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Greens candidate for the seat of Ryan, QLD, Elizabeth Watson-Brown

Is this the end of the two-party system in Australia? The Greens, teals and others shock the major parties

The Australian Labor Party will form government either outright or in a minority government.

The ALP has so far gained a small 2.8% two-party preferred national swing (though much higher in Western Australia, around 10%).

The crossbench may double in size with a progressive-leaning “potpourri” of candidates including Greens and “teal” independents.

Roughly a quarter of Australians voted for a minor party in the 2019 election (24.7% in the House of Representatives).

This time, it’s predicted over 33% of the electorate voted for minority parties or independents. Such votes in the inner city seats in particular are changing the political equation for the major parties.

The major parties look like only gaining two-thirds of the overall vote. In the past they’ve had more than 80% of the vote, confirming a long-term trend of decline in vote for the major parties. The ALP might take government with only around a third of the vote, so the “third force” of politics in Australia must be taken seriously from now on.

Read more: The big teal steal: independent candidates rock the Liberal vote

This hi-vis election broadly ignored women, especially professional women.

As I commented for CNN, for too long the Australian parliament has been run like private gentleman’s clubs of yesteryear with a culture that prioritises protection for the powerful over professionalism for all.

This election might be the final straw for that culture, and a wake-up call for party campaign strategists.

The ALP is entitled to think a win is a win. But the dominance of the major parties may be over.

So, what’s going on?

It has been a difficult three years for many Australians; for many the most difficult of their lives, dealing with the pandemic and natural disasters.

It was always possible this election might throw up unusual results, especially as the major parties ran business-as-usual, frankly lacklustre, mostly forgettable and negative campaigns focused on the character of the leaders and gotcha moments.

Many undecided voters remained undecided after the three leaders’ debates. Despite the leaders talking predominantly about the short-term cost of living, perhaps it seems voters want urgent leadership on long-term climate adaptation in a government with integrity safeguards.

The Liberals lost many of their blue-ribbon seats to “teal” independent candidates, and both the ALP and Liberals may have lost several inner city seats to the Greens.

It’s likely the major parties were not strong enough on climate change beyond targets, not comprehensive enough on gender equality issues and were silent on higher education cuts in university seats.

The major parties’ campaigns did not disrupt voters’ disengagement and disillusion with politics generally either.

The Greens

Queensland always keeps national pundits on their toes, and this time the “miracle” looks like it’s going the Greens’ way.

It has won the lower house seat of Ryan, and at the time of writing is leading in Griffith. The Greens are also a chance in the seat of Brisbane.

In Victoria, the Greens again won the now safe seat of Melbourne, and may also pick up Macnamara.

The Queensland Greens were confident of their campaign in Griffith, Ryan and Brisbane with concerted door-knocking for many months, targeting issues like aircraft noise and rental rights, and engaging with young people.

The Greens candidate in Ryan, architect Elizabeth Watson-Brown was a quiet but effective grassroots campaigner.

The Greens may also pick up the sixth Queensland Senate seat in a fight with Pauline Hanson.

This bears out recent findings that Brisbane, Griffith and Ryan are particularly exposed to climate risks, as identified in the Climate Council report “Uninsurable Nation”.

Griffith’s Climate Action Beacon conducted one of the most ambitious climate change surveys yet conducted in Australia.

We found this could be the “climate election” because 87% of the respondents indicated they believe climate change should be a priority for the government. This was also the findings of the ABC’s Vote Compass.

The Nationals’ vote held this election, so it’s clearly the Liberal Party that has suffered with its voter base.

United Australia Party

Prior to election day, UAP was polling about 3% and so far is around 4.3%.

It’s possible UAP preferences may have an impact on several Western Sydney seats, but beyond that, there was no clear impact despite the $70 million spent on the United Australia Party campaign advertising. The UAP face controversy about a misleading advert about the World Health Organisation on the final day of the campaign.

Craig Kelly was thumped in the seat of Hughes, ending his parliamentary career.

Ralph Babet is still a chance for the final Victoria Senate spot.

Read more: Election results update: Labor to form government as both major parties' primary votes slump

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation

One Nation got a national first preference vote of 3.1% in 2019, an increase on the 1.29% it received in 2016.

More candidates ran in this election, pushing up the vote overall but the party did not increase their vote in seats previously contested.

Pauline Hanson herself was almost invisible in the campaign, partly because she tested positive to COVID during the campaign. But she may retain her Senate spot.

More to come

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