It may be that, being naturally idealistic types, the Greens have a tendency to optimism. Or perhaps the media, hungry for something new and interesting, just encourage their unrealistic expectations. Either way, it sets them up for disappointment.

Hence at the 2004 federal election, where their vote increased sharply for the second time running, the Greens were still dejected at their failure to do as well as they had hoped. Similarly this year in South Australia and Tasmania: both solid results, but disappointing in the light of inflated hopes.

At the start of this campaign, commentators almost unanimously argued that the 2002 result was the Greens’ high point, and their vote would drop off significantly.

As the campaign progressed, however, polls showed that their vote remained strong and optimism started to take over. That’s certainly the message Labor got, and it poured resources into the inner city to protect its lower house seats from the Greens challenge.

The result was that optimists and pessimists were both proved wrong:
the Greens stayed very much where they were. Their vote held up in Melbourne, where Richard Di Natale looks to have narrowly missed out again. (Assuming he loses, Di Natale will be a frontrunner to be Victoria’s first Greens senator.)

It also held up in Northcote (despite the extravagant Labor campaign for right-wing convenor Fiona Richardson), dropped slightly in Richmond, and was well up in Brunswick, which seems to have slipped under Labor’s radar. Some big Greens votes were recorded elsewhere, but in Kew and Hawthorn, their best chances of one day winning a seat south of the Yarra, it fell away.

Statewide, the Greens have 9.5% on the latest lower house figures, down just 0.2% from 2002. Their upper house total is running at 10.2%, compared to 2002’s 10.9%.

The Greens are still in contention in five upper house regions, but on current figures three of them look like missing out (the Poll Bludger has an excellent summary). That would leave Northern Metro’s Greg Barber and Southern Metro’s Sue Pennicuik as the only Greens MPs.

That will again be disappointing for them, but it does mean the Greens are now represented in every state parliament except for unicameral Queensland. The performance of those representatives over the next four years will have a lot to do with how well they can maintain their position next time.

Peter Fray

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