I live in the suburb of Northcote in inner Melbourne. It is located in the Federal seat of Batman, which was until recently the safest seat for Labor in Australia. There was a swing of about 6% to the Greens. The local Member, Martin Ferguson won the seat still with a comfortable margin, however it is not the safest seat in Australia for Labor anymore. In fact we have the very desirable situation in Batman whether the two major parties are Labor and The Greens with the Liberals third.
I must confess (sorry to all my ALP member friends) that I was part of the 6% this time. I have voted Green in the Senate before, but this was the first time that I didn’t vote ALP for the House of Representatives.
Why? Well, there were a number of reasons. But my shift started when just after Gillard became Prime Minister we saw her on a navy ship with the Member for Lindsay to show those xenophobes in the mythical western suburbs of Sydney that Labor was as ‘tough’ on boats as the opposition. ‘That’s not the Labor Party I usually vote for’ I thought. There seemed that throughout the campaign the ALP was very keen to appease and give lots of attention to what these voters in Western Sydney. So all this talk about asylum seekers and town hall meetings there….what about a meeting with Julia Gillard at Northcote Town Hall? I wanted inner Melbourne to be the anthesis of what ‘Western Sydney’ was supposed to be. An area where pandering had to be done for the opposite reason. Not because of mortgages and asylum seekers, but because of progressive politics.
Also I had issues with Martin Ferguson. He was parachuted by the ALP into Batman from Sydney because the Party head to find him a safe seat after being head of the ACTU, and his views are probably the most divergent from those of Labor voters in the area. He’s right wing Labor, and from what I read quite pro mining, pro uranium etc.
My decision was despite the fact that I don’t see the Greens with rose coloured glasses. I sometime found their hectoring ‘holier than though’ hectoring towards Labor irritating. I would read letters in the “Melbourne Times’ with passionate anger of Green members/voters who were ALP. Like lovers spurned they saw Labor as something that was a betrayal and had to be despised. Well that’s easy for you to say. Try to get enough votes to form a government.
So it was interesting to read the main article in the comments page of the Sunday Age about the Victorian ALP worrying that Seats that shown big swings towards The Greens in the Federal election, seats that were safe Labor like Northcote, Melbourne, Richmond and Brunswick could be lost at the forthcoming election. But I do wonder whether that’s on the cards. At this stage I am certainly going to vote Labor. Despite the fact that my local member, Fiona Richardson is saying silly things such as that the Greens are a new ‘Left DLP’ she seems to have worked for the electorate and not taking it for granted. Personally, as a commuter cyclist, she has the runs on the board successfully advocating for a major roundabout and a bridge over Merri Creek which makes cycling much safer and quicker. Unlike Martin Ferguson she sounds progressive on many issues. And generally the ALP government has been remarkably stable and affective, despite being in power for quite some time (of course there are negative areas, which is inevitable for a government which has been in power for some time). So it will be interesting to see if other voters in Northcote and the other seats in inner Melbourne sees it like me, or whether the Green surge will be unstoppable.