After an election where all major polls and most commentators predicted major gains for the Greens, many will be asking why the party didn’t do better.

First let’s look at the positives -“ the Greens achieved over a million votes in both houses and have truly left the Nationals in their dust to become the official third party in Australian politics. The election saw leader Bob Brown returned in a record vote and two new Senators for South and Western Australia.

Greens preferences also got Labor over the line in at least 20 seats. With the Government looking at a majority of 18 that means Rudd simply couldn’t have done it without them.

The Greens vote was up in every state in Australia except for NSW (where GLBTI spokesperson Kerry Nettle lost her seat), leaving the party in striking distance of picking up a new Senator in Queensland at the next election.

They’ve also called for a recount in the Senate contest in Victoria where scrutineers estimate as many as 5,000 Greens votes may have gone uncounted and where candidate Dr Richard Di Natale is hanging just a hair’s breadth behind Labor after preferences. Whether this recount delivers a sixth Greens Senator will probably be unknown until late January. However, this won’t alter the balance of power as the seat will come from Labor not the Liberals. For that they needed to take a seat in the ACT and despite polling a record 21.47 percent the Liberal vote was just too high. Maybe next time.

But despite a professional advertising blitz across all major media and having more money to throw into campaigning than ever before, the Greens only managed a swing of +0.6 to 7.8 percent (though in the Senate the increase was +1.37 to 9.04 percent -“ not bad for a minor party).

In Grayndler, Saeed Khan was just 2.1 percent behind the Liberals but still took a negative swing of 0.9 on last year’s result. In Sydney, despite polling a healthy 20.7 percent, the vote was down too -“ though the Greens made a reasonable increase in Wentworth.

At the end of the day it seems the stakes were just too high in the minds of voters to consider the alternatives. Although the Greens clearly differentiated themselves from Labor in key areas of importance to progressive and pink voters, most wanted Howard out so bad they simply didn’t have room in their heads to think about who might keep Labor honest in office and pull the party back to the Left.

Labor should still take note, however. Assuming the Liberals stay in disarray, next time round those stakes won’t be so high.

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