BY JORDAN FERMANIS
Perhaps the party that was hit the hardest by Clover Moore’s historic fourth term as Lord Mayor was the Greens.
In the 2008 City of Sydney Council election the Greens vote was at a healthy 14 per cent. In 2012, it dropped to 6.53 per cent whilst currently the Greens vote stands at a dismal 4.86 per cent of the vote.
Conversely, Clover Moore’s popularity has increased. Her latest victory sealing almost a 10 per cent increase in voters up to 59 per cent of the vote, by some estimates making her the most popular politician in Australia.
This poor set of council results for the Greens reflects the outcome in the seat of Sydney in the 2016 Federal election, where candidate Sylvie Ellsmore was only able to pick up 18% of the vote against incumbent Tanya Plibersek.
Earlier this year it was reported that former executive officer Carole Medcalf took the Greens to the Fair Work Commission in November 2015. Ms Medcalf’s dismissal caused a fissure in the NSW Greens with NSW Greens treasurer Christopher Harris resigning in the fallout.
The passing of Dr John Kaye this year left a power vacuum in the NSW Greens which saw a face-off between the left faction known as the ‘watermelons’ and the right faction of the Greens, the so-called, ‘tree tories.’
Even former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown weighed in for comment after the federal election calling for a clean out of the NSW Greens after a weak election showing.
The Greens candidate for Lord Mayor Lindsay Johnston conceded that the election on September 10 was never going to be easy.
“It was always a difficult campaign; we came off campaigning for the federal election and resources were stretched to the limit. We had 6 months of campaigning.”
“You couldn’t of picked a harder campaign to run,” Mr Johnston said.
In the lead-up to the election the controversial new business voting laws were swooped upon by the Clover Moore team as a ‘gerrymander’ and a tactic from the NSW government to hurt her chances of being reelected.
Mr Johnston said that all the new laws did was push business voters right into Clover Moore’s lap.
“The greatest influence on the council election was the most irrational decision of the NSW government to impose two vote for non-residential voters and to threaten the business community with a $2,200 fine. It has just completely backfired.”
“It’s driven the whole community into Clover Moore’s camp and that is basically what routed our vote,” Mr Johnston said.
After her victory was called on Saturday night, Clover Moore announced that it was a “victory for grassroots democracy.” A slogan not dissimilar from one of the Greens ‘four pillars’ of ‘Grassroots participatory democracy’ according to their website.
Mr Johnston said that at the polling booths on election day he heard Moore volunteers echoing similar slogans seemingly appropriated from the Greens.
“Her booth workers were using Greens slogans openly on election day and I made some criticism of one of them at Town Hall for using known Greens slogans that we’d be using for many years,” Mr Johnston said.
Christopher Harris, former NSW Greens treasurer and City of Sydney Councillor said that in his view, the main reason for the Greens poor election results were voters’ inability to distinguish Clover Moore from the Greens.
“I think Clover is seen as somebody who achieves everything the Greens could possibly achieve and people voted for her instead of voting for the Greens.”
“The average voter would see a vote for Clover as as good as voting for the Greens,” Mr Harris said.
Mr Harris told City Hub that the City of Sydney elections pushed the Greens resources to the limit and that the Greens lost volunteers to the Clover Moore Independent Team.
“It is also tough with City of Sydney elections because a lot of Greens actually work for Clover so we struggle for resources, for volunteers because they work on the Clover campaign,” Mr Harris said.
Labor Councillor re-elect Linda Scott told City Hub that the Greens had suffered “swings against them,” and when asked the reason for Moore’s victory said she too thought it was a reaction to the new business voting laws.
“I think it’s clear it was a protest vote against the Baird Liberal government seeking to gerrymander the City of Sydney for their own benefit,” Ms Scott said.
Greens candidate Lindsay Johnston said he he is “still in there with a shot of a seat” and will be waiting to see the final results as they unfold this week.