Australia swings right. Greens hold Senate seats and win Melbourne | Asia Pacific Greens

Australia swings right. Greens hold Senate seats and win Melbourne

Margaret Blakers, September 2013

Australia has swung to the right. It’s not a landslide but the conservative Abbott government will have a comfortable majority in the new parliament. The Greens are jubilant about holding Adam Bandt’s seat in the House of Representatives with a massive swing of 7.8% giving him a primary vote of 43.4% (the lower house of parliament has single member electorates and preferential voting).

The Greens are also more likely than not to have ten Senators in the new parliament, one more than at present (Senators are elected by proportional representation). This is a brilliant outcome. The Green vote was 8.4%, about 3% down from the previous election, probably due to a combination of factors including the fact the environment was kept completely off the election agenda by the old parties, the leadership change to Christine Milne still being relatively recent, and an ‘incumbency’ effect from the Greens having been in a formal alliance with Labor in the previous government.

The swing to the right is more modest than might have been expected given the relentless campaign the opposition has waged over the last three hears. On a two-party preferred basis, which compares the relative votes of the government and opposition, Labor and the Coalition (conservatives) were equal on 50%:50% at the 2010 election and shifted to 47%:53% on Saturday. The detailed results are confused by a plethora of mostly right wing micro-parties representing everything from ‘Shooters and Fishers’ to ‘No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics’. On the progressive side, the Wikileaks Party lost credibility and votes by preferencing right-wing microparties. The Pirate Party stood for the first time and gained some support. Big-money politics came to Australia for the first time in the person of mining magnate Clive Palmer whose Palmer United Party gained 5.6% of the vote and possibly seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Mr Palmer’s planned mega coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is currently going through government assessment processes which raises extraordinary questions about conflicts of interest.

What does the new government mean for Australia? Mr Abbott has promised to sweep away the ‘carbon tax’ and resources to support renewable energy. This world-leading package of legislation to tackle climate change was brought in by Labor and the Greens in 2012. It can only be repealed if supported by the Senate as well as the House of Representatives. That sets the stage for a political tussle which is really about whether the Abbott government accepts the science of climate change.

The Abbott government also promises to ‘stop the boats’, an extraordinarily xenophobic and cruel policy, largely adopted by the Labor party, that aims to prevent asylum-seekers who arrive on Australia’s shores by boat from ever entering the country. The Greens alone have steadfastly campaigned for a humane approach to asylum-seekers.

The Coalition made a feature of revealing very little of its plans for government. It will be friendly to big business, hostile to the environment and socially conservative. It will strip away support for low income people while increasing defence spending, and spend billions on new roads while de-funding public transport. As the incoming G20 president in December 2013, Australia will be in the embarrassing position of being represented on the world stage by a government that is cutting billions from overseas aid and refusing to play its part in taking effective global action on climate change.

The Greens ran a great campaign based on caring for people and nature – excellent coherent policies, impressive candidates and campaigners and a well thought-out and targeted communications strategy, including for the first time good social media. Look at some of the materials below. The next three years will be grim for progressive values but 2016, when the next election is due, is not far away and the Greens are energised for the contest.

Greens’plan for a better Australia.  Standing up for what matters: clean economy, caring society, healthy environment.

Greens’ Leader Christine Milne at the press club just before the election

Australian Greens