Greens comfortably retain Melbourne as voter dial barely budges

Greens comfortably retain Melbourne as voter dial barely budges
David Schout

The Greens’ Ellen Sandell has been re-elected as the Member for Melbourne, securing a third term at the November 26 Victorian election. 

Ms Sandell is set to pass over a decade in office this term term, after comfortably retaining the seat she first won in 2014, this time against Labor challenger Rebecca Thistleton.

While just over half of votes across Melbourne had been counted at the time of publication — made up of the election-day votes at 13 voting centres across the seat — early indications suggested a strong swing to the Greens after preferences were distributed.

However, in terms of first preference votes across Melbourne, the dial barely budged.

Despite the city undergoing considerable change since the last election in 2018 and facing particularly tough periods as a result of COVID-19, voters largely stuck to their guns from four years ago.

From the early numbers, the Greens' primary (or “number one”) vote dropped slightly, from 38.9 per cent to 37 per cent.

Labor suffered somewhat of a hit, dropping from 35.9 per cent first-preference votes in 2018 to 30.8 per cent, while the Liberal Party vote remained largely the same, with candidate George Palackalody receiving 17.6 per cent of the overall vote (up slightly from 17.1 per cent).

Colleen Bolger from the Victorian Socialists, which did not field a candidate in 2018, received the fourth-most first preference votes, at 5.7 per cent.

These figures, of course, could shift slightly when all early, postal and absentee votes are counted for Melbourne.

Around 45 per cent of enrolled voters in Melbourne did not cast a vote on November 26, reflecting the wider shift to early voting.

Ms Sandell, the Victorian Greens deputy leader, took to social media after the victory to thank those who voted for her, and pinpointed the three areas she would continue to push the Labor government to go “further and faster” on.

“Thank you, Melbourne. It’s an honour to be re-elected as your MP for another four years,” she said.

“To the voters of Melbourne, thanks for putting your faith in me, I look forward to working with you to get stronger action on climate change, housing and integrity.”

Ms Thistleton, a Kensington resident and former journalist who, like Ms Sandell, is a mother of young children, sent her congratulations to the now three-term Melbourne MP.

“Wrapt and relieved that hope, positivity and action won over hate,” the 37-year-old said on Twitter.

“I’ve loved campaigning, our little team put in a mighty couple of months. Well done and all the best to @ellensandell who has held Melbourne — hope you enjoyed spending today with your kidlets as much as I have.”

Ms Sandell responded: “Thank you Rebecca, and well done to you and your hard-working team. It was a pleasure to campaign alongside other strong women! Thanks for putting up your hand, it takes courage, but our democracy relies on people being willing to do it, and democracy is a precious thing!”

Ms Sandell told Inner City News that she was grateful to the people of Melbourne for re-electing her, and that she was "energised to continue to work hard to get results on local issues that matter to our community, as well as on state-wide issues like climate change, housing affordability and integrity". 

"I’m heartened that the people of Melbourne have elected me with such a positive margin. I hope it’s a sign that our hard work standing up for our local community and their values is recognised, but it’s not something I’ll ever take for granted. I’m ready to keep doing the hard work to make a positive difference," she said. 

While it was a resounding victory for the Victorian Greens in Melbourne, the statewide result was not quite as strong as was being pushed by those within the party.

On the ABC’s election coverage, Ms Sandell referenced a “green wave moving out across the city”, while leader Samantha Ratnam declared the result a “Greenslide”.

But in raw terms, the party improved its primary vote across the state by just 0.2 per cent (at the time of publishing, when almost 70 per cent of statewide votes had been counted), while gaining just one lower house seat (the Greens retained Melbourne, Prahran and Brunswick, and gained Richmond).

Earlier in the night the party was optimistic about landing one or several of nearby Albert Park, Footscray, Pascoe Vale and Preston, but all four were retained by Labor.

It reserved strong hopes for Northcote, too, and while the counting remained close, that seat was similarly expected to be retained by the ALP.

"This is the Greens best result ever at a state election. We are on track to double the number of Greens MPs in the Victorian Parliament and hold balance of power in a progressive Upper House. But this isn’t about us - it’s actually about the local people (all of you, readers!) we are elected to represent and their values," Ms Sandell said. 

"The strong Greens vote means that people care deeply about the issues we were talking about."

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