Matt Hrkac's Blog

Another day, another post relating to the fall out within The Greens after their Batman by-election loss. They can't even keep the details of their own internal investigations on leaking from leaking.

From The Guardian:

The leaked terms of reference for the review, appear to assume that damaging leaks accusing the Greens candidate, Alex Bhathal, of bullying constituted a breach of confidentiality and widen the investigation to members’ public discussions of the issue. It will investigate how confidential information is provided to the state executive and “the impacts the breaches of confidentiality had on the candidate, other individuals, Darebin branch, Batman byelection results and [the Australian Greens Victorian branch] as a whole”.

... Also up for investigation is “public messaging” regarding the party dispute and whether members’ comments on social media constituted breaches of the code of conduct.

Of course, the Victorian Greens targeting members based on public discussions such as on social media is nothing new. They have been 'informally' doing that for ages, long before the Batman by-election. In fact, there were Greens members who were often targeted by a rather heavy handed Digital Communications Coordinator who was paid too much and who had very little to do, leading up to the last Federal Election.

The 'thought policing' within the Victorian Greens is still very much prevalent - particularly against those whom the party hierarchy don't like and it looks like they could be about to formalise it.

The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, has suggested that those responsible for the leak should be expelled from the party, describing it as a “major factor” in the loss.

Only one major factor was responsible for the Batman by-election loss: Richard Di Natale and his last minute pandering to conservative voters.

Lastly, the co-convenors of the Victorian Greens (both from the party's centrist 'new guard'), Rose Read (a former 2013 federal Greens candidate for the seat of Goldstein) and Colin Jacobs (who had worked in Di Natale's office as a Senior Advisor for several years, briefly becoming Director of Policy and Strategy after he became leader), insist:

Members ... be sceptical of what they hear in the media or via third parties, to trust in party processes and give fellow members the benefit of the doubt.

Which is a laughable statement and deserves to be ridiculed.

Firstly, lets talk about the media: legally, journalists and reporters can't make stuff up else they would be liable to defamation suits. Different outlets have different editorial bents but they still have to report the facts. If the Greens claim that what is being reported is untrue, they should take them on in a lawsuit or challenge it through the Australian Press Council (they won't do either, because there is no case).

Second, any third parties, myself included, who are speaking up on this and other matters about the Greens are mostly those who were formerly involved in the party. Our unfiltered and frank comments about the Greens are arguably more credible than the controlled and filtered party lines that come from those in the party.

The state of civil war within the Victorian Greens doesn't seem to be subsiding at all.

On May 11th, former Greens Councillor, who also stood as a candidate for the seat of Narre Warren South at the 2014 Victorian State Election, Lynette Keleher, took aim at the party and blasted it for what she describes as a culture of bullying and abuse.

I have seen cases, including my own, where preselection rules and dates have been changed at the last minute, affecting outcomes in at least one winnable seat. I have seen victims of bullying, including myself and Bhathal, lodge complaints, only to have them ignored or batted away. And then I have seen victims' words used in counter complaints against them, which are acted on with speed and force.

Right now the cover up is on. Right now, it seems the party leaders are busy spinning their lines. They write about the need to identify the leakers while protecting the complainants’ right to raise anonymous, evidence-free allegations as the rest of the party prepared for an expected historic byelection. They know very well that journalists will protect their sources – the leakers will not be found. The bullies will continue their careers in the party, and nothing will change.

I, as someone else who was heavily involved in the party; I can only say that Keleher is absolutely spot on in her assessment of the Victorian Greens.

By and large, the party's membership can be divided into two camps. The first camp is what can be considered the 'old guard'; consisting of people who have helped build the party from its humble beginnings in the early 1990's, on the basis of activism, as well as other people who have come in around them up to the present day. People such as Alex Bhathal and Lidia Thorpe both fall into this grouping.

The other, and more concerning, broad group can be termed as the 'new guard'. This group consists of several sub-groups, based on when and how they came into the party.

The first big subgroup are those who came into the party post 2001,  jumping ship from both the Labor and Liberal Party's in response to the bypartisan me-tooism between the two major parties on Tampa and the Iraq War. These people, while broadly  progressive and left-wing; were also broadly dismissive of social movements and their role in creating change, believing that progressive change comes from electing people into parliament. They brought with them the same attitudes and culture of opportunism and careerism that plagues the major parties, into the Greens.

The second big sub-group of the 'new guard' consists of former Democrats (some who held key positions in that party) who jumped ship following their demise as a political force. It is this sub-group that has been broadly responsible for the Greens centrist drag and willingness to do deals - seeking to turn the Greens into the Democrats 2.0, claiming to have learned from their mistakes of the past.

The third sub-group consists of a loose collective of younger people from affluent backgrounds, who grew up in Liberal voting households. In their adult lives, these people have only ever known the Greens. These people are very individualist, inward looking, ambitious and are very much motivated by career progression rather than activism, social movements, issues advocacy and party building.

It is the 'new guard' that now has dominance within the Victorian Greens and it was this group that gained confidence and was emboldened by the elevation of Richard Di Natale into the Federal Parliamentary Leadership. This group, which now occupies most of the key internal positions in the Victorian Greens, has been consistently and aggressively going after the 'old guard' in the party ever since as well as successfully taking power away from the grassroots membership and centralising it. Which is why...

We Greens have problems, and we should lay off the smug boasting that we "do politics differently". However, if the progressive green-left were to abandon this party – built over 30 years by thousands of committed volunteers – it would just have to be rebuilt.

...this statement, in a letter to The Age on May 13 by 'long standing Greens member' Colin Smith is completely misguided.

The fact is, the progressive green-left aren't really being given a choice. They are being forced out of the party unless they toe the centrist line and the party's 'new guard' couldn't care less about the work that has been put in to build the party over the years.

The party may not be entirely a powerful elite - but this powerful elite definitely have the most influence within the party.

This was a tweet in response to mine that outed City of Darebin Greens Councillor Trent McCarthy as being one who was responsible for the undermining of Alex Bhathal's by-election for the seat of Batman:

Yet, this, courtesy of The Age, drops today:

"Four Greens councillors in Melbourne’s inner-north, including the Mayor of Darebin, have been confirmed as among the 18 party members who tried to take out their own candidate for the recent Batman byelection before the race had even started. Darebin Mayor Kim Le Cerf and councillors Trent McCarthy, Steph Amir and Susanne Newton face calls for their expulsion from the Greens over their alleged roles in the sabotage of the failed campaign of candidate Alex Bhathal."

When I tweeted calling out McCarthy as one of the possible perpetrators of the leaks against Alex Bhathal - I knew I was right about my assumptions. This merely confirms it.

Never tweet, McCarthy. Never tweet.

If you thought that Prime Minister Tony Abbott was bad, it could be about to get a whole lot worse.

(A reminder too that Malcolm Turnbull hasn't even lost his 30th Newspoll in a row yet; but that will come next week)

Abbott was a bumbling idiot. Peter Dutton is actually a smart and conniving political operator who knows what he is doing. I think we can all determine just who is more dangerous.

God help us if Peter Dutton becomes Prime Minister. God, help us.

According to the latest Australian Election Study, which has been conducted following every Federal Election since 1987, more Australians than ever are describing themselves as on the political left. Since 1996:

Granted, more still identify as being centrist, but that figure is in decline - give it a couple more election cycles and those identifying as left will outnumber those who identify as being in the centre. Those who identify as 'right' has not changed at all over the years.

Granted, also, those identifying as "left" could very well range from your more liberal Liberals right though to Marxists - however, it is now becoming very apparent that people want more progressive politics.

This is arguably reflected in Labor's left-ish lurch in recent years from their slump to the right pre 2013; but it boggles the mind that there are still some who insist on pandering to centrist positions.

Granted, it was a Labor commissioned survey, but it is none the less quite telling:

... responders in the Melbourne [Batman] ­electorate describing the Greens leader in negative terms such as “aggressive”, “disappointing”, ­“arrogant”, “smarmy”, “confused” and “not Bob Brown”.

... with some responders associating the Greens leader with “disunity”, ­“infighting”, “complaint”, “bullying” and “secrets”.

I said in the aftermath of the Batman by-election that Di Natale's pitch to right-wing voters over dividend imputation is what cost the Greens the election. This merely confirms my analysis.

The response from Di Natale's spokesperson is also very telling:

“This so-called ‘polling’ says far more about the Labor Party’s growing anxieties about the Greens in the inner city than anything else.”

Dismiss it as they will as some sort of 'Labor conspiracy', but they should know this: there are numerous people on the left; not just within the Labor Party but many non party aligned, members of smaller left wing parties and even people within the Greens who feel exactly the same way about Di Natale's leadership as this polling indicates.

More than 6,500 early childhood educators in more than 5,000 early childcare centres walked off the job today over poor pay. 1,000 of those workers rallied in Melbourne. Childcare workers remain among the lowest paid professionals in Australia, mainly because the sector is women-dominated and its historic association with 'women's work'.

The nationwide day of action was staged by United Voice. View the full photo album.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) coordinated a series of actions to coincide with the Victorian Transport Association's 2018 Annual Conference in Lorne over the 19th and 20th of March.

The unions were protesting against the Victorian Transport Association's support for the Victorian International Container Terminal (VICT) during the MUA dispute. VICT is owned by Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI), which operates in countries known to be “the worst countries in the world to work in” and where workers have “no guarantee of rights”.

Here are a few photos from the actions:

Protesters stage a silent stand-in at the Victorian Transport Association's 2018 Annual Conferece in Lorne, March 19

At least 50 union activists made the trip to Lorne on March 20 to protest against corporate links to dictatorships

The CFMEU and the MUA were prominently represented at the rally

Shannon O'Keeffe, ITF Campaigns Director for the Asia Pacific

Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) (Construction and General Division)

View full photo album.

Photos from the Palm Sunday 2018 Melbourne Walk for Justice for Refugees. View the full photo album.

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

Walk for Justice for Refugees - Palm Sunday Melbourne 2018

View the full photo album.

Welcome to my live post for the Batman by-election.

For both the Greens and Labor, the moment of truth has finally arrived. Will five time candidate for the Greens, Alex Bhathal, finally wrest the seat of Batman from Labor? Or will the factional drama within her party, combined with the Ged Kearney factor, see her miss out once again?

Has Labor finally found the right candidate and policy combination to be able to effectively defend its once safe inner city seats against a rising Greens tide? Or is it just inevitable that these seats will fall to the Greens regardless of what Labor say or do?

Keep an eye on this post throughout the day for live updates relating to any significant developments and after the close of polling, for the results as they come in. If you have Facebook, feel free to contribute in the comments below this post. You can also check out my guide to the Batman by-election.

(Times are Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time)

Polling opens at 8.00am.

circa 1.00pm - A lunch time primer - Labor's announced proposal to end franking credit cash rebates for self-funded retirees has potentially thrown a spanner into the works of their campaign; with the Greens yesterday even making an appeal to conservative voters, which, in a progressive electorate, may actually negate the backlash against Labor. The negative effect, if any, for Labor will probably be minimal in any case due to the Batman electorate having younger demographic compared to the national and state average.

Alex Bhathal, with her children in toe, has cast her vote. No guesses as to who for.

5.30pm - Polls for the Batman by-election will close at 6.00pm and counting will begin promptly at that time. Live updates will be posted as the results come in. I expect the first results will start coming in from around 7pm.

6.00pm - Polls are now closed.

6.50pm - First primary vote result has come in from the Newlands Senior Citizens Centre (Murray): Labor: 39.76%, Greens: 38.96%, Conservatives: 6.83%. This is north of Bell St, the so-called "Hipster Proof Fence".

6.57pm - First big polling places north of Bell St have come in - Reservoir and Reserviour West, which are strong Labor booths. Labor are ahead on primaries, for now. But still a large swing (8%+) to the Greens on primaries at this early stage. Labor have a modest 1.2% swing in their favour.

7.06pm - First big polling booths south of Bell St have come in (Collingwood North and Northcote), which have pushed the Greens ahead on primary votes. So far, both the Conservatives and the Greens are absorbing most of the Liberal vote.

7.15pm - The early results so far indicate that the polling places north of Bell St are still holding up firm for Labor while the south is holding firm for the Greens. Still no results from most of the Preston booths, a suburb which straddles on Bell St, which will be likely what determines the outcome of this election.

7.33pm - with a total of more than 30,000 votes now counted (21 of 46 booths), Labor is currently leading the Greens on primary votes. Labor are also currently leading the Greens on the two party preferred vote (with 7 polling places counted, most of which are in the north). Still no results in from most of the Preston booths as yet.

7.45pm - Most of the south of Bell St polling places have been counted, with a number of northern suburbs polling places still to come in. It is not looking good for the Greens, but I'm not prepared to call it until those Preston booths are counted.

8.05pm - 50% of the vote is now counted with most of the regular polling places now in. The primary vote in the Preston booths have come in and it hasn't shifted the primary vote in one way or another. This is likely to reflect the same on two party preferred terms. The two party preferred vote currently sits at 51.7% / 48.3% to Labor. The primary vote sits and has stabilised at 42.9% for Labor, 40.6% to the Greens and (probably crucially) 6.2% to the Australian Conservatives.

8.21pm - Most of the Preston booths are now counted and Labor are still ahead on two party preferred terms with a small swing in their favour. I'm calling this as a Labor retain.

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