The 2019 federal poll was meant to be the ‘Climate Change Election’ according to Greens leader Richard Di Natale and some prominent media commentators; a contest that was meant to be decided on the merits of each party’s policies to address climate change.
Yet even when confronted with this seemingly perfect environment for their policies to take root within the mainstream electorate, the Greens only managed a swing of a meagre 0.2 per cent. This small swing was arguably built on the relative weakness of the Centre Alliance when compared with its performance in the 2016 election, rather than voters genuinely embracing the Greens as their number one party of choice.
Despite the Greens failure to meaningfully take advantage of the ‘Climate Change Election’ to expand the party’s base and substantially increase its primary vote, Greens leader Richard Di Natale has attempted to spin the result as a win for the party, pointing to the retention of all six Greens senate seats that were up for re-election.
While the retention of all six Greens senate seats is indeed an achievement, it’s hardly the great strides towards a larger degree of influence within parliament and a broader appeal among the wider electorate, some political analysts have now been predicting for well over a decade.
In reality, the Greens share of the primary vote was 13 per cent higher under the leadership of Bob Brown at the 2010 election. In the years since, the Greens have never been able to recapture such a high percentage of the vote, despite two attempts under the leadership of Richard Di Natale and one under Christine Milne. The depth of the problem is hidden by innumerate reporting, which confuses percentage points with percentage and fails to record a drop from, say, 10 per cent of the vote to 7.5 as a fall of a quarter, focussing instead on the 2.5.
Despite their share of the primary vote going backwards for almost a decade, the broader media narrative surrounding the future of the Greens as a party continues to be positive. No federal election coverage is seemingly ever complete without an analysis of the growing Greens primary vote in inner city area’s where changing demographics continue to favour them.
The narrative that the Greens are an “up and coming force” within Australian politics will likely continue to persist for years if not decades to come, as the trend of like-minded left-leaning voters congregating in inner city areas continues to shape the fate of electorates close the centre of our major cities.
However, when assessing the Greens standing within the electorate more broadly, they are going nowhere fast, as left-leaning voters increasingly turn back to the Labor party after years of frustration with the Greens ‘everything or nothing’ political tactics.
Despite the rising public awareness of climate change and growing concerns about our environment, the Greens seem to remain destined to be the party of inner city leftists, rather than growing their appeal to become truly representative of the views of a wider cross-section of all Australians.
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