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New South Wales

Aug 27, 2012

Greens again fail to match rhetoric with results

While the Greens' federal vote remains solid, they have again underperformed at the state level as results come in from NSW and the NT.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

The weekend was not exactly the happiest of times for the Greens.

In the Northern Territory, the party’s already minimal vote went backwards by 1.2 percentage points down to 3.1%. Still, that’s neither here nor there; the Territory isn’t exactly Greens-friendly. The NSW Greens’ performance in the Heffron byelection in NSW, however, was different.

The Greens’ Mehreen Faruqi picked up a 4.5% swing by the time Saturday night’s counting finished (58.8% of the vote counted). That doesn’t sound too bad, and may yet lift as counting is finalised this week.

The problem is, the Liberals didn’t run in Kristina Keneally’s old seat. Keneally suffered a 15+% swing in 2011 in what is normally Labor heartland. In the absence of the Liberals, the Greens were the chief opposition. The Greens’ John Kaye bravely declared back in July that Dr Faruqi would give Labor’s Ron Hoenig — who’s been the ALP mayor of Botany Council since before anyone can remember — “a run for his money” and that Labor would be worried. “The old parties are losing their grip on inner city electorates across Australia,” said Kaye.

Well, perhaps. But Heffron isn’t exactly inner-city. The northern end of the electorate, which includes Redfern, might vaguely fit the inner-city stereotype, and the parts of Erskineville in the north-west of the electorate do, more comfortably. But the rest is light industrial, before you get down to Roseberry, Mascot and Eastlakes. Much of the last is still blocks of 60s-era flats rather than gentrified terraces, although you can doubtless get a coffee these days at the Eastlakes Hotel, where I was an underage drinker and dedicated Ten Yard Fight player in the 1980s (Hoenig was mayor even then). This is a suburban electorate, not an inner-city one; it will likely go Liberal before it goes Green.

Despite that, that the Greens couldn’t pick up a healthy swing in the absence of a major party is not a good sign. Admittedly Labor ran pretty hard in an effort to present a “we’re on the way back” story, with Bob Carr (former member for Maroubra, next door) and local federal MP Peter Garrett manning booths on Saturday. John Robertson, a man as little known among NSW voters as he is liked within the ALP, who is filling in as opposition leader for a few years until Labor knifes him in favour of someone who wants the job and might be competitive against an older government, was duly presented with a strong swing.

Nonetheless, despite the brave front, this continues the Greens’ poor run of form at the state level since picking up a seat at the NSW state election in 2010, along with missing out in the Melbourne byelection and going backwards at the Queensland election. Polls suggest the party’s vote has stayed solid at the federal level, hovering around 10-11% consistently for an extended period, despite Bob Brown’s departure. But at a state level — and bearing in mind the Greens are a state-based entity — the rhetoric just isn’t being matched by results.

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20 thoughts on “Greens again fail to match rhetoric with results

  1. Michael

    Paint it whatever way way you want but the hard facts are:

    1. The Greens are collapsing everywhere (wait for Tasmania) & will NEVER regain the clout they have in politics today ever again
    2. In Ron Hoenig ALP now have one of the most capable politicians in State or Federal politics. He WILL be ALP State leader by next election & give Fatts O’Barrell a run for his money

  2. John Bennetts

    The past couple of years during which the Greens have held the balance of power federally have forced them into the spotlight.

    I imagine that I’m one of many who have been disappointed by the Greens’ tendency to trash debate by remaining ideologically pure, whether regarding refugees, mining taxes or otherwise.

    So often have they demonstrated absolutely that they are not prepared to listen or to negotiate, that the Greens have slid down my preferences from their former position, which was pretty darned close to the top.

    If they aren’t listening, why bother with them? That goes for all parties.

  3. Bo Gainsbourg

    Interesting article. interesting though was how the seat of Nightcliff returned a combined vote of 25% for the Greens and a green independent. Admittedly still not enough to get up, but with almost zero campaign resources. What surprises me consistently is actually how well the Greens do in the NT with no resources and no high profile candidates

  4. Russell

    “… the Territory isn’t exactly Greens-friendly.” An understatement BK, nowhere in the bush (except Byron Bay) is “Greens-friendly.” In most part of the country outside of a tiny few very wealthy enclaves. most people assume that if you vote Greens there is something wrong with you.

    And just on that “high water mark” of the Greens lower house NSW win in 2011. That was Balmain (a wealthy, increasingly anglo, inner city enclave). There on the primary vote, the Greens candidate came third, the Libs first. Labor preferences finally delivered the seat to the Greens. something that couldn’t have happened in Heffron.

    Even Melbourne (Fed seat 2010) was won because it suited the Liberals to install Adam Bandt. Brilliant strategy, worked a treat, too…

  5. jmendelssohn

    “John Robertson, a man as little known among NSW voters as he is liked within the ALP” So true, and very well said.

  6. deconst

    The rhetoric never matches the results. If so, we would have been flying budgie smugglers from flagpoles years ago.

    Watch the long-term trend. Watch the demographic voting patterns. The pendulum may swing between Labor and Liberal (and it will swing back to Labor, perhaps by September 2013, the next Federal election, or perhaps not) but the Greens base is increasing.

  7. Honest Johnny

    The Green vote in Heffron wasn’t a disaster and does not indicate they have peaked nor declining. They, in fact, received a swing of 4.5% and are now on a vote of 23.4%, more than double the 11% recorded in the latest polls.

    If John Bennetts is disappointed “by the Greens’ tendency to trash debate by remaining ideologically pure, whether regarding refugees, mining taxes or otherwise”, he needs to understand that the Greens have always been a grass roots Party where the membership decides policy. Sticking with your principles, staying true to your ideology and doing what your members direct you to do is hardly “trashing debate”. If you prefer a Political Party to listen to vested interests, back-flip on their policies, ignore their membership, kowtow to the media, then better not vote for the Greens. They are not the Party for you.

  8. James K

    People believe what they want to believe.

    John B – you are kidding yourself. They never compromise? They OFTEN
    compromise. It is only on the occasional issue they refuse to compromise
    on that we hear a lot about it. But every day, all the time, they are working
    on committees and offering thoughts, and accepting less than pure
    Green outcomes! You could not be more wrong. Think about the carbon
    tax for example. It was not the Greens preferred model. it was a compromise.

    I still remember the pundits “the Greens will never pass the democrat vote”.
    I still remember them: “They wont get to 8%”
    Then they said “They will never get to 1o%.”
    Then they said “Thats it, it will never get much above 10”
    and now federally with 11 -12 … people keep saying “it wont get any higher”.

    You are all deluded. They will slowly but surely keep growing. They
    might hover at times around the same number for an election or two…
    but they will keep growing because they are the party with real vision,
    dreams, answers, and hope. They want clean energy, less pollution,
    more sustainability… and you dont think more and more people will
    come on board?

    Keep talking to yourselves in the mirror – keep patting yourself on the
    back when the NT sees their vote drop a percent. if it makes you feel
    good (I cant imagine why it makes you feel good, but clearly it does!)
    but if it makes you feel good, then go on… no harm in being self-

    And that windmill is a dragon too by the way!

  9. John Bennetts

    Honest Johnny and James K can’t both be correct.

    One is convinced that the Greens compromise all the time and the other, that the Greens are bound by their members not to exercise any judgement while implementing the policies which their members have set in stone.

    As for HJ, who used straw man arguments such as “…Political Party to listen to vested interests, back-flip on their policies, ignore their membership, kowtow to the media…”, I never said such things are essential in a political party in order to gain my support.

    I am sure that I am not alone in being very disappointed, indeed, by the Greens, to whom many looked as an alternative to the negativity and poll-driven shenanigans of the majors. Where’s a Don Chipp when he’s needed?

  10. Steve777

    With no Liberal standing and apparently no strong conservative minor party or independent candidate, I don’t think that one can draw many conclusions from this by-election. I note that the Australian Democrats got 10.5%, the Christian Democrats tripled their vote to 7.1% and ‘Informal’ nearly doubled his/her vote to 5.4%. Many of these votes would have been from those who would normally vote Liberal – I expect that well-informed Liberals would have chosen one of those three. Some less informed Liberals may have voted Green in absence of their preferred party. Also, Mayor Hoenig may have a strong personal following from Liberals who may have been happy to vote for him when they knew the result would not significantly affect the state of the NSW parliament. I think all one can say is that it’s probably not a bad result for the ALP.