a Green government are equivalent to the old argument that ‘the end justifies the means’.

    In this case, the end is Nick McKim in power, while the means include compromising various Green values, supporting health and education cuts created by Labor’s budget ‘management’ and expensive no-going-back policies (fox task forces, forestry salvation etc) that deliver no community benefit, coupled with spruiking a deeply unpopular and incompetent State government.

    Doing whatever it takes to get into power isn’t new…it’s terribly old. It also indicates self-interest superceding a genuine concern for the welfare of the citizenry and/or the environment.

    It is most likely the clear perception of self interest (created by Mr McKim’s own justifications and explanations) that is undermining his support and alienating many Green voters.

    For a former PR and advertising person (spin doctor?) to not notice how he is positioning himself in the eyes of many people is of considerable concern.

    It forces us to ask “are the Greens really any different from Labor and if so, how?”

    We also are led to ask “what do the Greens stand for and are they competent enough to create useful change?”

  12. Barnaby Drake

    November 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Love the picture. He’s beginning to look more like Kermit every day.

  13. Karl Stevens

    November 19, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Dr Kevin Bonham 16. I don’t have time to investigate the difference between coerce and convince. You will probably find my education lacking as usual. Few can attain the dizzying intellectual heights of a Bonham. On a more mundane level. Imagine a hypothetical scenario where nearly everybody in Tasmania died due to plague or pestilence, leaving only 12 Tasmanians left. The Australian Constitution would force all 12 of them to become senators AND to form a state government. This shows the Constitution is not only a violation of human rights but it violates basic logic as well.

  14. Dr Kevin Bonham

    November 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Re #12 accusing someone of “attempting to coerce” when they are actually just attempting to convince, is quite a lot over the top and is probably the sort of thing Tomas was complaining about. And re #5 I greatly doubt the Greens would be wasting money on internal polling (which doesn’t come cheap) this far from the next expected election. Even if they were, the Greens polled over 27% in Franklin in 2010 so they have to lose more than ten points to even drop below quota let alone lose McKim’s seat. Unlikely; the seat they are very likely to lose is Braddon, with Bass and Lyons also at risk if the swing against them is big enough. We can agree on one thing though, namely the undemocratic nature of Tasmania having so many Senators (and, I add, to a lesser extent, MHAs).

  15. krystal

    November 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I can only smile cynically when I read the rot Nick trotted out this morning about spending on special needs students. Every other previous Minister for Education repeated the same old mantra – “we really do spend more money on special needs every year”. Of course they do – there are more in need every year and as they get older the needs are more costly. And Tasmania has the highest proportion of them in the country bar the NT.

    When other Ministers trotted out this old chestnut, Nick was up there – the first to criticise them and demand more for education. Now he agrees with them. If he can rationalise it and live with himself, good on him – I couldn’t.

  16. John lawrence Ward

    November 19, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    However messy the present Parliament is, with all the confusion, I put it to all of you that the Founding Fathers saw that this is the way the constitution should work to prevent one group ramming their ideas down every ones throats.
    A balanced situation means that our political ‘Servants’ should have to think before they act and should have to do a bit of compromising every now and then.
    Julian Amos got it right last week.
    What is wrong with borrowing to set up a shipping industry to earn income within this state not just bleat because the projected GST is going to be lower. What is wrong with working our way out of this hole instead of cut, cut, cut.
    You have two Ferries why not two routes to make the circular tour from Sydney, Hobart, Devon Port, Melbourne. Subsidise Australians to come here to spend their savings and build the Tourism that families around the country can afford. Not price us off the map.
    problem is some key Ministers are too lazy to strain their brains and so they go for that simple solution that is usually also wrong.

  17. Trevor K

    November 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    It would be a pity to replace Bob Brown with a politician.

  18. Karl Stevens

    November 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Tomas 9. It takes about 10 minutes to start your own blog site. Why don’t you do it? You can then ‘moderate’ the comments to your hearts content so your blog doesn’t ‘degenerate’ into anything that you consider ‘toxic’. Attempting to coerce a site admin to follow your vague directions on how a portion of cyberspace should be managed is a bit over the top.

  19. Danny-Know-It-All

    November 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Stop linking to The Australian. It’s behind a paywall. Just ignore the awful thing and it’ll go away.

  20. john hayward

    November 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    If I understood him correctly, Nick believes that the Greens need to do whatever it takes to put him in real power, either in Tas or the Senate, even if they have to jettison most of their principles in the process.

    It’s a big ask, after his “moderate” stand toward Tassie’s mainstream political kleptocracy has already cost his party close to a third of their earlier support. A similar flutter on pragmatism put paid to Meg Lees hypertrophied ambitions as well.

    For a Green, Nick is getting flattering coverage from News Ltd. He doesn’t seem to realise what that means.

    John Hayward

  21. Tomas

    November 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    The real story here as it relates to TT is that the online commentariat has become so toxic and righteous, it has effectively scared off and alienated more rational contributors. What is the solution here Lindsay? Or are you happy for the site to degenerate further?

  22. Richard Barton

    November 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    This is interesting material particularly because the Greens do not appear to recognise or acknowledge their fundamental errors. Instead they justify that which is upsetting many of their supporters

    Refraining from voting in Cabinet on forstry matters, disenfranchises those in the community who want a voice to speak for them (i.e. representation).

    Showing that they can make ‘unpopular decisions’ can also be seen as failing to represent the electorate.

    Instead of cutting education, health, police and so on, there is the option of eliminating waste while sticking to community priorities (education, health, security etc). The amount of waste that this government produces is frightening while their priority of saving forestry over saving people’s lives and health has led to the diversion of $270 million taxpayer dollars into a failing industry, while taxpayers suffer on impossible waiting lists, and health care costs increase as their conditions worsen.

    This government has built a massive bureaucracy that is taking huge amounts of money from front line services. Cannot Mr McKim open those options instead of justifying acting like a Labor politician.

    All that aside, it is well known that organisations must differentiate themselves in order to be understood and valued by others. Supporting a Labor government, acting as a Labor spokesperson on TV, and justifying major cuts to services that the community needs are making the Greens indistinguishable from Labor.

    Sadly, the Greens ideas of compromise also include their supporting massive monoculture plantations in a complete contradiction of their charter which claims to support biodiversity.

    Mr McKim fails to see that he and Cassie’s behaviours, (both of whom are probably decent and well meaning people), are making them look like every other politician that community’s have learned to dislike or even hate.

    At a recent health rally in Hobart, Mr McKim claimed to ‘feel our pain’. But he doesn’t, both he and Cassie enjoy private health cover paid for by the rest of us.

    The compromises (e.g. monocultures are OK), lack of representation, support of cuts created by obvious Labor failures, policy contradictions and defensiveness are placing both he and Cassie directly in with Labor and their hated policies.

    While it’s terribly easy to get caught up in all of the power, flash offices, thrust out microphones, benefits, cars, drivers, “yes sirs” etc., the price paid by the Greens could be that Nick McKim’s apparent enthusiasm of getting into government will make him look just like the others.

  23. Russell

    November 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    “Once eyed by some in Labor Party circles as a potential defector to the ALP”

    It’s happened, it’s not a consideration, he and O’Connor have been in lock-step with the Tasmanian Labor Party since day one.

    ““And part of that pathway is showing we can . . . be part of making some, at times, unpopular decisions.””

    Some? Nothing but. You don’t have to be an arsehole to be a politician, but you’ve lost that foresight.

    Nick, did you put up any non-essential service alternatives to the ones you’ve so far supported Labor in? If so, what were/are they?

    ““That (woodchipping) is an anathema to us,” he (McKim) says.“It’s an old-style business model. It’s the sort of thing that has set up the (timber) industry for the kind of crisis we have now and we would view it as pouring good money after bad.””

    W(hat) do you think you’re supporting through the SoP and IGA? Gunns and FT got their multi-million dollar swill first. You’re an anathema to us.

    “Giddings won’t rule out an early poll.”

    Bring it on Giddings, you’re only delaying the inevitable.

    “O’Connor has publicly expressed her dismay at the situation, responding to vitriol on the Tasmanian Times website recently: “We’ve had to shoulder real responsibility and some days, just personally, my back aches from the weight of it,” she said in a frank post.”


  24. Brett Lucas

    November 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    TT – This is a very poor joke, isn’t it? A failed minister in Tasmania coveting a Federal position, surely he could wait until he has the runs on the board. There seems to be a consistent problem with our parliamentary system. Will we soon see an Australian Senator with a entourage of bodyguards? Pfft

  25. Karl Stevens

    November 19, 2011 at 11:27 am

    On second thoughts this story is pure spin. I’m sure you will find ‘internal polling’ has shown McKim would not retain his seat at the next state election. To ‘raise his profile’ he puts out a story that he is entering the federal arena. What as one of the 12 senators representing half a million Tamanians that is an undemocratic flaw in the Constitution? Sarah Hanson-Young would be an infinitely better leader of the Greens than the Tas-Inc tainted McKim.

  26. Karl Stevens

    November 19, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Nick McKim has simply been used by the Bryan Greens,
    Bob Gordons and Paul Lennons of Tasmania. McKim’s waffle about ‘stability’ translates into ‘c0rruption as usual’ for Tasmania. Nobody needs stability when the system is hopelessly broken anyway. We needed a courageous reformer and McKim is just another political ego with little direction or substance.

  27. phill Parsons

    November 19, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Are Tasmanian Green supporters touched by a particularity?. For years it was argued the Greens could never govern, part of that being their inexperience. With 20% of the lower house members and making up 33% of the government benches [yet asking critical questions of Labor in parliament] the Green members are demonstrating both ability and a continuation of the opposition to the status quo that has been at the core of the Greens rationale.

    Federally the members make up 1/150th of the lower house, the governing house, and 1 in 22.5 of all members of parliament. The Gillard government is constantly labelled by Abbott as being a creature of the Greens and yet I hear no clear dissonance about Brown’s leadership.

    The difference is that here McKim and OÇonnor actually have Ministries and therefore must make decisions in a real financial situation.

    The similarity is both the Federal and State arrangments are alliances of convenience to make government work, dropped as sson as any party has a amjority.

    For Green supporters who want a green government at some time in the near future tearing down the parliamentary members is not a course of action likely to succeed. It is convincing voters that the Greens are the best option.

    Otherwise the belief the Greens will always be a minor party, never achieving, even in a coalition, because all they should do is make noise. This could become a truism proven by demanding a purity that can only exist when we all agree what it is. An extraordinarily rare circumstance in a divided polity.

  28. Merk

    November 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

    At the Greens National Conference a few weeks ago, Brown dampened any speculation about his future with a tongue-in-cheek reference to following the example of Rupert Murdoch, who continues to lead NewsCorp at the spritely age of 80! The notion that McKim could wrestle the leadership from Brown is absurd.

    Great to see that the views expressed on Tasmanian Times are influencing the national press. I wonder how many Merc journos wish they could work for TT instead!

  29. Dave Groves

    November 19, 2011 at 8:55 am

    “There are semi-regular calls for us to pull the pin, but can the Greens walk away now? What are the real choices here? A fresh election and likely a Liberal majority government?”………………….

    A tangled web woven Cassie.

    As for Nick…..add the caption to the pic…”our credibility lasted about this long”….

    Methinks you will need better advertising and PR copywriting…..

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