“Greens are in the electoral process for the long haul”
Republished with permission from No Fibs
Like other minor party candidates, Geoff Ebbs admits it can be very hard for the Greens to get any mainstream media focus, particularly at the local level. This is compounded when standing against a high-profile candidate like Kevin Rudd.
Ebbs says he has met Rudd on the hustings and considers him to be a consummate media performer. Rudd, he says, has his own media team, regularly uploading new Kevin videos on YouTube, “… and, as a small party, it’s hard to compete against that.”
Nevertheless, he is picking up a mood for change and disillusionment with the two major parties. Griffith, he says, “is an electorate of thinking people who are looking for leadership on some long-term issues affecting the state”.
“The people of Griffith are concerned about rising energy prices, the erosion of community services and public sector employment. They have a major coal route running through their suburbs that is a threat to their health and a reminder that the economy is being skewed by huge investments in resource extraction at the expense of manufacturing, public infrastructure and investment in innovation.”
Without access to the apparatus of mainstream media, Ebbs sees himself building a grassroots campaign linked to other activists groups. He says that it is important that the Greens convince other activist groups of the party’s credibility, so it can be supported by a coalition of interest groups in the same way that in the past the ALP built its support base through a coalition of union and labour organisations.
Ebbs says political parties are drawn to appeal to the mainstream and this is the antithesis of activism. “There is a natural tension,” he says, between the need for the Greens to appeal to a broader audience while at the same time building alliances with like-minded activist groups.
He claims the Greens membership in South Brisbane has grown considerably in the last three years, with many new members coming from union and other traditionally Labor backgrounds. “If current growth rates continue, we may consider splitting the branch into two, developing a new branch centred on Wynnum or Manly.
“We need to work booth by booth, to convince voters that the Greens do have a real plan for the future.”
The Greens, he says, have specific policies that have been developed from the grass roots of the party “… to build a robust economy on innovation, renewable energy and investment in public infrastructure and education”.
He also points to longstanding Greens support for marriage equality (an issue embraced much more recently by Kevin Rudd) and for “additional funding for single parents forced onto Newstart, and federal funding of community organisations deserted by the state government”.
Ebbs sees the major parties as having capitulated to the resources sector and this, he says, has had a negative impact on the community.
Campbell Newman, he says is like “Abbott on steroids”.
“The concerns raised by Newman’s attack on the public service, the arts sector and environmental regulation have made people aware of the ‘scorched earth’ approach the conservatives have developed and how far they have strayed from Menzies’ Liberal vision for Australia.” Ebbs says voters “desperately seek leadership that is not extreme and has some concern for the long term future of the country”.
Issues such as coal seam gas (CSG) mining have attracted some strange bedfellows in recent times, and I asked Geoff if this had in any way eroded the Greens’ base. He says Katter’s rhetoric on CSG has not been matched by action, and the Greens were picking up some disappointment with Katter among farmers in particular.
On preference, Ebbs says it is unlikely Greens preferences will flow to the more conservative parties. Nevertheless, he considers that the Katter Australia and Palmer United parties have been effective in capturing disaffected LNP voters.
Minor parties, he says “have the freedom to do some straight talking – that no-nonsense approach is their appeal, but it is also the appeal of the Greens”.
Ebbs says he is in the contest to win it, but he will be pleased to increase the Greens vote on the last election figures. The Greens, he says, “are in it for the long haul”.