On Saturday 24 November 2007, the thirteen and a half million enrolled Australians wrote the Howard Government into history. Not just a mild rebuke, but one of the most delightfully unambiguous electoral demolition jobs our country has ever seen. An army of AEC staff and volunteers are still reading the fine print, but it looks like the Howard Government has been decapitated, with the Prime Minister rolled out of Parliament, the architect of the NT intervention bluntly deposed, and a crushing number of seats turning over everywhere but the boom state of Western Australia.
What a beautiful day. A whole generation has grown up with no concept of Australia without Howard, and the banal but ruthlessly efficient strain of neo-conservatism which he channelled.
Here’s how it’s done in Australia in 2007: with eskies full of soft drink, miles of evil plastic bunting, and carefully deployed armies of colour coded volunteers offering pamphlets to queues of mildly resentful citizens. At the end of a ten hour day, executive power changes hands.
While the focus has obviously been on the earthquake in the House of Representatives, something equally significant appears to have happened in the Senate: the balance of power will probably now be shared by the Liberals, Nationals, Labor, the Australian Greens, Family First and South Australian Independent Nick Xenophon.
That’s worth restating: no single political entity has absolute control of both houses of Parliament. To win any given initiative, the parties will need to negotiate with each other, which is more or less how the people who drafted the Constitution intended the Senate to operate.
Our campaign team in WA had a dream run on the 24th. More than a thousand booth workers fanned out across the state, setting up cheerful positions at hundreds of polling places to remind people that the Greens exist as a viable alternative to the shrinking differences between the major parties. If you were one of those people, huge thanks.
Our vote went up in nearly every seat in the state, and with the count under way it looks like our Senate vote will be in excess of 9.2%. While the swing to the ALP was far less pronounced in WA than the rest of the country, it was great to see the Greens not just holding our ground but winning the votes of – we believe – more than a hundred thousand Western Australians. The total national Green vote will be in excess of a million people for the first time.
While we are not yet ready to definitively claim the WA Senate position as a win, we are very hopeful. Counting will continue until mid-December; until then please keep your fingers crossed! The ACT (with an astonishing 22% of the vote), Victoria and Queensland are still an outside chance of a Greens win – unlikely, but not impossible. It appears we have almost certainly lost Senator Kerry Nettle’s seat despite a huge increase in the NSW Green vote, and anyone who knows anything about Kerry’s work will appreciate what a huge loss this is. In Tasmania, we polled over a quota for the first time – emphatically re-electing Senator Bob Brown.
But locally, we’re simply delighted with how we’ve done in WA. An election campaign is a massive, complex endeavour which never goes without a hitch. From those in the office doing 18 hour days to the dedicated volunteers supporting our 15 lower house candidates, the 2007 election campaign team have done something remarkable. We have built the Greens profile, substantially increased our vote, and probably elected a Senator, under conditions approaching a media blackout. Thanks to you, and to everyone who made this happen.