Thursday, May 14, 2015

Greens Change Leaders And Replacing Milne As Senator

Christine Milne resigned last week as leader of the Australian Greens, and was replace by Richard Di Natale before anyone could blink.  Di Natale looks like the safe choice and the one most likely to push for mainstream respectability and continue the trend towards inner-city gains while also pushing for a broad policy focus.  It was all done so quickly - and as usual for the Greens, opaquely - that any public commentary on the best replacement would have been irrelevant.   In my view the most viable and perhaps the only other really viable - and more exciting but also more excitable and hence riskier - choice would have been Scott Ludlam. Others are too low-profile, at too much risk of losing their seats, or at least seen as too far along one end of the moderate/radical spectrum.

Results And Polling Under Milne's Leadership

Christine Milne took over leadership of the Australian Greens from Bob Brown in April 2012.  As shown in this graph of the Greens primary vote by Phantom Trend, the Green's polled vote shed around three points in the first year of Milne's leadership, but the plunge started reversing a few months before the 2013 federal election.  The Greens' result in that election was very disappointing in primary vote terms (down from 11.76% in the House of Representatives to 8.65%) but acceptable in seat terms with the party retaining its House of Representatives seat and gaining one Senate seat.  Since then the party has rebuilt vote share in polling and is currently in a similar position to where it was when Milne took over.

We will not get to see what a second federal election under Milne's leadership looks like but we did get to see one election in each state and territory, the results of which to a large degree reflected the party's ups and downs in the national polls:

* NT 2012: The party remained on zero seats and suffered a modest swing against it.
* ACT 2012: The party lost three of its four seats.
* WA 2013: The party lost two of its four Upper House seats.  (They also failed to recapture Fremantle, but it had only been won in a by-election but the winner Adele Carles had left the party during her term).
* Tas 2014: The party lost two of its five seats, with a large swing against it, also losing the balance of power and party status.
* SA 2014: The party retained one Upper House seat that was up for re-election.
* Vic 2014: The party gained two Lower House seats and two Upper House seats.
* Qld 2014: The party remained on zero seats but increased its vote.
* NSW 2015: The party gained two Lower House seats (one a notional hold because of a redistribution) and retained two Upper House seats that were up for re-election (although it had won three in 2011).

All up under Milne the party's total federal, state and territory seat holdings were unchanged, but the party appears in better shape at the end of her leadership because two of its last three state elections have seen gains including historic lower house seat wins against Labor, Liberal and National.

There was very little polling of Milne's performance.  Essential found her to have a netsat of -13 (20-33) in Nov 2012 and -7 (22-29) in March 2013.  Her performance in 2014 was given a net negative rating of -23 (16-39), similar to results for Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, and an amusing mid-2014 cage-match with Clive Palmer showed (allowing for the likely don't-know rates) that voters considered her intelligent and hardworking but also out of touch with ordinary voters and narrow-minded.  (She nonetheless flogged Palmer on most of the matchups).

Milne's Replacement: Process

Christine Milne has said she will not contest the next Senate election.  However her initial retirement interviews left the question of whether she would resign from the Senate earlier, and if so when, unresolved.   If the next election is a half-Senate election held in 2016 then Milne could retire before the election so that her replacement contests as an incumbent, or she could retire after the election so that her replacement (if elected, which is likely) takes their seat immediately.  While she could in theory still remain in the Senate until mid-2017, it seems quite likely she will be gone by the end of this year and perhaps once her successor is chosen.  (Update 24 June: Christine Milne today gave what she stated to be her final Senate speech, strongly pointing to the latter.)

Candidacy applications to replace Milne close on 12 June.  Initially a decision was expected to be announced on 7 August, but it is now expected the result will be known by the final days of July.  A postal ballot conducted by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission but apparently counted by the party is selecting two candidates to run on the Senate ticket. Member voting starts on 6 July.  Not all the candidates will necessarily be included in member voting as there is an internal vetting process to decide who is suitable to run.

It was explicitly stated on the Greens Facebook page that the member ballot is for two positions and determines the order of both candidates.  After some effort I was informed that the election was conducted by a series of preferential single-seat ballots with the same ballot papers reused for successive positions.  In my opinion this is one of the more reasonable methods available.

Recent media sources have varied in the number of candidates and how many of them are public.  Candidates are not required to declare their candidacy publicly but cannot publicly campaign through the media, so those who do declare publicly have issued short statements saying they will make no further comment.  An email sent to members also banned members from campaigning or doing "anything that is intended to influence another member's ballot".  It was noted that this "includes (but is not limited to) the use of phone calls, emails, events, the media or social media to endorse or encourage people to vote for or against a preselection applicant."  (I strongly suspect supporters of some minor candidates have breached this rule in rustling up votes for my Not-A-Polls!)

On 22 July I discovered the identity of two of the candidates who had not publicly declared their candidacy.    For some days there had been hits on my site for people Google searching for Wendy Heatley, so I searched the Greens' site for Heatley's name and found pages for Heatley and Hannah Rubenach as candidates.  I later found that in fact the candidate pages were trivially easy to find simply by Googling "greens candidates for Senate preselection", so it hardly seems as if the Greens were serious about keeping candidate names secret (or maybe they're just technically incompetent at doing so.)  At that time, candidate pages for nine candidates could be found on the Greens site using the following form of URLs:

Within 48 hours of me posting this information the links were removed, but many remain Google-cached as at 28 July. In any case, I've retained copies of all the pages and videos.  I am unsure if they were removed because I had exposed them (which at least one candidate knew about and asked me to remove the information - I declined) or because the election was over.

Candidates were initially limited to a 700 word candidate statement and a 2-minute video.  All candidates except Andrew milked the 700 word limit to within six words with McKim and Ryan-Sykes clocking in at exactly 700 but seven candidates went up to 15 seconds over 2 minutes in their videos, so I suspect that the video limit was increased.

As of 24 July, voting has closed.  An official announcement will be made on 30 July when Nick McKim returns from holidays (strengthening already widespread speculation that McKim is the winner) but it is not clear yet whether just one winner or the first and second Senate candidates will be announced.

Milne's Replacement: Candidates

The following are known or reportedly declared candidates, in order of announcement:

Vanessa Bleyer was recently the Greens candidate for the Legislative Council seat of Windermere.  Her result, currently at 10.8%, was a slight improvement on the Greens' (bad) result at the 2014 state election but a 5.5% downturn on the previous LegCo election for the seat, held in their glory days of the campaign against the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.    Bleyer is a declared candidate according to Andrew Darby. Bleyer is a Director and Principal Lawyer of Bleyer Lawyers Pty Ltd and a former chair of Environment Tasmania (see more detailed bio.)  Bleyer is well known within the green movement for her legal work against the Gunns pulp mill and in Victorian forests campaigns but is not so well known to the general electorate.

Nick McKim is the party's former State leader.  McKim has been the Greens member for Franklin since the 2002 state election and led the party from 2008 to just after the 2014 state election.  His tenure as leader included the Greens' strongest-ever state vote in 2010, after which he served in Cabinet in the Labor-Greens coalition government.  McKim held eight different ministries at various times in his tenure (not all at the same time) - most contentiously education and corrections. While extremely popular at the 2010 election at which he was behind a party campaign generally considered outstanding, McKim went into the 2014 election with the worst net satisfaction ever polled by any Greens leader, state or federal, and the party lost around a third of its record vote from 2010.

* Scott Jordan was the party's federal candidate for Braddon in 2010, polling 12% in line with the federal swing to the party at that election.  He was also one of the party's minor candidates in the electorate at the 2006 state election, polling 545 votes, and also ran for Burnie council in 2005 unsuccessfully.  Jordan is a rather high-profile activist with the group Save The Tarkine, which campaigns mainly against mining and other developments in the remote north-west of the state and has been involved in several high-profile court cases. Jordan is also an experienced youth and community development worker and his contributions were praised by Tasmania's continuing Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

* Matthew Ryan-Sykes (Facebook) is a Rosebery resident who the Advocate reports as a law graduate working at LINC.  He contested West Coast council in 2014 but although praised as a candidate of "calibre" by Kim Booth polled just 27 votes (1.3%); to add insult to injury he was overtaken on surpluses by the candidate below him and was hence first excluded.  Ryan-Sykes previously ran for Mayor of Sunshine Coast Council in 2012, stating he was not a party member.  He finished last of a field of eight with 2.53%. He had also run for the Queensland state seat of Sunnybank as a Green in 2009, polling 8.0%, a result consistent with the state swing.

* Rosalie Woodruff (see bio) is a current Huon Valley Councillor and epidemiologist.  Woodruff was elected to HVC at the first attempt in 2009 topping the poll with over a quota in her own right (courtesy of being the lead Greens candidate during a purple patch for the party.  In 2014 her vote roughly halved, largely because of the more competitive field in the all-in-all-out election, and she was fifth elected.  Woodruff had earlier been the party's candidate for Franklin at the 2013 federal election, polling 12.2% (a much-higher-than-average 8.7% swing against the party, probably mainly caused by a minor drink-driving charge in the months leading up to the poll). She was then the party's #2 candidate for Franklin (state) in 2014, polling a respectable 1110 votes in her own right.

* Anna Reynolds is one of the Greens three sitting Hobart City Councillors.  Reynolds was 10th of 12 elected to Council with 571 primaries in last year's election, unseating fellow Green Bill Harvey and outpolling fellow Green and Lord Mayoral candidate Philip Cocker.  Prior to this she struggled greatly for traction  against Andrew Wilkie (not an easy opponent for a Green!) in Denison in the 2013 federal election, polling only 7.9%.  My HCC candidate guide listed Reynolds as "CEO of Multicultural Tasmania, policy and campaign consultant, climate change issues advocate, former International Adviser to national Greens leader [Milne]"

* Rachel Andrew (Facebook) is a Hobart physiotherapist "who works with people with neurological issues and in women's health".  She was one of the Greens' endorsed candidates for Hobart City Council, polling 562 primaries (more than incumbents Cocker and Harvey) and ultimately falling 50.65 votes short of dislodging Cocker.

* Wendy Heatley (not publicly declared) (bio in her own words - link removed) is a frequent Greens candidate with a track record of mostly strong performances including finishing second on primaries (third after preferences) in the Legislative Council seat of Pembroke in 2009, polling an excellent 20.9% as a federal candidate for Franklin in 2007, and almost outlasting the party's nominated second candidate in the same seat in the 2010 state election.  However her result in the 2013 Pembroke election (12.9% in a field of three) was not so good.

* Hannah Rubenach (not publicly declared) (bio in her own words - link removed) is a Councillor on Break O'Day Council and served as Deputy Mayor from 2011-2014 before being defeated by a close to 60:40 margin at the 2014 election.  Rubenach was also a minor Greens candidate for Lyons at the 2014 state election polling 668 votes.

Some media reports stated there were at some stage ten candidates, but I have been unable to confirm this.  I suspect that if there was one they either withdrew or were vetoed.

(Note added: The appointment of the replacement Senator is subject to the requirement of approval by a joint sitting of State Parliament. See a previous article for more detail on the history of state parliaments approving - or in one infamous case not approving - a party's proposed replacement.  In practice this is these days a rubber-stamping.)

Prospects and (Non-)Campaign

During the previous state term the Greens suffered serious internal and support-base dissension between the pragmatists who supported Nick McKim and the coalition government, and various shades of purists and dark-greens who tended to support Kim Booth's dissenting stance and in many cases opposed the forestry peace deal.  Very soon after the vacancy became apparent, some of the latter were supporting Bleyer, not because she was one of them but because she wasn't McKim. The Australian even claimed "Ms Bleyer has strong support from current state leader Kim Booth and from Senator Milne, both of whom have glowingly endorsed her credentials."

However subsequently Booth has specifically refused to endorse candidates, reportedly claiming that party rules prevent him from doing so, though no verbatim quote of his reasons for refusing is available.  (Although party rules ban candidates from campaigning on media or social media, I have not seen any evidence that non-candidate members are thus affected).  Headlines have created an impression of a rift between Booth and McKim over the preselection, but Booth's public words on the issue don't really prove it.  Bleyer's OK-but-no-more performance in the Windermere LegCo election was, however, the subject of this glowing Booth press release which I pointed out to be spectacularly error-ridden.

I only have to watch a video of Bleyer talking about drugs to have major doubts about her public political presentation skills, but she is presumably much more effective in a courtroom situation (update: by the way her preselection video is much better).  As for McKim, his experience as a Minister in a state government is an obvious advantage, while others will see him as too pragmatic or even tainted or having suspect judgement through his coalition government adventures.  Jordan is an experienced activist (though attempts to categorise him as a party hardliner on that basis don't necessarily follow) but the choice of someone with a background in trying to block development might not play too well amid the party's apparent push for mainstream respectability.  Woodruff is the candidate with the most experience as an elected representative (so far) in the event that McKim is not selected.  Reynolds also has local government experience, albeit brief.  Andrew does not have the same government experience level as Woodruff and Reynolds but showed during the Hobart council campaign that she is an energetic campaigner.

Woodruff's candidacy came as a surprise given the expectation that McKim would win, but following the resignation of Kim Booth there may well be doubts about McKim's prospects or intentions.  She has stated she is happy to serve at either level.

Ryan-Sykes is simply not a known name to party members or Tasmanian voters, and might be angling for a minor position on the ticket.

Although candidates are banned from public campaigning, they can still shadow-campaign by being prominent in public. Scott Jordan's large Mercury article on mining in the Tarkine and the financial incentives driving it looked like an example of this.  (Whatever, it was an interesting read.)

Anyway I do not have any special knowledge of how Green grassroots party members might vote in a statewide ballot.  McKim is by far the most experienced candidate and any choice other than endorsing McKim would be a massive snub to the former state leader and effectively a vote of no-confidence in a sitting state MP from the state membership.  That would be a very messy situation for the party.  It seems more plausible to me that factional divides will be put aside and McKim endorsed.  As I write following the departure of Kim Booth there is probably panic about the fast turnover of Greens MPs, but if so this has time to settle.

The number two spot for the next Senate election is also of interest as the Greens now and then vaguely threaten to win two seats in the state.  In a very good year they might win three if there was a double-dissolution.

Based on some indications that the election would resemble the ACT Greens ballot system I was concerned that the voting method for two positions might be Hare-Clark with a quota of a third (which would be a silly way to do it and would unfairly advantage McKim.)  I am advised by a member that this wasn't the case, but the counting system remains a mystery at present.


I ran a Not-A-Poll for readers - not just Greens members! -  to express their views in the sidebar, which was reset to zero every time a new candidate publicly declared.  The result indicates no more or less than that, but it is interesting that McKim won every stage despite the potential for stacking.  I also noted that votes for McKim tended to trickle in while votes for others often arrived in little flurries.

Stage 1 Bleyer vs McKim

Very lopsided results, but off a rather small sample size and short polling run

* McKim 21 (67.7%)
* Bleyer 0
* Someone else (prefer McKim to Bleyer) 6 (19.4%)
* Someone else (prefer Bleyer to McKim) 2 (6.5%)
* Someone else (no preference between McKim and Bleyer) 2 (6.5%)
Total 31 votes

Results for Bleyer, McKim and Jordan were:

For a while McKim tracked in the low 60s but there was a move to Bleyer and someone else (none of the above) late in the poll.  This may reflect that southern politicos who tend to vote early preferred McKim, but it's also possible Kim Booth's resignation drove new voters away from the McKim option because of concerns about leaving the party with only one incumbent MHA.

* McKim 32 (53.3%)
* Bleyer 11 (18.3%)
* Jordan 1 (1.7%)
* Someone else (pref McKim) 4 (6.7%)
* Someone else (pref Bleyer) 3 (5%)
* Someone else (pref Jordan) 1 (1.7%)
* Someone else (no preference between named candidates) 8 (13.3%)
Total 60 votes

McKim received one vote in the next round before the poll was reset when I was advised Matthew Ryan-Sykes was running as well as Woodruff.

Results for Five Candidates

As more candidates are added - and perhaps not only for that reason - the McKim vote continues to decline though he is still a clear leader.

* McKim 15 (41.7%)
* Woodruff 5 (13.9%)
* Bleyer 5 (13.9%)
* Jordan 2 (5.6%)
* Ryan-Sykes 1 (2.8%)
* Someone else (pref McKim) 2 (5.6%)
* Someone else (pref Jordan) 1 (2.8%)
* Someone else (no preference between named candidates) 5 (13.9%)
Total 36 votes

Results for Six Candidates

At one stage McKim and Reynolds were tied at 12-12.  The poll did include 13 days of voting after Andrew was named as a candidate but surprisingly no-one told me it was out of date.

* McKim 24 (31.6%)
* Reynolds 16 (21.1%)
* Ryan-Sykes 8 (10.5%)
* Bleyer 5 (6.6%)
* Jordan 4 (5.3%)
* Woodruff 3 (4.0%)
* Someone else 16 (21.1%)
Total 76 votes

Results for Seven Candidates Plus Three (?) Secret Ones

As of 27 July, I've taken the poll link off the sidebar as the Greens' member ballot has also closed.  At the time I set the poll there were believed to be ten candidates, but if so only nine appear to have gone the distance.

* McKim 32 (25.2%)
* Ryan-Sykes 23 (18.1%)
* Andrew 14 (11.0%)
* Reynolds 10 (7.9%)
* Woodruff 10 (7.9%)
* Bleyer 9 (7.1%)
* Jordan 1 (0.8%)
* "One of the three secret candidates" 28 (22.1%)
Total 127 votes

The high vote for Ryan-Sykes seems a bit unrepresentative here - as with any opt-ins, I can't rule out that votes could have come from outside Tasmania or even that some could be not entirely sincere!

What Happens If McKim Is Selected?

If McKim is selected and his appointment duly rubber-stamped by the Tasmanian parliament then he will have to resign from his Tasmanian state seat.

This then would create a Hare-Clark countback for McKim's state seat of Franklin.  Hare-Clark countbacks are much misunderstood and it is important to point out that it is only the votes that the elected member had when he crossed the line that matters. How many primary votes some other candidate had or how close they got to being elected in the original election is irrelevant - those votes only matter to the extent that they flowed to McKim.

In the recount, the votes McKim had when he was elected flow on to the first available candidate on each vote who is in the recount.  However, in some cases that would be a candidate who had been excluded when McKim was elected - some votes will go "back to the top".  For instance a vote that is 1 Kean 2 Woodruff 3 McKim goes back to Kean in the recount, though at reduced value because the votes that went from Woodruff to McKim pushed McKim over quota.  A vote that is 1 Burnett 2 Atkinson 3 McKim goes back to Burnett at full value.

It is completely certain that ticket flow within the party would be strong enough to elect one of McKim's fellow Greens, the only question being which one.  At the election Rosalie Woodruff polled 1110 primaries, Simon Burnett 454, Zoe Kean 354 and Richard Atkinson 334.  While these votes are only directly relevant to the recount if they reached McKim in the original election, they also tell us something about the profiles of the candidates. Woodruff, a Huon Valley councillor, was by far the highest profile candidate of the four, and was the endorsed Greens #2 candidate.  For this reason it seems likely that many of McKim's preferences will flow to her.

Some insight can also be gained from the cut-up into the fate of the 19.4% of McKim's vote that wasn't primary votes.  Most of this came from Woodruff, but she would have received some of the votes she sent to McKim from other Greens candidates on their exclusion. My estimate is that these votes advantage Woodruff by about two points compared to Burnett, and more compared to the other Greens.

The votes used in the countback are:
* McKim's primary votes (80.6% of total value)
* Surplus votes received by McKim from Will Hodgman, in some cases via Jacquie Petrusma and Lara Giddings (1.1% of total value)
* Votes received by McKim from fellow Greens Atkinson, Burnett and Kean (4.6% of total value)
* Votes received by McKim from various non-Green excluded candidates (2.8% of total value)
* Votes received by McKim from Rosalie Woodruff (10.9% of total value, after reduction to bring McKim down to surplus)

All these votes are thrown to the first available candidate who is contesting the recount.  If no-one gets over 50% then the lowest scoring recontesting candidate is eliminated and their votes redistributed, then the next and so on.

All other votes are irrelevant and the fact that David O'Byrne was sixth in the original election is irrelevant.

All up it's extremely likely that Woodruff would win the recount. She would then have to resign from Huon Valley Council within a year and I would expect her seat to be taken by fellow Greens candidate Ian Mackintosh on that recount.

The fact that Woodruff is also contesting preselection is irrelevant to her ability to replace McKim if he is chosen.  If preselected second behind McKim for the next Senate election she could always simply withdraw.  A sitting state politician can't run for election to federal parliament (and vice versa) but running for party preselections does not count.

(Content regarding the possible impact on Kim Booth's leadership has been removed, as Booth himself has quit parliament; see What Happens In Kim Booth's Recount?)

Disclosure: In 2014 the author prepared one small report on contract for Nick McKim.

Update: July 30 McKim Wins

As universally expected Nick McKim has won the ballot, in his own words "comfortably".  He will resign his parliamentary seat imminently, and as noted above I strongly expect Woodruff to win the countback; whether the other Greens even contest or decline to do so (as in the recent Booth to Dawkins transfer) remains to be seen.  Woodruff has confirmed she is contesting.

On July 31 William Bowe in Crikey's subscriber email reported that Woodruff was preselected second for the Senate ballot (or third in case of a double dissolution, in which case the ticket order would be 1 Whish-Wilson 2 McKim etc).  However since Woodruff is more or less certainly not going to take up this Senate ticket position after being elected to the House of Assembly, it remains to be seen who is next on the list and when that information might be revealed.  And on it goes.

Update: Aug 17 Woodruff Wins McKim recount

Rosalie Woodruff has won McKim's recount with an absolute majority over two fellow Greens and the mostly PUP riffraff.  This more or less completes the shuffling of chairs except for the loose ends of Woodruff's Huon Valley council seat and the next candidate on the Greens Senate ticket.

Amusingly it is now the case that all five Tasmanian Greens representatives (Senators Whish-Wilson and McKim and MHAs O'Connor, Woodruff and Dawkins) were originally elected to their present position by casual vacancy, though two (Whish-Wilson and O'Connor) have been re-elected to that job at an election.

2016 Update

On Feb 20, 2016 it was finally announced that Anna Reynolds was next in line and would be #2 candidate in the event of a half-Senate election.


  1. Fantastic and fair analysis, thankyou.

    I would be quite surprised if a Nick McKim countback elected anyone other than Woodruff. Although that was a particularly good ticket for anyone who knows the people behind the names, I honestly think any one of them would make a very capable MP.

    Very exciting times in the Greens!

  2. Thanks Robert. I somehow resisted the temptation to include a disclaimer stating how much I disagreed with various Save The Tarkine claims about threatened species issues (especially devils), but my resistance did cost them a link to their site. :)

  3. News seems to be reporting that the Tasmanian Parliament could oppose the winner's appointment to fill Milne's vacancy. "State MPs to vote on Milne vacancy"

    The article brings up the 'Devereaux' case where Parliament refused the appointment and Labor had to wait for the election before getting its Senator back.

    I wasn't around for that. Is that an actual possibility? Because that seems the lowest of the low.

  4. Yes it is still possible in theory but I don't think it's a real risk in this day and age as the outrage would be considerable, especially against the five or so Legislative Councillors who would have to agree to the obstruction.

    I covered the Devereux case in a previous piece here:

  5. Looks like we might get two Greens countbacks, quite probably electing two more female Green MPs. I suppose this must surely make Cassy O'Connor the new leader.

    1. One would think so assuming Nick McKim continues with his Senate bid.

      Booth's seat would certainly go to another Green but it is unclear which at this stage, mainly between Dawkins and Tyler. I will post about this probably tonight.


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