What's big about Bradfield?


It was no big shock. The Sydney electorate of Bradfield, the 5th safest Liberal seat in the country, remained in Liberal hands following the December 5 by-election.

The electorate's new representative Paul Fletcher replaced former member Brendan Nelson. Fletcher won the election with 55.65% of the primary vote, something he claims is a "remarkable achievement" given the recent Liberal party meltdown/fiasco/circus over climate change.

But for blue-ribbon Liberal Bradfield the victory is anything but remarkable. The federal opposition's choice to elect Tony Abbott – a climate sceptic – as leader lead many people who had voted Liberal in the past cast protest votes, either for the Greens or for Independent candidates.

One such voter, Richard Summerville, told AAP journalists outside his Roseville polling booth that he voted Independent to give the Liberals "a bit of a wake-up call".

"There is a very strong mood in the electorate that [voters] are dissatisfied with Tony Abbott… and with his brand of climate denial" Bradfield Greens candidate Susie Gemmell told WAToday.com.au.

Although this "protest vote" was still not enough to topple the Liberal stranglehold on Bradfield, it will have shaken both major parties more than they admit publicly. The Liberal vote dropped 4.47% since the 2007 election. Meanwhile, the Greens' vote more than doubled, even outperforming the ALP's 2007 primary vote.

With the smoke lifting and more and more people realising the Labor/Liberal climate policy debate for the polluter love-in it is, more voters are looking towards the Greens as a party that will actually do something about climate change.

The truth is if Fletcher was hooked to a lie detector his boasting wouldn't be anywhere near as bold. With a potential double-dissolution election looming, the trend set at Bradfield by disgruntled environmentally-minded Labor voters and disillusioned Liberal voters will be of huge importance in months after Copenhagen.