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Labor loses its Brisbane stronghold

Greens ascendancy stifled
by Dave Riley

I doubt that you've missed the news or its relevance to the punch drunk Coalition but the ALP has lost its once dominant position as long time rulers of the Brisbane City Council. The Liberal Party and the incumbent mayor -- Campbell Newman -- won a landslide victory at the poll on March 9th.

Former deputy mayor and ALP leader in the last council, David Hinchliffe, is still waiting to see if he will be representing Central ward as this is the only seat yet to be decided.

While the last council was an odd mix -- a Liberal mayor and a ALP majority in council -- this resolution certainly pronounces electorate judgement on the ALP's dream run in Queensland since the early nineties. Labor had regained council and the mayorship in 1991 after a Liberal ascendancy of one term under Sally Anne Atkinson-- but no sweep has been as savage and as brutal as this.

This loss is sure to impact on the ALP's capacity to deliver selective largess at the grassroots level and shake up the party's ability to sustain a community profile across Brisbane suburbs.

While it can be read as a shot in the arm for the fortunes of the Liberals -- now seemingly in the toilet after the recent federal loss -- no one is actually saying that this result was a vote for Newman's Liberals. In effect very little separated the two opposing parties and the campaign for City Hall was very much a me too affair.

Nonetheless the result is a shade indicative of a break down in the rigid consensus that has ruled Brisbane local government for so long as Queensland is way out of step with other states in that no third party has achieved electoral office at the local level despite the massive support for the One Nation at the state polls during the mid nineties.

The Greens failed to win any ward and the poll figures are, what you'll have to conclude as, disappointing:

Jo Bragg - Lord Mayor - 8.11% (40,542 votes, 9 candidates)
Indicative ward results:
Anne Boccabella - Central - 16.31%
Angela Dean - Holland Park - 13.65%
Sean McConnell - Tennyson - 14.20%
Drew Hutton - The Gabba - 26.08
Robert Hogg - The Gap - 16.21%
Stuart Skabo - Toowong - 21.24%
Daniel Crute - Walter Taylor - 14.58%
The Socialist Alliance stood against Hinchliffe and garnered 1.82% of the vote.

The poll result also marks off more clearly than last time the end of the era of Jim Soorley -- the ALP mayor who was elected in 1991 and who's administration ( until his retirement in 2003) engineered a savvy mix of neo liberal corporate restructuring and green washing (although more effectively green washed than most other ALP fiefdoms) .

So while the Soorley's green credentialing effectively kept the Greens at bay --green rhetoric at this most recent poll was mild indeed and very consensually adhered to between the two main parties so that the green jeni didn't get out of the bottle.

An indication of this was the race in the Gabba where high profile Greens member, party leader and founder, Drew Hutton tried to push his party's envelope by harnessing support from the inner urban left community based on suburbs like West End and Dutton Park.

HUTTON, Drew GRN 4,614
MYERS, Matthew LIB 6,686
ABRAHAMS, Helen ALP 6,591

While Hutton challenged the support base of the major parties what was surely the Greens best chance of winning enough electoral support to take office failed to occur and only entrenches further the electoral impasse the greens have faced in Queensland.

In 2004 the Greens polled 42,243 votes 8.14 % in the wards and received 52,995 votes 10.13% for mayor. I haven't got the final ward figures for the recent poll but for mayor this time around the Greens Jo Bragg pulled in 8.11% (40,542 votes, 9 candidates).