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The Tasmanian test

Should deals come before values? Stella Ktenas on animal rights, fossil fuels, and Andrew Wilkie

Andrew_Wilkie_2Hell has frozen over: the Greens are preferencing the pro-mining Palmer United Party (PUP). In three Tasmanian seats – Bass, Braddon, and Franklin – the Greens are preferencing the PUP ahead of Labor, while preferencing Labor ahead of Independent Andrew Wilkie in the marginal Hobart seat of Denison. These unorthodox preferences provoked outrage from Wilkie who claimed that if voters were to “follow the Green how-to-vote card they may well contribute to the election of a party that owns the PNG Solution and that is not only maintaining live animal export but which is increasing it to Indonesia,” and extending it to countries as diverse as Israel, Turkey, Kuwait, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Wilkie has been a vocal critic of Australia’s live export trade and led the push for a temporary ban in 2011 when accusations of “barbaric cruelty” in Indonesian abattoirs emerged. Wilkie also claimed “[voters] will be risking the election of a party that wants to diminish the effectiveness of a price on carbon”.

Perhaps these comments are the projections of a man feeling like a trapped animal bound for live export, on the verge of losing his place in Parliament being inhumanely tortured before slaughter. His fate lies in the hands of the voters as Labor too will preference the Greens ahead of Wilkie, while the PUP will preference the Greens in the Senate in Tasmania. The Greens claim the preferencing of PUP is inspired by the parties’ aligned views on the refugee policy and that the PUP have “supported bringing asylum seekers to Australia to be assessed.” For this reason they are overlooking the irreconcilable difference between the two parties on coal mining. “It makes a mockery of all their criticism of the Labor Party in recent times, especially on asylum seeker policy, live animal exports, changes to the carbon tax and gambling reform,” Wilkie said. He may well be correct.

How can we negotiate the mistreatment of certain beings (non-human beings) over the relocation of other beings (humans) in this post-humanist world? How can we support expansion of coal mining when countries like Norway have managed to generate 98% of their energy through renewable sources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind power? “I look forward to seeing how Greens members and supporters react to this betrayal of the party’s core beliefs in pursuit of the party’s political self-interest,” said Wilkie.

Bob Brown, who assisted the Greens with preferencing, alleged that Wilkie would support a Coalition government in the event of a hung parliament. Wilkie claimed he had no plans of backing the Coalition in this case and would run an “open ticket” on preferences. Yet the Liberal Party did confirm that it would preference Wilkie above Labor and the Greens, as it did in 2010.

There is no doubt that Wilkie’s policies are closer aligned to Labor than the Liberals, for instance his support for safeguarding the carbon and the mining taxes, higher welfare payments, and furthering the ban on live exports. It’s difficult to imagine him seeing eye-to-eye with Tony Abbott. Yet he will need those Liberal second preferences to prevail over Labor candidate Jane Austin.

In this sinister game of political musical chairs, perhaps ethics and tactics are mutually exclusive. But surely ethics are not fashionable trinkets to be worn one day, and discarded the next.

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