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There's an interesting question arising out of the 2010 Victorian State Election: Has it now been shown that The Greens will be forever blocked from lower house representation, or is this just a hiccough along the way?

The Australian Democrats once decided that their path to permanence involved winning House of Representative seats. Their biggest effort to do this was to run high profile Janine Haines for the seat of Kingston in 1990. The two major parties (ALP and Liberal) preferenced against her, and she lost.

In 2010, Adam Bandt won the federal seat of Melbourne because the Liberals gave preferences to The Greens ahead of the ALP.

In the 2010 State Election, the Liberals directed their preferences to the ALP. You can see the big difference that this made in the charts below. Even though The Greens candidate for the State election, Brian Walters won a greater percentage of the votes than Adam Bandt there was still no doubt that the ALP would win with the Liberals preferences.

(Note: the State figures used below are still incomplete because counting continues.)

The only way for The Greens to win a seat like Melbourne is to raise their Primary vote well above their current 36-8%, to somewhere close to 50%. Or, they've got to pick up Liberal preferences. About one third of Liberal Voters in the State election preferenced The Greens despite the Liberal How to Vote cards. Even that much "initiative" (rebellion) by Liberal Voters wasn't enough to elect The Greens. With preferences splitting at that ratio, they need to raise their Primary vote to about 43%.

That will be hard.

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Comments (2)
Anthony Holmes November 28th, 2010 01:01:36 PM

 Comments
1) The Greens: Lower Houses a bridge too far?
Michael Mc 30/11/2010 9:46:42 PM

Good analysis, Anthony. I think comparing the Greens to the Democrats makes sense, and agree they're going to find it harder from now on to win seats in Victoria (and elsewhere) if they're preferenced last by the big boys. However, they've now got some key advantages over the Democrats (who are now a Zombie Party so I'll talk about in the past tense). Firstly, they've already won seats around the country (not just Melbourne in the last Federal Election but also a score of state ones in Tasmania and elsewhere), whereas the Democrats only ever broke into SA State Politics. Secondly, they're a much more grass-roots party (pardon the pun) than the Democrats were and have good representation in local government. The Democrats were really only ever a Senate-based party that tried to build a base; the Greens already have one. Furthermore the Greens have good public recognition and the electorate has a clear sense of what they stand for (e.g. the environment, human rights, etc), whereas the Centrist Democrats had some similar values but had problems defining a core role to the electorate (beyond being the responsible arbiters of the main parties). On all counts I think the Greens have a better chance to win more seats than the Democrats. The last reason is more profound and speculative - I'd suggest Labour is now facing a crisis of values and support that they didn't when the Democrats were on stage from the late 70s through to its collapse early last decade. For the ALP, the last few years has starkly shown it faces a crisis. There is an increasing erosion of support within and withiout the ALP, and I think Labour faces a real problem redefining itself and its values over the next few years, and if it can't then further decline awaits, which can only favour the Greens. I'd suggest the forthcoming NSW Election (with current polls suggesting a collapse in support for the ALP) could see the Greens pick up quite a few seats and it may be an interesting sign of things to come...

2) The Greens: Lower Houses a bridge too far?
Anthony Holmes 1/12/2010 8:16:39 PM

I think you are a little optimistic about The Greens' odds of consistently succeeding in single member electorates. However, NSW will be very interesting given that the ALP vote will crash to, umm, about the same number of votes as the number of candidates running for the ALP. So progressive voters will go somewhere. But for The Greens to really succeed, the ALP will need a bit more than a bit of policy presentation angst... They'd need a proper split, a la the 1950s and the DLP.

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