I have finally got around to closing the Facebook page I set up when I was running as a candidate for Brisbane at last year’s federal election (promptness isn’t always my forte). Writing a note notifying people of that gave me cause to look again at the result (nationally as well as in my electorate of Brisbane) and at what has happened since.
As I’ve noted before the result in Brisbane – 21.28% of the primary vote – was the highest ever in a Queensland House of Reps seat for the Greens or the Democrats. It was also the fifth best Greens vote of any seat in Australia. The statistic I perhaps like the most is that it was the seat in the country where the swing to the Greens was over 10%, apart from the seat of Melbourne, which of course achieved a historic breakthrough in electing a Green to the House of Representatives for the first time for any non-aligned third party at a general election
Of course I am not suggesting this was all, or even mostly, my doing. There were literally hundreds of people who helped and it was just pleasing to be able to be a part of such a good result. I will always be thankful to everyone who lent a helping hand in the campaign in any way.
A final statistic about Brisbane, which I find perhaps the most interesting of all when considering possibilities for the next election in 2013:
Of the 8 seats around Australia where the Greens gained over 20% of the primary vote, Brisbane is the only one which is held by the Liberals. All the others are Labor seats, most of them with Labor on quite a high primary vote. One thing that has changed since the election is the willingness of the Liberals to support Labor ahead of the Greens. As we have since seen in the Victorian election, that makes it much harder for the Greens to win a Labor seat, even if they do poll higher than the Liberals.
But in Brisbane, Labor’s primary vote in Brisbane in 2010 was only just over 30%. So unlike all the other seats where the Greens gained a 20+% vote, the challenge in Brisbane next time will be to get ahead of Labor on primary votes, not the Liberals. As long as the Liberal primary vote remains about where it is, getting ahead of Labor come close to winning the seat.
However, the next election is unlikely to before August 2013, and a lot can happen between now and then.
As far as the national scene goes, in some ways the full effects of the election result are yet to manifest, as the significant change in the Senate make up won’t come into operation until 1 July. Of course, from that date the Greens will move into holding the sole balance of power in the Senate for the first time. One of the pleasing aspects of getting such a high Greens vote in Brisbane was that it helped ensure there was once again Queensland representation in that balance of power role.
When I lost my Senate seat in 2008, it brought an end to continuous Democrat representation from Queensland from 1981, including a role in balance of power for almost of that time. Since then, Queensland has been without any representation outside the two traditional major parties, so it is good to see that role of progressive representation will be provided for Qld once again.
The Greens gaining sole balance of power in their own right for the first time also provides the party with the opportunity to not only move into that traditional Democrat balance of power role and build and expand on that legacy, but to broaden the party’s own impact on a wide range of legislation and policies.
Greater power brings greater responsibility, but also greater opportunity. There are always political risks of course, but I don’t think they are as ever-present or usually as large as is often assumed. The Democrats obviously came a cropper fairly badly, but that was a fairly uncommon set of circumstances – and one major blunder in 30 years isn’t too bad. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the Greens – including the 4 new Senators who start on 1 July – perform and what further improvements they can bring about.