Where to next for the Greens?

The Greens are ven­tur­ing into pro­mot­ing rad­i­cal eco­nomic pol­icy af­ter a pun­ish­ing few months, but CPI Strate­gic di­rec­tor and Field & Game Aus­tralia and Aus­tralian Deer As­so­ci­a­tion ad­viser Rick Brown says it is too early to call it the des­per­ate act of a p

Field and Game - - NEWS -

Much has been made of the Greens’ fu­ture prospects fol­low­ing the Tas­ma­nian and South Aus­tralian elec­tions and a fed­eral by-elec­tion in a Vic­to­rian seat, Bat­man.

Half of Bat­man is com­prised of state seat North­cote in which the Greens de­feated La­bor con­vinc­ingly.

In South Aus­tralia the Greens at­tracted 6.6 per cent of the vote, down 25 per cent on their vote four years ago.

In Tas­ma­nia their num­bers in the 25-mem­ber Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly were re­duced to two, down from five in 2010 — their worst re­sult in 20 years and dis­as­trous, par­tic­u­larly bear­ing in mind that Tas­ma­nia has a Sen­ate-style vot­ing sys­tem for its lower house. Over the lat­est two state elec­tions sup­port for the Greens has halved.

In Bat­man there was a swing of 6.5 per cent to La­bor, even though the Lib­er­als did not nom­i­nate a can­di­date. Pun­dits and ex­perts pre­dicted an easy win for the Greens and dur­ing the cam­paign polls sug­gested the Greens had a lead of up to six per cent.

On the back of these re­sults some com­men­ta­tors are hail­ing the demise of the Greens.

Clearly the re­sults ex­pose Greens’ grandiose am­bi­tions, such as win­ning 25 seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, for what they are. Whether these re­sults jus­tify writ­ing the Greens off is an­other ques­tion.

South Aus­tralia al­ways has been a weak link for the Greens and Cori Bernardi’s Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tives fared just as poorly, los­ing their Up­per House seek­ing re-elec­tion. Since the elec­tions their other Up­per House mem­ber has joined the Lib­er­als.

For Nick Xenophon the re­sults were dis­as­trous.

It seems that vot­ers de­cided a 16-yearold gov­ern­ment pre­sid­ing over crises and scan­dals had to go and, to some de­gree, mi­nor par­ties were col­lat­eral dam­age.

The trend in Tas­ma­nia looks more sig­nif­i­cant. Nev­er­the­less, it is un­clear whether the Greens’ poor show­ing was in­flu­enced by one-off fac­tors such as whether, and if so to what ex­tent, La­bor’s pol­icy to ban poker ma­chines drowned out other is­sues, other than eco­nomic is­sues.

Then there is the re­tire­ment of two Green mem­bers af­ter one term and the im­pact that had on the re­sult, if any.

More sig­nif­i­cant is the ques­tion as to whether the Greens’ de­ci­sion years ago to broaden its ap­peal by be­com­ing a hu­man rights party as well as an en­vi­ron­ment party has de­prived the Greens of a dis­tinc­tive brand and backfired.

Their leader Cassy O’con­nor might be well-re­garded around Ho­bart’s Sala­manca Place, but does she have the cred­i­bil­ity of Bob Brown or Christine Milne, gen­uine en­vi­ron­ment warriors?

This is a ques­tion with im­pli­ca­tions for the Greens’ fed­eral leader, Richard di Natalie.

As for Bat­man, lo­cal fac­tors played a crit­i­cal role. Re­tir­ing mem­ber David Feeney was a poor fit for the elec­torate. How­ever, La­bor’s can­di­date Ged Kear­ney was an ideal fit.

In­ter­nal di­vi­sions be­tween the Greens’ can­di­date Alex Bhathal and some lo­cal Green lead­ers, in­clud­ing Green coun­cil­lors was crit­i­cal. Some Greens ac­tively cam­paigned against Ms Bhathal, as demon­strated by the leak­ing of a 100page dossier to The Age, which even­tu­ally pub­lished the story.

The Greens were in trou­ble from the mo­ment the story was pub­lished. Lo­cal di­vi­sions man­i­fested them­selves in prac­ti­cal ways, such as a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the num­ber of signs placed in houses.

Even had the Greens been united, the re­sult in Bat­man was al­ways go­ing to be closer than the re­sult in the North­cote by-elec­tion. The in­ter­nal di­vi­sions put the out­come be­yond doubt.

The re­sults of the lat­est three elec­tions cer­tainly have dented the Greens’ be­lief in the in­evitably of their progress. How­ever, it would be pre­ma­ture to as­sume the Greens have passed their peak and are on a down­ward tra­jec­tory.

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