Inner city Greens (make me wanna holler)

The Victorian election is living up to its billing as the latest battlefield in new paradigm politics, with the Liberals finding themselves shunted from the front pages by a stoush between Labor and the Greens. At issue are the professional activities of the Greens candidate for Melbourne, Brian Walters, SC, who has been targeted over his legal work for accused war criminal Konrad Kalejs and a company associated with coal mining. After a furious response from the legal fraternity and the liberal end of the Melbourne media (The Age playing a tellingly distinct role in the controversy from the Sunday Herald Sun), most have concluded Labor’s attack has badly misfired, with Andrew Crook of Crikey going so far as to argue it has doomed Melbourne MP Bronwyn Pike to certain defeat. The correctness of this view depends largely on the resolution of the campaign’s other Greens-centric controversy: the split in the Liberal Party over whether to continue placing the Greens ahead of Labor on how-to-vote cards.

The behaviour of major party preferences has been little studied, as in the normal course of events they are not distributed. Of much greater interest has been minor party and independent preferences and their bearing on major party outcomes. The only substantial interruption to this picture in recent times came with the emergence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, who Labor and eventually the Coalition parties both saw fit to put last. Hanson herself topped the primary vote when she contested the new seat of Blair at the 1998 federal election, but was thwarted when about three-quarters of Labor preferences went to Liberal candidate Cameron Thompson. When state Labor advised voters to simplify matters with a “just vote one” strategy in 2001, made possible by Queensland’s optional preferential voting system, the rate of exhausted Labor votes shot from a third to three-quarters. These episodes confirmed what scrutineers had long known about major party voters’ observance of how-to-vote cards.

Even more helpfully, a ballot paper study conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission after the 2006 election (thanks to Peter Brent of Mumble for alerting me to this) encompassed all four of the electorates under consideration, and found the rate of obedience among Liberal voters ranging from 30 per cent in Richmond to 45 per cent in Brunswick. With those Liberal voters who didn’t follow the card favouring the Greens over Labor about 60-40, the total rate of preferences to the Greens was consistently around 75 per cent, or slightly below the 80 per cent recorded in Melbourne and Batman at the federal election. As a rough guide, it can be inferred that a change in the Liberals’ how-to-vote policy would cut their preference flow to the Greens from the high 70s to around 40 per cent.

The likely impact of this is best considered in light of recent voting patterns. The table below shows how the state electorates voted both at the 2006 state election and the recent federal election (results from the latter being derived from booth results with slight adjustments made to account for declaration votes). While the latter figures have the advantage of being more current, they are unavoidably contaminated by specifically federal factors.

2006 STATE
Melbourne 45% 27% 22% 48% 40%
Richmond 46% 25% 20% 46% 39%
Brunswick 48% 30% 17% 45% 40%
Northcote 53% 27% 15% 42% 37%
Melbourne 36% 37% 22% 57% 49%
Richmond 39% 37% 20% 55% 48%
Brunswick 46% 31% 19% 48% 41%
Northcote 46% 33% 17% 49% 42%

On the basis of the 2006 state election, the order of dominoes would look to be Melbourne, Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote, with some distance separating the last two. The federal election results tell a slightly different story, with the Greens in a substantially stronger position in Melbourne and Richmond than in Brunswick and Northcote – remembering that the former two constitute most of federal Melbourne, where Labor suffered the loss of Lindsay Tanner’s personal vote. By the same token, it should be remembered that Labor is losing incumbent Carlo Carli in Brunswick, where the contest could be further complicated if former federal independent Phil Cleary runs as an independent. The last two columns in the table project the Greens’ two-party vote in scenarios where they do and don’t receive Liberal preferences, and herein lies the rub. With Liberal preferences, they look to have Melbourne and Richmond in the bag, as well as being highly competitive in Northcote and Brunswick. Without them, they could yet emerge entirely empty-handed.

Personally, I would be very surprised if a party in a system as adversarial as our own saw fit to grant such a huge free kick to their real enemy. But at the very least, it will be interesting to see if the Liberals can do better this time in Greens preference negotiations which have traditionally been entirely fruitless for them.

UPDATE: Sam Bauers in comments makes the good point that the VEC study shows how Liberal voters behave when the how-to-vote card reflects their expectations: a change in policy might increase the rate of rebellion.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

159 comments on “Inner city Greens (make me wanna holler)”

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  1. Zoomster

    you are full of garbage when it comes to the Greens

    “Just show me one – one – media release, media statement, letter to the editor, whatever, from a Greens MP (you’ve got three in the Upper House here) – supporting a proposed windfarm in Victoria and asking the local community to get behind it.”

    Why? That wasn’t what you were talking about.

    You were talking in general terms, not specifically about Windfarms in Victoria.

    Saying the Greens don’t ‘Advocate’ any issue in Victoria other than opposing windfarms is a retarded argument, and you know it.

  2. Astro

    it wasn’t? Suggest you trawl back through the posts here – you’ll find that it was.

    However, you seem to want me to give you a task you can do rather than one you know is impossible (since you admit that the Greens in Victoria don’t support windfarms).

    OK, one Victorian Green supporting a government initiative on the environment. There must be one, even I expect that, so you should be able to meet that challenge.

  3. Why exactly do ALP supporters believe the Greens should be out there spruiking on behalf of another party. No party speaks positively on behalf of another except to immediately follow it with a reason why they’re terrible. The ALP have ridden on the coat-tails of the Greens environmental activism since 1983, don’t hear too many ALP supporters whingeing about the injustice of that. We all know if the ALP could destroy the Greens they would in a heartbeat, ditto for the Greens and The Liberals. What i don’t understand is why people like GG and Ron deserve extra special bile for the Greens rather than the conservatives. Are they just secret conservatives? Do they fear the Greens? Do they feel powerless, like the ALP leadership seems to be, in how to deal with the political reality in front of them? If there is a hung parliament in Victoris the Greens will go with the ALP, and still the ALP supporters will whinge about the Greens do secret deals with the Libs and would rather see the Libs in power.

  4. harse,

    The re writing of history department of the Greens in over drive.

    The Greens party did not exist in 1983.

    Confusing people with a genuine interest in the environment and the Greens who have a proven record on non achievement and holding back environment intiiatives is a standard trick of the Greens. The Greens hide behind such people who come from all walks of life and are members of all political parties.

    Oh, they talk a good fight, but rate zilch for a follow through and achievement.

  5. Zoomster

    No it wasn’t. You were talking about highland cattle and all sorts of other things. Your complaint wasn’t specifically about windfarms, you added that later.

    Here is your complaint, just so we’re clear:

    “I live in some of the communities affected by the actions I describe. I was an active advocate within the party for removal of cattle from the High Plains.

    I have never (despite extensive reading of local media) seen any association between the Greens and these initiatives, either formally, through their party or informally, through letters to the editor etc identifying themselves as Greens supporters.

    I accept that some of these measures were supported by Greens members, but they were remarkably reticent about making that connection.

    This is part of the reason why I get angry about the Greens: I’ve had to fight these battles locally, by myself, and had no support from Greens members.

    Yet they have the utter cheek to turn around and take the credit for it.

    I didn’t hear a greens voice in support of draining Lake Mokoan. I looked for the Greens congratulating the government on the latest national park specially – nothing.

    As for windfarms…Rod, they don’t even have a policy. You will find far more evidence to suggest the Greens are against windfarms than to suggest they support them.”

    “Rod, what I’m talking about is action on the ground – getting out there in the community and advocating for the issue.”

    It’s not anyone’s fault that you never meet any greens doing pro-active work in your travels about, normally they don’t wear signs and such. But to claim that you know that the Greens do ‘NOTHING’ is lame and daft.

    “since you admit that the Greens in Victoria don’t support windfarms”
    Yet more garbage. Wy do you make up these dumb generalisations? In fact you know we have discussed Windfarms before and we have shown you numerous press releases etc about the very same from The Greens. Just look at Scott Ludlum’s work.

    Your problem Zoomster, and one reason I can’t take you seriously is that you play rhetorical games rather than try to get a better understanding of an issue.

    You may work hard to promote local issues (and kudos to you for doing so), but then to use that work as a political weapon and claim that you know the Greens do nothing is, quite frankly, shameful.

    It’s really sad the Labor supporters here can’t get over their Greens hatred, it’s boring and trivial.

  6. Astro

    Your post @ 124 specifically attacks a statement of mine about windfarms. When I answered, stating that the Greens don’t support windfarms, you then say that windfarms wasn’t what we were talking about.

    You then, in post 157, deny that I’ve been talking about windfarms throughout this thread, and quote a post of mine which ends:

    [As for windfarms…Rod, they don’t even have a policy. You will find far more evidence to suggest the Greens are against windfarms than to suggest they support them.”]

    thus clearly showing I’ve been discussing windfarms all along.

    The problem I have with Greens supporters – who I certainly don’t hate, having several of my nearest and dearest who are – is that they cannot accept any criticism of their party and cannot admit it has weaknesses.

    This is just silly. I know the ALP isn’t perfect, never will be, and I actively work to improve it, particularly when it comes to enviro issues. I think it’s important to be aware of the areas of weakness within the ALP because otherwise we can’t work on these.

    I don’t believe the Greens are perfect, either – but apparently their supporters do.

    Look, if what I’ve been saying upsets you so much, and you can’t refute it, maybe you need to spend your energies agitating for change within the Greens, using posts like mine to demonstrate how their present stance makes the party vulnerable.

    As for not taking me seriously, that’s a bit hard to believe, given the number of your posts in response to mine.

    Perhaps if you took me more seriously, though, you’d actually do some research (I point out, yet again, that despite all the concerted efforts of the Greens when I’ve thrown out this challenge, I think we found only one media release from a WA State Green, expressing conditional support for a windfarm).

  7. Zoomster
    I posted exactly what you wrote. So I don’t see how you claim it said anything other than what it did.

    For some weird reason you think that you can determine whether the Greens are pro-active by telepathy or something.

    Did you ring them and ask them for their policy or attitude to Windfarms? Did you actually DO anything?

    “The problem I have with Greens supporters – who I certainly don’t hate, having several of my nearest and dearest who are – is that they cannot accept any criticism of their party and cannot admit it has weaknesses.”

    Here you go again with the stupid generalisations. I know you’re smarter than this.

    “Look, if what I’ve been saying upsets you so much, and you can’t refute it, maybe you need to spend your energies agitating for change within the Greens, using posts like mine to demonstrate how their present stance makes the party vulnerable.”

    Oh god, can you drop the stupid ego trip? You made a daft generalisation that the Greens did NOTHING. It doesn’ need refuting, because it’s STUPID.

    I’ll show you again how stupid it was:

    “Rod, what I’m talking about is action on the ground – getting out there in the community and advocating for the issue.

    The only time the Greens do this is when they’re opposing windfarms.

    They advocate for these actions from inner city Melbourne and leave ALP people like myself to actually try and defend them in our communities.

    It would be nice if, just once, a Greens MP or Senator had put their hand up to support initiatives like the ones I referred to. (As I said, no media releases on latest national parks, saying how terrific it is….why not?)

    Instead, what happens is that the ALP has to do the hard yards and the Greens get the credit for it.”

    You said the only time the Greens do anything pro-active is when they’re opposing Windfarms.

    That is a stupid thing to say.

    I think the problem is that you will not admit it no matter what…

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