Australian Green election result

I was lucky enough to visit Melbourne last week to check out a very impressive Green campaign. There were Green signs everywhere reading “This time I’m voting Greens”.

Our colleagues across the Tasman have taken a giant step forward, increasing their Senate representation from five to nine, and Adam Bandt winning the Greens first lower house seat in Melbourne.

Two Green senators were returned (Christine Milne in Tasmania and Rachel Siewert in Western Australia), to be joined by Richard Di Natale in Victoria, Lee Rhiannon in NSW, Larissa Waters in Queensland and Penny Wright in South Australia. Lin Hatfield Dodds scored around 23 percent in the ACT, but to win she needed to break the 33% STV threshold in the smaller two-seat constituency.

Adam Bandt and Richard Di Natale will make great representatives judging from what I saw of them on the campaign trail.

At Melbourne University I heard Adam articulate the strong Green policy for a carbon charge and an effective ETS, in contrast to the do-nothing approach of Labour and the Liberals. All Julia Gillard could come up with was a Citizens Assembly to discuss what might be done about climate change.

Adam said that the Greens stood for “compassion, sustainability and equality”.

Compassion towards refugees was a big theme of the campaign. Adam and I both addressed a big Freedom for Refugees march on August 13, with Adam harshly criticising Gillard and Abbott’s heartlessness towards the boat people.

Equality was the theme of an even bigger march next day, for same-sex marriage. The now Green senator Richard Di Natale was loudly applauded as the only candidate promising legislation on the issue.

I also spoke at a Tamils for Greens rally along with Richard. The Tamil community is strongly behind the Greens, disgusted at the way Labour suspended the processing of Tamil refugees.

Julia Gillard will be lucky if she manages to stay Prime Minister because she showed no vision on the campaign. Each day she would announce a bit more spending on a local project, generally in a marginal electorate. Then Tony Abbott would try to match it.

Bob Brown, on the other hand, was promising free basic dental care, a big programme for clean energy, two years free kindergarten, and a high speed train link between Melbourne and Sydney, and an end to the draconian “intervention” in aboriginal communities.

In the final week of the campaign, the Greens had to hold out against a concerted right-wing attack, focusing on their economic programme, with included eco-taxes (including taxes on the super-profits of miners) and a 50% marginal rate on annual incomes of over $1 million. Some of the attacks were almost laughable. For example, according to Australian National Party leader Senator Barnaby Joyce, the Greens “anti-mining” stance would deliver “a nation full of wind chimes and windmills”.

The Australian Green result, coming on the heels of big improvements for the Greens in the UK and Germany, augurs well for us in next year’s elections.