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7:30 Report on Fremantle by-election

News Item
Scott Ludlam 19 May 2009

Congratulations go to Adele Carles and the Greens (WA) for their recent victory in the Fremantle by-election.

The ABC's 7:30 Report last night produced a feature story about the by-election - you can watch it on the ABC's website here.


Broadcast: 18/05/2009

Reporter: Hamish Fitzsimmons

On the weekend political history was made in Fremantle, the safe Labor seat fell to the Greens in the lower house of Western Australia's parliament. Fremantle has been held by Labor for the past 85 years, but on Saturday the alp received a thorough drubbing in a by-election, with the greens candidate taking 44 per cent of the primary vote.

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: On the same weekend Western Australians knocked back daylight saving in a record fourth referendum, political history was also being made with a safe Labor seat falling to the Greens in the Lower House of Western Australia's Parliament.

Fremantle has been held by Labor for the past 85 years, but on Saturday the ALP received a thorough drubbing in a by-election, with the Greens' candidate taking 44 per cent of the primary vote.

The result may also have implications for Labor federally with the Greens saying they'll now target inner city Melbourne and Sydney seats, where their vote has also been on the rise. Hamish Fitzsimmons reports from Perth.

ADELE CARLES, FREEMANTLE MP-ELECT: It was The Greens versus the Labor candidate in their heartland seat of Fremantle. It's known as the jewel for the Labor Party.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS, REPORTER: For 85 years it's been a bastion of the ALP. Now the West Australian seat of Fremantle will go down in history as only the second electorate to elect a Greens MP to the State Lower House - a first in WA.

Labor's vote haemorrhaged with the Greens grabbing 44 per cent of the primary, and it's a result with national implications, according to political analyst, Peter Van Onsolen.

DR PETER VAN ONSELEN, POLITICS, COWAN UNIVERSITY: The Green Party is either making the seats like Melbourne ports or Sydney or possibly Fremantle marginal Green seats or at least marginal seats outside the normal two-party process.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The by election was triggered by the early retirement of former Labor leader and minister, Jim McGinty, who held Fremantle for 19 years. In last year's State election Mr McGinty nearly lost to the Greens, so when a by-election was called in April, the Greens say they knew there was mood for change.

ADELE CARLES: Jim McGinty only got across that line with that very clear Greens' preference, but he ignored or Labor ignored the Green mandate in that vote.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Labor's candidate was long-time Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferre, who the party expected to maintain the ALP's unbroken grip on the seat. Mr Tagliaferre was unavailable today, but the result has prompted some Labor heavyweights such as former Premier Peter Dowding to question the Party's pre-selection process.

PETER DOWDING, FORMER WA PREMIER: Peter Tagliaferre is a nice bloke, worked hard as the mayor of Fremantle, but has a lot of enemies and has - there are a lot of people in Fremantle who would have voted Labor, but wouldn't vote for Tagliaferre, and I think the Labor Party simply didn't understand the local electorate.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The Fremantle by-election has raised the obvious question about the leadership of Labor's Eric Ripper. Ironically he believes the absence of a Liberal candidate cost the ALP dearly.

ERIC RIPPER, WA LABOR LEADER: It was not possible for Labor to outweigh the combined effect of the Liberal votes and the Green votes. We had a circumstance where strong Liberal voters decided to punish Labor by going to the Greens in the absence of a Liberal candidate.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: As the nation's newest Greens MP gets used to her workplace, Adele Carles has a different take on the reasons for her victory.

ADELE CARLES: The Labor Party has moved so far to the right they've almost become, you know, part of that - they've metamorphed into that Liberal heartland area.

SENATOR BOB BROWN, GREENS LEADER: There's a message here for Canberra with elections coming up next year. Don't treat the populous as environmental mugs.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The growing Green vote in inner city Federal seats is going to be difficult for Labor to manage without taking big risks, according to Peter Van Onsolen.

DR PETER VAN ONSOLEN: If they respond to what's happened with Green voting in the inner city, then they risk losing mainstream voters and possibly government. If they don't respond, they put themselves in a situation where they could lose high profile candidates in inner city electorates; people like Lindsay Tanner in Melbourne or Tanya Plibersek in Sydney.

ADELE CARLES: When the Green primary vote gets up over 20 per cent, the Greens become serious contenders to win seats. So in the next federal election we're looking at Melbourne and Sydney, that inner heartland area with a very high Green vote. And if Labor don't watch it, those seats will go Green.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: In the light of the Greens' comprehensive win in Fremantle, some observers say the traditional political divide is a thing of the past in many of the inner city seats the ALP has never had to fight for, until now.

DR PETER VAN ONSOLEN: The Labor Party's never had to worry about the Liberal Party in these seats, but they do now have to worry about the Greens.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Hamish Fitzsimmons reporting from Perth.

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