The extraordinary twists and turns in the Victorian election count have caused all sorts of claims and counter-claims but the news this morning is a big boost for the Greens.

On the day when tree-lopping giant Gunns Ltd dropped Bob Brown from its vexatious Victorian Supreme Court legal assault, the Greens leader was overjoyed to discover that his party has actually won three upper house seats and the DLP only one.

The two National Party MPs will be able to deliver legislation to Labor in their own right, but the Bracks Government will probably find more in common with the three Greens.

The DLP’s Peter Kavanagh will be marginalised except for one very important point – the opposition parties will need his vote to get up committees and upper house inquiries to hold the government to account.

The Greens are big on accountability and the Libs and Nats will naturally want to apply the blowtorch to the Government. So what odds that Steve Bracks, who The Age’s Paul Austin claims is Victoria’s first DLP Premier, will offer some concessions to the DLP’s conservative social agenda in return for limiting the number of senate estimate-style committees?

The Greens have only ever held the balance of power in their own right in Tasmania – once under the Labor Field government and later under the Liberal Rundle government. Both turned out to be political disasters.

So how will they handle sharing the balance of power in Australia’s second biggest state? Their leader, Greg Barber, is a former dreadlocked forests campaigner who went off and did an MBA, was Australia’s first Green mayor in the City of Yarra and claims his proudest achievement was balancing the books.

Barber is bright and tough, but he’s also very prickly as evidenced by his “right wing nutter” attack on the DLP.

However, Barber’s aggression will be softened by fellow new Greens MP Sue Pennicuik who kept a very low profile during the campaign, in part due to a family illness. However, Greens describe the drug counsellor and former ACTU official as hard working, cheerful and considered.

The third Green MP, Colleen Hartland, is the biggest risk for the party because she doesn’t present well and is a hardline leftie who quit Labor in 2002 over refugees and Tampa.

Keeping Colleen moderate will be a big challenge for her two colleagues.

Peter Fray

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