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Berkman says he's had enough of musical chairs and going it alone

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If re-elected on October 31, Greens MP Michael Berkman does not want to be the party’s only representative in parliament.

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Berkman said the pandemic had given the Labor Government more control, as authorities sought to fight off COVID-19 by imposing more restrictions on the public and ramping up health services.

However, it also came with less transparency, with parliament sittings cut back and social distancing requirements leading to all cross-benchers having to take turns with a single seat.

“I’ve got plenty of gripes about the way parliament operates and serves to exclude the crossbench and any voice the government doesn’t want to hear in a particular debate,” Berkman said.

While the restrictions have been eased – also allowing Greens volunteers to hit the hustings – Berkman said 2020 had given a taste of life under the duopoly party system.

On one hand, the pandemic had shown how the major parties could act with haste, and often bipartisanship, when it suited – for example in rolling out childcare support – but were just as quick to revert to political point-scoring when it was “election season”.

“There’s a really clear sense in the community broadly, but also among our volunteer base, that people are fed up with politics as usual,” Berkman said.

“The political duopoly work for the interests of corporate donors and not demonstrate to the community that they’re working for the people they were elected to represent.”

The Greens will preference One Nation and the Liberal National Party last, however branches will ultimately decide the order. While that might appear to advantage Labor – who the LNP will preference last – Berkman was quick to criticise the governing party’s decision to re-embrace the mining sector and support Brisbane’s new casino development.

South Brisbane, held by former Labor deputy leader Jackie Trad, is one seat the Greens are hopeful of securing under candidate Amy MacMahon.

Berkman suggested that the rise of right-wing parties reflected the “dysfunctional” LNP trying to serve difference constituencies, and that Labor doing the same had created an opportunity for the Greens.

“It’s symptomatic of parties not having a clear values base any more, a clear grounding in the social institutions that gave rise to them,” Berkman said.

“Labor has quite clearly taken positions that are contrary to the values that members expect them to follow and instead follow the interests of corporate donors.”

If either of the major parties requires the Greens’ support to form government, members will have the final say, judging the contenders on issues such as climate change, public transport and renewable energy. The major parties would likely have to make concessions.

Berkman sought to contrast the major party “machines” with the Greens consensus-based decision-making approach.

“It’s not the fastest way to make decisions but it’s certainly the most effect in ensuring that all voices are heard and we can continue to progress as a party,” he said.

Today, the Greens announced that part of the $55 billion they wanted to raise in higher royalties on mining companies would be spent buying back every privately-owned public hospital carpark and spend $500 million on new facilities.

Under the Greens proposal, free parking would be made available to all hospital staff and patients, who could delegate their allotted park to a family member or friend.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the Labor government had already moved towards a government-run, cost recovery model where there was no profit motive in hospital carparks.

“It’s easy for the Greens to go out there and promise the world … but we have to manage government, we have to manage healthcare,” Miles said.

“The more we spend on car-parking the less we spend on healthcare.”

LNP leader Deb Frecklington said she understood the concern about the cost of parking at hospitals and was “happy to look into it”.

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