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First published March 15

There were a myriad of issues that affected the dismal result of the Tasmanian Greens and, once looking at all of them it is hard to determine which were the most important. The key point is that 1 in every 4 previous voters for the Tasmanian Greens changed their vote (to the Labor Party), which is an extraordinary change!

Internal factors

I am loathe to comment on the internal functioning of the Tasmanian Greens. However, I will make one comment: the internal inquiry that was established at the Tasmanian Greens State Conference in 2016, which was initiated in response to a damning report by the departing State Convenor, did not go anywhere to address the communication issues between the parliamentary Greens and the State Executive and the membership generally.

I understand that there will be another internal inquiry now, but Green ex-politicians should not conduct it, plus it should have representation of the general Greens membership on the inquiry committee.

Above all, such an inquiry needs a proper methodology, which should include going out to where the Green members and supporters are located, not simply an inquiry that invites submissions from members (ie, active rather than passive consultations).

External factors

1. The pokies issue did not bring about the Greens downfall – for three reasons:

a) It only determined the vote of a very small proportion (10-14%) of the voting population – and that is without knowing whether this affected voting for or against poker machines, so no quid pro quo here.

b) While the Liberals undoubtedly outspent Labor (Labor MP Julie Collins says by 10:1) and managed to put up lots of posters there is no evidence that this determined how people voted (some commentators disagree with me here).

c) The economic situation in Tasmania and other stability factors were the main determining factors in how people voted, as pointed out by Prof. Richard Eccleston (Institute for the Study of Social Change, University of Tasmania).

However, the pokies issue did absorb a lot of the oxygen of the campaigns, especially in the media.

2. The Greens had no mainstream environmental issue for their campaign – for the first time since 1972. There was only one Wilderness Society involvement (a very good video ad concerning the Tarkine, involving the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre), but the Tarkine failed to capture mainstream interest.

3. Cassy O’Connor made an incredible call almost at the end of the campaign threatening a no-confidence motion against the Liberals as soon as parliament sat again. The Labor Party immediately refused to support any such motion.

4. Surprisingly, local issues, such as the Mt Wellington cable car got no mention at all in the whole election campaign! This may be indicative of the lack of coordination in the campaign to prevent desecration of kunanyi/The Mountain.

5. Child protection also got no mention (long time since that has happened) despite the appalling record of the Liberals in this area. On a number of measures Tasmania has a greater child protection ‘epidemic’ than Australia as a whole, including 14% more children in out-of-home care (AIHW, 2018). We have champions on the pokies issue, Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie, but where are the champions for protecting children?

6. If there is a definitive explanation as to why the Tasmanian Greens vote went down to nearly their worst result ever (10.3%), their vote was destined to go down anyway, as demonstrated in the consistent, steadily declining trend since May 2010 – from 26% down to just 10% over the past 8 years! [EMRS polling]

7. Also, in particular electorates, Braddon and Lyons, the vote was extremely low 3.5% (7.0%) and 6.5% (11.4%) respectively – with 2014 results in brackets. The Green vote was halved in Braddon and almost halved in Lyons!

8. The Tasmanian Greens have challenges at opposite ends of the age spectrum:

a) the traditional, original supporters, who are now mainly in retirement, have left them in droves; and

b) few representatives of younger generations are participating (the age structure of attendance in Green State conferences is evidence of that) and, I suspect, the Greens’ membership is skewed towards middle and older age groups.

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*Dr Geoff Holloway, above, is State Secretary of the United Tasmania Group (UTG) 1974-77 and again since revival of UTG two years ago. He has never stayed in a job for more than five years. Geoff has a PhD (sociology),  specialising in social movements, health and research methods; poet (4 books published); climber; traveller - two years in Chilean & Argentinean Patagonia, but also Colombia, Ecuador and Brasil), twice recently to Cabo Verde and Lisbon, fluent in Spanish, understand written Portuguese; focus over past 20 years or so on children with disabilities, child protection and youth justice issues. He has worked with 4 of the past 6 Children’s Commissioners in Tasmania.

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