By Paul Hellard
The Australian Greens are celebrating after winning a massive swing of seats at the 21 May federal election, with their new Senators and MPs taking up their roles in Canberra on 1 July. With almost two million Australians (12.25%) voting for the Greens, many for the first time, the party has had its best result yet. From 9 Senators to 12, and 1 Lower House MP to 4, the Australian Greens are stronger than at any point in their history. And, the new centre-left Labor Government will be forced to negotiate with them for legislation to pass if they do not want to deal with the right-wing Liberal Party.
Few are celebrating more than Max Chandler-Mather in the Lower House seat of Griffith, in Brisbane. For the last three years, Max and fellow candidates Elizabeth and Stephen, in the neighbouring electorates of Ryan and Brisbane, had been literally taking it to the streets for months before the start of the official campaign. In accepting the scientific reality of climate change among the rain storms and floods of southern Queensland, the Greens team easily turned heads and won hearts and minds by feeding people and physically helping to clean homes and streets after the latest unnatural disasters.
The result was not just a political campaign, but a community movement built on addressing people’s real needs and facing up to the big challenges confronting our societies. All three candidates were elected, and will join Parliamentary Leader Adam Bandt in the House of Representatives.
On election night it almost felt like we’d actually won the election. As Bandt said, “at this election the parties that backed coal and gas went backwards. The Greens and independents who tackled coal and gas saw the vote increase.” The world was indeed watching throughout this campaign, hoping sense would prevail on the day. The International Energy Agency – hardly a radical body – says there can be no new mines. “That’s just scientific reality,” says Bandt. And with 16 Greens now in the federal parliament, they will push to make sure that happens.
The results of the new Labor government are only just now becoming clear. In his victory speech on election night, Labor’s Anthony Albanese promised to turn Australia into a “renewable energy superpower” and end a decade of “climate wars”. Greens leader Adam Bandt said that he was ready to work with the Labor Government to make sure the sensible measures he campaigned on are taken seriously. Time will tell, but voters clearly want change.
Dental care into Medicare (Australia’s public health system). Housing for all. Education for free. No more coal or gas mining. These and many other solid initiatives of real policy action from the Greens, and they are possible.
This wasn’t just a triumph for the Greens. This election shone a bright light onto the previous ruling Liberals and Nationals and they’ve been exposed as the climate dinosaurs they are. Well, the Liberals lost 19 seats.
But, the Nationals held all their 16 Lower House seats despite a widespread shift in the community of electorates in favour of more progressive parties. The challenge continues, but the results should be a wake-up call to parties across the country.
The new Labor government’s promise is to reduce emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030, a very substantial improvement on the 26-28% target of the ousted Morrison government. But Labor needs to explain the 114 new coal and gas projects they continue to support, and how that fits with the urgent need for serious action on climate change. Australia is still one of the biggest gas and coal exporters on the planet, which means that although our emissions from this country account for around 2% of global emissions, the carbon thrown up by our product overseas amounts to much more, almost 5% – despite Australia’s population representing about 0.3% of the global total.
We should celebrate the end of the conservative government rule in Australia. It’s the beginning of the ‘De-Scomodification” of the country and that feels great. So too does the incredible result of the Australian Greens nationwide, the fact that we are now the largest third-party in Australian history, and the rise of the “teal independents” across the country. But it is here and right now that the real work begins. Albanese’s Labor government might have won a majority, but they have to work closely with the Greens and like-minded Independents if they want to push their way through. And the Australian Greens will be there at every step, pushing for faster and deeper action that puts people and the planet first.