This week the Greens party is retreating from its loss in the weekend’s Batman by-election where factional divides within the party saw them receive a thrashing in the ballots. Senator Richard Di Natale, leader of the Greens, has revealed that a small cabal of leakers may have deliberately sabotaged Greens candidate Alex Bhathal, undermining their chances of winning the election.
Di Natale told radio reporters that it only took “a handful” of saboteurs to “undermine a campaign” and that this is what “we saw in Batman,” saying that an internal party investigation was being carried out.
Di Natale gave a warning over the radio that those who were identified as leakers would be “expelled” from the party for undermining the party candidate. He went on to say he didn’t think there was “any other alternative there”.
The Batman seat, despite being considered a certainty for the Greens mere weeks ago, was instead won by Ged Kearney, the Labor candidate. Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Labor Premier, said that the people of Batman had voted for a candidate “who can actually deliver”.
Andrew’s comments raised pervasive questions about whether supporting minor parties was worthwhile for voters. The last 2 weeks have indeed been tough for minor parties around Australia, with the Jacqui Lambie Network performing badly in Tasmania alongside the Greens.
Nick Xenophon’s SA Best party, which had drummed up hype for a win in South Australia, was overshadowed by Labor and Liberal parties.
Di Natale said that his leadership was not in question, despite the Batman loss which he attributed to the difficulty of “fighting your own people”. He pointed out a strong Greens result in Northcote, but this result means that the Greens will only have one seat in the House of Representatives; despite Di Natale’s claims they could have as many as 8 seats in 2016.
The Greens also lost two strong senators, Larissa Water and Scott Ludlam in the citizenship scandal, despite them being replaced by other Greens members. Certainly the loss of two key leadership figures has damaged the strength of the party.
This most recent defeat in Batman is likely to embolden Labor to challenge the Greens in the inner-urban seats. Despite this setback for the Greens, Di Natale has reaffirmed that the country is still growing with dissatisfaction toward the two major parties and that overall trends supported that people would eventually see parties like the Greens as viable options.