By Michael Bell
BRISBANE — Green Alliance candidates polled up to 26% in local government elections here on March 23. While the Greens didn't win any seats, their preferences are expected to decide several. In a surprise win for the Labor Party, Liberal Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson was defeated by 2000 votes.
With 70% of the mayoral vote counted, Labor's Jim Soorley has 45.5% while Atkinson has 44.9%. The Green Alliance's Drew Hutton has 7.4% and environment independent John Jones has 2.2%. This represents a swing of 18.3% away from the Liberals and 12% to Labor. About 70% of Green preferences going to Labor.
In the 12 ward elections contested by Greens, the best result was in Kianawah, where Bob George came in second to Labor with 26.6% of the vote. Labor took 50.6%.
The Green Alliance united candidates from the Democrats, Rainbow Alliance, Democratic Socialist Party and Socialist Party of Australia. With Doug Yuille, Wilderness Society spokesperson, and a number of community activists, this was one of the broadest coalitions ever to contest an Australian election.
The Green Alliance also fielded one candidate in each of the neighbouring shires of Logan City, Redcliffe and Caboolture.
Early reports from Logan City indicate that Green candidate Ray Ferguson is winning about 14% of the vote. In Redcliffe, Dorothy Bowes has about 8%. In Brisbane, alliance candidates won between 8% and 15%. Scrutineers report that many votes intended for the Greens were informal.
Despite attempts to put Green issues on the agenda, the media focussed mainly on bickering between Atkinson and Soorley. The Liberals ran a no-issues campaign under the slogan "Keep Brisbane shining". The ALPcampaign focussed on the mayor's wages and international junkets.
After much pressure, the ABC's 7.30 Report eventually allowed Drew Hutton to appear on a panel discussion with Atkinson and Soorley. While Atkinson and Soorley bickered over the mayoral pay packet, Hutton tried to stress concerns such as traffic, transport, waste minimisation and quality of life.
Later, at a press club luncheon, Hutton again tried to debate issues, but the reporters and guests preferred to concentrate on personalities.
"It has been a marvelous experience", said Hutton, commenting on the Green campaign. "We've done what nobody could have expected.
"We developed policies without any major disputes. We had a common mayoral candidate. We built a campaign team that worked smoothly together, and we were able to bring together candidates from a variety of different groups."
The alliance with the Democrats was mutually beneficial, he added. heir orientation to the social movement and they helped us to improve our electoral strategy."
"We learned a lot about building a broad coalition", said Green Alliance coordinator Maurice Sibelle. "We didn't allow the ALP to divide us on the question of preferences.
"When we made our decision, it was supported unanimously. We decided everything openly and remained loyal to the issues."
On polling day, the alliance mobilised about 200 volunteers to hand out how-to-vote cards.