Greens make headway in NSW elections
by Andrew Jackson While the return of the Carr Government in the NSW elections was never in doubt, it was the success of the Greens that captured the attention of commentators and analysts. Another remarkable feature of the campaign was how a popular local councillor can make a strong weapon against the major parties. Independent numbers in the Lower House have increased from five to seven at this election, providing a slightly larger wedge against the two-party system. Independents now represent three inner-Sydney seats and four based on regional cities: Tamworth, Armidale, Dubbo and Port Macquarie. The Greens, as expected, polled well — doubling their Lower House vote to 8%, and nearly trebling their Upper House vote to 8.1%. These across-the-state figures hide the spectacular success the Greens had in individual seats. Jamie Parker, Deputy Mayor of Leichhardt Council, easily claimed second place in Port Jackson with 29%, and scored 42.5% of the two-party preferred. Mr Parker had been touted as a possible upset winner over Labor Minister Sandra Nori. Strong local campaigns against unpopular State Government decisions, such as school closures and the sale of Callan Park to property developers worked against Ms Nori, who suffered an overall 17% swing against her. Again building on local successes, the Greens performed spectacularly well in Marrickville. In the Lower House seat of Marrickville Colin Hesse duplicated the Port Jackson result — 28% of the primary vote, and 42% two-party preferred. Mr Hesse's campaign was run against Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge, who is widely criticised as being an "invisible man" within the Carr Government. The Greens have three seats on Marrickville Council, one held by Sylvia Hale who was the number two on the Greens Upper House ticket. Ms Hale has been easily elected to the Upper House, taking overall numbers to three with Ian Cohen (re-elected) and Lee Rhiannon. In the seat of Keira, which lies within the Greens-held Federal seat of Cunningham, Michael Sergent ran second with 27% two-party preferred. Although media polls predicted the Greens would poll anywhere up to 18% during the last weeks of the campaign, MLC Lee Rhiannon told The Guardian just two weeks ago they were expecting just 8-9%. Some pundits in the mainstream media said the Greens had failed to capitalise on the "anti-war" vote. It was not mentioned that the Greens polled well in spite of a very strong campaign against them, particularly by The Telegraph. Three weeks before the election the Telegraph launched a scathing attack on The Greens in their Editorial, which then escalated over ensuing weeks. Among the many distorted truths, flawed analyses and contradictory statements peddled by the Telegraph, they hit an all-time low in a series of "shock-horror" exposi articles claiming The Greens supported over-the-counter retail sale of recreational drugs. If the Greens did attract an anti-war vote, it is also quite possible they suffered due to the media smear-campaign. (Of interest: the post election analysis in The Telegraph on Monday 24 was so void of any mention of the Greens you would be forgiven for thinking they didn't run.) Overall, the Lower House results of the election once again exposed the need for changes in the electoral system. The ALP won 43% of the vote, but holds 60% of the seats. The Greens won 8% yet hold no seats. In the Upper House, which is based on proportional representation (as against single seat electorates) there was a far higher correspondence of seats to votes. Recent Labor/Liberal "reforms" to the electoral have made it far more difficult for smaller parties without seats to register and compete with the major parties. NB: Two Upper House seats are still undecided. Among the minor party contenders are Unity, the Democrats, the Shooters Party, David Oldfield's One Nation, and Pauline Hanson's Group L.