2009 will go down as the year the Greens broke through the glass ceiling and into state Houses of Representatives -” and the first time the party outpolled all other candidates on primary votes anywhere in Australia.

Two weeks ago Adele Carles took the Western Australian seat of Fremantle in a by-election with a whopping 44 percent of first preference votes, outdoing the party’s previous best effort in Marrickville in 2005.

The result confirms Western Australia as the Greenest state in the country, with its two federal senators, and Adele joining four Greens MLCs in state Parliament.

While Greens have been a fixture of state legislative assemblies for over a decade now, it’s the first time since Michael Organ’s two-year stint as the federal member for Cunningham that voters will have a Green as their local member in the house from which governments are formed.

For more cautious voters, such a breakthrough may lead to a paradigm shift in their perceptions of the Greens, as those who see a minor party vote as a throwaway vote start to see them as a -˜real’ option, capable of a win.

Some commentators have dubbed the result a fluke because the Liberals failed to put a horse in the race. This ignores the fact that there was a Liberal-aligned independent running. If this were true, votes should have also flowed to Family First and Christian Democrats -” yet the vote for both actually went down.

The SMH’s Gerard Henderson has even called on the Liberals to start preferencing Labor over the Greens to stop the same happening elsewhere, arguing that the Liberals have no reason to help the Greens take seats from Labor.

At a pinch I can think of two: more Greens in Parliament puts Labor in a situation where they’re more likely to negotiate with the Liberals, and puts Labor governments under greater scrutiny when the Libs and Greens work together to establish inquiries into Government policies.

In Victoria, where this happens already and where the Greens hold the balance of power, the Labor Party has been spooked enough to set up a website claiming a -˜Greens-Liberal deal’, with the Greens painted as a secret third force in the Victorian Liberal/National Coalition. Recently we’ve seen the same federally where the Liberals and Greens established an inquiry into the Government’s emissions trading scheme plans.

It doesn’t matter how ideologically opposed the two parties are -” while in Opposition both benefit from having a light shone on the Government.

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