North Coast based Greens MLC Dawn Walker is almost certain to lose her seat after her supporters last week failed in a court bid calling for a recount of votes for the party’s 2019 upper house ticket.
Ms Walker now sits in third place behind David Shoebridge and newcomer Abigail Boyd, making her chances of re-election ‘unlikely’ according to a Greens insider.
It would be the first time in almost 25 years there was no North Coast Greens representation in the upper house, after Ian Cohen was first elected in 1995.
Mr Cohen was succeeded by former Byron Greens mayor Jan Barham in 2011. Ms Walker then inherited the seat from Ms Barham in 2017.
Ms Walker said in a statement to members she would ‘accept the decision’, adding ‘I know many of you are suffering from this outcome and the way it has been handled by the party. Grassroots democracy is a foundation pillar of the Greens and worth standing up for, even though the cost has been high.’
Juggling the line-up
Following a vote of party members in September last year, Ms Walker was placed third on the ticket behind sitting members David Shoebridge and Jeremy Buckingham.
Also elected to the ticket was self-described ‘activist and banking regulation expert’ Abigail Boyd. All except Ms Boyd are in the current parliament.
Ms Walker received more primary votes than Ms Boyd but was dropped down the list owing to the Greens’ complex voting system.
When Mr Shoebridge reached his quota for the first position, his preferences were distributed to his factional ally Ms Boyd, pushing her ahead of Ms Walker.
Mr Buckingham also received more primary votes than Ms Boyd but, because of the Greens policy that males should not occupy the two most electable positions, he was demoted to third on the list and Ms Walker to fourth.
When Mr Buckingham quit the party, supporters of Ms Walker called for a recount to allocate his preferences, believing she had a strong chance of obtaining the second spot.
A Greens Party insider believes she would have won but the Greens’ party machine refused to hold a recount.
Two of Ms Walker’s supporters, Lindsay Johnston and Chris Harris, then launched legal action on Thursday seeking a court-ordered recount. But on Friday the court threw out the bid.
Votes ‘chucked in the bin’
The insider told Echonetdaily that ‘a lot of voters were strongly in support of Jeremy and Dawn – those votes have now effectively been chucked in the bin’.
‘Some members are publicly urging North Coast Greens supporters to vote below the line try to get Ms Walker re-elected,’ the insider added.
The stoush has reopened old wounds between the environmental, politically moderate arm of the party and the hard-left socialists grouped around former NSW senator Lee Rhiannon.
‘There’s a group of environmental moderates who care about social justice issues and want to be part of government decision-making. The North Coast Greens are along those lines,’ the insider said.
‘Then you’ve got a group of socialists that are more interested in radical left-wing social policies, perhaps at the expense of the environment and certainly at the expense of having any real influence.
‘They really don’t want to be in government they prefer to process and posture around “ideologically pure” ideas.
‘It’s sad that the North Coast is going to be denied the representation that it has historically had,’ the insider said.
Standing up for forests
Ms Walker herself seemed resigned to the outcome, telling her supporters, ‘It’s been an enormous privilege to be your representative in the NSW state parliament, standing up for forests, koalas and the vulnerable in our community. To amplify your voices and those that have none, is an honour I have taken very seriously.
‘Rest assured I’ll continue to stand with you on the issues I know we all care so passionately about and I look forward to supporting your campaigns in the upcoming state election,’ she said.
Co-convenor of Greens NSW Rochelle Flood told media she welcomed the decision by Justice Stephen Robb on Friday and confirmed the party had submitted its ticket to the NSW Electoral Commission.