News & Current Affairs
28 March 2015
by Halifax Bennett
NSW Greens seeking to capitalise on Baird’s unpopular policies
(NSW Greens' campaign placard)
The Greens have come out swinging in the upcoming NSW election in what looks to be a close contest. With an eye to snagging a couple of extra seats in both houses, the Greens have focused on specific issues, as Halifax Bennett reports.
ON THE eve of the NSW state election, householders would have received the usual campaign literature from the major parties, plus maybe one or two independents. But the big surprise this year is the campaign by the Greens.
Seeking to capitalise on Premier Baird's unpopular policies and Labor's past corruption woes, the Greens are out in full force, contesting all seats in the Legislative Assembly and the half in the Legislative Council up for election which include Liberal and Labor strongholds.
Their 2015 goals are very clear: anti-corruption, funding for educational institutions as well as opposing coal seam gas exploration and mining.
The controversial issue of coal seam gas and fracking is being contested between left and right for the most part, which is unfortunate for the Coalition considering the Nationals’ ideological and geographical base. The Greens are looking to snag a number of rural seats held by the Nationals who are also being challenged by Labor’s new anti-CSG stand.
Democratic process and environmental concerns are at the forefront of the Greens' campaign.
Even if the Greens secure another seat in the lower house and one or two in the upper, the extent to which they could influence policy on coal seam gas or anti-corruption issues is unknown. It is quite possible that by the end of the year there could be just as many coal seam gas wells in northern NSW.
Similarly, there may be no progress in reeling in corrupt behaviour of politicians. Yet the Greens’ ability to reflect the concerns of intellectuals, workers, environmentalists and those living in rural areas is quite profound.
Balmain is shaping up as a pitched battle between sitting Greens MP, Jamie Parker, and Labor’s Verity Firth, who is determined to win back the seat stolen by the Greens in the last election. In Glebe, the Greens’ campaign is hard to miss with door knocking, pamphlets, street volunteers and posters nearly everywhere you look. Newtown is a new battleground for the Greens and appears to be the most important, if not the most probable, chance for the Greens to acquire an additional seat in the lower house.
While Balmain and Newtown could be close battles, the North Shore of Sydney has seen a number of Green candidates, promoting their party values to the wealthy of the city. It is unlikely that electorates such as Manly or Willoughby would see great yields for the Greens, but creating greater public awareness generally might snag a few extra seats in both houses.
Nearly eleven per cent of votes in 2011 went to the Greens in the lower house, resulting in the election of Jamie Parker — the only Greens MP. By comparison, the Nationals gained eighteen seats with around thirteen per cent of the overall vote. The Greens are determined to bump up their vote, especially representation in the lower house, to gain a bigger say in state politics.
Whilst lower house success has surely been disappointing for the Greens, it is evident that they have influenced the position of other parties and managed to tap in to a nationalistic position based on core left values, without association to xenophobic or militaristic notions of nationalism.
The Greens occupy an important place for many Australians who oppose neoliberal doctrinaire, environmental disregard and socially restrictive or authoritarian measures. All facts considered though, this election may not ring in the changes many of us would like to see. Even if Labor defied the odds and won, with the Greens scoring extra seats in the upper and lower houses, the poles and wires may be saved from privatisation, but the issue of corruption is unlikely to be a prime agenda item.
Regardless of final results, the Greens have now become an immovable force, especially in regional areas where many farmers threatened by fracking, are voting Green for the first time. This is undeniably a positive development for progressiveness in NSW.