After the 2016 Federal Election, many of us find ourselves flapping around in the flotsam without even a clear electoral outcome to grab hold of. And while the Coalition cling to a razor-thin majority in the lower house, conservatives have been lashing the prime minister and threatening mutiny over the party’s electoral performance. The ALP might be tempted to celebrate, but in truth they achieved their second lowest primary vote in history, and face a changing electoral landscape, especially in inner Melbourne, where the Greens achieved big swings in several seats.
Despite those swings, and although the decline in major party votes is welcome, the Greens failed to secure extra seats in the lower house, and in fact have lost one in the senate. Despite heavy resistance from pokies lobbyists who spent millions trying to talk voters out of it, the Xenophon team were one of the few clear winners this election, along with the Trumpesque alternative Right, and fans of Derryn Hinch.
Here I’ll digress. It stands to reason that voices within the broader Green movement are calling for a frank assessment of our strategy from here on in. Osman Faruqi is a former Greens staffer and online rapscallion whose Guardian columns might occasionally blur the lines of parody, but on this topic he’s fairly frank and not entirely off the mark. He is however somewhat Sydney-centric in his assessment of the Greens’ electoral chances. Lower house seats in inner Melbourne show a very clear long-term trend towards the Greens, the result of a lot of hard work here in Victoria over some decades.
Still, worth a gander imo:
Without some serious soul searching, the Greens will never move beyond the 10% plateau, by Osman Faruqi
I initially wrote this for Alex Bhathal’s Facebook page, and it’s been one of her most popular posts. It’s also shown me how much resistance there can be to making an honest reckoning with our history, despite being in so many ways haunted by it. Even today, making the simplest acknowledgement of this history goes too far for certain individuals, who become significantly bothered online.
We should remember that this electorate is named after John Batman, a man who committed horrific crimes against Aboriginal people as a ‘bounty hunter’ in Tasmania before coming to Melbourne. Batman ‘purchased’ the ancestral lands of what now makes up Melbourne’s north in a meeting on the banks of the Merri Creek in 1835. The So-Called ‘Batman Treaty’ was not a treaty at all, but handed across a few blankets, tomahawks and knives in a transaction that Wurundjeri Elders believed to be a gift in exchange for passage, called ‘tandarrum’.
Here, just like everywhere in Australia, a treaty or treaties with our first nations never took place, making Australia unique in the world. It is only right that our local Wurundjeri people are fighting to rename Batman Park in Northcote, as well as the federal electorate of Batman. I think it would be a simple sign of respect for the deceit of the meeting that day in 1835.
I was flabbergasted when this fairly faithful potted history brought one person to the most extraordinary revisionist contortions about John Batman, of the ‘he was not such a bad bloke after all’ variety.
Thankfully comments like these are largely self-moderating.
The original article about the Wurundjeri campaign can be found here.
In the campaign we talk about how the electorate of Batman has been ALP heartland for so long, voters have become rusted onto the party, stuck in place — ‘ALP rusteds’. There’s some disdain in that phrase, but it’s also hard not to detect a certain wistfulness too, something I’ve often observed when people talk about class in Australia.
It feels like popular narratives around class in this country dwell in some mythical mid-70s, where white working class men do traditional trades as part of large unionised workforces, and through their own labour are emancipated — the sort of montage that might develop as the VB theme music plays.
But these sorts of representations obscure true economic disadvantage faced by those suffering through unemployment and underemployment, by women, particularly mothers, people facing discrimination for their ethnicity, people living with illness and disability, and so on. These people are rarely lionised in those mythic and singularly masculinist narratives about class and labour.