The first Australian candidates to contest an election on a clearly espoused environmental policy were members of the United Tasmania Group in the 1972 Tasmanian election. Concerns for the environment saw the emergence in the 1980s of a number of environmental groups, some contested elections, with successes in Western Australia and Tasmania. An important development was the emergence in the next decade of the Australian Greens as a unified political force, with Franklin Dam activist and Tasmanian MP, Bob Brown, as its nationally recognised leader. The 2004 and 2007 Commonwealth elections have resulted in five Australian Green senators in the 42nd Parliament, the best return to date.
This paper discusses the electoral support that Australian Greens candidates have developed, including:
• the emergence of environmental politics is placed in its historical context
• the rise of voter support for environmental candidates
• an analysis of Australian Greens voters—who they are, where they live and the motivations they have for casting their votes for this party
• an analysis of the difficulties such a party has in winning lower house seats in Australia, which is especially related to the use of Preferential Voting for most elections
• the strategic problems that the Australian Greens – and any ‘third force’ – have in the Australian political setting
• the decline of the Australian Democrats that has aided the Australian Greens upsurge and
• the question whether the Australian Greens will ever be more than an important ‘third force’ in Australian politics.