The Australian Greens Victoria was formed in 1992 as a response to the formation of the Australian Greens which united pre-existing Green parties in Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. The first election the Greens contested in Victoria was the 1993 Federal election when the party contested the seat of La Trobe.
We first made people sit up and take notice in 1994 with two outstanding by-election results: 21% in Coburg and 28% in Kooyong. They were among the best results ever achieved by a small party in Australian history.
With greatly increased membership after these successes, the party tackled the 1996 Federal election. Our lead Senate candidate was Peter Singer, but we achieved only 2.9% of the vote statewide, largely because of a strong Democrats campaign led by Cheryl Kernot. Within a month of the Federal election, the Greens took on both many local elections and a general State election.
The Greens had high hopes for our lead Senate candidate at the 1998 Federal election. Charmaine Clarke would have been the first Aboriginal woman elected to any parliament in Australia, as well as the first out lesbian elected to Canberra. However, our vote slipped back to 2.5% in an election dominated by One Nation and tax.
In March 1999, David Risstrom was elected to the Melbourne City Council. His achievements on issues such as planning, transport and greenhouse emissions demonstrated just how much even one Green can do once elected.
At the State election that year the Greens achieved our highest average vote for any statewide election, winning almost 5% in all contested lower house seats. With no ALP candidate in the upper house seat of Templestowe, Robyn Evans won 38% of the vote, and after preferences achieved 44%, the highest vote ever achieved by a Green anywhere in Australia.
In the 2001 Federal election, the Greens got a vote of 5.9% statewide in the House of Representatives, and 6% in the Senate. Another Green, Gurm Sekhon, was elected to local government, on Yarra City Council. This was the first time in Australia a Green had been elected to a single-member electorate. In 2002, he was joined by Greens councillors Greg Barber, Deborah Di Natale and Jenny Farrar. Shortly after the Greens were elected to Yarra City Council, a number of previously existing problems became public, throwing the council into financial crisis. The Green councillors were crucial to steering Yarra through, expanding services while getting liabilities under control.
2002 also saw the election of Greens Stephen Hart in Colac-Otway Shire and Fraser Brindley in Moreland City.
In November 2008, a record number of 95 Greens candidates were fielded in local council elections. As a result, 19 councillors were elected across the State, an increase of five, with Greens elected to six new councils. For the first time, there were Greens councillors in Queenscliffe, Port Phillip, Surf Coast, Casey, Darebin and Glen Eira. We also came desperately close to having 6 or 7 more councillors elected. If about 100 votes across the State had changed direction, we would have won these seats. In fact, in Shepparton, Ian Christoe missed out by a single vote and a number of other Greens missed out by a mere handful of votes. There is no question that our vote was up considerably (an average of 14.78% in the areas where we fielded candidates). In Yarra Ranges, Greens Councillor Samantha Dunn was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote.
The 2002 State election was something of a watershed for the Victorian Greens, with a vote of 9.73% statewide. Two Greens narrowly missed out on election to the lower house – Gemma Pinnell in Richmond and Richard Di Natale in Melbourne.
In 2003, Greg Barber became Australia's first Green Mayor and at around the same time, Janet Rice and Colleen Hartland became Maribyrnong City Councillors. In office, Greens councillors worked to improve their local governments' environmental performance, services and community consultation/participation.
In the 2004 Federal election, the ALP, Democrats and Liberals for Forests preferenced conservative Christian Family First Senate candidate Steve Fielding ahead of Greens candidate David Risstrom. The Greens got 243,580 primary votes, and Family First got only 53,032 primary votes. However, Steve Fielding was elected to the Senate on preferences, predominantly those from the ALP. He went on to provide the Howard government with the crucial vote it needed to introduce regressive Voluntary Student Unionism legislation, legislation opposed by Greens, Democrats and the ALP.
2004 local government elections returned three Greens to Yarra City Council, Kathleen Maltzahn, Gurm Sekhon and Jenny Farrar, plus Andrea Sharam and Jo Connellan in Moreland. Fraser Brindley shifted to Melbourne City Council, replacing David Risstrom who had stepped down. Stephen Hart in Colac-Otway Shire was narrowly defeated.
In 2005 the Greens made further local government progress, particularly in areas where our vote had previously been weak. Among those elected were Samantha Dunn in Yarra Ranges, Helen Harris in Whitehorse, Miles Dymott in Brimbank, Ben Opie in Moonee Valley and Philip Schier in Mt Alexander. Colleen Hartland was defeated, but Janet Rice was returned and subsequently became Mayor of Maribyrnong City Council. Janet also became Chair of the Metropolitan Transport Forum, and provided a strong and credible voice in support of investment in sustainable transport.
2006 saw three more Green Mayors elected: Julie Rivendell in Bendigo, Ben Opie in Moonee Valley and Jenny Farrar in Yarra.
In 2008, Adam Bandt and Kathleen Maltzahn contested the Lord Mayoral and Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne. They came second in a large field of 11 candidate teams, losing only to the high profile ex Liberal leader; Robert Doyle. Given the high vote of businesses in the Melbourne CBD; this was an excellent result.
Our first Victorian Green MPs
The outcome of the 2002 State election opened up new possibilities for the Victorian Greens. The Bracks government had implemented upper house reform, giving us our first real chance to elect Greens to the Victorian Parliament. After a long and hard-fought campaign, three Greens, Greg Barber (Northern Metropolitan), Sue Pennicuik (Southern Metropolitan) and Colleen Hartland (Western Metropolitan), were elected to the State upper house at the 2006 State election.
Our upper house vote was 10.57% statewide, a credit to all our candidates because proportional representation had attracted much more competition - at least seven parties in every seat. Any candidate needed only 16.67% of the vote after preferences to become a member of the Legislative Council. Our main aim had been to win two seats, and when the upper house results were first counted, we did indeed have only two Green MLCs (Greg Barber and Sue Pennicuik). They shared the balance of power with two Nationals and two DLP members of parliament. The DLP received a very low primary vote, but succeeded on ALP preferences.
However, three seats were very close and were thus recounted. The recount took Colleen Hartland from 76 votes behind to 129 votes ahead (out of a total of 374, 411 votes) to win the final seat in Western Metropolitan from the ALP. The ALP also took one seat from the DLP at the recount, leaving the final composition of the upper house as 19 ALP, 15 Liberal, 3 Green, 2 National and 1 DLP MLCs.
In the lower house, no Greens were elected but our vote across the State increased to 10.04%. Richard Di Natale once again came close to winning the State seat of Melbourne, losing by a margin of 1274 votes. A swing of 5.37% to Cyndi Dawes in Brunswick gave her the highest vote recorded by a Green in an Australian parliamentary election contested by both ALP and Liberal - 29.71%.
In early 2007, an additional Green was elected to the City of Moonee Valley, Rose Iser. In September 2007, State byelection candidates, Janet Rice and John Middleton, increased our vote to 22% (35% after preferences) in Williamstown and 28% (43% after preferences) in Albert Park, respectively.
In 2007, Greens across Victoria campaigned hard for our first Senate seat, but our lead candidate Richard Di Natale narrowly missed out (by the equivalent of about 9,000 votes of the approximately 3,300,000 cast) because of the way preferences flowed. However, our Statewide vote increased to 10.08% in the Senate and 8.17% in the House of Representatives, and Victoria had the first ALP-Green marginal seat in the Federal seat of Melbourne where our candidate, Adam Bandt won 22.8% of primary votes and 45.29 after preferences were distributed, thus taking ALP frontbencher Lindsay Tanner to preferences in a formerly safe Labor seat.
2010: an historic year
In 2010 the Victorian Greens had an unprecedented year of excitement and success. After almost two decades of heartbreak and unlucky Federal election results, not only did we elect a Greens senator, Richard Di Natale, in Victoria but we also made history with Adam Bandt winning the Greens first ever House of Representatives seat in the Federal seat of Melbourne. The Greens are stronger than ever before with 14% of Victoria now voting with us. Another real highlight was the impressive rise in the Greens vote in country Victoria. One in ten country people are now voting Greens, with Helen Healy doubling the Greens vote in the Mallee and Ian Christoe in Murray convincingly breaking through the 4% barrier for the first time.
The Federal seat of Batman is now 42 /58 Greens/Labor two party preferred, with Alex Bhathal and the Batman team topping the Liberals vote and achieving a primary vote of nearly 24%. And a swing of over 6% in Melbourne Ports, brought our vote to over 21%, an outstanding result from Greens candidate, Sue Plowright and team. A slightly smaller swing brought us to over 19% in Wills from Mark Riley and team. We more than doubled our vote in the seats of Mallee, Murray, Corio, Gorton and Holt, with mostly first-time candidates. Lenka Thompson and team almost tripled our vote in Calwell and we have increased our vote by around 50% in many other seats, including notable results in the blue-ribbon Liberal-held seats of Goldstein (16.2%), Higgins (17.2%) and Kooyong (18.27).
In November 2010 we followed up on our impressive Federal results with our most successful State election ever. In the upper house we achieved the highest ever result recorded by the Greens in a State election on the mainland. Our vote rose by 1.2% in the lower house, to 11.2%, and around 1.6% in the upper house, to 12.1% compared to 2006. Our vote rose in every one of the upper house regions, and in more than 60 of the lower house regions. We also achieved primary vote swings in our four strongest lower house electorates – Melbourne, Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote - and strong swings (up to 8.9%) in an arc of seats stretching from Williamstown to Ivanhoe, including Footscray, Derrimut, Essendon, Pascoe Vale and Preston. All three of our MLCs were returned with Colleen Hartland re-elected in Western Metro with a swing of 4%, alongside Sue Pennicuik in Southern Metropolitan and Greg Barber in Northern Metropolitan.
Looking back, if the nineties saw the Greens in their infancy, and the noughties were the Greens in their adolescence, then the next decade, the twenty-teens, must be when the Greens enter early adulthood. Building on our impressive electoral successes, we are looking forward to a time of continued growth and the further flourishing of progressive politics in Victoria.