The 2004 Federal Election saw a pitched battle for the final Victorian Senate seat go down to the wire as the Greens battled it out for what should have been a 5th seat in the Senate. The deciding factor between the Greens candidate David Ristrom (who scored around 12% of the primary vote) and the Family First candidate Steven Fielding (who scored just under 2% of the primary vote) was an unholy preference deal made between Family First and The ALP that saw ALP Preferences going to Family First ahead of the Greens. OK, yes, I am still bitter and twisted about this, maybe I should seek therapy.
In this years state election Labor did their predictable tactic of making out that the election was going to be close, in the attempt to get people who were thinking about registering a protest vote for one of the minor parties to vote for Labor just to ensure that Labor get over the line. This is a fair enough tactic, and I'd hope that the electorate are smart enough to see right through it. What is worse though is that the Greens were polling fairly well (around 13% state wide), a few weeks prior to the election, and Labor were seriously concerned about loosing a few key seats in inner city Melbourne, where locals are fed up with the amount of inactivity on issues like public transport and feel that Labor has stopped listening. So rather than attempt the hard road of re-connecting to the electorate and engaging in a meaningful dialogue around policies that may address some of the reasons the Greens were polling so well, the Labor party machine kicked into action with a tactic of lies and deceptions aimed at eroding the base of the Greens.
About a week before the election the Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor party, made the statement that "The Greens had done a grubby preferrence deal with the Liberals", and claimed that if people voted for the Greens this may in turn mean a Liberal government. The fact that this was not true did not matter in the least. Once said, the damage was done, people who would otherwise have voted for the Greens believing (rightly) that the Greens are a party based on Principles, not career politicians and strategists with a meglomatic drive for votes, were now angry with the percieved betrayal.
The Labor party went even further, by seconding their only MP who until this election actually had some environmental credentials, Peter Garrett to write letters to all victorians in certain inner city electorates that they were concerned about, attempting to spread this lie about Greens Preferences. He also appeared in the Melbourne electorate with the Labor candidate Bronwyn Pike, and the premier Steve Bracks, trying to talk up these fictitious preference deals. Once a personal hero of mine for standing up for the environment, and social justice issues, I have now lost all respect for him as he has become merely a highly prized cog in the Labor party machine. They will now continue to trot him out at any point where they feel threatened by The Greens, but hopefully his reputation as an environmentalist and activist will be so damaged by this episode that the electorate will eventally stop listenning and instead lament the fall of a once great campaigner. He is nothing but a sell out and no longer deserves the title of activist.
The truth about Greens Preferences and the Peter Garrett sell out can be found not only at The Greens website (naturally) but also exposed on Crikey.com.