Lessons and learnings from the Victorian state election


With some devastating losses around the state, the Victorian election didn’t play out quite as hoped. But from the disappointments come some lessons, learnings and hope.

By Samantha Ratnam

If nothing else, the Greens’ Victorian election campaign was unpredictable. There were challenges we didn’t anticipate and the result was not the one we hoped for or expected.

When the other parties lose seats, no one really predicts their terminal demise. Instead, the media writes it as a downturn as part of the political cycle of swings and roundabouts.

But when the Greens lose seats, they tell us we are over. This is despite leading the policy agenda and forcing Labor to make Victoria the most progressive state in the country. The MPs of the previous parliament should be proud of their legacy. Without them, things like voluntarily assisted dying, greater renters’ rights and a respectable renewable energy target would not have seen the light of day, much less passed into law.

People have been trying to write us off for 25 years and this election has been no different. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

A critical mission

Our mission is now more important than ever. Our platform to fundamentally reconfigure the relationship between our environment, people, and the economy; to save our climate and care for our planet, and to ensure that no person is left behind or left out is a purpose that we can all be proud of.

I am proud that the Greens took the most progressive policy platform to the people of Victoria. We were the ones who set the agenda on anti-privatisation and forced Labor to admit that the privatisation of our energy system has failed us. It was the Greens who put the spotlight on the public transport transformation we needed. It was the Greens who would not let Labor bulldoze our public housing estates and sell them to private developers. It was only the Greens who demanded a transition away from coal and called for an urgent end to native forest logging.

The Greens have helped set the agenda in this country and in this state for years.

We are here to stay and grow and, despite what the media want to write, we have some pretty solid proof of that. Our vote has held despite a swing to Labor so big that no-one predicted it. Our base is strong and we saw swings towards us in the majority of our lower house target seats. And we made history by breaking new ground in the seat of Brunswick.

Tim Read will be joining Ellen Sandell in Melbourne and Sam Hibbins in Prahran to make a formidable team in the lower house. We will not let a moment pass where we don’t do everything we can to combat climate change, save our forests and create a more equal society.  

Some tough goodbyes

We are, however, devastated to be losing some very dear colleagues from the team and to not have been able to win Richmond this time.

Losing Lidia Thorpe in Northcote is not only a loss for the Greens, but a loss for this state. Lidia has been a force to be reckoned with in the Victorian Parliament and played a major role in securing renters rights, donations law reform and a much better treaty negotiation framework.

Losing incredibly progressive Greens women from the upper house, only to be replaced by 10 crossbenchers from seven different parties – some of whom were elected on 0.3 percent of the vote – is a loss that is hard to put into words. Their loss from the Parliament will be felt deeply for years, and upper house voting reform is on the top of our agenda.

Sue Pennicuik was one of the first Greens MPs ever elected to the Victorian Parliament 12 years ago along with Colleen Hartland and Greg Barber. Sue has been a relentless advocate for ending animal cruelty across Victoria, holding the government to account on issues like duck shooting and greyhound and jumps racing, education, and justice.

Nina Springle has left a lasting legacy after she spearheaded a phenomenal campaign over the past few years to reduce plastic waste in our environment, and this year introduced a bill for 10c refunds on drink containers in Victoria. The community has been desperate for solutions on these issues, and Nina has kept these issues on the agenda and continued to pressure the government into action when they were burying their head in the sand. We'll also never forget the amazing work Nina did in initiating the process for the criminal records of care leavers to be expunged, which was a massive injustice and caused significant trauma to people who had been in state care as children.

Samantha Dunn has been one of the most formidable forest campaigners the Victorian Parliament has ever seen, and over the past four years was relentless in holding the government to account over native forest logging. This year she introduced a crucial bill into Parliament to end native forest logging so we can transition Victoria to sustainable plantations, and got everyone talking about the desperately needed Great Forest National Park.

And finally, Huong Truong – what a loss for the people of the western suburbs. Huong entered Parliament less than a year ago, but left her stamp on the place in an unforgettable way. Huong hit the ground running, whether it was calling out racism and divisive politics, or coming up with solutions to Victoria's waste and recycling crisis. She was the only representative for the west who stood up for her community when those toxic fires raged a few months ago. She has unyielding optimism and hope for the future and I can’t wait to see her return to a parliament one day soon.

Picking up the pieces

There is a lot left to do to understand what happened this election. We take full responsibility for the outcome. We are committed to finding out what we did wrong, what we did right, and what we should do better.

As we complete that review, however, there are some big lessons and learnings. It is now clearer than ever that across this country we are one party. We are not six states and two territories of different Greens parties. Our cultures, our problems, our successes and our failures are interwoven into one story that is told about the Greens.

The Labor Party executed a methodical and calculated plan against us, prepared over months, tested through focus groups and launched at exactly the right time. It used events that happened in other states as well as Victorian issues to attack us. They targeted female voters in our key seats. They focused the worst of their firepower onto Lidia Thorpe’s campaign.

The Labor Party, fresh from their success in Victoria, will undoubtedly use the same strategy in successive elections across the country. Regardless of the history or not of cooperation in different states, we are entering a new era as The Greens and we are vulnerable to this sustained and systematic regime of attack.

Never has it been more important that we build a unified and strong national party. Never has it been more important that we remain united. Internal conflicts can no longer be left to fester. We must all do everything we can to remember and practice the collective culture that is foundation of who we are. The future of the planet literally depends on it.

 Samantha Ratnam is the current leader of the Victorian Greens.

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