Australian Greens

Australian Greens
Leader Richard Di Natale
Deputy leaders Larissa Waters, Scott Ludlam
Founded 1992
Headquarters 23/85 Northbourne Avenue
Turner ACT 2612
Newspaper Green Magazine
Youth wing Young Greens
Membership Increase15,000+ (2016)[1]
Ideology Green politics
International affiliation Global Greens
Asia-Pacific Green Network
Colours      Green
House of Representatives
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The Australian Greens (commonly known as The Greens) is an Australian green political party.

The party was formed in 1992 and is today a confederation of eight state and territory parties. In addition to environmentalism the party cites four core values: ecological sustainability, social justice, grassroots democracy and peace and non-violence.[2]

Party constituencies can be traced to various origins – notably the early environmental movement in Australia and the formation of the United Tasmania Group (UTG), one of the first green parties in the world,[3] but also the nuclear disarmament movement in Western Australia and sections of the industrial left in New South Wales. Co-ordination between environmentalist groups occurred in the 1980s with various significant protests. Key people involved in these campaigns included Bob Brown and Christine Milne who went on to contest and win seats in the Tasmanian Parliament and eventually form the Tasmanian Greens; both Brown and Milne subsequently became leaders of the federal party.

Federally, following the 2016 Australian federal election, the Greens have nine senators and one member in the lower house, 23 elected representatives across state and territory parliaments, more than 100 local councillors,[4] and over 15,000 party members (as of 2016).[5]

Political ideology

Richard Di Natale, Green leader 2015–present

The Australian Greens are part of the global "green politics" movement. The charter of the Australian Greens identifies the following as the four pillars of the party's policy: "social justice", "sustainability", "grassroots democracy" and "peace and non-violence".[6] Major policy initiatives of recent years have also included taxation reform, review of the American alliance, implementation of harm minimisation in relation to drug use.

Policy positions




Foreign policy

Bioethics and family policy



Law reform

Indigenous affairs


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The formation of the Australian Greens in 1992 brought together over a dozen green groups, from state and local organisations, some of which had existed for 20 years.[2]

The precursor to the Tasmanian Greens (the earliest existent member of the federation of parties that is the Australian Greens), the United Tasmania Group, was founded in 1972 to oppose the construction of new dams to flood Lake Pedder. The campaign failed to prevent the flooding of Lake Pedder and the party failed to gain political representation. One of the party's candidates was Bob Brown, then a doctor in Launceston.[26]

In the late 1970s and 1980s, a public campaign to prevent the construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania saw environmentalist and activist Norm Sanders elected to the Tasmanian Parliament as an Australian Democrat. Brown, then director of the Wilderness Society, contested the election as an independent, but failed to win a seat.[27]

In 1982 Norm Sanders resigned from Parliament, and Brown was elected to replace him on a countback.[28]

During her 1984 visit to Australia, West German Greens parliamentarian Petra Kelly urged that the various Greens groups in Australia develop a national identity. Partly as a result of this, 50 Greens activists gathered in Tasmania in December to organise a national conference.[29]

The title "The Greens" had been first registered in Sydney in the 1980s by what The Monthly Magazine described as "a band of inner-city radicals committed to resident action, nuclear disarmament and urban environmental causes, such as stopping expressways and preserving parklands". The group formed as the Sydney Greens and evolved into the Green Alliance, with the stated aim of not forming a "traditional hierarchy party". According to party co-ordinator Hall Greenland, when amalgamation with Bob Brown's Tasmanian movement was first mooted, Brown was hesitant owing to what he perceived as the "anarchic leftism" of the Sydney movement. New South Wales and Western Australian Green groups were also wary of amalgamation owing to local autonomy concerns and a 1986 attempt by Brown to form a national party failed. The movement for a national party continued however. In an effort to reduce the influence of the Democratic Socialist Party (formerly Socialist Workers Party) in the New South Wales Greens, Brown successfully moved for a ban on dual party membership by Greens. Following formation of the national party in 1992, regional emphasis variations remained within the Greens, with members of the "industrial left" remaining a presence in the New South Wales branch.[2]

The Green movement gained its first federal parliamentary representative when Senator Jo Vallentine of Western Australia, who had been elected in 1984 for the Nuclear Disarmament Party and later sat as an independent, was part of the formation of and joined The Greens (WA), a party formed in Western Australia, and not affiliated to the Australian Greens at that time.

In 1992, representatives from around the nation gathered in North Sydney and agreed to form the Australian Greens, although the state Greens parties, particularly in Western Australia, retained their separate identities for a period. Brown resigned from the Tasmanian Parliament in 1993, and in 1996 he was elected as a senator for Tasmania, the first elected as an Australian Greens candidate.[30]

Initially the most successful Greens group during this period was The Greens (WA), at that time still a separate organisation from the Australian Greens. Vallentine was succeeded by Christabel Chamarette in 1992, and she was joined by Dee Margetts in 1993. But Chamarette was defeated in 1996. Margetts opposed the industrial relations reform agenda of the Howard Government. Following the 'Cavalcade to Canberra' protest of 19 August 1996, in which 2000 breakaway civilians rioted in and around Parliament House,[31] Margetts told the Senate that "The Greens (WA) do not associate ourselves with the violent action" and that while "there are obviously some in the Greens movement who have differing opinions about that" she personally did not think there was "any justification for the use of violence to the extent that we saw". Margetts lost her seat in the 1998 federal election, leaving Brown as the sole Australian Greens senator.

Leadership of Bob Brown

Bob Brown at a climate change rally in Melbourne on 5 July 2008

The national party initially resisted appointing a party leader, however Bob Brown was later selected. The New South Wales Greens remained ideologically opposed to appointing a leader and continue not to appoint such a position.[2] The WA Greens had lost office in the Senate by 1998, leaving Bob Brown as the sole representative of the party. Thereafter, the national vote was set to increase consecutively at elections up until 2010.[2]

2001 federal election onward

In the 2001 federal election, Brown was re-elected as a senator for Tasmania, and a second Greens senator, Kerry Nettle, was elected in New South Wales. The Greens opposed the Howard Government's Pacific Solution of offshore processing for asylum seekers, and opposed the bipartisan offers of support to the US alliance and Afghanistan War by the government and Beazley Opposition in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks in 2001, describing the Afghanistan commitment as "warmongering".[32] This contributed to increased support for the Greens by disaffected Labor voters and helped identify the Greens as more than just a single-issue environmental party. In 2002 the Greens won a House of Representatives seat for the first time when Michael Organ won the Cunningham by-election.

In the lead-up to the Iraq War, in September 2002, Bob Brown said that the Greens would oppose military action in Iraq regardless of the position of the United Nations Security Council and said that any conflict would be "a vengeance for the S11 attack that's involved here as well as the American corporations wanting to get their hands on the Iraqi oil" and that if Saddam Hussein "does have weapons of mass destruction, the attack might be the thing that gets him to use them", so it would be better to "resolv[e] the Palestinian crisis, which could lead—open up a real avenue to peace in the Middle East, and neutralise Saddam Hussein by doing it".[33]

2004 federal election onward

In the 2004 federal election, the Greens' primary vote rose by 2.3% to 7.2%. This won them two additional Senate seats, taken by Christine Milne in Tasmania and Rachel Siewert in Western Australia, bringing the total to four. However, the success of the Howard Government in winning a majority in the Senate meant that the Greens' influence on legislation decreased. Michael Organ was defeated by Labor in Cunningham.

Additionally, in the 2004 election there was an intense media campaign from the socially conservative Family First Party, including a television advertisement labelling the Greens the "Extreme Greens". Competitive preferencing strategies prompted by the nature of Senate balloting (see Australian electoral system) lead to the Australian Labor Party and the Democrats ranking Family First higher than the Greens on their Senate tickets, and the Greens losing preferences they would normally have received from the two parties. Consequently, although outpolling Family First by a ratio of more than four to one first-preference votes, Victorian Family First candidate Steve Fielding was elected on preferences over the Australian Greens' David Risstrom, an unintended consequence of these strategies.[34] In Tasmania, Christine Milne only narrowly gained her Senate seat before a Family First candidate, despite obtaining almost the full required quota of primary votes. It was only the high incidence of "below-the-line" voting in Tasmania that negated the effect of the preference-swap deal between Labor and Family First.[35]

The Australian Greens fielded candidates in every House of Representatives seat in Australia, and for all state and territory Senate positions. The Greens (WA) were able to win Legislative Council seats in rural and remote-area seats (Mining and Pastoral, Agricultural and South West provinces).

In 2005, the Greens' Lee Rhiannon lobbied the Vatican to reject Australian Cardinal George Pell as a candidate for the Papacy on the basis of his support for conservative Catholic moral doctrine. In 2007, Rhiannon referred remarks made by Pell opposing embryonic stem cell research to the New South Wales parliamentary privileges committee for allegedly being in "contempt of parliament". Pell was cleared of the charge and described the move as a "clumsy attempt to curb religious freedom and freedom of speech".[36][37]

The Australian Greens' primary vote increased by 4.1% in the 2006 South Australia election, 1.% in the 2006 Queensland election, and 0.7% in the 2007 election in New South Wales.

The results for the 2006 Victoria state election were mixed, with an improved vote for the Greens in the lower house, but a fall in their upper-house vote.

Against this upward trend was a swing of 1.5% away from the Greens in the 2006 election in Tasmania.[38]

On 31 August 2004, the Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun published a page-three-story by journalist Gerard McManus entitled "Greens back illegal drugs" in the lead-up to the 2004 federal election. In response to the article, Brown lodged a complaint with the Australian Press Council. After the election, the Press Council upheld Brown's complaint. An appeal by the Herald Sun was dismissed and it was ordered to publish the Press Council's adjudication.[39][40]

2007 federal election onward

Bob Brown lays out the Greens' climate change policies in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election

As in previous years, the Greens' vote was strongest in inner-city seats, including Melbourne (22.7% of primary votes), Sydney (20.7%), Grayndler (18.7%), Denison (18.6%) and Batman (17.2%).[41] Strong votes were also recorded in Liberal-held city based seats such as Higgins (10.8%), Kooyong (11.8%) Curtin (13.4%) and Wentworth (15.0%). The primary vote for the Greens in suburban and regional areas was generally smaller.

The Greens directly contributed to Howard's defeat in his own electorate, the Sydney-area seat of Bennelong. Greens candidate Lindsay Peters received 5.5% of the primary vote. He was eliminated after the 14th count, and more than three-fourths of his preferences went to Labor challenger Maxine McKew. This margin was enough to make McKew only the second person to unseat a sitting prime minister.

The Greens increased their national vote by 1.38 points to 9.04% at the 2007 federal election, with a net increase of one senator to a total of five. Senators Bob Brown (Tas) and Kerry Nettle (NSW) were up for re-election, Brown was re-elected, but Nettle was unsuccessful, becoming the only Australian Greens senator to lose their seat. Elected at the 2001 federal election on a primary vote of 4.36% in New South Wales with One Nation and micro-party preference flows,[42][43][44] she failed to gain re-election in 2007 due to preferences, despite an increase in the New South Wales Green primary vote to 8.43%.[45][46]

Percentage of lower house first preference Green votes at the 2007 federal election in selected Australian cities

Other Greens Senate candidates were Larissa Waters (Qld), Richard Di Natale (Vic), Scott Ludlam (WA), Sarah Hanson-Young (SA) and Kerrie Tucker (ACT). Ludlam and Hanson-Young were elected and took up office on 26 August 2008 when all senators elected on 24 November 2007 were sworn in.[47][48]

This was also the first general election for the Greens in which a lower house seat went "maverick". In the Division of Melbourne, the Greens polled 22.80% of the primary vote, overtaking the Liberals on preferences, finishing on a two-party-preferred figure of 45.29% against Labor.

An extensive campaign was undertaken in the ACT, in an attempt to end coalition control of the Senate immediately after the election, as territory senators take their place at this time as opposed to their state counterparts on the next 1 July. The ACT elects two seats with terms (in parallel with those of the House of Representatives), so a larger quota than normal is required for election. Despite a swing of 5.1 points to the Greens, on 21.5%, their best result in any state or territory, the party fell significantly short of the required quota.

At the 2008 Northern Territory election, the Greens ran in six of the 25 seats in the unicameral parliament, averaging 16% of the vote but won no seats. At the 2008 Western Australian election, the Greens won 11–12 percent of the statewide vote in both the lower and upper houses, with four of 36 seats in the latter, an increase of two.

In the 2008 Australian Capital Territory election, conducted under the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation, the Greens doubled their vote to around 15%, going from one to four seats in the 17-member unicameral parliament, giving them the balance of power. After almost two weeks of deliberations, the Greens chose to allow Labor to form a minority government.[49][50][51] The Greens hold the post of Speaker in the ACT Legislative Assembly, the first for a Green party in Australia.

In November 2008, Senator Christine Milne was elected deputy leader in a ballot contested against Senator Rachel Siewert.

In May 2009, the Greens won their second-ever single-member electorate, with Adele Carles winning the Fremantle by-election for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. The seat had been held by the Labor Party since 1924.[52] It was the first time the Greens had outpolled the Labor Party on the primary vote in any Labor-held seat.[53]

In December 2009, the Greens received over 30 percent of the primary vote in the federal Higgins by-election in Victoria, in the absence of a Labor candidate. It is the highest primary vote recorded by the Greens in a Liberal-held lower-house seat.

At the March 2010 Tasmanian state election, the Greens won 21.6 percent of the primary vote amongst the five multi-member electorates, resulting in the Greens winning five of twenty-five seats in the lower house and holding the balance of power. With Labor and the Liberals winning ten seats each, the Greens backed a Labor minority government. Tasmanian Greens Leader Nick McKim was appointed to the new Labor-Green cabinet, making him the first Green Minister in Australia.

In the lead-up to the 2010 Australian federal election, the Australian Christian Lobby and the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney criticised Greens policies as "anti-Christian". In an 8 August opinion article for Sydney's Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Cardinal Archbishop George Pell wrote that the Greens were hostile to the family, opposed to religious schools, had pressured against Catholic management of Calvary Hospital in Canberra and said the party contained Stalinists and a wing who were "watermelons" -"green on the outside, red on the inside" whose policies were "impractical and expensive, which will not help the poor".[54] In response to the article, Senator Bob Brown said Pell was "bearing false witness" and that the Greens were in fact "much closer to mainstream Christian thinking than Cardinal Pell".[55] Jesuit human rights lawyer Fr. Frank Brennan responded in an essay by saying that while some Greens might be anti-Christian, others like Lin Hatfield Dodds "have given distinguished public service in their churches for decades." On some policy issues, wrote Brennan, "the Greens have a more Christian message than the major parties", while on issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage and funding for church schools, the party would never be able to "carry the day given that policy changes in these areas will occur only if they are supported by a majority from both major political parties".[56]

In the lead up to the 2010 election, Bob Brown opposed the senate pre-selection of high-profile New South Wales Green Lee Rhiannon in favour of environmentalist Cate Faehrmann, saying that the Greens needed "new blood". Rhiannon, a socialist who had also campaigned on gun control, foreign aid, political donations and urban renewal said that there were differing visions for the future of the Greens – one of increased centralisation of party decision making versus a vision she supported of empowering membership. Rhiannon was confirmed as the candidate.[2]

2010 federal election onward

Federal Senate election results
(Greens – percent of overall vote)

At the August 2010 federal election the Greens received a four percent swing to finish with 13 percent of the vote (more than 1.6 million votes) in the Senate, a first for any Australian minor party. The Senate vote throughout the states was between 10 and 20 percent.[57] The Greens won a seat in each of the six states at the election, again a first for any Australian minor party, bringing the party to a total of nine senators from July 2011, holding the balance of power in the Senate. The new senators were Lee Rhiannon in New South Wales, Richard Di Natale in Victoria, Larissa Waters in Queensland, Rachel Siewert in Western Australia, Penny Wright in South Australia and Christine Milne in Tasmania.[58] Incumbents Scott Ludlam in Western Australia, Sarah Hanson-Young in South Australia and Bob Brown in Tasmania were not due for re-election. The Greens also won their first House of Representatives seat at a general election, the seat of Melbourne with candidate Adam Bandt, who was a crossbencher in the first hung parliament since the 1940 federal election.[59] Almost two weeks after the election, Bandt and the Greens agreed to support a Gillard Labor minority government on confidence and supply votes. Labor was returned to government with the additional support of three independent crossbenchers.[60][61][62]

The election resulted in a hung parliament. Six crossbench MPs shared the balance of power.[63][64] The Greens signed a formal agreement with the Australian Labor Party involving consultation in relation to policy and support in the House of Representatives in relation to confidence and supply and three of the independents declared their support for Labor on confidence and supply,[65][66] allowing Gillard and Labor to remain in power with a 76–74 minority government.[67]

In the 2010 Victorian state election, the Liberal party directed voters to preference the ALP ahead of the Greens. The Greens' primary vote increased slightly overall from 10.04% to 10.6% of the overall vote, but the party did not win any lower-house seats. Federal Greens leader Bob Brown said of the result that it was positive but that: "The Liberals' preferencing to Labor means that instead of there being three Greens in the new parliament there won't be".[68]

On 24 February 2011, in a joint press conference of the "Climate Change Committee" – comprising the Government, Greens and two independent MPs – Prime Minister Gillard announced a plan to legislate for the introduction of a fixed price to be imposed on "carbon pollution" from 1 July 2012[69] The carbon price would be placed for three to five years before a full emissions trading scheme is implemented, under a blueprint agreed by a multi-party parliamentary committee.[70] Key issues remained to be negotiated between the Government and the cross-benches, including compensation arrangements for households and businesses, the carbon price level, the emissions reduction target and whether or not to include fuel in the price.[71]

The Greens support protecting the welfare of the people of Libya and so supported the United States-led military intervention in Libya.[72] The view of Deputy leader Christine Milne, that the Greens "want to make sure that [they] protect civilians wherever [they] can... to ensur[e] that we will save lives...", is commensurate with this position.[73]

At the Greens NSW State Conference, which was held prior to the New South Wales state election in 2011, a resolution was adopted in support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.[74] The move, proposed by Sylvia Hale and backed by Lee Rhiannon, had already been rejected by Leader Bob Brown.[2] Soon after, however, their motion was backed by the Marrickville Council – resulting in a "boycott [against] all goods made in Israel and any sporting, academic, government or cultural exchanges".[75] Local Labor MP Anthony Albanese called the move "misguided", sparking media interest and inciting anger among many Jewish Australians. The move also caused a rift within the Greens.[2] Following the 2010 election, Bob Brown said that he had conveyed his disapproval of this policy to Rhiannon.[76] Brown said that the policy was "a mistake" made by the NSW branch whereas Rhiannon said it had not been prosecuted hard enough.[2]

Amidst ongoing debate over taxation, industry policy and climate change, Leader Bob Brown began to refer to sections within the Australian media that expressed criticism of Greens' policies or candidates as the "hate media", singling out the Murdoch Press in particular.[77]

Outlining his industry and climate policies on ABC's 7:30 Program in May 2011, Bob Brown voiced support for a reduction in subsidies to fossil fuel industries, the implementation of a price on carbon; a higher level of profit tax on the mining industry and a phasing out of Australia's coal export industry, saying: "The world is going to do that because it is causing massive economic damage down the line through the impact of climate change."[78]

In 2011, the Greens called for the permanent closure of Australia's live export meat industry, following revelations of mistreatment of Australian cattle in some Indonesian abattoirs.[79]

On 24 March Queensland state election, 2012 the total primary vote for The Queensland Greens fell by 0.84% to 7.53%.[80][81]

Leadership of Christine Milne

On 13 April 2012, Bob Brown announced that he was resigning as federal parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens and that he would leave the Senate in June. Christine Milne was elected unanimously as the new leader by the party. MP Adam Bandt was elected deputy leader.[82]

Christine Milne speaking at the Peoples Climate March in Melbourne in September 2014

The "ease of the Greens leadership transition" was widely praised,[83] with one commentator noting "She has survived the transition in leadership with grace and steadfastness of vision" ,[84] and Milne set about expanding the party's reach, looking first to regional Australia.[85]

Milne took the leadership at a time when the Greens nationally had passed a peak. In the 18 months between the high water mark of the 2010 Federal Election and Brown's retirement, polls nationally were trending downwards. This was reflected in a number of setbacks for state and local Greens parties, which some commentators blamed on Brown's absence. The outcome of 20 October 2012 election in the ACT resulted in a reduction of Greens Legislative Assembly members, from four to one.[86] The Western Australian state election was held in March 2013.[87] For the Legislative Assembly, the total primary vote for the Greens fell by 3.52% to 8.40%. In the Legislative Council the Greens' representation was reduced from four to two members.[88][89]

Even some impressive results which failed to deliver wins, such as the 2012 Melbourne state by-election, where the Greens received the highest number of first preference votes but did not win the seat as some had expected, were used to attack Milne.[90]

In a 19 February address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Christine Milne announced that the Federal Greens alliance with the Labor Party was "effectively over".[91] In particular, Milne cited a failure by the Gillard Government to redraft the mining tax it had concluded prior to the 2010 Election as evidence that the government had "walked away" from its agreement with the Greens. Nevertheless, Milne promised to continue to guarantee confidence and supply to the Labor Government on the floor of Parliament, so as not to "advance the interests" of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.[92]

Milne was aware that the period in balance of power would be electorally costly for the party, telling members that "You earn political capital in opposition and you spend it in power."[93] With that in mind, and following the disappointing state results, Milne and the Australian Greens set as their goal for the 2013 election a clear target of retaining their existing seats and perhaps win one more Senate seat in Victoria, rather than to increase the vote nationally.[85] Despite a reduction in the vote, maintaining and slightly increasing parliamentary representation is exactly what Milne achieved.

Christine Milne resigned as leader of the Australian Greens on 6 May 2015.[94] Milne was replaced by Victorian senator Richard Di Natale, with Adam Bandt being replaced as deputy leader by Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam at the same time.[95]

Leadership of Richard Di Natale

Richard Di Natale became leader of the Australian Greens following Christine Milne's resignation, on 6 May 2015.[96]

Under Richard Di Natale, the party has taken a much more pragmatic approach to policy and dealing with government legislation than under previous leaders.[97]

The party voted in support for legislation that saw assets testing for age pensions reduced from $1M down to $800,000.[98] The Greens also negotiated with the government and secured a tax disclosure threshold for big businesses earning more than $200M a year.

2013 federal election onward

Top 10 primary votes in 2013

At the 2013 federal election the House of Representatives (lower house) primary vote was 8.7 percent (−3.1) with the Senate (upper house) primary vote at 8.7 percent (−4.5). Despite that, as targeted, the Greens representation in the parliament increased. Adam Bandt retained his Melbourne seat with a primary vote of 42.6 percent (+7.0) and a two-candidate preferred vote of 55.3 percent (−0.6). The Greens won four Senate positions, increasing their Senate representation from nine to ten Senators to take effect from 1 July 2014, to a total of eleven Green members in the Parliament of Australia.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review, Vincent Mahon, a former campaign manager for the Greens, said that while the Greens were able to present positive achievements to the electors relating to education, health, the environment and the promotion of clean energy, the party was unable to attract disenchanted Labor voters. He noted that Green policies relating to carbon pricing and refugees were unpopular with many voters.[99] Christine Milne said that the Greens support of the Labor minority government was a factor in the Greens' lower vote.[100]

Following the federal election, South Australian Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, who had lost a ballot against Senator Milne for Deputy Leadership[101] and lost again to Adam Bandt, publicly criticised Senator Milne.[102]

In September 2013, it was reported that six senior Greens' staffers had resigned including Chief of Staff, Ben Oquist, who claimed there were, "fundamental differences of opinion on strategy".[103] There have been suggestions that Oquist was behind the unsuccessful attempt to create leadership tensions because he feared moves to "freeze him out".[93]

At the 2014 Western Australian Senate election the Greens won in excess of a quota with the primary vote increasing from 9.5 to 15.6 percent, re-electing Scott Ludlam. Ludlam threw his weight behind Milne's leadership, telling ABC radio on being asked if he had leadership ambitions that "That's very flattering, but Christine Milne is doing a great job".[104]

On 17 July 2015, Wright announced that she would be resigning from the Senate due to illness in her family.[105]

2016 federal election onward

Top 10 primary votes in 2016

At the 2016 federal election the House of Representatives (lower house) primary vote increased to 10.23 percent (+1.58) but decreased in the Senate (upper house), with primary vote at 8.65 percent (−0.58). Adam Bandt was elected to a third term in his Melbourne seat with a primary vote of 43.75 percent (+1.13) and a two-candidate preferred vote of 68.48 percent (+13.21). The Greens lost one Senate position in South Australia, decreasing their Senate representation from ten to nine Senators, to a total of ten Green members in the Parliament of Australia. This result was viewed as being disappointing given that the Greens failed to gain any lower house seats, despite the seats of Batman and Wills in Victoria being considered considered to be possible gains for the party. The poor turnout also caused internal divisions to flare up, with former Federal Leader Bob Brown calling upon Senator Lee Rhiannon to resign, citing the "need for renwel".[106]


The Australian Greens, like all Australian political parties, is federally organised with separately registered state parties signing up to a national constitution, yet retaining considerable policy-making and organisational autonomy from the centre.[107] The national decision-making body of the Australian Greens is the National Council, consisting of delegates from each member body (a state or territory Greens party). The National Council arrives at decisions by consensus. There is no formal executive of the national party. However, there is an Australian Greens Coordinating Group (AGCG) composed of national office bearers including the National Convenor, Secretary, Treasurer, and three members elected by National Council. There is also a Public Officer, a Party Agent and a Registered Officer.

A variety of working groups have been established by the National Council, which are directly accessible to all Greens members. Working groups perform an advisory function by developing policy, reviewing or developing the party structure, or by performing other tasks assigned by the National Council.

All policies originating from this structure are subject to ratification by the members of the Australian Greens.[108]

On Saturday 12 November 2005 at the national conference in Hobart the Australian Greens abandoned their long-standing tradition of having no official leader and approved a process whereby a parliamentary leader could be elected by the Greens Parliamentary Party Room. On Monday 28 November 2005, Bob Brown – who had long been regarded as de facto leader by many inside the party, and most people outside the party – was elected unopposed as the Parliamentary Party Leader.[109]

Interactions with other political groups

The Greens do not have formal links to environmental organisations commonly labelled by the media as "green groups" such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, all of whom claim to be non-partisan. However, it is common for the media to report the activities of such groups and those of The Greens under the general category of "greens". During elections, there is sometimes competition between The Greens and one or more of these groups negotiating "greens preferences" with other parties. The Greens preference negotiation objectives are to attempt to get Greens senators elected, and to get policy outcomes on issues like Tasmanian forests, though these objectives may be to a greater or lesser extent in conflict and the Greens more often direct preferences to Labor than the Liberals,[110] but it is claimed that this did not affect federal election outcomes in 2001 and 2004.

Labor Party and unions

The Greens were in a formal alliance with the Australian Labor Party in the Tasmanian Parliament under the Bartlett and Giddings governments between 2010 and 2014, and signed a formal agreement with the minority Gillard Labor Government in the Federal Australian Parliament in 2010. Milne declared this agreement "effectively over" in February 2013, but said that the Greens would continue to support Labor in the Parliament.[92] Generally the Greens preference Labor ahead of the Coalition at elections.

Many Labor supporters and trade unionists see the Greens' policies as destructive of employment in industries like mining and forestry. The forestry industry has been a particular target of environmental campaigns and the Forestry Division of the CFMEU have actively campaigned against the Greens. Left-wing trade unionists and some members of Labor's Left faction sympathise with the Greens' social policies and often identify more readily with the Greens than with the Labor Right. Some unionists, such as NTEU and AMWU members have run for State or Federal parliament for the Greens. South Australian Labor MP, Kris Hanna, defected to the Australian Greens in 2003 (before leaving the Greens in 2006, and being re-elected as an independent in the 2006 South Australian election).[111] In 2008, Queensland Labor MP Ronan Lee defected to the Greens, becoming the first-ever Greens MP in the unicameral Queensland parliament. He said he made the decision after the Queensland government had "failed to act" against climate change. In 2015, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU) invited federal Greens MP Adam Bandt as a speaker at the ETU National Officers' Conference in Adelaide on account of their shared opposition to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which was approved by both the ALP and LNP .[112] Adam Bandt also spoke of the importance of "transition funding" to support workers and communities who would be affected by a transition from coal-fired power to renewable energy sources.[112] The Greens also announced Jim Casey, the NSW state secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, as the candidate for the 2016 federal election in Grayndler.[113]

However, these Green sympathies are not universal within Labor's Left and the two groups often find themselves competing in elections, making the Greens' growing popularity a threat to Labor.[114] In 2002, Labor front bencher and prominent Left member Lindsay Tanner wrote "The emergence of the Greens... is already hurting the ALP's ability to attract new members amongst young people."[115] During the 2004 campaign, Tanner's own seat of Melbourne in Victoria was thought to be under serious threat by the Greens and he described Greens policies as "mad".[116][117] In the end, Tanner held the seat comfortably on primary votes (51.78%, +4.35-point swing).[118] He did not stand for election at the 2010 election and his seat was won by the Greens.

In the 2006 Victorian state election, there was increased bitterness between Labor and the Greens. Labor direct-mailed a letter from Peter Garrett to voters in its threatened inner-Melbourne seats claiming that the Greens were preferencing the Liberal Party, in spite of Greens preferences being either for Labor or being open. Following the election, The Age's Paul Austin wrote "Labor's campaign manager, state secretary Stephen Newnham, reckons he knows why the Greens' support fell away in the last days of the campaign. He has told cabinet and caucus members it was because of Labor's loud assertions that the Greens had done a secret preferences deal with the Liberals".

In April 2007, The Age reported[119] that the Victorian Greens had published a poem titled The Battle of Jeff's Shed, by Mike Puleston, describing ALP officials and volunteers who scrutinised vote counting after the state election as "the Labor Panzers and their hardened SS troops – SS stood for Sturm Scrutineers". The poem described the final vote count at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, which finished about 4 am on 14 December and resulted in the election of three Greens MLCs. Labor directed preferences in the upper house to the DLP above the Greens, which resulted in their preferences indirectly electing Peter Kavanagh from DLP in Western Victoria Region.

Prior to the 2010 Federal Election, the Electrical Trades Union's Victorian branch donated $325,000 to the Greens' Victorian campaign – the largest political donation ever directed to the Party up to that time.[120]

In March 2011, division emerged within the Labor Party over Prime Minister Gillard's initial support for a Greens proposal to remove the commonwealth veto over Territory legislation. Joe de Bruyn, head of the Shop, Distributors and Allied Employees Association, said "Everybody in the federal parliament knows that this is simply a way of letting the territories into euthanasia or whatever else they want to do". Anti-euthanasia Labor senators called on Gillard to overturn Labor's support for the Greens plan and press reports said some Labor senators had complained that the issue had not been discussed in Cabinet.[121][122] Prime Minister Gillard said that no caucus members had raised concerns with her over the influence of the Greens over Labor policy.[123] Amidst suggestions that Labor was "too close" to the Greens, Prime Minister Gillard said in March: "The Greens are not a party of government and have no tradition of striking the balance required to deliver major reform".[124]

The Coalition

Relations between the Greens and the Liberal-National Coalition are generally poor and the Greens usually direct voters to preference the Labor Party ahead of the Liberals or Nationals in Australian elections. The Coalition has however directed strategic preferences to the Greens over Labor in the past, as in the Division of Melbourne, where Adam Bandt was elected at the 2010 Australian Federal Election with Liberal Preferences. In addition, the Tasmanian Liberal Party under Tony Rundle managed to form a minority government through an informal alliance with the Tasmanian Greens between 1996 and 1998, enacting some progressive reforms in favour of forest conservation and LGBT rights during its term.[125] At the 2010 Victorian State Election, the Liberals put their preference for the Greens below the Labor Party.

During the 2004 federal election the Australian Greens were branded as "environmental extremists" and "fascists" by some members of the Liberal-National Coalition Government.[126] John Anderson[127] described the Greens as 'watermelons', being "green on the outside and red on the inside". John Howard, while Australian Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, stated that "The Greens are not just about the environment. They have a whole lot of other very, very kooky policies in relation to things like drugs and all of that sort of stuff".[128]

Former Federal Conservation Minister Eric Abetz criticised former Australian Greens senators Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle for spending most of their time on non-environmental issues.[129]

In 2011, Liberal Shadow Cabinet frontbencher Kevin Andrews published a critique of the Greens policy agenda for Quadrant Magazine in which he wrote that the Greens' "objective involves a radical transformation of the culture that underpins Western civilisation" and that their agenda would threaten the "Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment synthesis that upholds the individual" as well as "the economic system that has resulted in the creation of wealth and prosperity for the most people in human history."[130]

In December 2013, Liberal Party Treasurer Joe Hockey secured a deal with the Greens to remove the debt ceiling in response to debt approaching the current limit of $300b, despite opposition from the Labor Party.[131] In December 2015, the Greens struck a deal with the Coalition Government, passing a law requiring multinational private companies with a turnover over $200 million to disclose their tax arrangements and also making it mandatory for multinational companies with a global turnover of $1 billion or more to have to prepare "general purpose" financial statements, which disclose greater tax details than previously occurred in Australia.[132]

Other minor parties

In a similar vein to the Family First television advertisements in 2004, Country Alliance also ran television advertisements[133] in the lead up to the 2006 Victorian state election claiming that the Greens policies were "extreme".

The Greens have voiced opposition and even organised protests against the One Nation Party (an anti-immigration, economically protectionist Party which enjoyed significant publicity in the 1998 Federal Election).[134]

Federal leaders

Shown by default in chronological order of leadership
Year Name Period Time in office Deputy leader/s
2005 Bob Brown 28 November 2005 – 13 April 2012 6 years, 4 months and 16 days Christine Milne (2008–2012)
2012 Christine Milne 13 April 2012 – 6 May 2015 3 years and 23 days Adam Bandt (2012–2015)
2015 Richard Di Natale 6 May 2015 – present 1 year and 7 months Larissa Waters and
Scott Ludlam (2015–present)

State and territory politics

The various Australian states and territories have different electoral systems, all of which allow the Greens to gain representation. In New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, the Greens hold seats in the Legislative Councils (upper houses), which are elected by proportional representation. The Greens also hold a seat in the unicameral Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly since the 2012 election, down from four after the 2008 election. In Queensland and the Northern Territory, their unicameral parliaments have made it difficult for the Greens to gain representation.

The Greens' most important area of state political activity has been in Tasmania, which is the only state where the lower house of the state parliament is elected by proportional representation. In Tasmania, the Greens have been represented in the House of Assembly from 1983, initially as Green Independents, and from the early 1990s as an established party. At the 1989 state election, the Liberal Party won 17 seats to Labor's 13 and the Greens' 5. The Greens agreed to support a minority Labor government in exchange for a number of policy commitments. In 1992 the agreement broke down over the issue of employment in the forestry industry, and the premier, Michael Field, called an early state election which the Liberals won. Later, Labor and the Liberals combined to reduce the size of the Assembly from 35 to 25, thus raising the quota for election. At the 1998 election the Greens won only one seat, despite their vote only falling slightly, mainly due to the new electoral system. They recovered in the 2002 election when they won four seats. All four seats were retained in the 2006 election. After gaining 5 seats in the 2010 election, in April 2010 Nick McKim became the first Green Minister in Australia.[135]

In the 2011 NSW State election, the Greens claimed their first lower-house seat in the district of Balmain. In the 2014 Victorian election, they won two lower-house seats, those of Melbourne and Prahran.

Three Greens have become ministers at the state/territory level: Nick McKim and Cassy O'Connor in Tasmania until 2014, and Shane Rattenbury in the ACT to the present.

Electoral results

Federal parliament

House of Representatives
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Government
1993 196,702 1.9 (#5)
0 / 147
1996 188,994 1.7 (#5)
0 / 148
Steady 0
1998 238,035 2.1 (#6)
0 / 148
Steady 0
2001 569,074 5.0 (#5)
0 / 150
Steady 0
2004 841,734 7.2 (#3)
0 / 150
Steady 0
2007 967,789 7.8 (#3)
0 / 150
Steady 0
2010 1,458,998 11.76 (#3)
1 / 150
Increase 1
2013 1,116,918 8.65 (#3)
1 / 150
Steady 0
2016 1,385,651 10.23 (#3)
1 / 150
Steady 0
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
# of
overall seats
+/– Notes
1990 201,618 2.0 (#5)
0 / 40
0 / 76
1993 263,106 2.5 (#5)
0 / 40
0 / 76
Steady 0
1996 180,404 1.7 (#5)
0 / 40
0 / 76
Steady 0
1998 244,165 2.2 (#6)
0 / 40
1 / 76
Increase 1
2001 574,543 4.9 (#5)
2 / 40
2 / 76
Increase 1
2004 916,431 7.7 (#3)
2 / 40
4 / 76
Increase 2
2007 1,144,751 9.0 (#3)
3 / 40
5 / 76
Increase 1
2010 1,667,315 13.1 (#3)
6 / 40
9 / 76
Increase 4
2013 1,159,588 8.65 (#3)
4 / 40
10 / 76
Increase 1
2016 1,197,657 8.65 (#3)
9 / 76
9 / 76
Decrease 1





Senators Vallentine, Chamarette and Margetts were all elected as Greens (WA) senators and served their terms before the Greens WA affiliated to the Australian Greens, meaning that they were not considered to be Australian Greens senators at the time.


New South Wales seats
Legislative Assembly
3 / 93
Legislative Council
5 / 42

New South Wales

Victorian seats
Legislative Assembly
2 / 88
Legislative Council
5 / 40


Tasmanian seats
Legislative Assembly
3 / 25
Legislative Council
0 / 15


South Australian seats
Legislative Assembly
0 / 47
Legislative Council
2 / 22

South Australia

Western Australian Seats
Legislative Assembly
0 / 59
Legislative Council
2 / 36

Western Australia

Queensland Seats
Legislative Assembly
0 / 89


Australian Capital Territory seats
Legislative Assembly
2 / 25

Australian Capital Territory

Northern Territory seats
Legislative Assembly
0 / 25

Northern Territory

Other notable members

See also


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Further reading

External links

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