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Was the Greens NSW election results a set back caused by support for 'Boycott for Palestine' movement?

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Lee Rhiannon 2 May 2011

Did the Greens NSW have a poor election result and was it all because we backed the Boycott for Palestine movement?

The simplistic suggestions in that question do not stand up to analysis.

The 2011 NSW election is historic for Greens across the country. We achieved our first breakthrough into a state Lower House seat at a general election. Our candidate Jamie Parker was up against a popular left female Minister, Verity Firth. Labor threw massive resources into this campaign and engaged in a number of dirty tricks, and we still won the seat.

NSW state Greens MP numbers have increased from four to six and in 12 of the 93 Lower House seats the Greens are in the two party preferred result.

In Marrickville the Greens gained 35.9 per cent primary vote, a national record for a general state or federal election.

Despite Labor’s claims that Marrickville should have been a push over election for the Greens this was always going to be tough with the margin at 7.5 per cent and our candidate, Fiona Byrne, up against the Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt.

In the face of some of the most spiteful and dishonest campaigning seen in this state the Greens Marrickville campaign was outstanding. It was a close result with Labor narrowly defeating the Greens 51% to 49% on a two candidate preferred basis. The margin is now down to 676 votes.

The swing to the Greens in Marrickville was 3.3% on the primary vote.

I certainly would have liked our primary vote to be higher in Marrickville and across the state. All the Greens I know always want our vote to be higher and come out of the election with lots of ideas on how we can improve our campaigning. But this does not mean we think the result was bad.

Labor is leading the charge in denigrating our election results. Labor’s key spokesperson on exaggerated comments about the Greens, Luke Foley, has been working overtime to try and stem the loss of support Labor is suffering particularly in inner city areas.

The strength of our election campaign is also reflected in strong votes for the Greens in Coogee 22%, Ballina 21.7%, Lismore 20.5%, North Shore 20.2%, and Vaucluse 18.2%.

Good swings to the Greens from 4 to 8% were recorded in Manly, Shellharbour, Pittwater, Tweed, Wyong, Willoughby, Terrigal, Bega, Oatley and Penrith.

In the Legislative Council the Greens polled a record 11.16%, which is just over a 2% swing.

Talking to Greens across the state and more level headed election followers it is clear that there were a range of factors impacting on our vote. To argue that the controversy around the Boycott for Palestine work the Greens were involved in was the reason we did not gain a massive swing is highly simplistic.

Greens members in western NSW, western Sydney and the Hunter and Illawarra have told me that they felt that the timing of the Federal Government’s Carbon Tax announcement just a few weeks before election day hurt our vote as the bulk of the coverage highlighted cost of living hardships.

Others assessed that the Australian Greens alliance with Labor at the federal level contributed to the relatively small swing to the Greens in NSW as it was difficult to disassociate ourselves with Labor in the minds of voters.

In an election where Labor were so deeply unpopular the Coalition’s simplistic message that the only way to get rid of NSW Labor was to vote for the Coalition effectively cut the Greens out of the election coverage in many areas.

The Coalition also relied on their old message that “A vote for the Greens is a vote for Labor” to tie us into a government widely viewed as corrupt and incapable of delivering for NSW.

From feedback I received the Greens Boycott for Palestine work did have an impact in some eastern city seats, Marrickville and parts of the North Shore with Greens members working on the campaign and polling day reporting a number of unpleasant remarks. Like in other areas where the Greens policies are attacked we need to examine how we can be more effective in campaigns on elections and specific issues.

However, the assertion that the Boycott for Palestine campaign caused a poor election result for the Greens is so wide of the mark.

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