Rosalie Woodruff (left) narrowly scraped back in to join leader Cassy O’Connor as the second Greens MP. (ABC News)
No-one could argue that this year has been a tough one for the Tasmanian Greens.
The party recorded its worst state election result in a decade, lost key player Andrea Dawkins and saw several high-profile defections from its ranks.
Nationally, there is no denying support for the Greens is on the wane and the interest in independents is on the rise.
The challenge the Tasmanian party, and its leader Cassy O’Connor, now face is rebuilding voter confidence.
The election saw voters turn away from the party in droves, wooed by Labor’s policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs.
Unlike in 2014, where the forestry debate dominated the campaign, there was no headline environmental issue.
It meant the Greens’ breadth of environmental policies struggled to cut through.
Andrea Dawkins lost her seat in Bass, and Rosalie Woodruff barely scraped through in Franklin.
Ms O’Connor celebrated the narrow win on transgender laws with her son Jasper. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
It was a disastrous election result in the very birthplace of the Greens movement.
On election night, Ms O’Connor was fierce in her attack against the powerful gaming lobby, and called for donations reform.
“Never again can we let an election and government be bought,” she said.
Cassy O’Connor and Rebecca White bring the new Speaker into the Chamber after gazumping Liberal favourite Rene Hidding. (ABC News: Scott Ross)
Her comments were welcomed by many, but others were offended their decision to vote Liberal was being painted as an act of gullibility.
Despite the diminished numbers, the first day of Parliament saw the Greens’ stocks rise.
In an example of political shrewdness, Ms O’Connor and Labor leader Rebecca White orchestrated Liberal Sue Hickey’s ascent to the Speaker’s chair, casting doubt over Will Hodgman’s majority.
The new alliance left the Greens in a powerful position, and most recently allowed it to push through transgender law reforms through the Lower House — an issue close to Ms O’Connor because of her son’s experience.
Ms O’Connor said the result has been better legislation, and higher accountability.
“The Liberals can’t be as arrogant in their first four years and I think that has been really, really good for their character development,” Ms O’Connor said.
Despite the Speakership coup triggering a tumultuous Parliament, Ms O’Connor insists she wants stability.
“We are not interested in tearing down the Government, we want to see this work, we want to make sure that it is delivering good outcomes for the people of Tasmania,” she said.
Labor needs to find ‘backbone’
As much as the Liberals would like to lump the two together, the fallout from the 2014 election still ensures that neither Opposition party wants to look too cosy with the other.
As well as being at odds over environmental issues, behind the scenes the two parties have clashed over Labor’s reluctance to be seen to be supporting the Greens’ renewed push to get pill testing and euthanasia on the agenda.
Ms O’Connor has described Labor’s reluctance to support Greens policy as “childish” and “frustrating”.
She said under Ms White, Labor has been “cautious”.
“I am hoping Labor will find a bit more backbone over the next few years and be prepared to, if someone has come up with a good idea, to say, ‘yes, that is good we will support it’,” Ms O’Connor said.
Defections, racism accusations
Another source of tension for the Greens this year were the local government elections.
High-profile Greens alderman Anna Reynolds cut ties with the party and was elected as Lord Mayor of Hobart as an independent.
Ousted Bass MP Andrea Dawkins also rejected the Greens’ brand and was voted in as an independent Launceston City Council alderman.
Then there is newly elected Hobart alderman Holly Ewin, who resigned from the party mid-campaign after labelling Ms O’Connor’s comments about China’s influence in Tasmania as racist.
The Liberals jumped on the split, with the Premier bandying the words racist and racism in the House of Assembly.
Cassy O’Connor says support for the party is part of a natural ebb and flow. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Despite the controversy, Ms O’Connor told ABC Hobart she has no regrets about her comments, saying the evidence shows the Chinese Government’s use of soft power poses a threat not only to Tasmania, but democracies everywhere.
The disgust her comments prompted from younger members of the Greens here and interstate at the very least shows a failure to articulate the message.
At worst it reflects a generational divide, although looking at the scores of young people rallying on parliament lawns in support of action on climate change among a sea of Greens party signs, the split appears to be an isolated incident.
Bid to build support in regions
Ms O’Connor insists the drop in support is part of a natural ebb and flow, and the party’s vote will grow.
Crucial to rebuilding will be convincing voters particularly in the north and north-west of the state that the Greens are not the “anti-everything” party the Liberals proclaim them to be.
Getting out into these communities is exactly what Ms O’Connor and Ms Woodruff say they have and will be doing much more of over the next three years.
The party’s next electoral challenge is making sure Federal Greens senator Nick McKim holds onto his seat at next year’s yet-to-be-called election.
State and federal Greens MPs started the year upbeat but have challenges ahead of them. (ABC News: Georgie Burgess)