The Greens, Joe (Giovanni) Ebono.
The Greens, Joe (Giovanni) Ebono.

Greens have out-polled Nationals

THE Greens have out-polled The Nationals in Richmond for the first time as conservative voters flock to the Liberal Party’s standard, a new Northern Star survey reveals.

And most of those voters appear to not even be aware they are changing camps.

Of the 105 people in the survey who said they wanted to vote for the Liberal Party, nearly three-quarters said they had also voted that way at the 2007 election, when there was no Liberal candidate standing in Richmond.

Richmond was heartland Nationals territory since the formation of the party as the Country Party in 1922, and has been held by Labor only twice – by Neville Newell between 1990 and 1996 and by Justine Elliot since 2004.

However, only nine per cent of respondents to The Northern Star poll said they would now vote for The Nationals, while 26pc said they would give their votes to Liberal candidate Joan van Lieshout.

Richmond Nationals candidate Alan Hunter yesterday said it was ‘disappointing’ conservative voters were failing to distinguish between The Nationals and the Liberal parties.

“We have emphasised that we stand for regional areas rather than the cities and we don’t stand (candidates) at all in the cities … but that hasn’t got through,” Mr Hunter said.

But the poll suggests The Nationals are not the only ones failing to get through to voters. Almost a quarter of the 400 respondents reported they were still trying to decide who to vote for less than a fortnight out from polling day.

“It’s never been this hard to make a decision about who to vote for,” one frustrated voter remarked.

Comments made by some disgruntled respondents hinted at a dark mood in the electorate, with voters unhappy with all the major parties.

“No one knows how to run the country,” one voter remarked.

“Both parties are so similar that it doesn’t seem to matter,” said another.

However, despite a broad field to choose from, that dissatisfaction wasn’t turning into a strong vote for any of the four independent candidates contesting Richmond this time around. Their combined vote, plus that of Democrats candidate David Robinson, totalled just 2pc.

Greens candidate Joe Ebonoalso had some mixed feelings about the poll result.

Topping The Nationals in primary votes was one thing, but the Greens vote was down to 10pc – almost five points below Mr Ebono’s vote in 2004.

However, Mr Ebono said the poll figures also reflected the exit poll figures The Greens had picked up at pre-poll booths around the region.

“I’m hoping we can still get to 20pc,” Mr Ebono said.

“If we can get even a quarter of those 25pc (of undecided voters) and can creep up to 16pc, I’ll be happy.”

Mr Ebono said voter frustration, with a lack of inspiration from major parties through the Federal election campaign, offered The Greens a chance to step up.

“People are starting to realise it’s about leadership, not management,” he said. “The majors are talking about showing good management of the economy, but it needs more than that.”

Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot, whose vote also appears to have fallen dramatically – from more than 43pc in the 2007 poll to 30pc – wasn’t available for interview yesterday.

Her office issued a statement saying: “Every election is a tough election and this one is no different.

“I am focused on talking with local people about Julia Gillard’s plans to move Australia forward, and how Tony Abbott would take Australia backwards.”

Liberal candidate Joan van Lieshout issued a statement saying she was not interested in polls.

“My only focus is listening to the people of Richmond about theirlocal issues,” she said. “I’m concerned not with polls and numbers, but with fixing the problems created by Labor in the last three years.”

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