The Guardian March 26, 2003


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.

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