By Joe Bourke
The Liberal Party comfortably hung onto government at last Saturday’s election but the Greens stole the show, gaining more representation in NSW parliament than ever before.
Greens MP Jamie Parker retained the close seat of Balmain against strong opponent Verity Firth while Jenny Leong comfortably won the hotly contested seat of Newtown against Labor’s Penny Sharpe.
In rural NSW, the Greens’ opposition to the extraction of coal seam gas held them in good stead as they took Ballina and at the time of publication still had a chance of defeating the Nationals in Lismore.
The mood was ecstatic at the Greens election after party, where Mr Parker spoke to the crowd about the Greens’ future growth.
“They said we couldn’t do it,” he said to thunderous applause.
The mood at Verity Firth’s post-campaign headquarters was not quite so triumphant.
Ms Firth arrived at the venue alongside Tanya Plibersek, federal member for Sydney and deputy leader of the Opposition.
Ms Plibersek praised Ms Firth’s campaign, saying that she was the best candidate Labor could have asked for in the electorate.
The ALP’s failure to win Balmain and Newtown has placed pressure on the party, prompting some to say Anthony Albanese’s federal seat of Grayndler could be in trouble at the next election.
Paul Boundy has been a campaigner for the Greens for over ten years and said although Mr Albanese has a strong following, the Greens could be in with a shot at the seat.
“If a party is more favourable at a state level then they’re probably going to be more favourable at a federal level as well, and I don’t know the exact numbers but I reckon it’ll be close,” he said.
“He’s quite popular but I think we could have a chance.”
Labor’s Paul Pearce failed to reclaim Coogee, despite a six percent swing towards him. Mr Pearce said he didn’t think Mr Albanese would be in any trouble at the next election.
“If the people who are Greens who consider themselves Left want a good spokesperson in parliament they would obviously support Anthony Albanese,” Mr Pearce said.
“He’s leader of the Left in the party, he’s never taken a step backwards on good Left policies and it would be extraordinarily stupid to be knocking off Anthony for a Green who’s going to sit there and be irrelevant to the political process.”
Mr Boundy said the notion of a “token” Greens candidate was a misrepresentation and with the party’s growth came the ability to make a difference.
“I don’t think it’s ever a ‘token’. I’d prefer the term ‘symbolic’ because that means you’re just meaningless but we can actually make a difference,” he said.
“I can just see the Greens growing and growing now.”
The relationship between the Greens and the Labor party is anything but harmonious, especially as the third string party picks up steam.
Luke Foley told Fairfax Media last week that the Greens were “an enemy because they are seeking to replace the Labor party”.
Randwick Greens councillor Murray Matson said this was unfair as the Greens exist in their own right.
“I do feel that the Labor party should stop this jealous protecting of what it sees as its place in the political spectrum. We’re not there for the Labor party. We’re there for climate change issues, social justice issues, and issues of transparency and accountability in the electoral system,” he said.