The Guardian October 23, 2002


Important victory for progressive policies
in Cunningham by-election

by Janice Hamilton

In a history making success for progressive policies and a defeat for the 
major parties and rightwing policies, Australian Greens Candidate Michael 
Organ has been elected as his Party's first member of the House of 
Representatives in the Cunningham by-election held last weekend.

The result represents a 6 per cent swing in primary votes against Labor

Sharon Bird ALP won 38.16 per cent of the primary vote followed by Michael 
Organ 22.96 per cent, independent Liberal Party David Moulds 13.74 per cent 
and union backed independent Peter Wilson 10.53 per cent.

Mr Organ pulled ahead of the ALP candidate as preferences were distributed. 
Most other candidates gave him a preference higher than that given to 
Labor. The ALP also attempted a last minute desperation preference strategy 
that lead to a high Labor informal vote. The Cunningham seat had been held 
by the Labor Party for over 53 years.

The decline in Labor's primary vote came on top of a 7.5 per cent swing 
against Stephen Martin at last November's federal election. His sudden 
resignation forced the by-election.

The result has implications for the NSW State election to be held next 
March. The marginal seat of Keira and the former marginal seat of 
Wollongong cover the same areas as the federal seat of Cunningham.

Australian Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown at victory celebrations last 
Saturday night gave credit to independent union candidate Peter Wilson 
whose preferences were essential to the Green's victory. Senator Brown said 
the result was a "victory for local issues".

Local issues

Those issues included the massive housing development which is underway at 
Sandon Point, lack of quality public transport, lack of funding for public 
schools and the University of Wollongong, the forced abandonment of bulk-
billing by doctors in the electorate and the call for the creation of 
environmentally sustainable employment opportunities.

Senator Brown also said the result was a "stinging rebuff for John Howard's 
support for a war on Iraq", with voters openly expressing their disapproval 
on their way to the ballot box.

Voters also voiced their concern that only two of the thirteen candidates -
- Mr Organ and Mr Wilson  lived in the electorate.

Mr Organ said the biggest challenge facing him during the next two and a 
half years was to show the people of Cunningham and the rest of Australia 
that the Greens were more than just a single-issue party.

He would immediately begin holding meetings with community groups and local 
and federal government departments on a wide range of local concerns. The 
creation of worthwhile jobs for the people of Cunningham would be his first 
priority, said Mr Organ.

Commenting on the result, ALP leader, Simon Crean remarked that the Labor 
Party "couldn't get preferences because there was no Liberal candidate".

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