As recently as the 2007 poll, Labor members would touchingly talk about the Greens as “our fellow progressives”. They never saw them as a threat. At worse, the Greens were regarded as wayward children. A little bit of understanding and some gentle guidance, it was felt, and they would soon see the folly of their ways.
So much has changed in such a short time. The same conversations now include references to bloodshed and brutality of a kind seldom seen outside James Ellroy novels. As these new Jets and Sharks fight for their inner-city turf, no slight goes ignored — or unavenged. Little more than 24 hours after news broke of David Feeney’s “forgotten” $2.3 million house and, worse, a Greens sign appeared in its front yard, we were reading about how Richard Di Natale had failed to declare a 20 hectare property and – far worse from the Labor point of view – paid three au pairs a mere $150 a week after tax plus bed and board. A little bit of number crunching and we were told that this equated to a mere $3.75 an hour over a standard 40-hour week, well below the minimum wage at the time of $15.96 per hour.
But then the homemade shivs and knuckledusters came out as the Labor lads threw a few choice quotes into the mix. We were reminded of Di Natale’s outrage over Feeney’s forgetfulness: “I think he’s got some serious answers to give and so far the explanation he’s given falls well short … I can definitely say that I haven’t purchased a $2.3 million property – I reckon I would have remembered that.” And – particularly potent, given the Greens’ dalliance with some of the more extreme elements of the labour movement over the past few years – there were these lines on pay rates:
“Our view is that if you’re a young person looking for employment and there is going to be a focus on doing that and there is a job available, well let’s pay them a decent wage.”
Di Natale was lucky with all the talk of rural estates and the fancy French tags being thrown around that no one mentioned droit du seigneur. Or perhaps it was that both parties are just too busy trying to screw each other.