Newtown, the green capital of Australia?

Submitted by Rick Eyre on October 13 2004, 3:03 am

The Australian Electoral Commission's excellent Virtual Tally Room website has a breakdown of the voting figures for Saturday's election, not just electorate by electorate, but polling booth by polling booth. I'm not going through them all - there's several thousand across the country - but I've gone searching for some interesting demographics in my electorate of Grayndler and surrounds. A good benchmark to pursue is the level of the Greens' vote. Grayndler and Sydney, covering the suburbs to the immediate south and south-west of the inner city, have historically been two of the left-wing heartlands of Australia.

In 2001 the Greens received 569,075 primary votes nationwide in the House of Representatives (4.96%). Bob Brown was hopeful of topping the million this year, but with postal and absentee votes still to be counted, they currently have 690,550 (6.94%) this time. Belford Parrott and other galahs have pounced on this as some sort of failure, but the Greens have, in fact, outpolled the National Party (580,990 - 5.84%), which is a milestone that I haven't seen any commentators point out as yet.

Family First, incidentally, have 197,945 (1.99%) nationally, while the Democrats (116,651 - 1.17%) and One Nation (114,074 - 1.15%) are both sliding into irrelevance. However, as I've already pointed out, One Nation's voters have shifted across to the Liberal Party column. All these figures are updated regularly on this page on the AEC website.

State by state, the Greens are currently have 7.98% of the lower house primary vote in NSW, 7.30% in Western Australia, 7.16% in Victoria, 5.24% in South Australia, 4.89% in Queensland and 9.34% in Tasmania; also 10.39% in the ACT and 6.07% in the Northern Territory. Of course, none of this has translated into winning a seat, but has for the most part helped Labor to hang on in some tight contests. Of course, in the past, these Greens voters would most likely have actually voted for the ALP. That's a story in itself.

Fourteen of the fifty seats in New South Wales saw a Greens vote of ten per cent or more. Three cleared twenty per cent - Cunningham (Michael Organ, 20.23%), Grayndler (Philip Myers, 20.57%) and Sydney (Jenny Leong, 21.56%). In 2002 Organ had won Cunningham in a by-election with 23.83% of the primary vote to Labor's 38.13% with the Liberals not fielding a candidate.

Zooming in on Grayndler, and to the booth where I voted, Stanmore Public School. Here, Anthony Albanese polled less than his electorate-wide average, getting 48.62% of the primary vote. Myers got 26.97%, and Stephanie Kokkolis of the Liberal Party 20.61%.

I won't go through all 44 booths in Grayndler, but it appears that Kokkolis' vote was strongest around Ashfield, on the western extremity of the electorate, and around Lilyfield, both areas where she has appeared to surpass 30% of the vote. At Ashfield North she made it past 33.

Albanese's vote was strongest in and around Marrickville, where his electoral office is located. At both Marrickville Town Hall and Marrickville Public School he polled better than 61%. At the Marrickville Uniting Church his vote reached 66%.

For the Greens, things get interesting as we head for the north-east corner of Grayndler. Enmore, 31.95%. Camperdown South, 31.97%. But it's at the Newtown North polling booth, at the Newtown Uniting Church on King Street, where we see what is probably the biggest Greens turnout in the country - 40.23%. Poor old Steph barely made it into double figures.

The Newtown North booth was also used for the Sydney electorate, being on the border between Sydney and Grayndler. Sydney voters for the Greens registered 36.71% of the vote at that booth.

It shouldn't be a big surprise that the Greens are so strong around Newtown, especially as they rode heavily on the same-sex marriage issue. You've also got Sydney University just up the road. The performance I find really interesting in this election is that of the Socialist Alliance. For all their posters on telegraph poles and walls, not just at election time but throughout, they struggle to get 1 to 2 per cent in some of the leftiest parts of the country. They're just not connecting, are they?

Latest on other election fronts: final senate outcomes still up in the air until absentee, postal and below-the-line votes are sorted out. Best case scenario is that the Libs and Nats finish with 38, and that Steve Fielding of Family First in Victoria either misses out, or turns out to be another Brian Harradine (yes it's not much of a best case scenario, is it?). John Faulkner looks like stepping down as leader of the ALP in the senate, and that would be a shame as he is one of the party's best performers in parliament.

And John Howard is still telling porkies: "I won't ride roughshod over the senate", "I will respect the wishes of the people", and so on and on.

I'll finish with a word or two from JWH's mate:

Australia had an election, as well. And I was honored to call my friend, John Howard, the Prime Minister, and congratulate him on a great victory.

- GW Bush, "Victory 2004" Rally, Chanhassen, Mo., 9.10.04

As an aside, neither Howard nor the White House are yet to acknowledge Wangari Maathai for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Sore loser, George?