THE Greens are today reeling from factional rifts and a weekend belting at the ballot box with the prospect of messy expulsions of rebel party members.
Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale said a small group of leakers could have sabotaged the chances of party candidate Alex Bhathal in the Batman by-election on Saturday.
“It only takes a handful of people to undermine a campaign in a way that we saw in Batman,” Mr Di Natale told ABC radio today, revealing a party investigation was under way.
And he warned: “Those people who are found responsible for leaking and undermining our candidate, they can be expelled.
“I don’t think there is any other alternative there.”
Labor’s Ged Kearney won Batman in Melbourne, which a few weeks ago had been seen as a Greens’ certainty.
“They voted for someone who can actually deliver,” Victoria’s Labor Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday, raising the focus on whether minor parties are worth supporting.
It has been a rocky fortnight for minor parties with the Greens and the Jacqui Lambie Network performing badly in the Tasmanian election, and the Greens, the Australian Conservatives and Nick Xenophon’s SA Best overcome by Liberals and Labor in South Australia on Saturday.
Mr Di Natale said his leadership was safe and that Batman was tough for the Greens “when you are fighting your own people”.
He pointed to strong Greens performances in the Victorian state seat of Northcote, taken from Labor, in the Queensland state poll and in Western Australia. But the Batman loss means the Greens still have just one House of Representatives seat following a 2016 boast by Mr Di Natale the party could accumulate as many as eight.
He also lost two senators to the dual citizenship issue. They were replaced by new Greens senators, but the departed Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters had been strong performers.
The loss in Batman will encourage Labor to resist the Greens in inner-urban areas.
Senator Di Natale said there were no signs the long-term rejection of major parties was weakening, but that there were “peaks and troughs”.
“It’s very easy to try and draw a few threads together and to come up with a theory that doesn’t bear resemblance with the facts,” he said today.
“I take a long-term view about these issues. You only have to look at the major party vote over the past three decades.
“There’ll be bumps along the way, peaks and troughs, but the trend is one way — and it’s down,” he said.