The soft Green underbelly

The government's plan to cut free full-time daycare for children from low-income families were probably the biggest political story of the week. The story had legs because as soon as the government had announced its plan, it started to backpedal. The original decision was made in a meeting between the leaders of the four government parties, including Labor Minister Tarja Cronberg of the Green League, but that didn't stop the Green parliamentary faction from almost immediately coming out against the proposal. The current word is that a number of provisions will be attached to the original proposal to make it acceptable to all government parties.

It wasn't difficult to guess that Greens would be the weak link in the government, with regard to supporting government policy, and this episode offered supporting evidence for the contention. The Greens a centre-left party in an otherwise centre-right government and traditionally display weak party discipline. The opposition obviously knows this; when the daycare issue was discussed in Parliament, various opposition MPs could be seen asking in plaintive tones how the Greens could in good conscience go along with such a heinous plan. As it worked, similar scenes are probably in store whenever the government does - or tries to do - something controversial.

I think the Greens will continue to act as a moderating influence on government policy, but that influence will be limited on issues that are truly important to either of the main government parties, the Centre Party or the National Coalition Party. (Details of daycare policy don't qualify.) Strictly speaking, the Greens aren't needed to form a functional government based on those two parties, which rather weakens their hand.

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