Adam Bandt, Green MP for Melbourne. Picture from greens.org.au

The Australian federal elections have returned a disappointing result for the left, Greens and environmentalists. Whilst the Australian Green Party will quite rightly focus on the against-the-odds return of Adam Bandt, its only member of the Lower House, in Melbourne, its proportion of the national first preference vote has at the time of writing fallen to 8.4% from 11.8% in 2010. Some Greens may have hoped to pick up votes from Labor after a shift in Kevin Rudd’s policy towards asylum seekers, a move which is has alienated a significant proportion of the left. Such a swing has not materialised.

The retention of Bandt’s seat in Melbourne was made more difficult when the Liberals directed their preferences to Labor over the Greens, but a decisive 7.8% swing to Bandt on first preferences secured the seat, and a decisive victory for the Greens.

Perhaps more significantly, early results in the Senate show that the balance of power, previously held by the Greens, is at risk and may move towards a collection of ‘others’, despite Green gains in Victoria and South Australia. The potential ‘others’ include members from the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party and the Palmer United Party, formed by mining magnate Clive Palmer. If this is the case, Australia’s controversial carbon tax policy may be seeing its last days when the new senators taken their seats next year.

Palmer has had an unexpectedly good return in Queensland, where he stood as a candidate in the Gold Coast constituency of Fairfax. Predictions based on votes counted so far put him slightly ahead of the Liberal candidate, although the result has not yet been called. Perhaps surprisingly, a large proportion of Palmer’s votes are from former Labor voters, and his good performance is only possible thanks to preference transfers from Labor. Even more surprisingly, the Greens also gave their preferences to Palmer United over Labour and the Liberals in the Senate, crediting their decision to Palmer’s much more compassionate position on refugees.

Tony Abbott’s victory will be particularly disheartening to environmentalists given that he has had such a pivotal role in changing the Liberal National Coalition’s policies towards climate change. Abbott first took the leadership of the Coalition in 2009 in a heated leadership selection in protest against the party’s then support of Kevin Rudd’s carbon trading scheme policy.

The strong anti-environmentalist shift in Australian politics could be seen as a result of the Coalition’s success in messaging. Throughout the campaign, Abbott has characterised the Carbon Tax as a keystone feature of Labor’s irresponsible handling of the economy and reckless public spending. His borrowing of such rhetoric from Cameron’s Tories will look bizarre to Europeans, who will look with envy upon Australia’s 22 consecutive years of growth, AAA credit rating, low interest rates, small debt, increase in average household income and relatively low unemployment, but I suppose it’s very easy to mislead the public when you’ve got a man on your side who owns 59% of newspaper circulation.

Mike Williamson

About Mike Williamson

Mike has served various roles in the Scottish Green Party. In Edinburgh he campaigns on cuts and housing, and was closely involved in the Radical Independence Campaign.