NSW Greens choose Lee Rhiannon for Senate


In breaking news, the NSW Greens conducted their preselection ballot count yesterday, with Lee Rhiannon winning comfortably to be chosen for the first position on the ticket. The second position went to Executive Director of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Cate Faehrmann, with Lane Cove councillor Keith McIlroy taking the third position on the ticket.

This appears to be a strong ticket for the Greens, with a candidate with extensive experience in state Parliament and a record of going after the state Labor government bringing valuable experience to the Senate team from a large state currently unrepresented by Greens. In the case of a double dissolution, there would also be an outside chance of electing a second candidate, and Faehrmann would make a strong Senator, as a younger candidate with strong environmental credentials.

Meanwhile, the picture of the Greens lead Senate candidates around the country is becoming clearer. Richard di Natale, the 2007 lead candidate and candidate for Melbourne at the 2002 and 2006 state elections, has been selected to run in Victoria. It appears likely that Larissa Waters will run again in Queensland after performing well in 2007. I assume that Senators Rachel Siewert and Christine Milne will easily be re-endorsed by their respective states to run for second terms. I have no information on any potential candidates in South Australia.

In the ACT, it appears that the leading candidate could be a prominent left-wing intellectual with no previous history with the Greens. Hopefully I can say more in the future after checking some sources in the ACT.

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  1. Is it true that the Rhiannon faction of the Greens are at odds with the Brown faction of the Greens? This is what I have heard in the media.

  2. There’s no such thing as a “Rhiannon faction” and a “Brown faction”. Bob Brown did endorse Cate Faehrmann, an alternative candidate, but there are no recogniseable factions in the Greens.

  3. A number of people I’ve spoken to from the Greens in Victoria suggest it is less a Rhiannon-based grouping/faction driving this than it is a matter of NSW exceptionalism within the Greens (though the phrasing I was given was less diplomatic)…

  4. That’s great news. Lee has a high profile, and has been quite effective at taking up issues which aren’t traditionally associated with the Greens – exactly what you folks need if the Greens are to shake off the limitations of the party label and establish themselves as the broader progressive force that Australia desperately needs.

    I used to be involved in running a community campaign where the Greens were, to our disappointment, almost completely silent on the issue until Lee began taking an interest. Thanks to her, the Greens are now very actively supporting our cause, and she has personally been one of our strongest supporters.

    If it weren’t for Lee I’d probably have a lot less respect for the Greens than I do now, and definitely wouldn’t have reached the point where I’ve almost been convinced to become a member (almost – I’m still resisting).

  5. “NSW exceptionalism” – if there’s one thing true of every state branch of every party I’ve come across, its that they all think they are exceptional. The myth of Greens NSW exceptionalism comes from a historical break between some in NSW and Tasmania, remembering that it was NSW, Qld & Tas state & locally based parties that decided to set up a truly national body in the Australian Greens. The other states came along after. The Victorian’s because they was still the Rainbow Alliance & Victorian Green Alliance issues to sort out (VGA was a DSP front). South Australia because of the Green Party of SA wanting to remain separate, which they did until their leading light had a car accident and couldn’t defend moves to deregister them, WA because 2 ballots to join the Australian Greens in the 90’s failed so they only joined after a third in 2003. I agree with Nick C – Lee has worked tirelessly for the Greens and community campaigns in general, and is probably the hardest working of all the MP’s nationally.

    But to be honest, that’s all irrelevant. If the Greens are going to continue to grow then they need to deal with some of the petty factionalisms and realise they are all on the same side. That’s why Bob needs to make it clear that he’ll be happy to work with Lee in the Senate, then get on with maximising results across Australia in 2010 and leave it at that.

  6. Aaargh, not Chant Evil Limo (neat anagram, by the way) – although surely he wouldn’t after the bagging he’s given the Greens. Yes Ben, do tell…

  7. Surely Hamilton would be better used outside the ACT, where, let’s face it, the Greens have the lowest chance of electing a Senator (outside the NT, of course).

  8. Lets hope whoever is preselected in South Australia has NO children! I believe the Green Party lost a lot of votes during the fiasco of the last week. The media had a field day and took every opportunity to Green bash! Any issues to do with kiddies these days and the public go into hysteria! It seems children and politics is a no go zone.

  9. “Lets hope whoever is preselected in South Australia has NO children! I believe the Green Party lost a lot of votes during the fiasco of the last week. The media had a field day and took every opportunity to Green bash! Any issues to do with kiddies these days and the public go into hysteria! It seems children and politics is a no go zone.”

    I doubt very much that by the next election anyone will remember this. It was an overnight story.

  10. I was surprised when I heard that Hamilton had joined the Greens at all. He was quite dismissive of the party in his Quarterly Essay a few years back. His strength has been the merciless campaign he has waged against climate sceptics.

    However, in terms of economic and social policy he has been quite conservative. Not only does he argue that neoliberalism (to which he is hostile) has won, he believes that material inequality is an irrelevancy for all but a small minority that might be considered the poor or an underclass. In other words, his critique of neoliberalism is purely at the level of its effects on personal alienation and morality–he incorrectly argues that the neoliberal tide has lifted all boats.

    It is an argument that only makes sense from the viewpoint of the upper middle classes who did so well out of the economic boom (and bubble) of the last 15 years. However, with the economic (distributive) question settled in Hamilton’s mind, he ends up railing against personal moralities he sees as destructive. He’s written a whole book on personal morals. I think maybe the internet censorship thing fits in with that view.

    With neoliberalism in ideological crisis and the real economy down the gurgler, the material hardships most Australians will be subject to over the next few years (barring an economic miracle) will render Hamilton’s views of class and political economy pretty irrelevant, I’m willing to bet. His moral prescriptions in those circumstances will need to be rejected even more firmly as they represent a slippage into some of the same kind of reactionary moralism that Mr Rudd is so fond of.

  11. Perhaps the answer has been buried somewhere in the comments thread on pollbludger (or elsewhere), but how will Lee’s replacement be decided when she steps down from her state seat?

  12. Personally, i was disappointed when I heard that Lee was running for preselection for the Senate. And it has nothing to do with factional fighting. She is giving up an elected position for a gamble in the Senate. Given that she is an extremely hard working politician, i think she is too much to risk to be put in the race for a seat that, IMO, she has little chance of winning. Yes, with Lee we have a better chance of winning, but I still don’t think it will be enough.

  13. There will be a second ballot at the same time as the Legislative Council preselection at the end of the year that will fill Lee’s seat.

    I disagree about the wisdom of Lee running for the Senate. Firstly, we have quite deep talent in terms of potential MLCs. We have a bunch of local councillors and other members who would make great MLCs, which I hope will be obvious during the LC preselection. So while Lee made a great MP, I’m sure we can replace with someone else who will be a strong MP.

    As well as that, Lee has been there for ten years (it will be eleven when she leaves the Legislative Council). We’ve already benefited from her experience for a long time and it’s probably about time to have someone new.

    I would dispute your pessimism about the chances in the Senate. While it is difficult to win a Senate seat at any time, NSW is no more difficult to win than in Victoria, Queensland or South Australiia (when Xenophon isn’t standing). Bear in mind that there has been a noticeable increase in both the Labor and Greens vote since the last election, which is precisely what is needed to get the Greens elected in NSW. Also there’s a decent chance (I would estimate 25%) that Rudd will call a late double dissolution, in which case Lee would easily win.

  14. She will be a big loss from state parliament, but you certainly have plenty of talented people to choose a replacement from.

    Just pure speculation here, but if Lee doesn’t win the Senate seat, could she not perhaps run for a lower house seat at the state election, where her high profile might bring a third seat into range for the Greens. It’s pretty obvious which seat I’m thinking of.

  15. Coogee? Or Sydney? I reckon either her or John Kaye would make a good candidate for Coogee, since they are both locals. But it would be a huge risk for JK, and I would be incredibly surprised if he would do it.

  16. Maybe if Labor loses Coogee to the Liberals in 2011 and the Greens perform well, coming close to overtaking Labor on primaries, a high-profile MLC could win the seat in 2015.

  17. Surely the best time for The Greens to win any seats when the other “left” party is in government and on the nose.

    The massive swings predicted in 2011 are going to be corrected soon enough and Labor will claw black ground both the Liberals and The Greens.

    Not suggesting that this is going to be the peak of The Greens vote, but that a seat like Coogee, if not won in 2011 will probably be harder to win in 2015.

  18. If we were to be challenging for Coogee, it would be up against the Liberals, not Labor, so the dynamics of trying to win Labor seats when they are in opposition would not be the same.

  19. Good point, but people who disaffected with the Liberal government are unlikely to swing to The Greens, they’ll swing to Labor.

    This latest growth in Greens support has come of the back of Labor. Unless you’re suggesting that the next chunk might come from the Liberals, The Greens will have to keep chewing away at Labor – and that’s easier when they’re in government and easily exposed than when they’re in Opposition and can pretend to be trendy and left.

  20. We are talking about Coogee. Coogee and Ballina are very different to conservative seats like Vaucluse and Pittwater.

    It’s possible the Liberals could win Coogee in 2011 while Labor and Greens get a majority of the vote, due to vote exhaustion (say 40% Liberal, 30% Labor, 25% Greens). Thus the seat is possible for the Greens to win.

  21. I think Oz’s general point is correct, but only up to a point. It is true that having Labor in power, exposing its inadequacies, is overall better for us. And that the ALP uses its reputation for being *the* anti-Tories to pull votes from us while in opposition. It’s my preference that we have Labor than Liberal governments.

    But, historically there is no *automatic* development of parties to the left of the ALP when they are in power. Federally our growth was almost entirely in the Howard era, not the Hawke-Keating years. And it would be wrong to compare us with the Australian Democrats, who clearly projected themselves as being centrist, not to the left of Labor.

    I think the difference in more recent years is that there is both disillusionment with the ALP *and* the rise of a new left-wing constituency. The latter has emerged mostly, I would argue, from the reinvigoration of extra-parliamentary movements for change (think: global justice, refugees, anti-war, climate change, NSW electricity privatisation). These movements have provided a social basis for the splitting of the ALP vote.

    Our success has come from our connection with extra-parliamentary politics, and this has been more important than who is in power. Of course, the fact that the ALP has long turned its back on those forms of political activity has been crucial to their base fragmenting. But, hey, that’s where commitment to neoliberalism gets you.

    To take seats in future elections will depend on maintaining that kind of orientation to extra-parliamentary campaigns. In a period of economic crisis that will mean demonstrating we’re better than the ALP at defending ordinary people’s living conditions when social struggles do emerge around those questions. The question of who is in power will be quite peripheral compared with those factors.

  22. My experience so far in the Greens has been that we are overly optimistic about our chances in any and all elections. I think we sometimes forget that some of victories were flukes. So I have decided that from now on I will err on the side of caution. Therefore, I will remain pessimistic regarding Lee’s chances in the Senate (I just can’t see where the votes will come from).

    And now for some more pessimism:

    As for the NSW State election, the exhaust system will ruin some of our chances:
    – Even with Lee or JK, we haven’t got a chance in Coogee. The Liberals will win that before we do. I think it’s more likely to be an ALP retain.
    – I still don’t think the Greens can get Marrickville, at least not while they have a well known and liked sitting member. However, the swing against the ALP will make it heart-breakingly close for the Greens.
    – Balmain, as I am sure you all agree, is clearly the Greens best chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greens win the primary vote in Balmain and the seat. So they better preselect someone who can do the job properly.

    As far as I can see the optional preferential system will bugger it up for the Greens (eg in Marrickville after distribution, only 1586 of the Liberals 5645 were distributed [806 to the Greens/780 to the ALP]) The only way we will win a seat is if we win on 1st preferences.

  23. You are right Tad that the Growth of the Greens has come from a new left-wing constituency largely disillusioned with the ALP- I would count myself as one of them (me and my friends joined the Greens when Kerry and Bob stood up in parliament interrupting Bush).

    However, the Greens would be crazy to ignore the disillusioned moderate Liberals. The last few state and federal elections have seen impressive Green results in Liberal stongholds like the North Shore. These are unlikely to be Green gains in the lower house but are vital for improving our upper house chances.

  24. Hi Joel. I think the interesting thing is how few ex-Liberals vote for us. They account for only around 15% of our vote if you look at the Australian Election Survey data that Ben Spies-Butcher has analysed. Similarly, the “low hanging fruit” of people considering voting for us are from roughly the same population.

    Our high votes in Liberal-held seats, based on this data, are very unlikely to be from ex-Liberal voters in a much larger proportion than this. There is a mythology about Liberal-held seats that (a) they are uniformly full of right-wing people and (b) that the broader “left” vote cannot grow in them. That leads people to assume that any decrease in the Liberal vote and increase in the Greens vote represents voters shifting from the former to the latter, perhaps for some ill-defined “small-l liberal” reason rather than a left-wing reason. In fact it is much more likely that some Liberal voters move to the ALP and some ALP voters move towards the Greens.

    This is not to say that local campaigns may not be best served by some change in the messaging and themes to suit the electorate. But it is dangerous to imagine that pabndering to more right-wing (Liberal) voters will net us any substantial amount of votes.

    We’ve been a really left-wing party and yet can come second in Vaucluse (with candidate who is an industrial relations lawyer!). That says more about where the electorate is going than our ability to relate to some imagined “small-l” or “large-L” section of the electorate.

  25. #30

    The disadvantage, to the Greens, of the optional preferential system would be reduced if the Liberals used their how to vote cards to advise the preferencing of the Greens. If the Liberals do not do that then the Greens would need to get close on primaries to the ALP and closer still on the three candidate preferred so that the small gap in the Greens favour in the Lib preferences is enough.

  26. Perhaps I over-emphasised the importance of ex-Liberal voters, because you are right, ALP voters should still be a target and will continue to provide a gradual increase in our vote.

    However, 15% is still a fair chunk! There needs to be further investigation into why these people went from Liberal to Green. Who knows, the answer might improve the stat from 15% to 20% and get Lee over the line. Just think, we have been able to get those voters without much effort, what could we get if we did target them?

    Messages can be tailored and resources can be targeted without pandering or selling out. It must be done if we want to realistically solidify a NSW Senate seat at each election.

  27. Although to be fair, Tad, us coming second in Vaucluse surely had something to do with NSW Labor basically turning “Member for Vaucluse” into a smear in the 2007 campaign.

  28. Joel,

    I don’t know what you’re basing your assumptions about Coogee and Marrickville on, but I disagree. I don’t think the ALP has a chance of winning Coogee. It will probably fall to the Liberals, unless Labor falls into third place (which is plausible with current polling) and the Greens can win on Labor preferences.

    In Marrickville, there are extremely few Liberal voters. In 2007 only 13% voted Liberal. We are already over 30% on primary votes in Marrickville. I don’t think it’s that unlikely we can come first on primary votes in Marrickville.

  29. Correct me if I am wrong (please!), I am assuming that the swing against the ALP will be stronger in Liberal held seats, and in ALP strongholds it will be below the State swing .

    In Coogee my gut feeling says the swing against the ALP will be lower than the State swing and it will be split roughly evenly between the Libs and the Greens. This won’t be enough for the Greens, but the Greens flow of preferences might put the ALP back over the line.

    In Marrickville the swing against the ALP will imo be well below the State swing due to the profile (dare i say popularity?) of the sitting member. If Tebbutt retires, I change my prediction.

  30. Joel
    The Labor vote is already quite low in many Coalition held seats after the last election when the Coalition did best in their own strongholds, so I would expect the swing against Labor to be lower in the seats the Coalition already holds.

    Ultimately though, where the biggest swings occur depends on the campaign strategies and positioning of the parties come election time.

  31. Joel,

    I don’t see any particular reason why the swing would be higher in Coalition seats than Labor seats. If Labor is performing as shockingly bad as they are now, they are gonna suffer big swings everywhere.

  32. What about ronan lee in qld? Surely qld’s only ever green mp at state or federal level will be a great pick for the senate. He already has a profile…

  33. “Bear in mind that there has been a noticeable increase in both the Labor and Greens vote since the last election, which is precisely what is needed to get the Greens elected in NSW.”

    Not really. If Labor gets a high vote of, say, 44%, that’s 3 quotas right there and no surplus for the Greens. The generally right leaning conservative parties would then likely push the Libs to 3 quotas with very few preferences going to the Greens. They would need a vote of 10%+ to get close, which would be a very high left-right split for a state like NSW. A 4-2 left right Senate split is very hard to do outside of Tasmania, where Green issues transend the left-right thing, in fact I can’t think of when it’s happened outside Tassie or without a indi that also transcends the left-right divide.

    Both WA Green Senate seats came at the expense of the ALP, and I’m pretty sure that the ALP gained the 6th seat ahead of the Greens in Vic, NSW and QLD (check Antony Greens website). Often the ALP will get 2.95 quotas to the Libs 2.7, for example, but the Libs will still get to 3 quotas first because the right minor vote is fractured and the left minor vote is pretty well locked up by the Greens.

    The Greens best chance of a mainland Senate seat is a low ALP vote or better yet a strong indi (like Mr X) who lowers both majors vote and makes a chance of that 4-2 L-R split, like in SA with Mr X.

  34. In 1990 and 1998 the NSW seats went 3 Labor, 2 Coalition, 1 Democrat, so there is a history of the Coalition winning just 2 seats in NSW.

  35. Joe :
    What about ronan lee in qld? Surely qld’s only ever green mp at state or federal level will be a great pick for the senate. He already has a profile…

    Yes, but he was also an ALP blow-in, so has little history in the party (and comes with political baggage). Kris Hanna didn’t win the preselection in SA for the #1 MLC spot after defecting to the Greens SA, then went off and became an independent, so I wouldn’t be counting on Ronan Lee just yet.

  36. @41

    In 2007 the ALP polled 2.95 quotas in primary votes in NSW in the Senate. So any swing towards them would put them over quota and start to provide a surplus to the Greens. The Greens + Labor polled about 3.55 quotas in 2007, while the Coalition polled 2.75 quotas (off the top of my head). So a 1.4% swing from Coalition to Labor puts the left on track to win a seat. Recent polls have suggested there has been anywhere from a 3% swing to a 6% swing to the ALP, which would put Labor + Greens on track to win 4 seats. In addition, all polls, be they Senate polls, House of Representatives polls or NSW state polls, demonstrate a rise in the Greens vote either nationally or in NSW.

  37. @Phil

    A 4-2 split isn’t necessary. It only takes a 4-3 split, or a bit less with preferences.

    As a fraction of total formal votes, 1 quota is:

    ( total formal votes / ( number of positions + 1 ) ) + 1 vote

    Which for the Senate in NSW is:

    ( total formal votes / 7 ) + 1 vote …… or about 14.3%

    In 2007 this was:

    4,193,234 / 7 + 1 = 599,034 votes

    In 2007 the Greens obtained 351,082 votes before preferences and 459,650 after preferences were distributed.

    Since that election the Greens polling figures in NSW have improved quite significantly. Although I agree that The Greens need to temper their enthusiasm, I don’t think that they shouldn’t be enthusiastic about their prospects here, and they should certainly be campaigning to win.

    For interests sake, and to put the task in NSW into perspective, here are the votes required for 1 quota in each Senate electorate in 2007 and the Green quotas obtained in each before and after preferences:

    NSW – 599,034 (0.59/0.77)
    VIC – 454,625 (0.70/0.93)
    QLD – 345,559 (0.51/0.74)
    WA – 171,822 (0.64/1.29) beat Labor no.3 at last count
    SA – 143,830 (0.45/1.11) beat Labor no.3 at last count
    TAS – 46,693 (1.21/1.36)
    ACT – 75,108 (0.64/0.64) no preference count completed
    NT – 33,524 (0.26/0.26) no preference count completed

  38. 44# “In 2007 the ALP polled 2.95 quotas in primary votes in NSW in the Senate”

    Yes Ben, but despite getting 2.95 quotas, they still claimed the 1st, 3rd and 6th seat, whereas the Libs who gained the 2nd, 4th & 5th seats with 2.75 quotas – meaning that the Libs garnered 0.25 quotas before the ALP manages 0.05. If Nettle had kept her seat it would have been at the expense of Labor, not the Libs. If Labor pulls to 3 quotas, I would rate the Greens chances as lower than if they were at 2007 levels.


    Labor having a 3+ quota may not help the Greens unless the Lib vote is about 2.5 quotas or less (there are many minor right parties that preference the Libs but most of the minor left vote is locked up with the Greens – the next 4 parties vote wise in NSW after the Greens: CDP, DLP, Shooters, Pauline are all right-wing)

    42# The Dems weren’t ‘left’ the way that the Greens are. Or, to put differently, the Dems got preferences from right-wing minor parties, which the Greens don’t.

    48# A 4-2 split is necessary because there are only 6 seats. A 4-3 split doesn’t mean a thing if yours is the 7th of that split, as the Greens were several times last election. There will always be a 4-3 Left right or Right left split, but invariably that ends up 3-3, which is where it counts. (Yes, I do understand your quota argument, but don’t agree).

    Basically my two points are that the Greens need to build their vote to 10% and have the majors vote fall to more regularly win Senate seats and that most Green Senate seats come at the expense of the Labor Party, except in Tasmania and in independent situations like Mr X, when both majors had their quotas well down.

  39. Indeed, if the Labor Senate vote in Victoria was just 0.1 of a quota less and the Libs 0.1 of a quota more, Liberal preferences would have given the Greens the last seat above Labor.

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