Voters give Green light to resurgent party

“It’s not easy being Green.” Or, at least that’s been the claim of pundits eager to write-off the environmental party after a challenging few years.

In 2012, the retirement of leader Bob Brown sparked speculation that the Greens were heading the way of the ill-fated Australian Democrats. Swings against the party at last year’s federal election and a string of state elections added fuel to the fire. The party has also lost its mantle as the “new kid on the block”, jostling for media space with the outspoken Clive Palmer in a much more crowded Senate.

But while Palmer might grab the headlines, it is the Greens who are making history. The re-election of Senator Scott Ludlam at Saturday’s election will deliver the party 10 federal senators from July (along with Adam Bandt in the lower house) smashing the minor party record it previously shared with the Democrats. Indeed, there is reason to believe the Senate election will mark the beginning of a Green resurgence and should leave no doubt that the party is a permanent fixture on the nation’s political landscape.

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History Won’t Repeat

The Democrats may be dead but they continue to haunt national politics, with many commentators warning the Greens are doomed to the same fate without the charismatic leadership of Bob Brown.

Much of this is based on the assumption that Christine Milne will fail to unify her party or appeal to the public.

However, commentators are overlooking significant differences between the Democrats and the Greens and the ability of the latter to better manage this leadership transition, along with Milne’s own leadership credentials.

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Life after Brown for the Greens?

The shock resignation of the Greens’ popular leader and founder Bob Brown has left many questioning the long-term prospects of the party he leaves behind. Despite the temptation of some to compare the Greens’ fate with that of the Australian Democrats, it is too soon to eulogise the environmental party and the Greens are better placed to manage this leadership transition than their senate predecessors.

There is no doubt that Brown is an irreplaceable figure within the Greens and the parliament. The party he created has grown from to strength to strength during his 16 years in the senate and the Greens are the only party in the country to have achieved swings in their favour at every federal election of the last decade. He is a revered and galvanising figure within the Greens – instrumental in moderating the internal differences around policy and emphasis that are inevitable in any political party.

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