Green success: due to protest or policy?

The Greens have polled better than ever in Tasmania, attracting about 21 per cent of the vote, and winning at least five of the 25 seats up for grabs.

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It is likely the party will hold the balance of power in the state, though nothing is official until all postal and absentee votes are counted and allotted.

But how much of the Greens’ success is due to policy popularity, and how much is a backlash against the two main parties, Labor and Liberal?

Kate Crowley, Associate Professor of Public and Environmental Policy at the University of Tasmania, says the Green’s popularity has been rising steadily in the state.

Party ‘becoming more mainstream’

“The electorate’s been more and more comfortable with the Greens,” she says.

Dr Crowley say protest votes do play a role in the party’s recent polling success, but that role is minimal.

“The Greens are becoming much more mainstream and the electorate has also become quite disillusioned with the Labor Party to a high degree, but not quite yet ready to embrace the Liberal opposition.”

The Associate Professor says the Greens are trying to change the public image of their party as a fringe group.

“The Greens have been positioning themselves deliberately in this election as a much more moderate party, less extremist and willing to work with either party to guarantee stability and change in Tasmania,” Dr Crowley says.

‘New Believers’

On election night, Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim hailed the poll results as a win for the ‘New Believers’. He noted specifically the Greens’ willingness to work with the winning party.

“What an opportunity for a new era of constructive politics … not to advance their own interests, but to advance Tasmania,” Mr McKim says.

It is not the first time the Greens have held the balance of power in Tasmania.

In 1989, the Greens entered into an Accord with Labor. In return for the promise of stable government, the Greens (then known as the Green Independents) asked Labor for a number of environmental concessions, including a moratorium on logging and the scrapping of a proposed pulp mill.

The Accord broke down less than two years later, when the Tasmanian Labor government adopted the forestry policy proposed by the federal wing of the party.

Greens keeping mum

Less than a decade later, in 1996, the Greens entered into another less formal agreement to hold the balance of power, this time with the Liberal Party. This agreement also disintegrated after less than two years.

Hence the current situation faced by the Greens. They have been keeping mum on who they will back in a minority government.

Dr Crowley says a water-tight agreement is needed to ensure the mistakes of the past hung parliaments are not repeated.

“A lesson that should be learnt is that you need proper processes for guiding these sorts of arrangements,” Dr Crowley says.

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