30 Mar 2011

Did Fiona Byrne Get Fair Coverage?

By New Matilda
News Ltd was gunning for all ALP candidates to go - except in Marrickville, where they had Greens candidate Fiona Byrne in their sights. Was the coverage fair?
Carmel Tebbutt, managed to do what many of her Labor colleagues failed to do on the weekend: hold on to her seat. The big media were gunning for the removal of most of her colleagues but the ALP Member for Marrickville was running against a candidate, Fiona Byrne, who attracted the ire of the commentariat for her stance on Israel. Anthony Loewenstein discusses the impact of the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion in Marrickville council on the state election result in New Matilda today. The BDS motion was raised in Marrickville Council at the end of last year by Councillor Cathy Peters, and was supported by all Greens and ALP councillors, including Byrne, and one independent. 

Two weeks out from the election Byrne was predicted to make history by defeating Tebbutt. She needed a 7.5 per cent swing to do so and a much-cited Galaxy poll predicted she'd have no trouble in that regard. That poll had the Greens sitting on 44 per cent of the primary vote in Marrickville, with Labor trailing on 33 per cent.

On the day, Tebbutt won 39.5 per cent of the primary votes compared to Byrne's 35.1 per cent.

What happened? Was Fiona Byrne given a fair go by the media — or accorded the blunt tabloid and talkback treatment that is standard for political candidates?

Byrne's support for the Israel boycott caught Gerard Henderson's attention. He wrote this editorial on 21 February.

"As mayor of Marrickville, Byrne has led the charge to sign up ratepayers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. This global movement, driven by the left, aims to boycott all goods made in Israel and prohibit all sporting, academic, government or cultural exchanges. The campaign does not distinguish between Israel's pre- and post-1967 borders and is aimed at Jewish and Arab Israelis alike."

"Byrne and her Greens comrades seem unaware that Israel and increasingly Iraq are the only two democracies in the Middle East and that Arabs who are citizens of Israel have more democratic rights than Arabs domiciled in Arab nations. They also seem unaware that, historically, the left in Australia has supported Israel."

When rumours emerged that Byrne supported a boycott of China in Marrickville, the Daily Telegraph ran this story on 26 February:

"The Greens have threatened a trade boycott against the world's second-largest economy in an attack on China by one of its high-profile NSW candidates.

Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne, who is running for the state seat, has revealed her council would consider boycotting China out of sympathy for Tibetans.

"Labor labelled the policy as "stupid and dangerous" and warned such a ban could threaten Chinese trade with NSW — worth more than $3.2 billion to the state's economy — and damage cultural and student ties with China ... Ms Byrne said her council had expressed solidarity with the local Tibetan community. While the Tibetan community had not asked specifically for a boycott, Ms Byrne said council would adopt one if asked."

""If the local Tibetan community came to us and asked us to look at boycotting China, I'm sure council would do that," Ms Byrne said."

Although the Tele story eventually implies that Council would consider a boycott, the lead and the headline "Greens threaten China boycott through Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne" tell a different story. That day, Byrne issued a press release which clarified this alleged plan to boycott China, stating:

"There is absolutely no plan or intention to boycott China ... Marrickville Council work with the community and discuss matters that they ask us to. The Tibetan community have told us they do not want us to boycott China."

The Punch got stuck into Byrne on 8 March — with the headline: "The weird, unscrutinised world of the NSW Greens". David Penberthy's attack on Fiona Byrne was cast in highly personal terms — and ignored the clear statements on the China boycott already issued by her office.

"Fiona Byrne is one of the more unpleasant personages kicking around in NSW politics. She's been busy advocating a polite modern rendering of Kristallnacht in the inner west, campaigning for a ban on all Israeli products in the Marrickville Council area. As Labor MP Michael Danby told the Jewish online news service J-Wire last week: "What is next for the Marrickville Council? Are they now going to paint the Star of David on shops selling Israeli products?"

"Byrne has also made a fool of herself by suggesting a similar ban on all Chinese products — because, you know, what good could ever come from this resource-rich nation trading with the Chinese? — and then laughably denying that she had made such a suggestion. She did. It was during a candidates' forum last month, her quote was "If the local Tibetan community came to us and asked us to look at boycotting China, I'm sure council would do that." Despite being lumbered with a verbatim transcript of her remark, Byrne has claimed to be a victim of a Labor Party and media conspiracy. Maybe those pesky Jews were involved in that too."

On 15 March The Australian ran a story that  suggested that Byrne would seek to extend the Israel boycott across the state if elected. There was no mention of the support by the author, Imre Salusinsky, of the parliamentary support that Byrne would need for such a move to be successful — even if she had announced any such intention.

"Labor has branded prominent NSW Greens candidate Fiona Byrne an "extremist". The sobriquet came after the Greens candidate vowed to push for a statewide ban on contact with Israel if she wins the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville. Ms Byrne, the mayor of Marrickville, successfully pushed last year from the council to ban commercial, cultural and sporting exchanges with Israel."

The next day, the Greens published another press statement on their website to refute the allegations.

"The statement that I vowed to push the BDS to State Parliament is simply untrue," Ms Byrne said.

"I have never said that I will, nor do I have an intention to bring the BDS to state parliament. I certainly have not "vowed" to bring BDS to state parliament. Any reporting to the contrary is a misrepresentation."

In a fiery debate with 2GB's Ben Fordham just days out from the election, Byrne again attempted to set the record straight. But with Fordham introducing her as the Mayor who "thinks she's s the Minister for Foreign Affairs", it was a tough fight. Byrne revealed herself as less than prepared for the tough arena of talkback radio. Her denials that she would push for a statewide boycott of Israel were clear enough but her performance left questions about her readiness for this kind of media. Fordham played audio from an earlier press conference Fiona had attended where she explicitly said, "I would suggest that the NSW Greens would be looking to bring that forward to State Parliament if elected."

It was a tough ambush and Byrne repeated her denial that she had no plan to introduce the BDS into State Parliament several times. Press releases are one thing but in this situation, a clearly flustered Byrne failed to adequately refute the claims against her. It wasn't a soft interview but it's the kind of test that Greens candidates may have to get used to in the future.


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Syd Walker
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 01:33

In 1933 the World Jewish Congress demanded an international boycott on Germany and went to some lengths to enforce bans on German goods wherever the opportunity arose. At the time Germany was one of the most powerful economies on earth.

My point? Even had Fiona Byrne called for a boycott of China - which she didn't - such an ambitious endeavour wouldn't be utterly without precedent.

More seriously, as anyone knows who's spent time campaigning on the Palestine issue well knows, the Zionist Lobby plays very dirty. It was utterly predictable it would target the Greens at this election over BDS.

The Greens' underlying difficulty - or so it seems to me at a distance - is that the national leadership currently has a different policy on the BDS issue than the NSW Branch (and many others in the community for that matter, including a significant proportion of Labor supporters). I happen to believe the BDS is the correct policy for ethical reasons (I'd argue the same for other parties too).

I also believe the BDS policy is quite defensible - despite media hostility. But the way to defend BDS is the same as the way to defend any other policy: it must be SOLD. If sold well, BDS can be a real vote winner. Most people are not enamored with Israel despite (sometimes because of) the reverential way it's generally treated by the media.

I'm not privy to inside information, but I'd guess local Greens candidates in NSW were discouraged by the national leadership from arguing the BDS position forcibly and encouraged to play it down. If so, it would have put Fiona Byrne in a jam. Once a politician seems to back away from a stated policy it creates a perception of shiftiness, which the media in turn amplifies.

Having said all that, the 2011 NSW election was no disaster for the Greens despite the hype of the mainstream pundits. The NSW Greens' vote increased again at a State election and the party is are on the brink of taking lower house seats.

I think the Greens should go through a process of foreign policy review. FWIW, I believe the national leadership needs to catch up with informed progressive opinion. It performs superbly on environmental issues, but shows a naivete over foreign policy that does it little credit and is inconsistent with the foundational non-violent principles of the party. Support for the US/UK/French assault on Libya is just the latest in a long series of poor calls over foreign policy. Perhaps they are badly advised?
<a href="http://sydwalker.info/blog/">my blog</a>

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 13:40

The Greens face a tough fight against biased media whether they're running at federal, state or local levels of politics. The vested interests threatened by their emergence will oppose the level of community support the party has being realised in seats. It's a difficult but unavoidable obstacle they have to overcome.

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 14:11

Whatever the merits of either side of the argument, I really do question what local councils are doing spending their time on international relations issues. Is that really what they're elected to do?

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 14:22

Like Syd I am well removed from close observation. Unlike him I am very much a fan of everyone's radio station W2FM ( or WIIFM i.e. What's In It For Me) and a devout Occamism ( devotee to Occam's razor) rather than a conspiracy(ist).
I see Murdock paper as supporters of conservatism and pro Israel not for high moral ground but rather they're simply good for business and power on a world wide scale.

Promotion within the News Corp would require similar views. Even the token left in that organization would avoid biting the the hand that feeds it by avoiding outright challenges.

On a more prosaic level, the media, in their minds, survives on mandatory diet of the new, the dramatic,voyeurism, sensationalism. Ask yourself what is more sensational than conflict and controversy. So when the story encompasses all those and ingratiates its self to an important business demographic, it's a winner and they'll milk, spin it for all it's worth. Add to that News would be aware that Labor were in for a drubbing, on steroids, so one seat either way was a minor issue. Sure, the fact that it canned a potential green win, something the Murdoch business would see as against their interests, made the story irresistible. misleading facts and unfounded toxic prognostication are simply tools of the trade. What bemuses me is that anyone is even remotely surprised.

They (News) would argue that all they did was report a fact and ask an "obvious" (?) question and what's wrong with that?

Morality, common good and commercial anything are mutually exclusive, particularly when push becomes shove.

I see the Jewish lobby much the same as I see the fishing/gun lobby ..... a myopically selfish lobby groups that consider their own narrow interests before the nation or community (Australia) good. Consequently, I have little sympathy for either.

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 14:46

@Jon: No, that isn't what they are elected to do. If it was a policy at the federal level, sure. They'd have done better with a policy on electricity generation : public vs private than this.

Marrickville local
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 15:30

I live in Marrickville, I support BDS and I voted for Carmel Tebbut.

Was BDS the reason Fiona Byrne (and Jamie Parker) lost?

I believe it was a factor but, on its own, not the decisive factor. As Lee Rhiannon has conceded, if the Greens were going to introduce such a controversial policy, they really needed to prepare the ground and prepare themselves to deal with the inevitable shitstorm.

Oh, and let's not forget the people of Marrickville. For many locals, the BDS announcement must have seemed like a decision from outer space. No consultation, no education campaign, no community debate. So much for local democracy Greens-style.

The complete inability of the Greens to handle and sell the issue reinforces the party's great weakness – a lack of experience, depth and professionalism.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the substandard quality of so many Greens candidates. One amusing example is the Member for Fremantle who got lucky with chair-sniffing Liberal Troy Buswell. There are others.

In the case of Fiona Byrne, by all accounts a very likeable person, she was exposed during the campaign as simply not being up to the job.

The initial surge of negative publicity around the BDS hurt the Greens, undoubtedly. But it was the later, self-inflicted, wounds that killed Fiona Byrne and the Greens in Marrickville.

Fiona lied. Repeatedly. And when caught out, the Greens' response was woeful, reminiscent of an adolescent caught pants down. These lies cost votes, as they should.

While voters have long held jaded perceptions of the honesty of the major parties, some dared to believe the Greens were different, or at least more honest. Byrne's fibs eroded trust among these potential Greens voters.

And while the BDS decision was essentially symbolic, Fiona's declared willingness to embrace a boycott of Chinese goods and services was truly frightening for many locals. Our mayor was ready to boycott China, she said publicly, if anyone from the local Tibetan community would just ask her to do so.

As it turned out, no local Tibetan is as silly as the Mayor of Marrickville. But the episode destroyed any efforts by Greens campaigners to win votes among the local Chinese community.

The issue of a possible Chinese boycott, and the Greens' inept response to this second round of negative publicity, established beyond all doubt for many voters that Fiona Byrne and the Greens were not a serious option. The party was favoured to win the seat, making any vote for them not a protest vote, but a vote with real consequences.

The third round of negative publicity was, of course, the repeated
dissembling about Byrne's previous statements on BDS and her commitments to
the BDS campaign in the future. The issue moved beyond BDS itself to
the character and competence of the candidate favoured to won the seat
of Marrickville.

These failings also raise questions about the competence of more
senior Greens leaders, including Lee Rhiannon. If the party is serious
about BDS, why was Fiona Byrne allowed to be the public face on this
difficult issue? The Marrickville Mayor freely admits that she knows
little about foreign policy and is unsure even whether she supports a
two-state solution or some other outcome.

Were the Greens just misunderstood victims of vested interests in the
media and other powerful institutions, as David Shoebridge and others claim?

Again this is part of the story, but only part. Marginal seat
campaigns are invariably ruthless. Some Greens policies do threaten
vested interests. And sections of the media are all too ready to paint
the Greens as mad, bad and dangerous to know.

But when a candidate favoured to become the first Green elected to
the NSW lower house is also the first mayor to introduce a BDS, that
is news. When that candidate indicates an easy willingness to boycott
China, that is news again. And when she is caught out repeatedly
evading the truth, that is definitely news.

No party suffered more from adverse media coverage in this election
than the ALP. Yet Carmel Tebbutt continued to be a good local member
in a bad government. She gave the media no avenue to pursue negative
stories about her.

Looking at Balmain, the Greens' achilles heel was once again, not the
vested interests lined up against the party, but a candidate shadowed
by questions about his previous business practices. Similar questions
have been pursued about many candidates from many parties over the
years, and rightly so.

The Greens are not a protected species. If they want power they have
to earn it under real scrutiny.

Lastly, there is the question of preferences. Then Greens refusal to
preference Labor, even where the ALP candidates were clearly
progressive, was a real deal breaker for me and many others.

This strategy was always going to deliver more Coalition members in
seats where Labor would have won with Greens preferences. In the upper
house the Greens may well deliver victory to Pauline Hanson, a danger
that was well understood.

It is disingenuous for David Shoebridge to blame the collapse of the
Labor vote for the current possibility that Hanson will be elected
to the upper house for eight years. The Labor vote was pretty much as

Shoebridge and the Greens refused repeated requests to
preference Labor in the Legislative Council so that the election of
Hanson or other extreme right wingers could be avoided or minimised.

In Marrickville, Carmel Tebbutt preferenced Fiona Byrne but the Greens
refused to preference Carmel Tebbut. As in Balmain, the Greens took
the view that, if they could not win the seat for themselves, they had
no problem seeing a Liberal member win over a progressive ALP member.
That says it all.

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 16:22

Did she get fair coverage? No. Was that to be expected, and planned for? Yes. Did she shoot herself in the foot repeatedly? Yes. Have any lessons been learned? Judging by the responses to Loewenstein's questions yesterday, no.

Marrickville local
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 17:09


Thanks for your response. My comments below:

"Why do the Greens have to oblige the ALP? Who says the Greens have no problems seeing a Lib elected? Preferences are optional and up to individual voters."

Yes, preferences are optional in NSW. But most voters vote above the line. The preferences from above-the-line votes are decided by the party. Because the Greens did not allocate preferences, any vote for the Greens was exhausted. It's not a question of "obliging the ALP". Preferential voting allows us to rank candidates and parties so that, where our first preference is not elected, we can support the next best, or least worst candidate. The Greens effectively decided that there was no difference between, in the lower house, a Liberal member compared to a Carmel Tebbut or Verity Firth, who are both progressive. In the upper house, the Greens effectively said that there is no difference between an ALP candidate and Pauline Hanson, Fred Nile or the Shooters Party.

"Why is it the Greens fault that Pauline Hanson is on the Upper House ticket? Why is it “disingenuous” to blame the ALP? Have they not been in power for years? Have they not eroded away the respect for public service?"

The Greens are not to blame for Hanson standing or for Hanson's primary vote. The Greens are to blame for not allocating preferences in such a way that Hanson and other right-wing extremists were least likely to be elected.

"Not only does the media “have a go” at the Greens but as a consequence so too many others. Why is it that the Greens have to be “perfect” in order to be listened to? Why is it that there is this sense of “exposing” the Greens? Exposing what? That the Greens care about people more than profit?"

I agree that some sections of the media were hostile to the Greens in the recent NSW election. There was far greater hostility to Labor and over a greater period of time. But I also believe that people are not stupid. The decisions made by voters are influenced by multiple factors, and the media is only one factor. In my view, voters in Marrickville got it right because Carmel Tebbutt was the superior candidate and the Greens exposed themselves as not being ready to represent our area in the NSW parliament.

"You talk about Green Candidates as if they are all numbnuts, have you looked through the list of newly elected Lib MPs? Green Candidates are voted democratically…not “parachuted in” like the Lib/Lab oligarchies."

I have a lot of respect for Bob Brown, but he is several classes above most of the other candidates. This is a very serious weakness for the Greens. I'm sure there are other worthy Green candidates, but there are also too many duds, and in a winnable seat like Marrickville, it was suicidal not to run a quality candidate. I agree with your criticism of the way many ALP candidates are selected.

"The Greens struggle because those with the most to loose are the ones with all the power and they don’t want to change the status quo."

This is one reason the Greens struggle. Another reason is that the potential support base for the Greens will always be a minority of voters. But based on what we saw in the NSW election, it is doubtful the Greens can advance much beyond their present position and may actually decline in influence over coming years.

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 18:15

On current trends the greens are doomed to at best be what they are now, an opportunistic rabble of borderline extremist idealistic amateurs with pretensions to grandeur. Well that is how most of the people (+75%) view them.
- They are semi organised and in politics disunity is death.
- Some of their policies are paradigm shift away from what a largely galloping inertia ridden populace will accept.
- have at present, no coherent transition strategy to show they understand, much less know how to move from now to where they want to go.Their approach there it is let's do it. People need to understand how the green's policies aren't going to cause a bigger problem for them than they face now.
- they have no clear polices to address mundane bread and butter issues like jobs etc.
- they have no convincing, let alone charismatic focal point or impressive leadership. Take out Bob and Milne and the rest are embarrassingly lacking both.
- they are incapable of effectively explaining anything.They couldn't sell money to a merchant banker.
- they have a dearth of credible candidates.
- no coherent branch support structure.
All of the above is painfully obvious in every election especially the NSW one.
Yes their incompetence at showing that they are a plausible 3rd option allowed the substance free egotist drip space to stand and run a 'campaign' (sic) .
Mind you the lack lustre Libs didn't win the campaign or the election Labor lost both. Agreed they lost the election months ago.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. asti
Posted Friday, April 1, 2011 - 18:08

Marrickville Local,

There are some major points wrong about your comments on preferences. Firstly, there is no capacity in NSW elections (unlike Federal elections) for a party to lodge a preference allocation ticket. I repeat, a party cannot lodge with the NSW Electoral Commission a ticket which allocates preferences. The only allocation of preferences that can occur is by the voter to number more than one box sequentially, above or below the line. You said
"Yes, preferences are optional in NSW. But most voters vote above the line. The preferences from above-the-line votes are decided by the party. Because the Greens did not allocate preferences, any vote for the Greens was exhausted."
Your comment that preferences above the line are decided by the party is not correct. Only the voter can allocate - a party can suggest, on it's How To Vote leaflet, but no more than that at a state election.

Next is your comment about the ALP preferencing progressive candidates in the lower house in Balmain and Marrickville. Here in Western Sydney the Parramatta Greens Group which ran candidates in 4 electorates, allocated Greens preferences to the ALP's David Borger (Granville) and Nathan Rees (Toongabbie). The ALP machine did not return the favour to our Greens candidates. Not that we asked them to do so, but they were aware at least 3 weeks before that we would be allocating preferences.

Then your comments about the Greens not allocating preferences in the Legislative Council. Nor did Labor, see further below.

As stated above, any preferencing is up to the individual. Why would we preference Eric Roozendaal and Tony Kelly? Why did the ALP's HTV leaflet obscure their names so that voters wouldn't see who they were voting for? And most importantly, why did the Labor machine and Luke Foley keep hammering on about the Greens' upfront and transparent statement that it would not, could not, recommend a vote above the line for the team headed by Roozendaal and including Kelly, when all along they were planning to not allocate preferences themselves to the Greens? They lead the media and the voters by the nose. Even on Tuesday Foley was screaming about the Greens being responsible for Hanson's potential win, when on Saturday Labor was handing out in the electorate I stood for, Smithfield, a HTV leaflet showing no preferences above the line after 1 for Labor. Nor in the other electorates I was able to get the Labor HTVs for - Parramatta, Fairfield, Auburn, Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Toongabbie, Granville.....and we we started asking around, more and more electorates emerged where Labor had used a different HTV leaflet on election day, showing no preferences, to the one used for prepoll.

Those HTV leaflets were registered with the Election Commission before registration closed several weeks before election day, they were printed, they were distributed...and still Luke Foley continued to treat the media and voters like mushrooms, pretending that Labor had a high moral ground of preferencing the Greens. By his own argument, if leaving it up to voters themselves to decided how they will preference is the cause of Hanson gaining an upper house seat, then Labor is guilty too.

The Greens explained that they were making a principled decision that it could not recommend preferences to a Labor machine which was inept, morally bankrupt, corrupt, and devoid of any concern for the interests of NSW as opposed to those of Labor family, mates and the ALP party machine.

The Labor machine has not explained its two faced stance on preferencing in the Upper House. I believe that most Labor party members aren't even aware that Labor did not allocate preferences in the Legislative Council on 27 March in most seats in NSW. I challenge them to tell us in just how many seats they pulled this trick.

BTW, I scrutineered yesterday in the NSW EC's Legislative Council count in Riverwood. Lots of Greens voters allocated preferences - above the line, and below the line. I allocated preferences below the line myself, and you can count on it that Roozendaal and Kelly missed out. I suspect you did the same?


Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 13:08

I think the Greens will have to get used to this more and more now days. They have to dot all i's and cross all t's when it comes to this kind of thing. I think this did cost her Marrickville. If only she had someone astute behind her to give her some guidance on this. ad the right wing Australian media wasn't so hostile also.

Ken Fabos
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 14:19

Add anti-Green material being handed out to students at Catholic Schools to take home to parents - issues covered like euthanasia and gay marriage may not have swung votes away from The Greens but fear of education funding reductions to private schools may have hit a nerve with parents of such students. With media, mining, electricity generators, fishing, forestry and farming as well as the gamut of Right leaning anti-regulation groups lining up to take aim, the Greens were getting it from some seriously powerful lobbies. Must be doing something right to hit so many nerves!

Still, the point has to be to win people over rather than simply please those that already agree with you and issues of social justice and international conflicts are a minefield any politician has to tread with extreme care and sensitivity.

Marrickville local
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 17:46


Thanks for your response. You are obviously a political professional with a much wider knowledge of the big picture. Some of what you write is news to me, however I will generally accept the information you provide.

From my perspective here in Marrickville, I want to make some further points in response to your post.

1. It seems that I have misunderstood an aspect of the optional preferential voting system in NSW, however your correction does not address the point I made in my original post. That is that the Greens, in Marrickville and the majority of seats, chose not to allocate preferences. By this I mean that your HTV cards advised your supporters not to preference the ALP above the Liberals or even more right wing candidates. In Marrickville the ALP certainly did preference the Greens, while the Greens did not preference the ALP, despite Carmel Tebbut being a proven progressive.

2. Your central comment that "preferencing is up to the individual" is disingenuous coming from a seasoned operator such as yourself. All parties, including the Greens, spend a lot of time and energy on preference strategies, as your own post amply demonstrates. These strategies are all about engineering a preference flow that each party desires.

3. You are very critical of the ALP failing to preference the Greens in the upper house. I believe Labor should have preferenced the Greens in the upper house, however I can understand that the ALP hardheads would choose not to do so when their opposite numbers such as yourself refused to return the favor.

4. You offer just one defense against the charge that if Hanson is elected the Greens' failure to allocate preferences will be responsible for this disaster. You argue that Labor must share responsibility. But if the Greens had agreed to a preference swap, then Hanson would be out of the race.

5. In general, your argument can be summed up thus: "whatever the Greens might have done, the ALP did the same or worse". Asti this moral relativist line of reasoning reminds me of the arguments offered by the Israeli government and it's agents against BDS or any other criticism of Israel. "We make mistakes but the Arabs are much worse."

And just a point regarding Ken Fabos' post.

While I agree that some powerful forces will fight hard against the Greens, I do not accept that the Greens have been subjected to some uniquely hostile barrage from lobby groups and right wing media.

This is politics in the real world, as distasteful as that often is. In one sense the Greens got off lightly, because the attack was largely on policy, and when it moved to character, that was an own goal by Fiona and her advisors.

Green candidates did not have their private lives secretly filmed and broadcast on commercial TV. There was no media coverage alleging that Greens' candidates may have had relations with someone other than their spouse, or whether their spouse may have purchased a single ecstasy pill.

These are just a few of many real examples of hostile media coverage endured by ALP MPs which were irrelevant to policy or performance.

The Greens need to harden up and stop playing the victim if the party hopes to graduate beyond it's present position.

Chris Maltby
Posted Monday, April 4, 2011 - 15:50

@Marrickville local says "<i>But if the Greens had agreed to a preference swap, then Hanson would be out of the race.</i>"

It's not as simple as that. If the Greens had preferenced Labor in the Upper House there is little doubt it would have cost the Greens primary votes. It's not clear that enough Labor voters would have followed ALP how-to-vote cards to have replaced those primary votes (assuming for a moment they had actually handed out cards showing advice to preference the Greens).

At this stage of the count, the main thing keeping Hanson out is the relative strength of Greens primary vote. This was the logic of the Greens decision to leave preferencing entirely up to voters, and it appears likely now that it will be vindicated.

The ALP's advice doesn't look like such a good idea now, and @asti's information shows that not even Luke Foley believed in the rationale of keeping out the right-wing fringe. A more plausible explanation for the preference issue beat-up was a cynical attempt to prevent some voters deserting Labor for the Greens, and they were prepared to wear the election of Hanson as the price. The voters proved they were too smart for this ruse.