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The Australian Greens
Leader Bob Brown
Deputy Leader Christine Milne
Convenor Derek Schild
Founded 1992
Headquarters GPO Box 1108
Ideology Green politics,
International affiliation Global Greens
Asia-Pacific Green Network
Australian Greens
Politics of Australia
Political parties

The Australian Greens, commonly known as The Greens, is a Green Australian political party.

The party has its eastern Australian origins in the Franklin River Dams campaign in Tasmania in the 1980s, and in Western Australia arising from concerns about nuclear disarmament. While originally founded to address environmental concerns, it now also involved in the peace movement, grassroots democracy and social justice.

The party's history can be traced back to the formation of the United Tasmania Group (UTG), the first Green party in the world, which first ran candidates in the 1972 Tasmanian State election. Many people involved in that group went on to form the Tasmanian Greens, in 1992, with five State MPs.

In the 2007 federal election the Greens received more than one million votes in the Senate for the first time with a national swing of 1.38 to 9.04 percent, and a net gain of one senator to a total of five. Sarah Hanson-Young (SA) and Scott Ludlam (WA) were elected while Senator Kerry Nettle (NSW) lost her seat.



The Australian Greens, like all Australian political parties, are federally organised with separately registered state parties signing up to a national constitution, yet still retaining considerable policy-making and organisational autonomy from the centre.[1] The national decision-making body of the Australian Greens is the National Council, consisting of delegates from each member body (a state or territory Greens party). The National Council arrives at decisions by consensus. There is no formal executive of the national party. However, there is an Australian Greens Coordinating Group (AGCG) composed of national office bearers including the National Convenor, Secretary, Treasurer, and delegates from each State and Territory. There is also a Public Officer, a Party Agent and a Registered Officer.

The following portfolio responsibilities are divided between the five Greens Senators:

Bob Brown

Bob Brown, Senator for Tasmania, elected 1996

  • Defence
  • Democracy
  • Emergency Services
  • Environment
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Forests
  • Home Affairs
  • Natural Heritage
  • Population
  • Trade
  • Treasury, Finance and Deregulation
  • Gambling

Christine Milne

Christine Milne, Senator for Tasmania, elected 2004

  • Arts
  • Climate change
  • Competition Policy & Small Business
  • Education: schools, vocational, tertiary
  • Infrastructure
  • Innovation, industry, science & research
  • Resources & Energy
  • Transport & Regional Development
  • World Heritage

Rachel Siewert

Rachel Siewert, Senator for Western Australia, elected 2004

  • Agriculture, Fisheries
  • Community Services
  • Employment & workplace relations
  • Environment: Natural Resource Management
  • Gambling
  • Health & ageing
  • Indigenous affairs
  • Marine
  • Social inclusion
  • Water

Sarah Hanson-Young

Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator for South Australia, elected 2007

  • Childcare
  • Consumer affairs
  • Education: early childhood, student services
  • Human rights
  • Immigration & Citizenship
  • Sexuality & Gender Identity
  • Sport
  • Status of women
  • Tourism
  • Veterans' affairs
  • Water: Lower Murray & Rescue the Coorong
  • Youth

Scott Ludlam

Scott Ludlam, Senator for Western Australia, elected 2007

  • Attorney General
  • Broadband, Communications & Digital Economy
  • Housing
  • Human heritage
  • Local Government
  • Mining
  • Nuclear
  • Public transport
  • Sustainable cities

This structure has replaced the previous system, under which specific spokespersons were appointed by the National Council.

A variety of working groups have been established by the National Council and these are directly accessible to all Greens members. Working groups perform an advisory function by developing policy, reviewing or developing the party structure, or by performing other tasks assigned by the National Council.

All policies originating from this structure are subject to ratification by the members of the Australian Greens.[2]

On Saturday 12 November 2005 at the national conference in Hobart the Australian Greens abandoned their long-standing tradition of having no official leader and approved a process whereby a parliamentary leader could be elected by the Greens Parliamentary Party Room. On Monday 28 November 2005, Bob Brown - who had long been regarded as de facto leader by many inside the party, and most people outside the party - was elected unopposed as the Parliamentary Party Leader.[3]

In 2008, Christine Milne was elected by the Australian Greens Party Room as Deputy Parliamentary Party Leader.

Political ideology

Bob Brown at a climate change rally in Melbourne on 5 July 2008

The Australian Greens are part of the global "Green politics" movement. Former Tasmanian Greens member of the House of Assembly Lance Armstrong summed this position up as, "... neither left nor right but forward."

The Charter of the Australian Greens identifies the following as being the four key pillars underlining the party's policy:

In pursuit of these principles, the Greens support the following:




The Green movement in eastern Australia emerged out of environmental campaigns in the state of Tasmania. The precursor to the Tasmanian Greens (the earliest existent member of the federation of parties that is the Australian Greens), the United Tasmania Group, was founded in 1972 to oppose the construction of new dams to flood Lake Pedder. The campaign failed to prevent the flooding of Lake Pedder and the party failed to gain political representation. One of the party’s candidates was Bob Brown, then a doctor in Launceston.[5]

In the late 1970s and 1980s, a public campaign to prevent the construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania saw environmentalist and activist Norm Sanders elected to the Tasmanian Parliament as an Australian Democrat. Brown, then director of the Wilderness Society, contested the election as an independent, but failed to win a seat.[6]

In 1982 Norm Sanders resigned from Parliament, and Brown was elected to replace him on a countback[7]

During her 1984 visit to Australia, West German Greens parliamentarian Petra Kelly urged that the various Greens groups in Australia develop a national identity. Partly as a result of this, fifty Greens activists gathered in Tasmania in December to organise a national conference.[8]

The Green movement gained their first federal parliamentary representative when Senator Josephine Vallentine of Western Australia, who had been elected in 1984 for the Nuclear Disarmament Party and later sat as an independent, was part of the formation of and joined Greens (WA), a party formed within the state boundaries of Western Australia, and not affiliated to the Australian Greens at that time.

In 1992, representatives from around the nation gathered in North Sydney and agreed to form the Australian Greens, although the state Greens parties, particularly in Western Australia, retained their separate identities for a period. Brown resigned from the Tasmanian Parliament in 1993, and in 1996 he was elected as a Senator for Tasmania, the first elected as an Australian Greens candidate.[9]

Initially the most successful Greens group during this period was Greens (WA), at that time still a separate organisation from the Australian Greens. Vallentine was succeeded by Christabel Chamarette in 1992, and she was joined by Dee Margetts in 1993. But Chamarette was defeated in 1996 and Margetts also lost her seat in the 1998 federal election, leaving Brown as the sole Australian Greens Senator.

2001 election onward

In the 2001 federal election (the "Tampa election"), Brown was re-elected as a Senator for Tasmania, and a second Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, was elected in New South Wales. Brown took a strong stand against the government's policy on asylum seekers, leading to a rise in support for the Greens from disaffected Labor voters. This played an important role in defining the Greens as more than just a single-issue environmental party. In 2002 the Greens won a House of Representatives seat for the first time when Michael Organ won the Cunningham by-election.

2004 election onward

In the 2004 federal election, the Greens' primary vote rose by 2.3%, to 7.2%. This won them two additional Senate seats, taken by Christine Milne in Tasmania and Rachel Siewert in Western Australia, taking the total to four. However, the success of the Howard Government in winning a majority in the Senate meant that the Greens' influence on legislation decreased. Michael Organ was defeated by Labor in Cunningham.

Additionally, in the 2004 election there was an intense media campaign from the socially conservative Family First Party, including a television advertisement labelling the Greens the "Extreme Greens". Competitive preferencing strategies prompted by the nature of Senate balloting (see Australian electoral system) saw the Australian Labor Party and the Democrats rank Family First higher than the Greens on their Senate tickets, resulting in the Greens losing preferences they would normally have received from the two parties. Consequently, although outpolling Family First by a ratio of more than four to one first-preference votes, Victorian Family First candidate Steve Fielding was elected on preferences over the Australian Greens' David Risstrom, an unintended consequence of these strategies.[10] In Tasmania, Christine Milne only narrowly gained her Senate seat before a Family First candidate, despite nearly obtaining the full required quota of primary votes. It was only the high incidence of "below the line" voting in Tasmania that negated the effect of the preference swap deal between Labor and Family First.[11]

The Australian Greens fielded candidates in every House of Representatives seat in Australia, and for all State and Territory Senate positions.

Many lower income safe Labor seats in deprived areas usually poll very small primary votes for the Greens. From 1997-2003 in Western Australia, the majority of Greens WA seats were held in rural and remote seats (Mining, Pastoral, South-West).

The Australian Greens primary vote has generally continued to grow with their primary vote increasing by 4.1% in the 2006 election in South Australia, 1.2% in the 2006 election in Queensland, and 0.7% in the 2007 election in New South Wales.

The results for the 2006 election in Victoria, were mixed, with an improved vote for the Greens in the lower house, but a fall in their upper house vote.

Contrary to the upward trend, was a swing of 1.5% away from the Greens in the 2006 election in Tasmania.[12]

Dispute with the Herald Sun

On 31 August 2004, the Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun published a page three story by journalist Gerard McManus entitled "Greens back illegal drugs" in the lead up to the 2004 Australian election. In response to the article Brown lodged a complaint with the Australian Press Council. After the election, the Press Council upheld Brown's complaint:

"The Council views this article as irresponsible journalism... Given the sweeping and unqualified nature of the claims, the newspaper ought to have checked the veracity and currency of the policy claims. Prior to the publication of the article, the reporter rang Sen. Brown's office asking for the Greens' policies. He was informed 'that all current policies were available on the website'. There is evidence that, as well as any use made of the Party's website in writing the article, the reporter preferred other statements of Greens' policies, some erroneous and hostile to the Greens."

An appeal by the Herald Sun was dismissed and it was ordered to publish the Press Council’s adjudication.[13] Brown said:

"This was no accident or mistake. The aim was to attack the Greens, not through the editorial column, but through the news pages. The outcome of the false concoction of the Greens policies was to lose our party tens of thousands of votes and, in my calculation, seats in parliament".[14]

In April 2006, McManus was invited to speak at a Family First Party dinner.[15]

On 13 April 2007, the Herald Sun published a story titled "Greens tone down election policies" on changes to Greens policies for the 2007 federal election.[16]

2007 election onward

Election Results
Senate - National

Bob Brown lays out the Greens' climate change policies in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election

As in previous years, the Greens vote was strongest in inner-city seats, including Melbourne (22.7% of primary votes), Sydney (20.7%), Grayndler (18.7%), Denison (18.6%) and Batman (17.2%)[17]. Strong votes were also recorded in Liberal held city based seats such as Higgins (10.8%), Kooyong (11.8%) and Wentworth (15.0%). The primary vote for the Greens in suburban and regional areas was generally smaller.

The Greens increased their national vote by 1.38 percent to 9.04 percent at the 2007 federal election, with a net increase of one Senator to a total of five. Senators Bob Brown (Tas) and Kerry Nettle (NSW) were up for re-election, Brown was re-elected, but Nettle was unsuccessful.

Other Greens Senate candidates were Larissa Waters (Qld), Richard Di Natale (Vic), Scott Ludlam (WA), Sarah Hanson-Young (SA) and Kerrie Tucker (ACT). Ludlam and Hanson-Young were elected and took up office on 26 August 2008 when all senators elected on 24 November 2007 were sworn in.[18][19]

This was also the first general election for the Greens in which a lower house seat went "maverick". In the Division of Melbourne, the Greens polled 22.80 percent of the primary vote, overtaking the Liberals on preferences, finishing on a two party preferred figure of 45.29 against Labor.

An extensive campaign was undertaken in the ACT, in an attempt to end coalition control of the Senate immediately after the election, as territory Senators take their place at this time as opposed to their state counterparts on the next 1 July. The ACT holds two seats with only 3-year terms, so a larger quota than normal is required for election. Despite a swing of 5.1 percent to the Greens on 21.5 percent, their best result in any state or territory, the party fell significantly short.

At the 2008 Northern Territory election, the Greens ran in six of the 25 seats in the unicameral parliament, averaging 16 percent of the vote but won no seats. At the 2008 Western Australian election, the Greens won 11-12 percent of the statewide vote in both the lower and upper houses, with four of 36 seats in the latter, an increase of two.

Percentage of lower house first preference Green votes at the 2007 federal election in selected Australian cities

In the 2008 Australian Capital Territory election, conducted under the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation, the Greens doubled their vote to around 15 percent, going from one to four seats in the 17-member unicameral parliament, giving them the balance of power. After almost two weeks of deliberations, the Greens chose to allow Labor to form a minority government.[20][21][22] The Greens hold the post of Speaker in the ACT Legislative Assembly, the first for a Green party in Australia.

In November 2008, Senator Christine Milne was elected Deputy Leader. The ballot was also contested by Senator Rachel Siewert.

In May 2009, the Greens won their second ever single-member electorate, with Adele Carles winning the Fremantle by-election for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. The seat had been held by the Labor Party since 1924.[23] It is the first time the Greens have outpolled the Labor Party on the primary vote in any Labor-held seat.[24]

In December 2009, the Greens received over 30 percent of the primary vote in the federal Higgins by-election in Victoria, in the absence of a Labor candidate. It is the highest primary vote recorded by the Greens in a Liberal-held lower house seat.

Interactions with other political groups

The Greens do not have formal links to environmental organisations commonly labelled by the media as "green groups" such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, all of whom claim to be non-partisan. However, it is common for the media to report the activities of such groups and those of The Greens under the general category of "greens". During elections, there is sometimes competition between The Greens and one or more of these groups negotiating "greens preferences" with other parties. The Greens preference negotiation objectives are to attempt to get Greens Senators elected, and to get policy outcomes on issues like Tasmanian forests, though these objectives may be to a greater or lesser extent in conflict. The outcome is that Greens more often direct preferences to Labor than the Liberals,[25] but it is claimed that this did not affect federal election outcomes in 2001 and 2004.

Labor Party and unions

Many supporters of the Australian Labor Party and trade unions see the Greens' policies as destructive of employment in industries like mining and forestry. The forestry industry has been a particular target of environmental campaigns and the Forestry Division of the CFMEU have actively campaigned against the Greens. Left-wing trade unionists and some members of Labor's Left faction often identify more readily with the Greens, feeling sold out by Labor's Right faction and sympathizing with the Greens' social policies. Some unionists, such as NTEU and AMWU members have even run for parliament both federally and State under the Greens ticket. One Labor MP, Kris Hanna, the member for Mitchell in South Australia, defected to the Australian Greens in 2003. Hanna left the Greens in February 2006, and was re-elected in Mitchell as an independent in the South Australian state election held on 18 March 2006.[26]

However, these Green sympathies are not universal within Labor's Left; the similarities between the two groups often see them competing for the same voters, making the Greens' growing popularity a threat to Labor.[27] In 2002, prominent Left member Lindsay Tanner wrote "The emergence of the Greens... is already hurting the ALP's ability to attract new members amongst young people."[28] During the 2004 campaign Tanner's own seat of Melbourne in Victoria was thought to be under serious threat by the Greens; during that campaign, Tanner described Greens policies as "mad".[29][30] In the end, Tanner held the seat comfortably on primary votes (51.78%, +4.35 swing), and was not even forced to preferences.[31]

In the 2006 Victorian state election, there was increased bitterness between Labor and the Greens. Labor direct-mailed a letter from Peter Garrett to voters in its threatened inner-Melbourne seats claiming that the Greens were preferencing the Liberal Party, in spite of Greens preferences being either for Labor or being open. The effectiveness of this tactic was confirmed when on 22 March 2007, The Age's Paul Austin wrote "Labor's campaign manager, state secretary Stephen Newnham, reckons he knows why the Greens' support fell away in the last days of the campaign. He has told cabinet and caucus members it was because of Labor's loud assertions that the Greens had done a secret preferences deal with the Liberals."

In April 2007, The Age reported[32] that the Victorian Greens had published a poem titled The Battle of Jeff's Shed written by Mike Puleston describing ALP officials and volunteers who scrutinised vote counting after the November state election as "the Labor Panzers and their hardened SS troops - SS stood for Sturm Scrutineers". The poem described the final vote count at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, which finished about 4am on 14 December and resulted in the election of three Greens MLCs. Labor directed preferences in the upper house to the DLP above the Greens, which resulted in their preferences indirectly electing Peter Kavanagh from DLP in Western Victoria region.

In October 2008, Queensland state Labor MP Ronan Lee defected to the Greens, becoming the first ever Greens MP in the unicameral Queensland parliament. He had made the decision after he claimed the Queensland government had failed to act against climate change.

Conservative groups and parties

Relations between the Greens and conservative parties are almost uniformly poor. During the 2004 federal election the Australian Greens were branded as "environmental extremists" and even "fascists" by members of the Liberal-National Coalition Government.[33] Fred Nile and John Anderson[34] described the Greens as 'watermelons', being "green on the outside and red on the inside". John Howard, while Australian Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, stated that "The Greens are not just about the environment. They have a whole lot of other very, very kooky policies in relation to things like drugs and all of that sort of stuff".[35]

Former Federal Conservation Minister Eric Abetz criticised Australian Greens Senators Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle for spending most of their time on non-environmental issues.[36]

In a similar vein to the Family First television advertisements in 2004, Country Alliance also ran television advertisements[37] in the lead up to the 2006 Victorian state election claiming that the Greens policies were "extreme".

The Greens have voiced opposition and even organised protests against the One Nation Party (an anti-immigration, economically protectionist Party which enjoyed significant publicity in the 1998 Federal Election).[38]

State and territory politics

The various Australian states and territories have different electoral systems, some of which allow the Greens to gain representation. In New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, the Greens hold seats in the Legislative Councils (upper houses), which are elected by proportional representation. The Greens also have four seats in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. In Queensland and the Northern Territory, their unicameral parliaments have made it difficult for the Greens to gain representation.

The Greens' most important area of state political activity has been in Tasmania, which is the only state where the lower house of the state parliament is elected by proportional representation. In Tasmania, the Greens have been represented in the House of Assembly from 1983, initially as Green Independents, and from the early 1990s as an established party. At the 1989 state election, the Liberal Party won 17 seats to Labor's 13 and the Greens' 5. The Greens agreed to support a minority Labor government in exchange for various policy commitments. In 1992 the agreement broke down over the issue of employment in the forestry industry, and the premier, Michael Field, called an early state election which the Liberals won. Later, Labor and the Liberals combined to reduce the size of the Assembly from 35 to 25, thus raising the quota for election. At the 1998 election the Greens won only one seat, despite their vote only falling slightly, mainly due to the new electoral system. They recovered in the 2002 election when they won four seats. All four seats were retained in the 2006 election.





Senators Vallentine, Chamarette and Margetts were all elected as Greens (WA) senators and served their terms before the Greens WA affiliated to the Australian Greens, meaning that they were not considered to be Australian Greens senators at the time.









Other notable members

See also


  1. ^ Turnbull, N; Vromen, A. "Election 2004: Where do the Greens fit in Election 2004?", Australian Review of Public Affairs, 17 September 2004.
  2. ^ "Organisational Framework of the Australian Greens", Sandgate Branch of the Queensland Greens.
  3. ^ "Greens firm up party structure", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 29 November 2005.
  4. ^ Policy D2: Drugs, Substance Abuse and Addiction
  5. ^ Senator Bob Brown - Australian Greens (PDF file)
  6. ^ Results in Denison for the election held on 15 May 1982, Tasmanian Parliamentary Library
  8. ^ About us - The Greens,
  9. ^ Bob Brown, The Parliament of Tasmania since 1856
  10. ^ "How party preferences picked Family First", The Age, 11 October 2004.
  11. ^ "Above or below the line? Managing preference votes", On Line Opinion, 20 April 2005
  12. ^ "ABC Coverage of Australian Elections", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 31 March 2007
  13. ^ Australian Press Council Adjudication No. 1270, February 2005
  14. ^ Herald Sun Found Guilty of Irresponsible Journalism and Seriously Misleading Readers, Press Releases, Victorian Greens, 4 March 2005. (archived copy of page)
  15. ^ McManus, Gerard (2006-04-06). "A political vacuum waiting to be filled". News Weekly.  
  16. ^ Packham, Ben (2007-04-13). "Greens tone down policies". Herald Sun.,21985,21548112-661,00.html.  
  17. ^ 2007 Federal Election Results, Australian Electoral Commission
  18. ^ "Senate Results". Federal Election 2007. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  
  19. ^ Parliament of Australia: Senate: Senate Daily Summary], No. 43/2008, 26 June 2008
  20. ^ Labor to form minority government in ACT: The Age 31/10/2008
  21. ^ Greens' nod sees Stanhope keep job: Canberra Times 1/11/2008
  22. ^ Labor-Greens parliamentary agreement PDF
  23. ^ WA Greens claim victory, make history, ABC, 17 May 2009
  24. ^ Antony Green (16 May 2009). "2009 Fremantle By-Election". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  
  25. ^ "Minor Party Preferences", Australia Votes, Federal Election 2004, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9 October 2004.
  26. ^ "Hanna leaves Greens to run as independent". News Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2006-02-08.  
  27. ^ Carney, Shaun (2002-11-30). "Greens clip Labor's left wing". The Age.  
  28. ^ Tanner, Lindsay (2002-02-05). "If Not Now, When?".  
  29. ^ Heinrichs, Paul (2004-09-04). "Labor fighting to stop left's flight to Greens". The Age.  
  30. ^ "Commonwealth Election 2004", Parliamentary Library of Australia, , Research Brief no. 13, 14 March 2005
  31. ^ "VIC DIVISION - MELBOURNE". Virtual Tally Room - Election 2004. Australian Electoral Commission.  
  32. ^ "ALP rages at Greens Nazi joke", The Age, 2 April 2007
  33. ^ Jennett, Greg. "PM revokes backbencher's comments", Programme Transcript, Lateline, 29 October 2003.
  34. ^ "Anderson sees red over 'watermelon' Greens", The Age, 7 September 2004.
  35. ^ "Bob Brown unfazed by conservative attacks", The World Today, transcript, ABC radio, Tuesday, 5 October, 2004.
  36. ^ Cut & paste: Who says the Green Left represents the environment?, The Australian, 5 July 2006
  37. ^ "Television advertisement on Greens policies", Country Alliance, November 2006
  38. ^ Greens Preferences crucial to Election Outcome and One Nation's Chances. | Bob Brown

Further reading

  • Bennett, Scott (September 2008), The rise of the Australian Greens, Australia: Department of Parliamentary Services  

External links



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