As the election draws near, there is more and more attention being given to other aspects of the contest beyond the Latham-vs-Howard battering rams. Significantly, there is likely to be a big shift in the balance of power in the Senate, and the Browns, sorry, the Greens, are likely to be the big winners.
The ABC ran with the headline "Poll gives Greens Senate hope", and that pretty much sums up the substance of the article, based on a Taverner poll which has the Greens primary vote sitting on (a rather generous) 11% in Victoria and NSW.
The reality is that the three Democrats up for re-election, and Senator Lees, will all struggle to retain their seats, and this will reduce the Democrats to four seats in the Senate. The Greens are likely to take up the slack, and are likely to win a Senate seat in each of five states, to add to the two elected in 2001, leaving them with seven in total (well der).
The logic behind this high Green vote is that they have made a big impact in the public mind, beyond their usual constituency and beyond their usual range of issues.
In most states, the Greens first candidate will be ahead of the ALP's third Senate candidate, and with Liberal, Democrats and microparty preferences likely to flow Green ahead of Labor, the prospects look good. The Greens have got plenty of confidence, an army of activists, a consirable cash kitty (courtesy of public funding in previous elections) and will be running candidates in 150 seats around the Commonwealth to support their tilt at the Senate. The state where the Greens will fall short will be South Australia, where organisationally the party is weak and the ALP will be too strong.
The implications of the Greens having the balance of power are far-reaching, and given the likelihood of the outcome, the Greens will thankfully endure the scrutiny that they have managed to evade for so long.