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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.


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.

  11. James K

    JB – you miss the point we both made. Different points, I would add.

    Let me explain it for you since you cant seem to see it.

    Johnny said that the Greens dont compromise on key things: like the things you
    alluded to: refugees and the mining tax.

    I said they do compromise all the time in many ways: on committees, in
    parliament, eg: the carbon tax.But sometimes they stick to their guns.

    The Greens generally work well with others and try to be reasonable.

    But there are times when they wont compromise. And I am proud of
    them (usually) when they make that stand.

    So yes, we can both be making a valid point.

    So pretend that there is an inconsistency here – it will help keep you
    entrenched in your original opinion.

    We were emphasising different things, … but you know what… I think
    you already knew that, and are just clutching at straws.

  12. Andybob

    The Greens still know that it’s wrong to intern innocent people in camps for an indeterminate time as an exemplary punishment to others. Some things are absolutes on which compromise is inappropriate.

  13. James K

    Andybob – spot on.

  14. John Bennetts


    You repeated what you said before. You claim now that somebody also said the same thing, but with different words, although those words were actually in direct contradiction to your owen.

    I note that the first poster has not come back to agree with you – in effect, he said that the Greens don’t compromise or negotiate away from their member-derived policy, which is out of date as soon as the ballot is cast. You pretend that Greens negotiate; ie are prepared to abandon their party policy.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    I remain disappointed by the Greens. Expect a polarised electorate next time around, with the Green vote severely reduced. At least the Libs and the Nats know how to work together in a coalition government. They go to elections with separate policies but, when in government together, they take bills jointly into parliament without the brinkmanship and grandstanding that we have been forced to endure for the past couple of years.

    If I was a gambler, I’d back a 3% reduction in the national Green vote, come September 2014. Mine will be one of those missing votes. Every one of those votes will need to be won by Labor, for whom I have rarely, if ever, voted or we will wake to a country led by a hairy-chested, lying, aggressive pair of red Speedos with exceedingly poor self control.

    Perish the thought.

    By the way, what’s so different from a philosophical point of view between the mining tax as passed with Green assistance and the one which the Greens rejected under Rudd? Was the pain of a change of PM and an early election worth the “compromise”?

  15. Russell

    The Greens vote is highly concentrated in particular areas, in Heffron’s case around Erskineville – one of Clover Moore’s twee “urban villages.” Highly gentrified inner city enclaves provide the Greens with almost all their national voters, but if the experience of Balmain is any guide, they will eventually turn Liberal.

    According to the census, those areas also have a high proportion of people with “no religion.” It’s an interesting correlation, as there is a theory around that the Greens have become a substitute faith.. James K’s posts demonstrate that fairly clearly. No matter what the setback or obstacle, faith will win. And judgement day is just around the corner for non-believers.

  16. James K

    Russell, for someone mocking inner city highly gentrified people (who
    sit around sipping their coffee and theorising about the world, you no
    doubt could have added – to colour the stereotype more) – YOU have
    demonstrated exactly that attitude. You have created a theory that
    those so defined Greens voters would be proud of! You have put it out
    there that the Greens voters have replaced traditional religions with
    a new faith or religion: that of supporting the Greens! My: you make a
    good potential mythical Green!

    And you use me as an example of someone who has replaced
    traditional faith with Green religion! lol…. You have no idea how
    wrong you are. (I must be ecumenical – holding both!)

    By the way, instead of writing off my comments as a new religious faith
    (that implies no substance to support it) how about thinking about
    how pundit after pundit has kept “raising the bar” about “how the
    Greens wont keep growing”. It is an embarrassing tale of ignoring all
    their past predictions to keep their belief (religion? … nah… ) that the
    Greens will somehow just go away! I know: ignore inconvenient
    facts. Just keep telling yourself the old way is the way it will always

    We must have a coffee of Chapel street some day! lol. I would have to look
    up the Melways to find it!

  17. James K

    JB – I am sorry to see you are such a fundamentalist when you read
    people’s posts. You are quite the “literalist”. “But the exact words say!”
    Ignore the point. Ignore the context. Just play the literalist game.

    Of course you can make a case that the exact literal words say ‘this’ in
    one post and say ‘that’ in another. But try to read the whole not just
    the specific words. You sound like the critic who can say “But Ms
    Gillard said “No govt I lead will ever bring in a carbon tax!”
    Yes: exact words that can be taken further than they should have been
    taken. (If she had been elected to bring in a Labor govt in its own right,
    she would NOT have brought in the carbon tax. That is what she
    MEANT. The thought of a minority govt was not in her mind when she
    said that, you can be sure. No one was talking minority govts before the election.
    BUT …. But the words… oh the exact words… taken out of context…
    can be made to make her look like such a liar!)

    I was highlighting the fact that the greens bend and give ground on
    many issues – they are 9 seats in the Senate out of 76 for goodness sake.
    The other post rightly noted that on some things, they dont bend.
    We both have a valid point. But the fundamentalist in you just cant get
    past the way you are playing the literal word game. …. give it up.
    You are not convincing anyone other than yourself. I admit that I would not
    have been so passionate in only highlighting how the Greens keep to
    their principles (implying in everything) if I was writing something
    similar to the other post. But he wrote passionately to make his point.
    You can find fault with it because he did not qualify it and note all exceptions… but give us a break. We both make a point, (and you know it).

    And the Rudd climate change package? Woeful. As Christine Milne has
    said: “It would have locked in failure” ; It would have over compensated
    polluters and punished individual households for taking alternative measures;
    it was so weak it was laughable. Yes: the current system is better.
    Not perfect. But better.

    Your statement saying that you will vote Labor not Green because
    they will need every vote they can get, also implies a lack of
    understanding of the preference system. I will vote Green then Labor
    and when the Green in the lower house does not get in, the vote will go
    to Labor – full value and fully counted. I dont need to avoid voting
    Green to send my vote to Labor. If Labor needs it, and the vote goes to
    preferences, it will end up with them.

    You might decide to not vote Green because you are genuinely disappointed
    with them. That is a different and valid reason of course. But be careful
    that you are not disappointed in them for mistaken reasons.

  18. Honest Johnny

    John Bennetts, I hate to spoil your feelings of disappointment in the Greens but they were never opposed to Kevin Rudd’s mining tax, in fact I don’t think Rudd ever brought it to legislation. So what else are you disappointed in? Ah, you talk of “brinkmanship and grandstanding that we have been forced to endure for the past couple of years”. I don’t really understand where you are going to with this. I follow the Greens pretty closely and the only example I can think of which you might have endured was the asylum seeker debate and everyone involved knew from the start that the Greens would not support offshore processing. I am certainly interested in hearing examples of the brinkmanship and grandstanding that you were forced to endure.
    Also, the Greens support for a minority government cannot be compared and contrasted with a formal Liberal/National coalition. The Greens agreed to support Gillard in votes of confidence and supply. That’s it. No coalition. Unless there is a multi-party committee involved they don’t take bills jointly into parliament.
    When the election is called (which will be next year, not 2014), don’t throw your money away on a 3% fall in the Green vote. As James K said, for many years people have been predicting the demise of the Greens without properly understanding the resilience of the Green vote. They will be around long enough for you to get over your “disappoinment”.

  19. John Bennetts

    Yep, the Green moment of truth will be 2013, not 2014. My typo.

    Otherwise, I repeat. I had high hopes and even a little affinity for the Greens till the past two years. Some of you will continue to write long contributions about why I am mistaken… so be it.

    Long story short: My dissatisfaction is based on what I still believe to be good reasons.

    Time will tell, but my expectation remains unchanged: 3 percent drop nationally, in a highly polarised election environment. If they had been more effective in achieving their goals, then this would not be so, however they have very few runs on the board for a party which holds a mighty large chunk of the balance of power in both houses of federal parliament.

    By the way, I never undertook, as one writer claimed, to vote Labor next time around. My highly subjective and exhaustive filling in of both ballot papers may well mean that my vote will ultimately be directed in that direction. I will place, as always, great value on the characters of the candidates, in an attempt to never vote for richard-heads, regardless of their party affiliation.

  20. Honest Johnny

    Yes JB I understand you never undertook to vote Labor. You also perish the thought of an Abbott Prime Minister. You are disappointed/dissatisfied with the Greens because they lack “runs on the board” and you liked Don Chip (presumably he had runs on the board). You place great value on the character of candidates. Still no details on the “brinkmanship and grandstanding that you were forced to endure”?
    How about a compromise? For every example of Greens brinkmanship and grandstanding you give me (leaving out the asylum seeker debate), I’ll give you an example of their runs on the board. That’s fair isn’t it?


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