DESPITE a concerted push to woo the regional vote at Saturday's federal election, the Greens have gone backwards in regional NSW and look unlikely to capture one of the State’s Senate seats.
The Greens’ vote fell by nearly three per cent in the Senate across the State, as the Coalition capitalised on the party’s alliance with Labor in the hung parliament.
In the Upper House, the Greens vote declined by 2.57 per cent on first preferences compared to the 2010 election.
Particularly disheartening for the party must be its failure to capitalise on regional concerns over coal seam gas (CSG) and coal mining, despite campaigning hard on those issues for the rural vote.
Landholder rights and food production were championed over resource extraction, and in a targeted move to sway Liverpool Plains voters, Gurley cotton grower and prominent anti-CSG activist Penny Blatchford was placed third on the Greens’ senate ticket.
However, the Greens went backwards in two regional seats confronted by massive mining expansion, New England and Lyne, losing Senate votes in both electorates.
National Party members won office in both seats following the retirement of independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott, who both campaigned for tighter controls over mining and CSG.
CSG company Santos, currently developing its reserves in the Gunnedah Basin, says it is making headway in community engagement and reducing fears of the company’s activities.
“On the ground communication is very important - talking to people about what we do and allowing people to get a first hand understanding of why we do it,” company spokesman Sam Crafter said.
He said field days such as AgQuip are vital, where locals “can come up and have a face to face yarn with our people. Yes, we had some [protestors] who played dress-ups and come to visit us.
“But there was also about 400 people wanted to talk about what we do and have an informed discussion.”
Incumbent Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said people in the bush understand the Greens stance on mining, but the party needs to communicate its broader policy agenda make headway away from major cities.
“While people do support our deep commitment to protect farming land from mining, a lot of people were not aware of what else we stood for," she said.
“A lot of people live in regional centres and they are concerned with issues that we have good policies around – single parents, access to public health, education and transport.”
Greens Leader Christine Milne, as she tuned her pitch to the bush ahead of the impending election campaign, told The Land in June that she would “reinvigorate the conversation with rural and regional Australia” and “seeing Australian farmland compromised, and water contaminated, by CSG makes absolutely no sense”.
According to NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee, Labor treated the resources sector as a “cash cow” and a “political target” to appease the Greens.
“Voters have also rejected the Greens’ ‘stop everything’ approach to the NSW economy with… significant swings away from the Greens in NSW mining regions,” he said.