Andrew Bartlett runs for Greens in Brisbane


The Greens have today announced that former Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett will run for the party in the federal seat of Brisbane at the next election. Bartlett was a senator for Queensland from 1997 until his defeat in 2007 saw his term finish in 2008.

No doubt about it, Bartlett is a strong candidate for the Queensland Greens. His eleven years in the Senate give enormous credibility to his bid, and he has a strong record on various policy issues. Although he was previously a member of another party, his record suggests he fits in comfortably with Greens policy, something that cannot be said for some previous high-profile outside recruits. He has been strong on trademark Greens issues like refugees and environmental issues, while working in the difficult environment of the imploding Democrats following their support of the GST (which Bartlett opposed). On the other hand, it’s still to be seen how well he performs as a campaigner. His time as leader of the Democrats saw the party lose three of its seats and suffer a massive swing at the 2004 election.

To be fair to Bartlett, the downfall of the Democrats began before his leadership and leading the Democrats into the devestating 2004 election would have been extremely difficult for any politician. This brings me back to the point that we haven’t really seen how Bartlett can perform in a context outside of the Democrats. It’s also worth remembering that he didn’t just come into the Senate out of nowhere: he was a campaigner in Brisbane for years before he entered the Senate.

The Greens have preselected Bartlett to run in Brisbane, which covers the Brisbane CBD and nearby suburbs on the north side of the Brisbane River. However, it can’t be easily compared with the Greens marginals of Sydney and Melbourne. For a start, the Greens vote is lower, with the party polling 11.8% in the seat in 2007. In addition, the Liberal Party polls much more strongly in the seat. The seat covers the seat of Brisbane Central, which is one of the Greens’ four best state seats in Brisbane, as well as parts of Mount Coot-tha. However, the seat also includes parts of more northern seats and the Liberal seat of Clayfield to the east. The inner-city core that covers Sydney and Melbourne isn’t quite as large in Brisbane, making the seat of Brisbane more diverse and harder for the Greens.

While the ALP has held the seat of Brisbane for most of the last eighty years, it has regularly been a marginal seat, and the recent redistribution cut the margin from 6.8% to 3.8% by shifting the seat into Liberal-voting Clayfield. Greens strategy in Sydney and Melbourne revolves around overtaking a weak Liberal candidate and winning on preferences over a Labor candidate on a primary vote in the 40s. The Liberals aren’t going to run dead in Brisbane, with former member for the neighbouring seat of Petrie, Teresa Gambaro, recently preselected for Brisbane.

It’s going to be very hard for Bartlett to win in Brisbane in 2010, but he should be able to increase the vote for the Greens in the seat markedly and make it a local focus and a welcome injection of energy and new members for the Greens in Queensland, where the party has always struggled. I think it’s plausible he could get over 20% of the vote in the seat in a race where the sitting Labor MP is a low-profile member who has held the seat for almost two decades. Indeed, Bartlett has run against Arch Bevis in Brisbane before, at at the 1996 election before he was appointed to replace Cheryl Kernot in the Senate in 1997. The following graphs show that both the Greens and Democrats have traditionally polled higher in the Senate in Brisbane than in the House of Representatives, with the parties’ combined vote passing 20% in 1996 and 2001 and almost repeating the feat in 2007, when the Greens Senate vote was over 16%.


Elsewhere: Andrew blogs about it himself over at his blog.

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  1. I’m very happy to hear this. I would expect Bartlett to poll in the high teens, but I can’t imagine him polling more than the majors. If he is the senate candidate in ’13 he’d have every chance.

    Bartlett is also a good moderate face for the Greens. Good luck mate.

  2. Don’t you think a doomed run for the House of Reps is a waste of Bartlett’s talent?

    Surely he would have been better off being in the top 2 of the QLD Greens Senate ticket even if this strategy would have annoyed some people who thought it was unfair as he was a parachuted in candidate?

  3. No, I don’t think it’s a waste of talent. The Greens are looking to develop a marginal seat in each state to target and Bartlett fits well in Brisbane. I don’t think he can win but he will push Brisbane up the list as a Greens seat and give an extra impetus to Queensland Greens work in Brisbane.

    Plus it should hopefully increase the Greens Senate vote in Brisbane, helping Larissa get elected. Running him #2 in the Senate would be a waste of time.

  4. That Senate vote in 2007 is interesting, does offer some hope that he may poll over 20%. However, I’ll stick my neck out and say he’ll only manage 15%. That would still be excellent though, and would probably translate into a few extra points on the Senate vote as well. Not to mention that Bartlett’s profile, and his non-Green background, should have flow-on effects in boosting the Senate vote in other seats as well – great news for Larissa’s prospects.

    Why do I think he’ll only get 15%? Firstly, an initial glance at the redistribution seems to show that the areas lost to the seat were better areas for the Greens than those gained, so the notional Green vote from 07 if probably a little lower. Secondly, Bartlett may be an excellent policy wonk and well-known and respected amongst the political class, but I doubt he is that popular and well-known in the wider electorate that he’d be able to get over 20%. He isn’t exactly Mr Charisma (no criticism intended, that’s just who he is, an excellent Senator, but not necessarily the best campaigner). The Dems’ performance at the 2004 election can’t be blamed on him, but I don’t think he performed all that well as a campaigner. Thirdly, with a high profile Liberal running as well, Brisbane will likely receive much more attention and resources from both major parties this time than last time, which will have the effect of squeezing the Greens out.

    Anyway, hope he does better than I’ve suggested, but 15% is my prediction.

  5. If one was picking a seat to develop in Qld I’d’ve gone for Ryan or Griffith, but it’s much of a muchness.

  6. re Bartlett running in Brisbane, I believe that was as much his choice as the parties – he didn’t nominate for the Senate preselection when he quite clearly could have. I didn’t take the opportunity to speak to him at the Greens National Conference on the weekend, but I suspect he is not ‘busting a gut’ to get re-elected – he’s had his time in the sun, so now he can actually get on with campaigning on issues he is passionate about. If there is an increased focus on Brisbane, and I think there will be on Queensland in general at the next election, this is a great opportunity to raise the Green-progressive vote, both in the Reps and Senate, and campaign vigourously on key issues – asylum seekers being an excellent one. And the environment/climate change.

  7. Andrew is an extremely hard-working and excellent campaigner. He is also going to be more aware of the realities of being a minor party candidate in a reps seat, and how tough and how much extra work that can be. I don’t think it would be fair for people to judge his campaigning skills on what has happened with the Democrats over the last 7 years.
    Both senate campaigns and nation-wide federal campaigns require a properly functioning party organisation with a decent amount of money to spend on campaigns, and no parliamentary leader (especially of an under-resourced minor party) should be expected to deliver all of that while also fulfilling their legislative and community roles.
    I hope he polls really well in Brisbane – although I think talking about a 20%+ primary vote is being very optimistic (although maybe he’ll be able to push your senate vote in Brisbane above 20%).

  8. That’s good to hear Polly, I wasn’t saying he’s a bad campaigner, just that there would usually be an assumption that a former MP would be a strong campaigner and that’s not always true of a Senator, even a minor party senator.

  9. I believe he lives in the seat, and it’s perfectly sensible that he’s chosen to run in the seat he identifies with, so whilst I think Griffith may have been better publicity wise, and I think Ryan has the better potential for the Greens, I don’t think it is a bad choice or anything like that.

  10. @Nick C
    Nick, I think Andrew will be a really good reps candidate. He is really good one-on-one when he’s talking about grass-roots issues, which is what you need for a good reps candidate. It’s a different skill-set to what’s needed to cut through in the state and national media.

  11. @Ben Raue
    I think both Andrew and Lyn Allison copped a lot of unfair criticism from some people for not being able to rebuild the Dems after the 2002 debacle because some Dems members expected them to just wave a magic wand and fix the impossible.

    I agree with you that some parliamentarians can be excellent senators, but fairly ordinary campaigners. I’m not saying that Andrew will be as strong at reps campaigning as someone like Anna Burke (the ALP member for Chisholm who is an *extremely* effective campaigner), but he should do really well – particularly when he can focus on working on a smaller scale and get the opportunity to talk with as many voters as possible.

  12. Polly, I’m not as optimistic as you about how effective he’ll be as a campaigner, but I hope I’m wrong.

  13. Might it have made more sense for him to try his luck in Ryan?

    A Liberal seat with a less-than-stellar MP, poor Liberal polling, some strong Green areas, and possibly a strong ‘doctors wives’ effect in a relatively affluent seat?

    The likely increase in the Labor vote in 2010 makes it very hard for the Greens to win a Labor-held seat.

  14. The main reason I decided to run in Brisbane is that’s where I live. It’s where I’ve lived for the last 12 years, and it’s also (under the new boundaries) where I grew up). I know the areas covered by Ryan and Griffith fairly well also, but it’s better to be in the midst of the electorate you’re running for if possible.

    By happenstance, Brisbane also happened to be the strongest seat for the Greens (and I think the Democrats on a much lower vote) at the last federal election (although the new boundaries would have weakened that base vote slightly).

    Building up the base vote for the Greens should also assist in enabling Queensland to regain a voice in the Senate outside the two major parties, and to have representation when balance of power issues are in play.

  15. I simply do not see a Green Senate seat in 2010 at all.

    Andrew may raise the bar a bit in Brisbane but the overall vote seems to be dropping and the most likely contender will be a minor from the right. Larissa polled quite well in 2007 but failed to gain any real support from preferences. I think that will be the case in 2010. The ALP will pass to a number of minors before the greens and it may just be one of those that beats her over the line.

    Andrew obviously enjoys politics and should lift the profile somewhat but he failed to make any real difference in the 2007 senate count.

  16. Good luck Andrew, I’m sure you’ll do an excellent job and have heaps of enthusiastic supporters behind you.

  17. yeah. i agree. except that i think he should have been number 1 on the senate ticket !!!!
    it’s not only me who thinks that.oh well. good luck any way. he’ll boost the greens work and senate vote for larissa- like you already said.

  18. Very good news to brighten up a wet teutonic morning. Welcome to the Green team Andrew, and all the best!

  19. Let me first say that it is an excellent choice. I wish Andrew the best and I hope that he succeeds in achieving the goals he sets himself.

    However, I will have to agree with Nick C that Andrew’s weakness is his lack of demonstrated passion when he speaks. I have read his Senate speeches many, many times and I can see the passion in the words but not in his lips.

    To be honest this is a minor weakness and one that won’t lose him votes. I can see him hitting high teens. What is more important is that he gets his message across and helps to build the Green brand. I am confident he will do this.

    Good luck Andrew!

  20. Congratulations Andrew and good luck with your campaign. The result in Brisbane will be interesting, especially if voter anger at Anna Bligh spills over into the federal sphere.

  21. @Andrew Bartlett
    Just don’t try liposuction :-). Seriously, though, how much does senate-style public speaking actually matter to reps candidates? Surely an ability to listen to other views, and genuine sincerity in how you speak matters more when you’re out door-knocking or speaking to smaller groups? Body language also matters, of course. (at least that’s what I’ve both personally experienced and observed that works in the campaigns I’ve been involved in).

  22. Can I emphasise that I said it was a minor issue and that I am confident he will get his/Greens message across. All I was trying to say is that showing some passion in what you believe in goes a long way. Just some constructive criticism, thats all.

  23. It’s fine Joel – I was only joking.

    As I said, I know I’m not Mr Charisma (esp thru the TV) and my speaking is more regularly compared to Elliot Goblet than anyone else. I’ll just have to work on the passion thing (in the appropriate places)

  24. Can I also say that I had the pleasure of meeting you once, briefly, at the entrance into Villawood detention centre and even in that brief encounter I knew you had strong character, ethics and morals. Good luck Andrew, we’ll be watching your campaign with enthusiasm.

  25. Good luck Andrew!

    Whilst I’m fairly sure you won’t be able to grasp a lower house seat in the current environment, it is a move that definitely helps the Greens as a whole.

    Hopefully this is leading to a 2013 Senate listing for yourself, as you did great work in the Senate previously.

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