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Double Disillusion

13

The Australian Greens’ Campaign

Stewart Jackson

Coming into the 2016 federal election, the Greens had reason to be confident that they would substantially improve their vote. By the end of 2015, opinion polls had been good, and although they had begun to drift lower, the Greens might have considered themselves to be well placed to reap the benefits of continuing electoral success. The number of party MPs nationally sat at all-time high of 34, with only the Northern Territory (NT) without parliamentary representation. In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the Greens were in government as the junior coalition partner to the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

The party appeared to have a great chance of expanding their representation in the Senate and House of Representatives, with a solidly performing leader in Richard Di Natale, who portrayed himself very differently from predecessors Christine Milne and Bob Brown. Di Natale’s performance was compared favourably by electors with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, outranking the opposition leader Bill Shorten on competency and matching Turnbull on trust (Blumer 2016). On top of Di Natale’s performance, the political situation appeared to be swinging in the party’s favour, with the Turnbull government stumbling over key issues in health, education and climate change, and the ALP under Shorten appearing lacklustre. With a functional national management team and experienced campaigners across all States, the Greens might have been forgiven for thinking that 2016 was the year they would break through to a series of wins in both the upper and lower houses. Yet, as we shall see, this was not the case, and the party was left with reduced representation and a bruised reputation.

Background

The Greens have a long-held view that their rise is inevitable. From small beginnings in the 1990s, the story goes that the party built a core following, allowing it to break through at the 2001 election (the so-called ‘Tampa’ election) and then continue to build strength in both State and federal parliaments. The 1990s, when the vote barely topped 4 per cent in the House of Representatives, and the Greens held seats only in Tasmania and Western Australia (WA) in the Senate, was a time when the party membership numbered in the very low thousands. During that period, the Greens could be understood as two separate parties (the Greens WA did not join the Australian Greens until 2003) and were bitterly divided along State lines. The first ‘national’ campaign by the Greens was in 2001, which coincidentally was also one of their most successful campaigns to that point. The period 1999–2001 also saw the party build their State and Territory resources significantly (Jackson 2016).

This narrative, part of party mythos, is of course far more complicated in reality; it saw ups and downs, with WA and Tasmania in particular suffering dramatic shifts in their parliamentary fortunes (see Figure 13.1). One important point has been that the party’s vote continued to rise at each federal election until 2010, when the party hit an all-time high vote of 13.1 per cent in the Senate and 11.7 per cent in the House of Representatives. The 2016 election, however, marked a break with another pattern—that of the Senate vote being higher than the House of Representatives vote. While in the early days of the Australian Greens this could be explained by a lower number of Greens candidates (i.e. the Greens did not run in every seat), an explicit focus on the Senate and a far lower number of contesting groups on the Senate ballot paper, this shift may signal a change in voter sentiment toward the Greens.

Figure 13.1. Greens election results, 1993–2016

Figure 13.1. Greens election results, 1993–2016

Source. Compiled by author from University of Western Australia (n.d.).

The high point of 2010 (13.1 per cent) had been followed by a significantly lower vote in 2013 (8.6 per cent). In many respects, the 2013 vote was a correction to the surprisingly high 2010 vote. But losing a significant chunk of votes in the Liberal–National landslide win of 2013, even while gaining an additional Senator, did nothing to quiet criticism of the party leader, Senator Christine Milne (Tietze 2013).

However, Milne’s resignation in 2015, and her replacement by Di Natale, produced a marked shift in style within the top echelons of the party. Senator Scott Ludlam, who had initially lost his WA Senate seat in the 2013 election, won the right to recontest the seat after the election result in that State was overturned. His vote of over 15 per cent in the ensuing by-election energised the party and propelled Ludlam to national prominence. Ludlam and Queensland (QLD) Senator Larissa Waters replaced Victorian House of Representatives MP Adam Bandt as the party’s deputy leader (becoming co–deputy leaders in the process). Not only did this leave Bandt to focus on re-election, it also dampened his own leadership ambitions (Lohrey 2015).

This was followed by the Victorian State election in November 2014, where the Greens marginally increased their lower house vote but won two seats. Although the upper house vote fell by 1.25 per cent, the Greens increased their representation in the Legislative Council by two seats, to five. Barely two months later, in January 2015, Campbell Newman took QLD to the polls, resulting in the Greens increasing their vote by almost 1 per cent to 8.4 per cent. Three months later, in March 2015, the Greens fought the New South Wales (NSW) State election, and although their lower house vote was unchanged, they increased their representation in the Legislative Assembly from one seat to three. Perhaps as an omen to the coming federal election, the Legislative Council vote dropped by 1.2 per cent to 9.9 per cent. Table 13.1 summarises the party’s legislative representation immediately prior to the federal election.

Table 13.1. State and federal representation (number of MPs)

State

Federal

NSW

8

1

VIC

7

3

QLD

1

WA

2

2

SA

2

2

TAS

3

2

ACT

1

NT

Total

23

11

Source. Compiled by author from Commonwealth, State and Territory parliamentary websites.

The State election results, while occurring in the context of different circumstances and jurisdictions, are useful pointers to issues of party focus and organisation. The focus on lower house seats in NSW and Victoria (VIC) was successful, demonstrating the utility of strong, although resource-intensive (in terms of finances and people), ground campaigns. However, this did not build the State-wide vote. The Greens’ lower house vote in these two States is concentrated in inner-urban areas, and did not explicitly assist the upper house campaigns. State campaign organisations focused on target seats and not on broadly supporting general campaigning. They also did not give support (outside of that normally provided) to branches beyond these target areas. This can then be seen as signalling a clear preference for high-profile, lower house campaigns, which translated into a focus on a limited group of key seats nationally.

The year of the double dissolution: The parliamentary context

The beginning of 2016 provided a bright start for the Greens, with the party polling between 10–12 per cent in national polls such as Galaxy and Essential and to a high of 16 per cent in the Morgan poll (see Goot, Chapter 5, this volume). The party had a full suite of policies, costed and detailed, a national campaign structure and a high-profile leader.

Debate around the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which saw the Greens and the Coalition support changes that abolished the old group-voting ticket in the Senate, were protracted and ill tempered. At various stages, the Greens were accused of contempt of the Constitution (Mackerras 2016), or ensuring a Coalition majority (Aston 2016). The Greens equally pointed out that they had been pursuing such changes since 2004, and had been part of the majority Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) report into the 2013 election (this is discussed more broadly by Green, Chapter 8, this volume).

A chaotic week of argument around reference of the amending bill to a Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, including a move by ALP Senator Penny Wong to bring on a vote on same-sex marriage, ended with the Greens voting with the Coalition to remove the group-voting ticket, but with an amendment meaning that the commencement of the changes were from 1 July. The real effect of this was to force Turnbull to have to present the 2016 Budget prior to the election, and to deal with crossbench anger over the amendments to the Electoral Act. Nonetheless, it was the Greens who were now the target of ALP attacks, particularly from leading left-wing MPs Penny Wong and Anthony Albanese. The ALP, it was clear, had decided that the Greens should be the target of the party ‘attack dogs’, while Turnbull and the Coalition policy would be left to ALP Leader Bill Shorten and the rest of his frontbench (these debates are delineated by Taflaga and Wanna, Chapter 2, this volume).

A lower house strategy

The Greens now faced a serious threat to their desire to build upon the success of 2010, when Adam Bandt snatched the seat of Melbourne from the ALP upon the retirement of longstanding MP Lindsay Tanner. The targets for the Greens in 2016 were now David Feeney’s seat of Batman, adjacent to Melbourne, and the NSW seat of Grayndler, held by Anthony Albanese (see also Raue, Chapter 7, this volume). These would be the key seats for the party to win, among a clear group of potentially winnable seats including Sydney, Wills (also adjacent to Melbourne), Fremantle and the NSW north coast seat of Richmond. Two further seats can be added to this list: Higgins in Melbourne’s south-east, held for the Liberal Party by the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, and Melbourne Ports, held by the ALP’s Michael Danby (see Massola and Hunter 2016).

This group of target seats, predominantly in the inner-urban areas of Melbourne and Sydney, became a key element for the further development of the parliamentary party. Target seats receive additional State resources from the party, extra staffing and time with key national leadership figures, and the campaign teams are linked into national campaign planning. State budgets become important here, as the larger States have greater resources to promote seats, in comparison to the relatively modest sums available to the national campaign. This provides an advantage to the NSW and Victorian State parties, with their significant membership and financial resources. This national campaign exercises limited sway over these activities, with local and State branches having considerable autonomy, only tempered by a perceived need for coordination, allowing divergent campaign messages to emerge.

Seats in these inner-urban areas would certainly appear to hold the best opportunities for the Greens, especially if State election results from the recently held elections were any guide, and they fit the established narrative of Greens being inner-urban professionals. The federal seat of Grayndler straddled the Greens-held NSW lower house seat of Newtown, while the federal Victorian seat of Higgins covered the State seat of Prahran. This was where the Greens had caused a boilover in 2014, leapfrogging the ALP candidate to beat the Liberal incumbent. While not the site of a Green State victory, in the 2014 Victorian election, the State electorate of Northcote, covering the southern half of the federal seat of Batman, had seen a Green candidate achieve a 36 per cent primary vote. The federal seat of Wills had the curious history of returning the Independent Phil Cleary in the early 1990s, following the retirement of its previous occupant, former prime minister Robert Hawke (Bean and Marks 1993). The case of the NSW federal seat of Richmond is equally interesting as it covers the Greens-held State seat of Ballina and the Shire of Byron, a longstanding ‘Green’ and counter-cultural area. The Greens, therefore, held high hopes for this seat as well.

As some of the post-election news commentary picked up, there were issues with the Australian Greens’ messaging and campaigns. The choice of former Fire Brigade Employees’ Union State Secretary Jim Casey, who had previously been a member of the Trotskyist International Socialist party, for the seat of Grayndler allowed his ALP opponent Albanese to paint the Greens as inner-city leftists, only vaguely concerned with the environment. More dangerously, this allowed the Rupert Murdoch tabloid the Daily Telegraph to support Albanese against what the Telegraph saw as ‘extremists’, to the point of publishing a front page emblazoned with ‘Save Our Albo’ (Clennell 2016). While the Telegraph, in common with many newspapers, has seen its reach decline, the theme of Greens’ candidates as hardline socialists was one used by other news outlets (see Aston 2016). This form of scrutiny of the Greens from mainstream media outlets, while nothing new, follows a similar pattern to that seen in the UK in the 2015 General Election (Dennison 2015).

While Casey’s perceived political alignment was the focus of commentary, it distracted from the key elements of the Greens’ messaging. This was focused on the State and federally funded WestConnex road tunnel, and staple Green campaign fare in asylum seekers and climate change. These two campaign points were also picked up by the Greens’ Sydney candidate Sylvie Elsemore, who focused strongly on the impact of WestConnex on inner-city residents and the ALP’s tacit support for such freeway developments. However, it is an open question as to whether a focus on what might be seen as a localised, State issue was the most appropriate strategy for the federal election, especially as the Greens could quite rightly point to the ALP and Coalition’s joint support for offshore detention of asylum seekers as a major point of contention.

This is in contrast to the Greens’ campaign in the Melbourne seat of Batman where the focus was more on the key areas of asylum seekers and local jobs. Reportage in the Guardian Australia, the day before the election, led with offshore detention centres as the key campaign element being argued by Di Natale and the Greens’ candidate for Batman, Alex Bhathal, before moving on to the broader issues of education and the economy (Davey 2016). The difference between the two campaigns is marked. A previous media report had positioned Di Natale as focusing on climate change and asylum seekers, articulated by Di Natale as ‘the Greens haven’t voted to lock up young kids on Manus Island and Nauru’ (Farrell 2016). The same report noted the key focus of Casey as being WestConnex: ‘[l]ocal activism, on this and other issues, will form a core part of his campaign’. This was emphasised again mid-campaign, when Casey also responded to questions regarding not attacking Albanese and the focus on WestConnex with: ‘I think we’re getting the balance right—credit where it’s due, condemnation where it’s not’ and ‘for two thirds of people he spoke to, WestConnex was an enormous issue’ (Brull 2016). However, while WestConnex worked well for the Greens in the context of the lower house State campaigns in Newtown and Balmain, it is not a national or even State-wide issue for most electors.

Organisation

Going into the election campaign, the Australian Greens ran a sizeable operation. With a national administration with a turnover of over $1 million, the national party could call on professional campaigners and media operatives, bolstered by a national campaign team hired for the election period. While this is not on the scale of the administrations run by the Coalition and the ALP, it still speaks to a significant administrative system. The national election budget for 2016 was also in the order of $1 million, which again speaks to a relatively sizeable commitment, as this was for national coordination and design, with individual States running their own budgets. As an example of the size of State budgets, the Greens NSW State campaign budget was in the order of $1.7 million, while the 2015–16 NSW State operational budget was over $1.6 million. The Victorian party has comparable sums for expenditure, increased by an ability to draw in significant donations from sources such as major trade unions (the Greens NSW does not accept such donations, whether from unions or business). On top of this, local branches have traditionally canvassed and received donations for their own campaigns, which can lead to a significant disparity in income and expenditure between lower house campaigns. This is especially true where Greens members and supporters are concentrated, such as in inner-urban areas, or where there is a high-profile local MP, such as Adam Bandt.

While the sums discussed in relation to the Greens were dwarfed by the expenditure of the Coalition and ALP, they are similar to the sums spent on the 2013 election and place the Greens as the next-highest spending party after the major parties. To get an idea of the size and complexity of the various parts of the party as a whole, the total expenditure reported by the Greens to the Australian Election Commission (AEC) during the 2013 election year was almost $20 million (AEC 2016a).

The organisation that these sums support is, for a non-major party, significant. The campaign also attempted to make use of social media, in what appears to be a continuing attempt to attract a sizeable young demographic. The previous success of Scott Ludlam amongst the ‘digiratti’ (Visentin 2014) suggests that the party can make good use of social media. Although the Greens have over 80,000 Twitter followers, the party made only a few hundred tweets with new material in 2016 compared to well over a thousand in 2013. Equally, the party reputedly spent over $280,000 on Facebook advertising; although, compared with the multimillion dollar advertising expenditures of the major parties, this is relatively minor.

On the ground, the party can also call upon the more than 14,000 members and the many supporters recruited by its local branches and online portal. Campaigns such as that of Alex Bhathal in Batman could call upon 6,000 volunteers to do door-to-door canvassing, letterboxing and postering. While the large campaigns associated with the key inner-city contests had volunteer numbers into the thousands, even small suburban campaigns could call upon hundreds of volunteers, coordinated through the online systems developed since the 2010 campaign (Jackson 2013).

A key element of Greens’ campaigning has to be the ground campaign. The total expenditure by the ALP and Coalition on television and radio advertising cannot be matched by the Greens. Further, the separate State and local branches limit the amount available to expend on national broadcasting. Although the national party has attempted to look for large national donors, such as Grahame Wood in 2010 (Manning 2011), the bulk of fundraising is still managed at a State level. Local branches control local supporter lists, so are able to mobilise them for their campaigns. This can also include phone banking, involving cold canvassing of voters in electorates, or direct canvassing through door knocking. The Greens obviously are not the only party to engage in local campaigning (see Mills’s (2014) description of the Carrum campaign in the 2014 Victorian election for ALP activities), but it has now become a significant area of focus for campaigning.

Policy agenda

The principal policy agenda that might be assumed for any Green party is the environment (for a comparison with the major parties’ environment policies, see Pearse, Chapter 25, this volume). This is assumed to be so by the media and most scholars, even though the party spends considerable time talking about other issues (and the party’s members themselves think ‘social justice’ issues are almost as important (see Jackson 2016)). The Australian Greens’ election platform (Australian Greens 2016a) was a relatively short document, running to just 50 pages. The major policy areas for the election were outlined with many glossy photos; the document was clearly as much a marketing tool as an outline of what the party stands for. The key policy areas appeared much as might be expected; climate change featured prominently and was the first policy area delineated, closely followed by immigration, the environment, health, education and the economy. The six policy areas were outlined with a mixture of overarching statements and specific proposals. The platform was accompanied by a six-page document outlining item by item all the revenue and expenditure measures (Australian Greens 2016b). These two documents (available on the party’s website) were rounded out by a third collection of web documents concerning specific initiatives dealing with the rest of the policy issues covered or announced during the election, from the arts to veterans’ affairs.

One method for ascertaining the priorities within the party around these particular issues is to examine the press releases put out by the party’s MPs during the election period, as this should point to what those MPs (and, by corollary, the party campaign machine) think are key topics. These media releases can be considered separately from the other media opportunities that are afforded to MPs, often on an ad hoc basis from a journalist seeking comment, as they represent public attention-seeking for the policies, and may provide a reasonable guide to the weight given to the issues by the party.

The MPs’ put out 355 media releases during the period 1 May – 2 July 2016, commenting on most portfolio topics. Here, I have categorised these media releases by the key portfolio area covered, or by key issue where the releases related to a non-portfolio area. Of the 355 total releases, 262 are covered by 10 key areas and are listed in Table 13.2, with the MPs who issued four or more releases noted. One point to note immediately is the general lack of a leader-centric focus—while Di Natale issued releases in a number of portfolio areas, he largely left commentary to the MP responsible.

Table 13.2. Press releases – top 10 topics

Portfolio

Subject releases

Key MPs covering (number of releases)

Environment

75

LW (19), LR (6), SL (6), JR (5), RDN (4), RS (4), RSW (4)

     Climate related

38

LW (15), RDN (4), RS (4)

     Climate/Energy

18

LW (4), RS (4)

Finance

42

AB (8), RSW (8), JR (6), PWW (6), RDN (4)

     Budget

32

AB (5), JR (5), RSW (5), PWW (4)

Governance

24

LR (17), RDN (4)

Party

23

LR (12)

Immigration

18

SHY (17)

ALP

17

LR (4), LW (4), RS (4)

Transport

17

JR (6)

Health

16

RDN (6), JR (4)

Social security

15

RSW (9), LW (5)

Education

14

RS (5), LR (4)

AB – Adam Bandt; JR – Janet Rice; LR – Lee Rhiannon; LW – Larissa Waters; NM – Nick McKim; PWW – Peter Whish-Wilson; RDN – Richard Di Natale; RS – Robert Simms; RSW – Rachel Siewert; SHY – Sarah Hanson-Young; SL – Scott Ludlam

Source. Complied by author from MPs’ websites listings for ‘Media Releases’. Listings show those MPs who issued four or more press releases in the period covered.

The top two portfolios were broken down further to reveal particular subcategories. The portfolio that was the subject of the most releases was in fact the environment—with 75 releases. Half (38) of these discussed the environment in connection with climate change broadly, and 18 discussed climate change and energy issues directly (whether as fossil fuels or coal seam gas, or renewable energy sources). Given that the federal Budget was brought down on 4 May 2016, less than a week prior to the formal announcement of the election on 8 May 2016, the budget period was included, and this naturally generated a significant number of press releases within the Finance portfolio area (42 out of 52).

The next two most prominent topics related to the general portfolio areas of ‘Governance’ (24) and ‘Party’ (23). Governance encompasses donations reform, the proposed national Independent Commission Against Corruption and the republic. Party is a catch-all subject area for matters to do with the party and not specific portfolio areas. It covers the death of sitting NSW MP John Kaye, preference negotiations and items related to the party’s campaign such as national and State launches, candidate announcements and the like. The important portfolio area of Immigration (18) followed these two subject areas, handled almost solely by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Perhaps as interesting is the category ‘ALP’, which were releases that focused on the activities of the ALP, so were not about the Greens responding to policy initiatives, but rather commenting on, or responding to, ALP attacks or specific budgetary measures (such as announced savings measures). The final four categories—‘Transport’ (17), ‘Health’ (16), ‘Social security’ (15) and ‘Education’ (14)—are the fairly mainstream policy issues you would expect to find discussed in an election campaign, and cover core social justice issues for the Greens.

There is an important point that can be drawn from this; the early part of the campaign (during May) contained far more finance stories for the Greens. During May, the MPs had 34 releases around finance issues, of which 25 were related to the Budget. June/July saw just eight finance-related releases, five of which were Budget related. Clearly, the number of press releases the MPs were issuing around the Budget was going to be higher, many focusing on each MP’s portfolio area (and most condemning cuts to their area of responsibility). That so few releases were specifically talking about economic and financial matters suggests the Greens really did not prioritise this area. Looking at the two National Press Club addresses by Di Natale that bookended the campaign (27 April and 23 June), the earlier address, just prior to the Budget announcement, talked up both climate change and the economy, particularly in relation to the opportunities in new technologies geared to a ‘clean’ economy (Di Natale 2016a). The address later in the campaign talked far more about government stability, and contained a broad overview of Green claims, prior to moving to a short itemised account of the Greens revenue policies (Di Natale 2016b).

Even while the Greens might have been responding to commentary in the media, they were talking up their economic credentials. A late feature in the Sydney Morning Herald (Hutchens 2016) focused specifically on Di Natale, Bandt and Peter Whish-Wilson as the ‘new Greens economics team’. There was a strong sense that their economic vision was so completely different from the major parties as to be suspect (Smethurst and Whinnett 2016). The tax-and-spend model proposed by Greens is routinely criticised by conservative journalists and columnists in Australia. But as Neil Carter (2015) pointed out in relation to the 2015 UK election, it may have saliency in the electorate for the Greens. In that election, the Greens were the only significant party running on a clearly anti-austerity platform, setting them apart from mainstream conservative and social democratic parties, and garnering significant numbers of new supporters.

The final result

The results on election night, 2 July 2016, looked quite promising for some Green campaigns, and quite disappointing for others. In VIC, the campaign in Melbourne secured a new term for sitting MP Adam Bandt, while in Batman and Wills, Green candidates went close to unseating the incumbents (see Table 13.3). Across the Yarra in Melbourne Ports, late counting looked for a period to have placed Greens’ candidate Steph Hodgins-May ahead of sitting MP Michael Danby in a tight three-way contest, before Danby squeezed ahead of the Greens and finally retained his seat on a slim 1.4 per cent margin.

In NSW, however, the campaigns in Sydney and Grayndler were more subdued. While in Grayndler the Greens moved back in the two-party preferred vote against the ALP’s Anthony Albanese, the 27,000 vote margin (representing a two-party preferred of 34–66 per cent) was a far cry from the 2010 campaign when the Greens’ Sam Byrne ran a close second in the two-party preferred with 46 per cent. The Sydney campaign team was equally disappointed in the 18.8 per cent result, almost 5 per cent short of the 2010 result.

Table 13.3. House of Representatives seats—Greens vote over 15 per cent

Electorate

State

2016

2013

Swing

Melbourne

VIC

43.75

42.62

1.13

Batman

VIC

36.23

26.4

9.83

Wills

VIC

30.83

22.23

8.6

Higgins

VIC

25.33

16.8

8.53

Melbourne Ports

VIC

23.79

20.17

3.62

Grayndler

NSW

22.24

23.03*

0.17

Gellibrand

VIC

21.48

16.73

4.75

Richmond

NSW

20.44

17.69*

5.07

Brisbane

QLD

19.4

14.34

5.06

Kooyong

VIC

18.92

16.58

2.34

Sydney

NSW

18.81

17.33*

0.46

Ryan

QLD

18.75

14.44

4.31

Fremantle

WA

17.74

11.89*

5.87

Griffith

QLD

17.08

10.18

6.83

Perth

WA

17.07

10.61*

5.1

Goldstein

VIC

15.9

15.9

0

Fenner

ACT

15.26

14.07*

1.5

Swan

WA

15.02

11.55

3.79

* Redistributions occurred in the ACT in 2015, and NSW and WA in 2015/16

See also Goot (Chapter 5, this volume) for a fuller discussion of these results.

Source. Compiled by author from swings calculated by AEC (2013, 2016b).

However, a number of the lower house campaigns saw their votes rebound towards the level experienced in 2010. The Victorian campaign overall improved its vote compared to 2010. Other States saw improvement upon their 2013 result, but not to the earlier level of support. As can be noted from Table 13.3, votes in the key Victorian seats rose between 8–10 per cent. In second-tier seats, the vote rises were more modest—between 2–5 per cent. As has been noted by some commentators, there is an apparent ‘wave’ expanding out from the seat of Melbourne (Johnston 2016). The concentration of technology and ‘new economy’ businesses in inner-urban Melbourne creates a concentrated vote of what Daniel Bell (1976) dubbed the ‘post-industrial class’, currently contained within one federal electorate (Melbourne), but expanding into a second (Batman). However, while some such as Kosmos Samaras1 (2016a) might call this a post-material effect of gentrification, it might also be identified with the form of campaigning used by the Greens in Melbourne (Manning 2016: 28). The same campaign tactics identified by Paddy Manning as being used by the Greens can be said to be used by the ALP (Mills 2014; also see Manwaring, Chapter 11, this volume), and represent a long process of professionalisation and change in the Greens (see, for instance, Jackson 2013).

More broadly, the Greens saw swings to them in every State and Territory except South Australia (SA) (Table 13.4). SA might be considered a special case because of the impact of Senator Nick Xenophon, whose campaign in the 2016 election mobilised tens of thousands of voters. Although his 2016 Senate vote of 21.7 per cent was 3 per cent lower than his 2010 vote, the formation of a formal political party (as a opposed to running as an Independent) saw Xenophon’s candidates pick up 21.3 per cent of the House of Representatives vote, and win the seat of Mayo. The combined effect of the success of Nick Xenophon in both Houses has seen the Greens’ vote in SA halve between 2010 and 2016.

Table 13.4. Results by State, 2013–16 (percentage)

House

Swing

Senate

Swing

2016

2013

2016

2013

NSW

8.95

7.95

1

7.41

7.79

–0.38

VIC

13.13

10.8

2.33

10.87

10.84

0.03

QLD

8.83

6.22

2.61

6.92

6.04

0.88

WA

12.06

9.74

2.32

10.53

9.49

1.04

SA

6.21

8.28

–2.07

5.87

7.09

–1.22

TAS

10.22

8.32

1.9

11.16

11.66

–0.50

ACT

15.09

13.4

1.69

16.1

19.27

–3.17

NT

9.09

7.89

1.2

10.78

8.67

2.11

Source. Compiled by author from AEC (2013, 2016b).

That the results were mixed is true; however, in the context they were neither unexpected nor sufficiently poor to warrant wholesale changes. Certainly the parliamentarians did not see the need to change the leadership team, re-electing them unopposed following the election (Di Natale 2016c).

Conclusion

The Greens’ campaign in 2016 cannot avoid being seen through the prism of the 2010 and 2013 campaigns—both high and low points in recent Australian Greens’ history. While party expenditure in the two election years remained fairly constant across the party between the two elections, the results were quite different in terms of votes garnered, even though the 2013 election saw the Greens actually increase their number of seats. The double-dissolution election raised the prospect of the Greens increasing their number of seats, and polling through 2015 suggested the possibility of other breakthroughs into the House of Representatives.

The Greens’ 2016 election campaign, however, did not deliver the unbridled triumphs some party supporters hoped for. The vote in the House of Representatives certainly did increase, and the Greens are now positioned to take a second seat in VIC (Batman), at the next federal election. That election may also move seats such as Melbourne Ports and Wills into contention. In the Senate, six of the nine seats won at this election will have to be recontested in the next three years (Henderson and Doran 2016). The loss of one of the Senate seats, that of Robert Simms’ in SA, was not unexpected given the strength of Xenophon in that State. But a good vote, similar to 2010, could have delivered a second seat in both NSW and QLD—neither of which eventuated.

At the end of the campaign, the party might have then felt that it strived for so much yet was delivered only a fair result. However, in the context of a bruising election for all the major parties, a result that sees an increase in the vote, the retention of all but one of the MPs and a solidified membership might also be seen as successful.

References

Aston, Heath. 2016. ‘Green candidate’s blue tweets used as ammunition against Liberal–Green tie up’. Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March. Available at: www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/green-candidates-blue-tweets-used-as-ammunition-against-liberalgreen-tie-up-20160314-gnilyv.html

Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). 2013. ‘Election 2013.’ Virtual Tally Room. Available at: results.aec.gov.au/17496/Website/Default.htm

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1 Kosmos Samaras is Victorian ALP Assistant State Secretary, and blogs as ‘Kosmos Samaras: A pragmatic progressive, cyclist and passionate atheist’ (Samaras 2016b).


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