There is a certain weathered look to the Greens today. The deep rich hue that has characterised that lovely new t-shirt in recent months has been slightly dulled by political reality.

Got Greens? Picture: The Australian

The decision by the Victorian Liberals to preference the Labor party ahead of the Greens in the upcoming state election is a kick in the guts to the minor party’s chances of, not only holding the balance of power in the new parliament, but getting any seats at all in the lower house.

It’s important decision not only in the context of the Victorian election but the emerging story of the Greens as a real third force in Australian politics.

To cut the Greens out of a preference deal will be good for Victorian Liberal leader Ted Baillieu’s election chances. This is an attempt to own the centre while Labor ties itself up in knots trying to appeal to the potential Green voters and potential Coalition voters. 

If Baillieu is to win the election it will be in the centre of the political spectrum, not in left wing inner city seats that Labor and the Greens will scrap for. But by clearly demarcating themselves from the Greens, the Liberals and (importantly) the Nationals can pick up on what will be effectively the reverse of the protest vote currently haemorrhaging to the Greens: a protest against political instability.

With this decision Baillieu can better frame a vote for the Coalition as one against potential political deadlock – in particularly against a parliament controlled by the Greens with just a clutch of inner city seats. It removes from the equation the unedifying spectacle of centre right party trying to suck up to the most left wing party for fear of losing another election to a centre left party. As Paul Austin wrote in The Age today:

“Baillieu, the small-l Liberal leader, will have a clear message: if you want to change the government, vote Coalition. Otherwise, you will get another four years of Labor - re-elected on Greens preferences.”

However the move does have some immediate strategic benefit for the ALP, as Austin also points out:

“Labor will now be freed from its debilitating fight against the Greens. All the money and resources it was having to devote to trying to secure its hold on seats in the traditional ALP heartland of inner Melbourne can now be redeployed to taking on the Liberals in the suburbs and regional cities.”

But the message the Coalition in Victoria hopes to send to the centre is one of political and ideological consistency, which they hope will translate to a vote for political decisiveness and stability.

As much as the Greens like to bemoan the political cynicism of the major parties they have obviously profited from it. Ideologically the Liberals could not justify handing preferences over to Greens in Lindsay Tanner’s former seat of Melbourne, but they did it to disrupt the federal Government.

The outcome was the election of the first Greens House of Reps MP Adam Bandt. Mr Bandt promptly said he wouldn’t support the Coalition and wanted to force policy changes on everything from gay marriage to the ETS - ideas that would have Tony Abbott cycling an extra 20 km per morning just dull the sensation to spear tackle the little Mel-Berlinian.

Of course there’s no reason Bandt should’ve supported the Coalition just because he got home with their preferences. Everyone, including the Liberals, knew what he stood for. But for the same reasons the Greens should have no inclination to back a conservative Coalition, nor should a conservative Coalition back the Greens. The Liberals can’t very well complain about a hung Parliament giving the Greens the balance if they help create it.

For his part Bob Brown has attempted to shrug off the decision, saying “the Liberals have curiously fallen into line” with Labor. Actually, what would have been curious is the Liberals to continually give preferences to a surging Greens with little to no benefit for themselves.

Brown also made the good point that the major parties tried to do the same thing in Tasmania, and there are now two Greens ministers in that Government (although the Tasmanian system does favour minor party representation). So as much as this could represent a turning point in Coalition strategy, it is also one for the Greens. Only elections results like Victoria will tell us has actually worked for either.

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    • Craig says:

      02:16pm | 15/11/10

      Red Ted has just made sure that Labor will have a majority in the new Victorian Parliament.  I’m sure that Brumby is pinching himself with delight!

    • acotrel says:

      06:38am | 16/11/10

      I’ve seriously misjudged the LIberal Party.  I previously believed they would do literally anything to reclaim their birthright, and rule the country!  They must really believe the Greens are a manifestation of the antichrist?

    • Justin says:

      02:20pm | 15/11/10

      Why did it take the Liberal Party to save Labor from itself?

      The reality is, Liberal preferences preferences to the Greens only serves to distort the will of the public. They give the Greens far more influence than they actually earn - just look at the agenda in the federal parliament where there is a single Green in the lower house. One out of 150 & they’re being pandered to? Mark Arbib is talking gay marriage for crying out loud!

      Victoria will get a government that is fairly centrist, with little extreme influence either way, as the majority of voters want.

    • Macca says:

      02:29pm | 15/11/10

      This makes sense, the Liberal Party and The ALP are far more closely aligned than the Greens. The less the Greens influence, the better

    • acotrel says:

      08:03am | 16/11/10

      The Liberal Party, and the Labor party stand for the same thing - not very much!  I don’t vote for the Greens, but they seem to have their act together!

    • Macca says:

      09:25am | 16/11/10

      @Actorel, The ALP and the Liberal party both favour free-market economics, detention and off-shore processing of illegal immigrants, Paid Parental leave, illegalisation of drug use, the Building Code, subsidisation of Private Health Care and Education, 10 days sick leave per annum etc

      I’m sure I could go on, and whilst there are some significant differences in the details of those policies, the theory and ideology behind them is all pretty similar. The Greens do not have similar positions on any of those policies.

      As for having their act together, the Deputy leadership nearly changed in the Greens two weeks ago. But then again, a rose-tinted, left wing ALP supporter would consider than stability

    • Super D says:

      02:52pm | 15/11/10

      There is no strategic rationale for the Liberals to preference a far left wing party like the Greens.  In fact the Liberals should take Green support on any issue to suggestthatthey may not have thought things through.

      There can however be tactical advantages in occasionally preferencing the Greens.  It is in the Coalitions interest to have the ALP have to explain to voters why they shouldn’t be supporting the Greens.  To many voters the Greens are basically an uncompromised version of the ALP though in reality the parties are based on entirely different philosophies.

      As an example of tactical preferencing of the Greens, next Federal election the Coalition shouldn’t preference the Greens in the seat of Melbourne but perhaps should preference them in either Sydney or Grayndler.  It is in the interests of the coalition to ensure that the inner city seats, which will never go to the coalition, change hands regularly.

    • Lola says:

      02:56pm | 15/11/10

      Very interesting - that must be a bit of a relief to the ALP, but not much. The primary vote for the greens is still rising - they could still get lower house seats eventually.

      I think it will rely in part on how well the Greens handle their new lower house seat in federal parliament - it could be a poisoned chalice if they are forced to compromise on some of their idealistic policies in the name of good government. Their core vote could then suffer with repercussions across different jurisdictions.

    • luke says:

      03:03pm | 15/11/10

      Strange hypocritical comment from Bob Brown, “the Liberals have curiously fallen into line with Labor.” Isn’t this what the greens have done in every election. PM Julia wouldn’t be PM if it wasn’t for green preferences, at state level labor’s Mike Rann, Anna Bligh etc…  have benefited from greens preferences.

      It seems a clear choice for Victorians, a labor/green government or lib government.

    • Daryl says:

      03:41pm | 15/11/10

      Absolutely correct. The Greens and ALP are in coalition. Only difference is it’s by stealth. The LNP helped the greens win their lower house seat at the last federal election. And the greens then used it to return the Labor party. Why are they now looking for favours from the LNP. There is a clear choice, either ALP/Greens coalition or a LNP coalition.

    • Phil says:

      10:33pm | 15/11/10

      I think even in his wildest fantasies Bob Brown doesnt think that without Lib/Labor preferences he stands a chance of getting into the lower house of federal parliment again. This parliment will go down as one of the worst in Australians history. Oakshott and probably Windsor may not survive another election. In state politics, many labor government members are either corrupt, incompetent, a mixture of both. The number of labor ministers convicted of major offences is a joke. Greens only assist by giving them their preferences.

    • darren says:

      03:11pm | 15/11/10

      will be interesting to see that Barry do nothing does in NSW - without Liberal preferences the ALP will hold Marrickville and Balmain easily

    • MarK says:

      03:29pm | 15/11/10

      So what you are saying is Barry has a choice of giving Labor 2 extra seats to take their total number of seats held to 14 from the 12 they will have without those 2?

      I grew up in Balmain. I know the area very well. First beer I had was in Balmain, first time I voted was in Balmain. First time I….well you are too young for that story.

      I am sure when the Liberals sit down to plan seats that are possible to fall their way in the next 50 years those 2 are not on the list anyway.

      I fail to see your point to be honest - besides getting a do nothing jibe in.

    • ken says:

      12:00pm | 16/11/10

      Last election the Libs exhausted preferences in those seats under OPV which exists in NSW and Queensland. The Greens advocated just a vote 1 Greens from memory, who knows if they will ask voters to number every box this time to lock the Greens out. Possibly not a popular decision in helping 2 cabinet ministers stay in parliament in one of the most unpopular governments in history.

    • MarK says:

      03:13pm | 15/11/10

      Personally I think this is a good decision. I think it is a decision made from looking at the “problem” as a grown up and not a snarky kid. It was evident from all to see Brumby was trying to bait Baillieu and the Liberals by calling on them not to preference the Greens. He was having a bit each way I reckon. If they decided to “disrupt” Labor by preferencing Greens then Brumby could take the high moral ground and accuse them of hypocrisy with their core beliefs. Now all he can do is nod sagely (wipe his brow and say phew) and say I told them to do it.

      Of course there were compelling and enticing reasons for Ted to give the Greens preferences. It would have run Labor ragged in certain seats, it would have scared the pants of them and it would have tied up Labor resources fighting hard to win inner city seats. Of course this would all be a kids game. A whatever it takes game plan straight out of the Labor book of silly tricks that bite you on the arse.

      The Liberals would have some fun but ultimately the antithesis to Liberal philosophy is that of the Greens.

      The Greens have a little to do with environmental concerns but wrapped up in the save the rainforest feel good stuff is plain and simple socialism with a capital S. They are and remain an economic vandal ready to start some real nasty work if given a chance. And they themselves are hypocrites. Rudd and Gillard were gutless fools to dump the ETS but always remember the Greens said no to it as well – because it didn’t go far enough.

      Nice message to the planet that. We will save you on our terms but let it be destroyed, according to their own beliefs, by not allowing any legislative help through.It is crazy. But hey – that’s the Greens.

      Ted has got it right. By playing grown up politics all the pressure is now off. There can be no doubt. The Liberals are standing against Green policy. Now Brumby has to work out what and how he preferences. Any crazy idea of the Greens, any plan that will drive up prices or lower living standards can be countered by the Liberals with no come back. I bet Labor wished they had that luxury.

      Looking form NSW Ted always seemed less of a player than Brumby, lacking gravitas if you will (gravitas and paradigm how I will miss thee). He has shown a steel set here though. Smart move and it makes him look decisive and a man of conviction. Finally there is a clear choice. Hell that’s what most people want when they look to politicians. It will be interesting looking on.

    • acotrel says:

      08:33am | 16/11/10

      Mark, I really like your comment.  It’s well thought out and constructed.

    • acotrel says:

      08:40am | 16/11/10

      The other day I asked Ted Baillieu a question on the ABC talkback radio.  He gave a clear concise, well thought-out answer.  I’d previously thought he was a bit thin on the ground with ideas.  I now believe he has real potential.

    • tombowler says:

      03:20pm | 15/11/10

      Fantastic news!

      Maybe Comrade Bandt will realise that his own days are numbered!

      How do the Greens expect to get elected on the backs of the two mainstream parties while directing a stream of vitriolic crap at them 24 hours a day for refusing to consider a policy that involves mandatory man-on-pumpkin sex n order to create ‘green-energy’ whatever the f%#@ that is.

      These freakshow commies harp on constantly about ‘what Australia wants’ whereas a more accurate representation would be
      “What the 4% self-righteouss faux-intellectual, academic, non-real-world living, tweed-set and 5% pathetic, ageing hipsters with macbooks and horn-rim specs and 5% unwashed, extremist, tree-fornicating, non-taxpaying, hemp-wearing douche-bags who write ridiculous things like “freedom-fighter” on census forms (providing that the census takers find them at their soy-bean commune.)

      The major parties should respond to the green voters by declaring Melbourne CBD a ‘green-zone’ so to speak where the self-righteouss latte crowd can have a little taste of death-duties, rolling blackouts, collective farming and deal with the fact that their coffee will now cost $65 a cup because of the amount of carbon used in transport but their wages after tax will all be around $2000 pa to pay for the 5-star luxury ‘refugee apartments’ on collins street.

      It’ll be damned hard to charge those macbooks with those ‘lemon-battery’ things from high school science is all i’m saying…

      Furthermore I reckon that each Greens voter should be forced to abandon a currency system and use the ‘barter economy’ (a greens policy) where they can attempt to by their ‘this saturday- im a douche-bag’ t-shirts with something they produce. (Which if you refer to my above classification will either be
      1) an irritating air of self-righteousness and faux intellectualism or
      2) annoying blogs and some graphic design or
      3) poor smell and copious amounts of marijuana smoke- also some crap graffiti about anarchy.

      The fact that the Greens are looking like a dead force should give rise to some sort of ‘christmas in the trenches’ between labor and liberal… Maybe the swapping of buttons, badges and t-shirts followed by a soccer game at Deer Park until Tony or Julia order the artillery loaded….

      I know I’m rambling but it is just simply fantastic news that the insipid Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Melbourneo Soyuza will be denied it’s chance to wage war on this particular Burgoise scumbag…

    • Dave C says:

      06:33pm | 15/11/10

      Thats the best description of the greens I have ever seen. I laughed out lad because its so true….

      well done.

    • Dan says:

      10:22pm | 15/11/10

      Completely absurd. The fact that you just attack Green supporters says it all really.

    • Macon Paine says:

      09:46am | 16/11/10

      Haha well said tombowler! Like Dave I had to have a good chuckle at your description of the greens voter as it reminds me of so many of the hipster goofballs infesting Grayndler and especially newtown these days.

      @ Dan
      Gees Dan get a sense of humour, dont be such a sourpuss! He’s not attacking greens voters, he’s roasting them, he’s taking the piss! Why would you, a labor diehard, take offence?  Perhaps you realise his piss taking was a little closer to home than you would like! 
      Anyway go here and have a laugh at the hipsters:

    • The Badger says:

      10:15am | 16/11/10

      Sad isn’t it?
      Your conservative, capitalistic, screw the environment generation becoming more and more irrelevant and all you can do is scream into the wind to an increasingly bitter brethren.

      enjoy the slide ride.

    • Dan says:

      05:28pm | 16/11/10

      Paine, the last person I would look to for advice is you. In fact, change that. I wouldn’t look to you for advice or tips on what is funny if you were the only other person left on earth. As for whethern his ‘piss taking was a little closer to home than you would like’, you don’t know me, and thank god for that.

    • Macon Paine says:

      07:38pm | 16/11/10

      @ The Badger
      Way to unintentionally prove tombowlers point about greenie hipsters being self-righteouss Badger! You lefties (and im not really a social conservative btw) really need to get a sense of humour! Anyway I’ll wager im from the same generation as you (im in my 20’s) and I can guarantee you that capitalism isn’t going anywhere.

    • Macon Paine says:

      08:49am | 17/11/10

      Peace Dan, your ok and I have nothing against you but you really really need to lighten up a bit. There is no need for you to display such open hostility towards those who see things a little differently than you, it’s not a good look for your cause. And seriously if that cracked article doesn’t at least bring a smile to your face then I truely pity you.

    • Dan says:

      01:23pm | 17/11/10

      Paine, LOL, so I should just foret all those lovely conversations we’ve had including when you’ve trolled me?

      I don’t like you and I will display hostility towards you as mcuh as I want. Oh, and don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t do. You don’t know wnat my cause is and I won’t take any advice from you. As I said, I don’t know you, and thank god for that!

      “And seriously if that cracked article doesn’t at least bring a smile to your face then I truely pity you. “

      You pity me? LOL Paine, why don’t you take your pity to someone who doesn’t have contempt fpr you.

    • David LD says:

      03:22pm | 15/11/10

      Good to see the two major parties are so utterly terrified of potentially losing power to the Greens they’re able to actually agree on something for once.

    • Richard says:

      03:25pm | 15/11/10

      The Greens deserve it. They can’t demonise the Liberal party and then expect to profit from Liberal preferences. Had the Greens at least attempted to preserve an image of political non-partisanship, they would have probably picked up a few seats just by sailing under the radar and letting Liberal and Labor tear each other apart.

      But by so blatantly preferring the Labor party they’ve in effect marginalised themselves. And for what? Conservationism needn’t get involved in left/right rubbish, environmental protection can be the prerogative of parties from all political spectrum. Why the Greens want to recast themselves from moderate sensible conservationists into radical left-wing marxists is beyond my understanding. I have voted for them in the past, and I would probably do so again if they ditched their ambition to turn Australia into a backwards socialist ghetto.

    • Bruce says:

      08:22pm | 15/11/10

      Richard, well said: The green’s are a regresive party that I am sure the ALP wish would just go away. Its now up to the Liberals and the ALP to get ridd of these bunch of left wing socialists disguised in ‘green sheeps’ clothing. We have wocken up to their political deception and their ultimate ‘Agenda 21’ approach to Australian politics. Having said that, the Unions should stop donating money to the greens and directly support the ALP.

    • iansand says:

      03:38pm | 15/11/10

      Why do they have to preference anyone?  Can’t they just say that they offer no advice on how preferences should flow?  Although I am from NSW and am thus ignorant.

    • MarK says:

      08:01am | 16/11/10

      Far as I know you have to number all the boxes in the vic election for the lower house - it mirrors the federal voting format.

      In NSW we can just put a 1 and not preference hence the “necessity” to actually preference.

    • TimB says:

      08:20am | 16/11/10

      Argument for Optional Preferential Voting I would think. I know we have it here & in QLD, don’t know about the rest of the states.

      Shoudl be rolled out everywhere especially Federally. Make the parties earn their votes not simply get the preferential discards from others.

    • iansand says:

      10:18am | 16/11/10

      OK MarK - this will be a little tricky for you, but do try to concentrate.

      You do not have to mark your preferences in the order that your party tells you to!!!!!  And your party does not have to make recommendations!!!!!

      This may be a little difficult at first as you have to actually use your brain instead of finding the nice person in the blue tee shirt and following instructions but the rewards are worth it.

    • MarK says:

      11:01am | 16/11/10

      I fully understand that ian.

      100% agree with your information.

      I fully concur with your findings.

      Isn’t that amazing?

      But don’t you think that tactically and strategically if you were a political party in Victoria that (and I have confirmed my belief above) was faced with the prospect of a valid vote being one with all the boxes numbered - stick with me here son it gets confusing - you would ensure your how to vote cards, for those poor people among us that you believe are brain dead and follow the things by rote, listed the candidates in the order of political advantage/ideological advantage etc.

      Just so you keep up let us assume there is a “seat of Melbourne” in NSW.

      NSW has optional preferential voting. You with me?

      In that seat the how to vote cards for The Lberals could have a 1 in one box next to their own candidate onlyonly. They could also have a list putting the Greens last. Or whatever. Hence a formal vote and no preference given to either Green or Labor. Now that is the way the party hopes you vote. Not the way you HAVE to vote.

      Of course it optional where and if you place the rest of the marks. But if you want the rank and file to vote a certain way you give them an easy instruction on how to do it. (Not all people don’t vote like you have admitted).

      But if people want to vote Liberal for example and they have little interest in politics in Victoria faced with a how to vote card just with a 1 in one box would probably lead to a lot of informal votes.

      Hence, since it is a information service as well as a politically expedient service, it is sensible to order the preferences the way that suits you best.

      You see?

      Lots of information. Do tell me if you failed to keep up.

      So sorry that my op was confusing for you. I tailored the answer to you. I gave you too much credit I see. Won’t happen again.

    • jane wallace says:

      06:34pm | 15/11/10

      Your comment:labor will win the 2010 victoria State election

    • Chris says:

      06:40pm | 15/11/10

      If the (federal) Labor and Liberal/National parties agreed to act in a bipartisan manner on a few key pieces of legislation—not making a habit of it, or anything like that, just agreeing to compromise on a few things—they would completely silence all Greens and Independents. They could show the Australian people just how much power the minors really have.
      It won’t happen, of course; there’s too much stupid, tribal pride at stake, but it’s a nice thought.

    • The Badger says:

      09:08am | 16/11/10

      Pretty difficult ask, particularly when one party has NO for a policy foundation.

    • MarK says:

      10:19am | 16/11/10

      Oh hai Badger

      “Since entering Parliament in 1998, Gillard added her vote to entrenched Labor opposition against reforming legislation. She opposed legislation to reduce the lowest marginal tax rate from 17 per cent to 15 per cent and increase the top two personal income tax thresholds.

      She opposed an increase in the income threshold for the Medicare Levy, and she opposed the introduction of the 30 per cent Private Health Insurance rebate and the abolition of the 15 per cent superannuation surcharge.

      She was opposed to the GST.

      Those employers politely applauding her remarks on Tuesday should have been aware she opposed legislation to ban secondary boycotts and to ban compulsory union fees.

      She opposed proposals to toughen welfare to work requirements, and to give protection to the right of Australia’s 1.9 million independent contractors to remain self-employed.

      This self-proclaimed reformer worked with the historically corrupt MUA to block waterfront reforms which have seen productivity levels escalate beyond what she, and the trade union movement she represented, claimed possible.

      Gillard opposed every single Coalition Budget measure that turned Hawke-Keating Labor government deficits into surpluses and left the Rudd government with a bomb-proofed economy that enabled Australia to ride out the global financial crisis. “

      Just a little something I found about no on the net

    • The Spoiler says:

      04:29am | 16/11/10

      It’s good to see a poly bighting a bullet rather than spinning to nowhere with the 24 hour cycle.
      Seems to me Aussies across the political spectrum are screaming for someone with a set of convictions so Ted’s decision may well be seen in that light.
      I for one welcome his decision which indicates to me he has the stomach for a gladiatorial onslaught - go Ted Go!
      Some critsise you for being “too nice ” but for my part that’s another positive .

    • thatmosis says:

      07:39am | 16/11/10

      The Greens agenda is to destroy the Australian way of life by any and all means possible and should be stamped out as one would stamp on a cockroach. Their policies on Illegal immigration alone should send people a red flag as to their real purposes but unfortunately they are not scrutinized as the major parties are. let them put their whole agenda up for public scrutiny and then see how many people vote for them. A vot e for the greens is a vote for insanity and the Liberals have done the right thing and hopefully the Labor party will do the same.

    • Daniel says:

      08:04am | 16/11/10

      The Greens will just have to campaign hard and hope for the best result they can get I guess in this case. It makes a mockery of the Liberal party hating Labor though. It seems the Greens are right and they are now both identical basically. This is another reason why Victorians need to wake up and vote Green.

    • Joel B1 says:

      08:26am | 16/11/10

      The Greens have got a long way to go (grow-up) before they deserve any preferences.
      We recently had some-one writing here that “The media doesn’t give the Greens a fair go” which is ironic and duplicitous when Bob Brown can say to the media “I didn’t tell you about the deputy leadership challenge because you didn’t ask me”.

      The Greens deserve nothing.

    • Ellis Wyatt says:

      08:47am | 16/11/10

      Greens Party preference strategists must be hallucinating if they think they have an entitlement to a ‘free lunch’ of preferences courtesy of Liberal voters, while declaring that they will never preference the Liberals.  To borrow from the Greens Party slogan: “our values haven’t changed, our preferences have.”

    • Peetme says:

      10:26am | 16/11/10

      The Labor party might well soon wish the greens will go away, but remember Richos “Whatever it takes.” And that is exactly what it took. Labor got into bed with the greens and now they have woken up to just how ugly their bedmates are. Labor now has only one option and that is to chew its arm off.

      I have no sympathy for Labor, they are absolutely corrupt, dishonest, incompetent and rotten to the core and their shady, dismal deals with the greens only serve further to show how badly and deeply the Labor party has become debased.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the sounds of steel on whetstones can already be
      heard Julia.


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