The drinks were flowing, the music was turned up loud, and one by one the dominoes fell the right way.
Packed into a grandstand bar at the University of Sydney, MPs, volunteers and the party faithful gathered for the Greens post election party last night, as the party edged towards an historic result in the NSW state election.
For those who spent the day handing out how to vote cards in the surrounding electorates of Balmain and Newtown, there was plenty to celebrate.
The Greens have won both seats, fending off Labor’s Verity Firth and Penny Sharpe.
Sharpe, who was the Shadow Minister for Transport, stood down from her seat in the state’s upper house to contest the new lower house seat of Newtown, where she was comfortably defeated by Jenny Leong.
After the evening’s count, Leong had secured nearly 50 per cent of the primary vote along – a stunning result for a new candidate and new seat.
Newtown, which was already nominally Green, looks likely to become the party’s safest seat in the country.
“One of the things we tried to do in this campaign was reactivate and re-engage people in politics in NSW and I think it’s pretty clear that we’ve managed to do that,” Leong told New Matilda.
She said renters’ rights, affordable housing, and transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy would now be central to her agenda.
“People are sick of the major parties, and the fact they’re making decisions in their own interests and the interests of the powerful developers or lobby groups or whoever it is.
“They want decisions made in that parliament for them, for the community interests.
“Whether you look in Ballina or Lismore or Balmain or Newtown, what this is about the Greens working with strong communities that are standing up against powerful vested interests.”
At the close of counting, the Greens had claimed victory in Balmain and Newtown and – perhaps most significantly – Ballina, a northern NSW seat where the National’s support for Coal Seam Gas mining cost them dearly.
Before last night, Balmain was the only lower house seat the party had ever won in NSW.
It comes after the Greens recorded a record vote in this year’s Queensland state election, and claimed two seats in the Victorian state election including Prahran, a formerly Liberal held seat.
But it’s northern NSW seats of Ballina and Lismore that have caused the biggest stir, challenging the perception the party can only win traditionally Labor voting inner city electorates.
Despite potentially moving from one lower house seat to four, the Greens state-wide primary vote has remained almost identical to 2011, coming in at around 10.3 per cent, according to the ABC.
Federal Senator Lee Rhiannon told New Matilda the Greens would now be able to advance their key areas of concern in the state.
“Critical issues around public services, WestConnex in the inner city, more money for public education, more money for public TAFE, key issues that we took to this election campaign, we think we’ve really added momentum to achieving those,” Rhiannon said.
The overall result of the election was hardly a boon for the Left side of politics, with the Baird Liberal Government comfortably returned to power and now likely to forge ahead with its plans to privatise parts of the state’s electricity network.
But Sydney University’s grandstand bar, Greens leader Christine Milne looked over a jubilant crowd, excited by the prospect of four years with up to four of their members in the state’s lower house.
Greens MLC John Kaye called the result “spectacular”.
“We celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we are down to business,” he said.
“NSW will never be the same again, and never should be.”
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