We choose the best option for Australia. We choose the Greens.

For many years, Australia has caught the imagination of the entire world in different ways. Whether for its amazing natural beauty, the kindness of its multicultural society or its highly developed economy, Australia is one of those hard-to-forget places in the world.  Now, what does this have to do with politics and, particularly, liberalism? In many ways, Australia is an example of liberalism. The country’s economic development has been possible thanks to its business-friendly atmosphere combined with the provision of excellent public services and an enabling state that gives all citizens a chance to realise their potential, without trapping them in the hands of dependency. The country’s multicultural society has also been a product of liberal immigration policies during the last decades –policies that, by the way, have made possible the degree of economic competitiveness Australia has achieved in the global market.

Unfortunately, during the last decade Australian politics has been moving in an increasingly right-wing direction, adopting policies that damage the environment, worsen the effects of global climate change, close the country’s borders to immigrants and even asylum seekers, and prevent further progress toward a more inclusive society for historically discriminated groups. This right-wing shift started under the government of former Liberal Party Prime Minister John Howard and has continued, with some minor exceptions, under Labor.

When deciding our vote of confidence for Saturday’s election, we first fell into the temptation of trying to choose between “the lesser of two evils”: Labor or Liberal (in Coalition with the Nationals). But then we looked again at the political scenario and the voting system, and decided it was time to give our vote of confidence to something different, to something radical to shake up Aussie politics and bring it back to its senses. We decided it was time to say no to the politics of fear-mongering, populism and demagoguery that have characterized the Liberal Party (and its Coalition partner) and the Australian Labor Party during the last years. We decided to look beyond fear and, inspired by what Australia represents, choose a party that has shown a mature approach to the most pressing issues facing Australia and the world: climate change, immigration, economic development and equal rights. In today’s Australia, there is only one party that can be trusted on delivering real solutions to all these major issues. That’s why RealLibs.com gives its vote of confidence to Australia’s fastest growing political party: the Greens.

We are liberals so, why not choose the ‘Liberal’ Party?

Despite its name, the Australian Liberal Party espouses a conservative philosophy that has become more and more right-wing under the government of former Prime Minister John Howard. The liberal elements of the party have been losing ground to the more conservative and traditionalist segments.

When Malcolm Turnbull was elected leader of the Liberals, we thought the party had gotten the message of modernisation its new leader was preaching, similar to the message David Cameron was espousing in Britain. Turnbull started to show why the Liberal Party could still call itself ‘liberal’. He began a strong campaign to fight global climate change despite the scepticism of the majority of its members and MPs. He understood it was time to modernise the party and leave behind the Howard era. Unfortunately, that is not what most of the members of his party were thinking. He was quickly replaced by somebody whose thinking is almost indistinguishable from Mr. Howard: Tony Abbott. With Mr. Abbott’s election as Liberal leader, any hope of modernisation and of making the Australian Liberals look more like Cameron’s Conservatives were buried. Mr. Abbott, famous for being a climate change denier (not long ago he said climate change was “absolute crap”), started rolling back the changes his predecessor had tried to implement. He adopted a strong right-wing message, proposing unaffordable tax cuts and aiming his weapons towards the “boat people,” asylum seekers looking for a place to refuge from persecution and hunger. This would be enough for any liberal to say no to Mr. Abbott, but it’s not all. Abbott has a record of making troubled statements about social topics, one of them homosexuality. He even suggested once that he felt “a bit threatened” by gay and lesbian people. Is that what a real liberal leader would say? While we could have supported Malcolm Turnbull’s party, we cannot give our support to Mr. Abbott’s party.                  

Is Labor any different?

The Labor Party, on the other hand, while showing more concern for climate change at the beginning of Kevin Rudd’s premiership, seems to have lost its way. While Mr. Rudd did manage to make Australia sign the Kyoto Protocol (long rejected by John Howard), during the last months the government was unable to pass its scheme to put a price on carbon. Moreover, newly elected Labor leader Julia Gillard does not seem very interested in pushing for a price on carbon. On immigration, Labor’s proposals are hardly distinguishable from those of its conservative opponents. They have adopted the same populist message of stopping the “boat people” from coming into Australia. But Labor’s illiberal record does not end with immigration and the environment, their proposed internet filter represents an appalling violation of civil liberties.

Why not the Democrats?

We have said it in the past and we say it again today: the Australian Democrats are the real liberals in Australia. Unfortunately, the party has practically disappeared from the Australian political landscape. While we would be delighted to support a truly liberal party like the Democrats, their lack of organisation and influence makes it impossible for us to endorse them. We are still confident that a strong, liberal party will emerge in the near future to revitalise the progressive centre of the political spectrum, and we hope that party is the Australian Democrats.

Are the Greens a liberal party?    

While the Greens are not a liberal party, they are the only party, with real possibilities of winning seats, proposing liberal answers to many of Australia’s most pressing issues. On climate change, the Greens are the only party proposing a carbon tax –an idea RealLibs.com has always supported. On immigration, the Greens are the only party standing up for open borders and a humane approach to asylum seekers and refugees. On gay rights, the Greens are the only party calling for marriage equality. On civil liberties, the Greens are the strongest opponents of Labor’s censorship filter. On economic sustainability, the Greens are the strongest supporters of a modern high-speed rail system connecting Australia’s major cities. Do we agree with every policy in their plan? No, we don’t. As liberals, we support less red tape and free and open trade, topics where the Greens have proved to be more statist. We also dislike the Greens’ somewhat negative message towards business. However, on the central topics facing today’s Australia, the Greens are the only party providing the right answers.

In the end, we know Australia won’t have a Green Prime Minister on Sunday the 22nd, but we think electing as many Green Senators and MPs as possible will be essential in pushing Australian politics back to the sensible liberal centre. That’s why we ask Australian voters to choose the Greens as option 1 and the Labor Party as option 2 on Saturday. We think Prime Minister Julia Gillard has shown more leadership skills and more rationality in her approach than her Liberal opponent Tony Abbott. A strong Green presence in the Senate will be able to block Labor’s most illiberal policies (like the internet filter and the populist immigration approach) and may also be able to promote a greener approach to climate change and a long-overdue legalisation of same-sex marriage or, at least, civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

If you want a greener, more tolerant and yes, more liberal Australia, vote Greens on Saturday.