Publication Details

Brown, S. M. & Cahill, D. (2005). The Green Constituency - Evidence From Cunningham. In C. Rudd & J. Hayward (Eds.), Conference Proceedings: Australasian Political Studies Association Conference 2005 (pp. 1-15). Dunedin, New Zealand: Australasian Political Studies Association.


There has been much interest during recent years in the factors underpinning a rise in support for the Greens in Australian politics. For several years, the Greens have laid claim to the title of a third force in Australian politics. Their leader, Bob Brown, is now one of the more recognizable politicians in the news media. At the 2004 Federal election, support for the Greens easily surpassed, for the first time, that of the Democrats, hitherto the Greens’ main rival in the 'third political force' stakes. Examining the Federal seat of Cunningham as a case study, this paper seeks to make a contribution to our understanding of the broader Greens' demographic in Australia. Cunningham in New South Wales (NSW) was a safe Labor seat from its inception in 1949 until a by-election on 19 October 2002 when the seat was won by Michael Organ of the Greens. For the first time in Australian political history, a Greens candidate was elected to the House of Representatives. The Greens’ triumph was short-lived. At the Federal election of 2004, Sharon Bird, the failed Labor candidate in 2002, regained Cunningham for Federal Labor by defeating Organ. This paper examines the briefly successful challenge to Labor’s stranglehold on the steel and coal-mining Illawarra region and asks whether the result has long-term implications for Australian politics and the future of the Greens.