25 min read

Solid swings but not many ward wins: Unpacking the Greens' results from the 2024 Brisbane City Council election

Initial analysis (written while final vote counting was still underway)

Well it’s six days since the council election, and the last few postal votes are being scrutinised closely, with the Greens frustratingly close to winning in a couple of different electorates both in Brissie and elsewhere in South-East Queensland.

Across Brisbane’s 26 wards, the Greens primary vote has grown by a very healthy 5.2% on average, to 23% (there’s a few percentage points difference between the ward vote and the mayoral vote due to the two Independent mayoral candidates and the Legalise Cannabis candidate, who tend to take more votes off the Greens than from the major parties).

It’s a very respectable and encouraging swing, with over 1 in 5 voters now voting Greens in what is essentially the largest electorate in Australia (apart from state Senate seats).

Image shows screenshot from the ABC’s election results webpage on 21 March, with the Greens primary vote at 23%

Greens campaign organisers have been sharing congratulatory messages and thanking volunteers for a job well done, and rightly so. This is easily the best Greens result we've ever had in Brisbane at the local government level.

In many booths, we even surpassed our federal election primary votes — a huge achievement considering how much less resourcing we have for local council campaigns, and how much harder it is to win votes off conservative local councillors who have all the benefits of incumbency, but can easily deflect local frustrations about specific issues onto higher levels of government.

But we do also have to take a closer, more critically reflective look at the results and acknowledge that while a citywide swing of 5% is pretty damn good for an under-resourced minor party trying to take on the political establishment, we didn’t win anywhere near as many seats as we were hoping to.

So here are a few thoughts on where we’ve landed, noting that at the time of writing we still haven’t seen the final official counts and preference flows, with a few booths yet to be counted.

I should preface this by emphasising again how grateful I am to all the volunteers (including the candidates, who all volunteer our time too) and paid staff who put so much effort into this campaign. It was a mammoth effort under difficult circumstances, and I'm incredibly proud of the work we all did.

Incumbency is a huge advantage

In reflecting on the council results, it's important to remember just how beneficial incumbency is at the local government level.

Ward councillors’ electorates are small enough that they can maintain connections and relationships with a lot of the largest and most active local community groups (noting though that Brisbane's wards are still way too big for even the hardest-working councillors to deeply understand the needs of absolutely everyone they represent). As councillors, they don't have to spend anywhere near as much time in full council meetings at City Hall as state and federal MPs have to spend at Parliament, so they're basically paid full-time to build relationships with the people who'll be voting for them each election.

Incumbent councillors get to give out grants for positive community projects, and allocate almost half a million dollars per year in funding for local park and footpath upgrades. They can claim credit for all the good stuff a council administration does in their area, while distancing themselves from unpopular decisions either by blaming the council bureaucracy, or more commonly, by pointing the finger at state and federal governments.

At a time when Labor is in power at both the state and federal government levels, it was particularly easy for LNP councillors to redirect residents' frustrations about crappy public transport and the housing crisis to higher levels of government.

Every council election, regardless of broader political currents and general swings to and from different parties, the vast majority of incumbent councillors who've been in office for at least a year tend to increase their personal primary vote. A lot of people don't pay much attention to local government politics, and will just vote for whichever name on the ballot paper seems most familiar.

In this context, winning wards off LNP councillors is always going to be incredibly difficult for the Greens, even if not for the other challenges listed below.

Low turnout likely dampened the Greens vote again

Almost 1 in 5 enrolled Brisbane voters didn’t show up to vote. This is the same phenomenon we saw in the 2020 council election. Turnout appears to have been lowest in the wards where the voting population skews younger and where the proportions of renters are highest.

This isn’t surprising. We know that younger people, renters, and people who are generally more cynical of electoral politics often don’t engage as much with local government, so might not realise there’s a council election on, or haven’t updated their enrolment address if they’ve recently moved towns. Basically a bunch of young people who left Brisbane for other cities were still enrolled here but didn’t vote, while younger renters who’ve recently moved to Brissie also hadn’t yet enrolled here.

The lower turnout from younger people/renters has hurt our results yet again, and this is one of the major challenges the Greens will have to grapple with next council election in 2028.

Whereas with state and federal elections, wall-to-wall media coverage reminds almost everyone that they have to vote, local council simply doesn’t generate the same level of buzz and engagement. If we want to ensure all those Greens-leaning young renters out there remember to vote, we’ll need a much more concerted ‘get out the vote’ focus next time around, beyond just running a one-day market stall at university orientation events in late February.

Optional preferential voting really hurts the Greens

Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) allows voters to number every box to allocate preferences in case their favourite candidate doesn’t make it into the top 2. But the LNP had a lot of marketing telling people to ‘just vote 1,’ and a lot of voters don’t understand how preferential voting works. So just like in 2020, the OPV system made winning wards a lot harder.

In all our strongest wards, the LNP primary vote was below 50%, yet they still won most of the seats, because a sizeable chunk of Labor voters just voted 1 for Labor and didn’t number further boxes to allocate preferences to the Greens. The reverse happened in several suburban LNP seats that Labor was hoping to pick up.

Across the city’s 26 wards, the LNP primary vote was 47% - less than half of Brisbane voters put a number 1 next to the LNP candidate’s name. Yet they appear to have won a whopping 18 out of the 26 wards. Responsibility for this ultimately lies with the Queensland Labor government. After the 2015 state election result, they very quickly introduced compulsory preferential voting for state elections to protect Jackie Trad in South Brisbane, but have deliberately refused to do so at the local level largely - we suspect - to keep the Greens from winning more seats on Brisbane City Council.

The OPV system means that independents and micro-parties also tend to split the Greens vote. For example, Greens-leaning people might vote 1 for an independent candidate or the Legalise Cannabis party, but not number every box, meaning that their vote doesn’t flow to the Greens.

Whereas in state and federal elections, we have compulsory preferential voting, the OPV system for local government makes it significantly harder for the Greens to win council seats than it is for us to win seats at higher levels. If we had the same voting system in council that we do for state and federal elections, the Greens would likely have won 6 wards this time, rather than 2.

But of course, OPV is not the only reason we didn’t win more wards…

We swung votes from both parties, but the Liberals also won votes off Labor

This was a particularly rough election for Labor. With a few notable exceptions, when you add it all up, Labor lost some votes to the LNP and a lot of votes to the Greens, who are now beating Labor on primary votes in 10 out of Brisbane’s 26 wards, which has significant ramifications for the state election later this year.

The problem for the Greens is that to actually win the 5+ wards we were hoping for, we needed the LNP vote to drop at least a few percent, and in many wards it actually grew slightly (and in some it grew by a lot).

We do know that there were plenty of LNP voters who swung to the Greens this time around, because we were hearing from them directly about their frustrations with the Liberals on issues like unsustainable development and inadequate active transport infrastructure. But it seems like any votes we took from the LNP were ultimately offset by a larger number of Labor voters switching to the LNP.

Examining the swings on paper, it looks like the Greens took a bunch of votes off Labor, while everyone who voted LNP in 2020 just kept voting for them this time. In reality, it’s more complex. We won over some LNP voters and a lot of Labor voters, while the LNP also attracted support from Labor-Liberal swing voters.

Comparing different wards, and different booths within wards, it does seem like we did particularly well at winning a lot of renters over from the major parties. In some outer-suburban areas where the Greens didn’t have much presence and weren’t seen as a realistic chance of winning, people who were frustrated with the Labor state government swung to the Liberals. Whereas in areas where the Greens were more active, or had at least delivered some printed materials and made an effort to reach people, they swung to us.

We saw big, healthy swings right across suburbia, from Forest Lake to the Gap, both in wards that overlapped with the federal electorates the Greens won in 2022, and in areas that didn’t already have a Greens MP at another level.

In interpreting some of our biggest swings, such as in Enoggera and Moorooka wards, it’s important to acknowledge that a small part of the growth in the Greens vote was because in 2020, those wards had independent candidates who ate into the Greens vote (arguably more than they ate into the major parties' votes), whereas this time those voters came back to us.

But regardless of the presence or absence of Independent candidates, we saw healthy swings to the Greens in many suburban wards. Support for the Greens in these middle-suburban wards has been rising steadily over time for a range of reasons, including younger progressive renters getting priced out of the inner-city.

But perhaps a little depressingly for some of our most active campaigners and organisers, our vote didn’t grow anywhere near as much in the areas where we campaigned the hardest on the ground and were hoping to actually win more seats. This is a crucial challenge that we need to pay attention to.

Doorknocking alone wasn’t enough to generate big net swings off the LNP

I remember a few weeks ago telling journalists that the Greens came so close to winning Paddington Ward in 2020 that we could sneeze and win it this time. Turns out I was a lot more confident than I should have been.

While we do seem to have won it, with the LNP losing 1.5% of the primary vote (some of which went to Labor and most of which went to the Greens), we had hoped for slightly bigger swings, particularly given that the long-serving incumbent LNP councillor had retired less than a year ago.

Meanwhile in Walter Taylor ward, our primary vote has grown by 4.8% to 39.6%, but the LNP vote remained fairly steady at 46.6%. 4.8% is a big swing in the world of electoral politics. Some of our net growth is seemingly attributable to the fact that the independent candidate who ran in 2020 didn’t run in 2024, and those voters flowed back to us, but it's mostly due to the phenomenal work that Michaela and her team did on the ground. Unfortunately, the net swing was at Labor's expense.

Over on the other side of the river, our field campaign in Coorparoo Ward was probably the biggest Brisbane local government campaign in Greens history in terms of the sheer number of doorknocking conversations we had. Kath Angus’s campaign really only kicked off around November, but even with the interruption of Christmas and the summer holidays, they managed to have approximately 5000 meaningful one-on-one doorknocking conversations with voters by early March.

And yet, despite our campaigners talking to literally thousands of voters, the LNP vote in Coorparoo remained at 45%. The Greens’ very positive net primary vote swing of more than 7% also came mostly at the Labor party’s expense (again, noting that in reality we did also win votes off the LNP, but the LNP also took votes off Labor). The same was true in Enoggera, Central and the Gap Wards, which we could also have won if the LNP vote dropped a little

So what should we conclude from this?

Firstly, I think the Greens have to admit to ourselves that doorknocking alone can’t win seats, and perhaps never did. Doorknocking is an incredibly effective tactic for swinging voters who are already open to switching to the Greens, either because they’re particularly frustrated with incumbent candidates, or have a strong appetite for progressive change and are just waiting for someone to offer it to them.

In my experience, when someone has never been doorknocked by any political party before, the sheer novelty of that kind of outreach speaks volumes – “Wow! Someone is actually coming to my door and asking me what I think rather than just spamming me with junkmail!”

When residents are used to being overlooked and taken for granted, the first campaigner who knocks on their door and connects with them personally has a pretty good chance of swinging their vote.

But when residents are being campaigned to relentlessly through a wide range of channels — including being doorknocked by two or even three different political parties’ campaigns — the novelty starts to wear off. Doorknocking definitely still swings votes in electorates that are accustomed to doorknocking-focussed field campaigns (e.g. on Brisbane’s inner-south side), but it gets harder over time.

Doorknocking is great at picking up voters who might already be on the fence about switching to the Greens, but it’s a lot harder to shift people who are more firmly set in their voting patterns. The first campaign that does a lot of doorknocking in an area tends to scoop up a lot of swing voters, whereas voters who are more rusted-on are harder to shift without other complementary tactics and forms of organising that shift communities at a deeper level.

The importance of doorknocking has been a huge part of the ‘Greens surge in Brisbane’ narrative for a couple of election cycles now. It has certainly been a very effective tactic, and if we want to win more seats, we’re going to have to keep doing more of it in order to reach people that we just can’t get to through other channels.

But when you look back at our wins and losses in Brisbane over the past decade, you can find several examples where we won seats without doing a particularly large amount of doorknocking (e.g. my first Gabba Ward campaign in 2016, where in total we had fewer than 1000 one-on-one doorknocking conversations with voters, but we still swung over 3000 votes, almost entirely off Labor) as well as campaigns that did comparatively quite a lot of doorknocking (e.g. South Brisbane in 2017, Griffith in 2019) but couldn’t quite convert the big swings into outright wins.

Of course we did do a huge amount of doorknocking to win seats in the 2022 federal election, but it wasn't doorknocking alone that shifted those voters — it was a combination of broader political currents swinging against Scott Morrison's Liberals, the support of multiple well-entrenched Greens reps at lower levels of government, substantial expenditure on printed materials and digital advertising, and some great community organising work, both around local policy issues, as well as material aid in terms of flood cleanup support and food security.

I’ve been saying this — usually just in internal campaign meetings — for several years now, but after this 2024 council election result I feel confident asserting it much more definitively: We have to stop acting like we can win seats simply by saturating neighbourhoods with doorknockers — our campaigns need to embrace a more diverse range of tactics.

Yes, we still need to doorknock and keep finding other opportunities to have one-on-one meaningful political conversations with voters, but simply having one or two 10-minute chats with a voter over the course of an election campaign is not necessarily going to be enough to swing their vote when they’re receiving so much contradictory messaging from our political opponents. Which brings me to my next point…

The Liberals saw us coming, and deployed an effective response

Over the past 8 years, every time the Greens have won a seat, we’ve taken the major parties by surprise. They didn’t rate us as a serious threat in the Gabba Ward in 2016, or in Maiwar in 2017, and they certainly underestimated us in the 2022 federal elections (our South Brisbane victory in 2020 is a little anomalous, because the LNP wanted to remove Jackie Trad and directed preferences against her).

But this time, the LNP were much more worried about losing to us than to Labor, and they turned everything they had on the Greens.

Before the Greens had even started campaigning for the council, Schrinner and his advisers were running their own internal campaign within the LNP membership to convince the party to take the Greens seriously, and direct big money towards defending Brisbane.

As I said above, there were plenty of LNP voters who are actually somewhat engaged with local government decision-making and felt frustrated with the Schrinner administration over issues like unsustainable development, lack of support for active transport etc. I personally spoke to hundreds of people like this over the course of the campaign who told me unprompted that they usually voted LNP, but would give us a go this time around.

However, this swing to the Greens wasn’t enough to deliver us multiple new seats because the LNP also worked very hard on winning over less-engaged, conservative-leaning voters from the Labor party by spending millions of dollars on a primary message attacking the Greens, and a secondary message tying Labor and the Greens closely together in the minds of voters.

When our volunteers — and indeed, progressive voters who swing between Labor and the Greens — saw the hyperbolic, misleading, negative materials that the LNP started pumping out targeting the Greens, the two most common responses were:

“Surely no-one’s gonna be stupid enough to fall for that?” and “Well that’s a real compliment to the Greens that they’re coming for you so hard!”

But those materials weren’t primarily intended to stop astute, highly engaged voters swinging to the Greens from the two major parties.

They were appealing to a more conservative audience who barely follows local government politics, might not have even realised that the LNP were in power in Brisbane, were a bit frustrated with the state/federal Labor governments, and were nervous about a deeper sense of social breakdown (e.g. concerns about perceived rising crime rates).

Based on publicly disclosed expenditure data, it looks like the LNP spent a million dollars on digital advertising alone, and a couple million on campaign advertising and materials all up.

In contrast, our mayoral campaign spent about $7000 on digital advertising – 0.7% of what the LNP spent. In that context, voters were hearing the LNP’s messages far more often than they heard the Greens’ message, which was just enough for the LNP to hold onto the 3-4% of votes I’they needed to retain seats like Walter Taylor, Central, Coorparoo and Enoggera.

The LNP created a second, fake Jonno, and used him to scare conservative Labor voters

I’m going to write a separate reflective piece about this at some point, because it was truly a bizarre experience.

When you think about it, there were actually two different Jonathan Sriranganathans in this election campaign...

There was me, the real Jonno, who worked for seven years as a city councillor, has an in-depth knowledge of housing policy and urban planning, and is really passionate about public and active transport.

And then there was a fictional doppelganger — ‘Sri the divisive extremist’ — who wanted to break into people’s homes, create traffic chaos, cut wheelie bin collections, jack up residents’ rates, promote shoplifting and — according to one LNP flyer — even raise dog registration fees (WTF?).

This went far beyond the usual attack ads we’ve seen in previous elections. It was highly personal, disbursed widely across multiple platforms and formats, and reinforced by a compliant media that often mindlessly repeated LNP talking points, feeding the narrative their strategists were after.

It was brutal.

And for a proportion of voters without the attention span or sophistication to see through the propaganda, it was effective and persuasive.

I think I can say without hyperbole that no city council candidate in modern Brisbane history has ever been the subject of such relentless, sensationalist, slanderous attacks, particularly in the digital realm. We sometimes see this kind of grubby campaigning at higher levels of government, but to see a local council candidate caricatured and attacked so systematically — particularly via targeted online ads — was an entirely new phenomenon.

At least when attacks come via the mainstream media, candidates usually get a right of reply, but in online ads and direct mailouts, there was no way for the Greens to point out how sensationalist and deceptive the LNP’s claims were, or how my comments about certain issues — like the fact that some homeless people have been forced into squatting — had been taken entirely out of context.

What really hurt us though was that the propaganda war was so asymmetrical.

If we’d had the resources to produce a lot of our own ads and printed materials, we could have at least shown voters the real Jonno, but the tidal wave of attack ads and flyers completely overwhelmed the positive messages we were trying to disseminate.

As alluded to above, our campaign’s digital ad expenditure was less than 1/100th of what the LNP spent. We weren’t just outgunned — it was water pistols versus ballistic missiles.

According to Meta’s public reporting, the LNP spent upwards of $12 000 just sponsoring this one short ad on Facebook alone, implying that I wanted to break into people’s homes, with the various versions of the ad clocking up a couple million impressions (actual impressions, not just ‘reach’) from Brisbane viewers. And they ran dozens of attacks ads on all major platforms, but also via digital distribution channels that feed ads to smaller niche phone apps.

Screenshot from Facebook’s ‘Ad Transparency’ section showing a small sample of the many ads the LNP ran targeting me and the Greens

A thoughtful voter wouldn’t have been persuaded by any one of these ads in isolation, but the sheer volume and diversity of materials reinforcing this message inevitably seeps into people’s subconscious. Audiences might not necessarily come away believing the direct claims of the materials, but it certainly contributed to a more general vibe connecting me as the highest-profile Greens candidate to underlying public fears about crime and disorder.

Other commentators have already pointed out the racialised nature of an attack strategy linking me to perceptions of home-breaking and lawlessness. It’s hard to imagine a similar strategy cutting through as effectively if it targeted Amy MacMahon or Michael Berkman, even though both those Greens politicians have also supported protests that block roads and made similar comments about vacant properties etc.

I’m pretty sure I’m the first person of colour to ever run for mayor of Brisbane. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the LNP had no qualms about using coded language and imagery to tap into latent racism at the heart of the conservative dominant-culture Australian psyche, while being very smart about not doing so explicitly.

Obviously as a councillor I have at times said things that are provocative and challenging to Brisbane’s orthodox political consensus. But remember, last weekend down on the Gold Coast, Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden ran for election while on bail for a charge of murder. And here in Brisbane, the LNP’s candidate for Deagon Ward had a recent history of numerous convictions for fraud, break and enter, trespass, receiving tainted property and knife possession. Neither of those candidates were subject to anything like the sustained attack ads that were directed against me.

I don’t want to over-cook this element in my analysis of the city council campaign. But the hundreds of thousands of dollars the LNP spent on targeted anti-Jonno propaganda suggests it was a major part of their strategy.

It was relatively easy for the LNP to argue that Labor and the Greens would likely work together if the LNP lost its majority on council, because we were openly acknowledging that reality. And the media was very helpful to them in continually running stories asking about preference deals rather than about actual policies.

So with a link made between the Greens and Labor, the LNP machine then used fears of Sri the Extremist to convince just enough conservative Labor-Liberal swing voters to switch back to the LNP, comfortably offsetting the votes that they were losing to the Greens.

In parts of the city where the LNP were more worried about Labor, and weren’t distributing quite as many materials attacking the Greens, the net swing to the Greens was a lot stronger. Whereas in areas where the LNP really focused their resources on anti-Greens and anti-Jonno messaging (e.g. Paddington), the LNP vote barely moved.

The Greens are still rising, but we have to get smarter

All of the above is a very long way of saying that now that the major parties see us as a serious threat, the Greens here in Queensland will have to get much much better at warding off attacks. The Liberals in particular have shown themselves to be very happy to play dirty, and Labor will too in the seats where we threaten them.

Future attacks won’t necessarily be quite so focussed on individual candidates. It was particularly easy for the LNP to come for me specifically because of the combination of my big public profile, my history of provocative statements about how unjust current systems are, and how easy it is to convince conservative Brisbanites that people of colour want to break into their homes.

But with the state election coming up later this year, and both the major parties declaring an arms race to see who can be toughest on crime, we can’t assume that mass doorknocking by itself will be enough to win seats off incumbent Labor and Liberal MPs.

Despite the slightly bitter aftertaste of being the target of a multi-million dollar smear campaign, I’m still happy with the overall swing to the Greens. I’m even happier that we managed to swing votes and pick up another ward while running on such a bold platform against parties that were far bigger and better resourced.

The term ‘radical’ gets thrown around a lot in describing Greens policies, even though there’s really nothing that radical about bike lanes or a freeze on rent increases when you look at what other cities around the world are doing.

But it’s fair to say that policy-wise, we didn’t pull any punches. Our platform was a direct challenge to the property industry, the gambling industry, and car-centric urban planning, and a lot of people voted Greens for the first time, knowing very well what we stood for.

We had far more media coverage and social media engagement for our policies than ever before, so people who voted Greens did so knowing that we stood for a freeze on rent increases, shutting down horseracing tracks to build public housing, and turning car lanes into bus lanes. They knew we were calling for some very big changes to the way our city is designed and governed, and they still supported us.

The front face of our main mayoral campaign flyer — we leant heavily on an anti-establishment aesthetic and core message

This should hopefully give future Greens campaigns – both in Brisbane and elsewhere in the country – the confidence not to water down what we’re calling for.

The LNP could have attacked us on the basis of our rent freeze, or our First Nations 'pay the rent' policy or banning poker machines from community clubs, but our policies were so popular with swing voters that with the exception of the Eagle Farm racetrack vision, they mostly focussed instead on personal attacks that were unrelated to policy.

For Greens members who get into vigorous policy debates about whether what we’re calling for might be too extreme for voters, this election result should serve as a reminder that we can win over lots of voters even with quite an ambitious policy platform.

And if the major parties do want to attack us, they’ll straight-up lie about what we stand for. They’re going to attack us anyway, so we might as well campaign for the changes we actually want to see, rather than watered-down incremental reforms.

Personally I don’t think there’s much political value in trying to win seats without also winning people over to our vision for society. Sure, we can adopt the Labor ‘small target’ strategy of not saying anything that significantly challenges the status quo, but as this election shows, there’s no guarantee that will win over more voters either.

There’s a lot more to say about what we did and didn’t do well in the council campaign, but I’ll save that for the internal debriefs and reviews. If you’ve read this far and you’re wondering “what’s next?” I should point out that in addition to the upcoming state election later this year, there’s also a lot of amazing activism happening on the streets of Brissie in solidarity with Palestine, as well as so many other local struggles against oppression and environmental destruction.

So if you’re feeling compelled to step up and do more to help change society for the better, don’t just wait until someone calls you up to volunteer for the Greens again - look for opportunities on the ground in your community to build connections with your neighbours, get your hands dirty, and start creating a better world.

Thanks again to everyone who put time and effort into this campaign. We didn't win as many seats as we'd hoped, but we've set a new high-water mark for the Greens vote in Brisbane, and things are looking pretty damn positive for us over the coming years.

10 April, 2024 - Addendum - Results officially declared

Well as of this week, the final postal votes have been counted, the results have been declared and our newly-elected Greens councillors Trina Massey (Gabba Ward) and Seal Chong Wah (Paddington Ward) have been sworn in at city hall.

Not much of my analysis has changed since the above write-up. With the last of the absentee and postal votes counted, average turnout across the city is up to 85% - a significant improvement on the 79% turnout from the March 2020 election (held at the start of covid lockdowns) but still just shy of the 86.2% highwater mark in 2016. It does seem correct to claim that voter turnout was lowest in the wards with the highest proportions of young adult renters, with Central Ward recording a turnout of just 76% and the Gabba Ward recording 79%, whereas wards with older (on average) voting populations and lower proportions of rental households recording higher turnouts e.g. Pullenvale Ward and the Gap Ward both had a turnout of 89.5% - more than 10% higher than the inner-city.

Lots of Muslim voters seem to have swung to the Greens

I was also interested to note that after the final count, outer-suburban Runcorn ward seems to be the only LNP-held electorate where the LNP lost a lot of votes, the Labor vote remained reasonably steady, and the Greens vote grew. A booth-by-booth analysis shows that most polling booths in Runcorn followed broader citywide trends, with both the Greens and LNP gaining votes at Labor's expense compared to the 2020 council results. But at the Kuraby booth, the Labor vote fell from 46.6% to 43% and the LNP vote fell significantly from 43% to just 34%. Meanwhile the Greens vote at Kuraby grew substantially from 10% to 23% even though we didn't run any serious field campaign in that area.

Crucially, 2021 Census data shows that in the suburb of Kuraby, 32% of residents reported their religion as 'Islam' (this is at least 25 percentage points higher than the neighbouring suburb of Runcorn, where 6.4% of residents list Islam as their religion). Kuraby has the largest Muslim population in Brisbane, and bucked the trend of surrounding suburbs with a very big swing from the Liberals directly to the Greens. While many of those Muslim residents will be under 18 or non-citizens, it seems reasonable to conclude that a substantial part of the swing away from the major parties to the Greens in Runcorn Ward was because a large community of Muslim voters were switching their allegiance due to our party's support for a free Palestine. (I'm open to readers offering alternative explanation for this, but it seems to be the most logical conclusion)

Diversifying tactics

I mentioned above that particularly in areas where the Greens have already been doing a lot of doorknocking, we need to embrace a more diverse range of tactics. Reflecting on that further, one element our Greens campaigns need to put more thought and resourcing towards is our social media strategy — not just in terms of what content we publish, how often we post and what channels we focus on, but how we train up and encourage our supporters to share and repost content in local neighbourhood Facebook groups, in Telegram and Whatsapp community chats etc.

Undeniably, more people than ever before are using socials channels and private group messages as a primary source of information about the world, and a Tiktok video that takes a candidate and a volunteer one or two hours to put together and reaches several thousand Brisbane residents arguably does help swing more votes than two people spending an equivalent amount of time doorknocking (again, I'm not saying that we shouldn't doorknock, but simply that we need to diversify outreach channels).

This connects to another broader area that the Greens need to focus on - political education. Whether it's reading groups, Q&A forums, facilitated circle discussions or informational posters, zines and longer social media videos, the time and resources invested in deeper political education may not necessarily shift as many votes in the final months of a specific election campaign, but political education does build community support for alternative visions for the future and the need for bigger transformation.

One of the reasons the Greens were able to attract such big swings in Brisbane's inner-south side in successive elections from 2015 onwards was that suburbs like West End had a longer history of progressive political education and community organising. Although the Greens' primary vote was relatively low, many residents already held views, values and priorities that lined up closely with the party's policies and core principles. Of course doorknocking can also serve as an important form of political education - both for the voters being doorknocked and the volunteers doing it - but there are important differences between doorknocking to meaningfully educate your neighbours so that they gradually change their worldview and shift their core values, as opposed to doorknocking to convince your neighbours that actually Greens policies already align with their existing values and worldview.

Existing Greens seats in Brissie are looking pretty safe

A final important takeaway I wanted to highlight is that our Greens vote in Brisbane seems pretty resilient, including across different levels of government, and this is important to keep in mind during debates about where we allocate resources and direct volunteers during upcoming state and federal campaigns. In wards like Marchant and the Gap, where we did relatively little on-the-ground campaigning, but which overlap with federal Greens seats, the Greens vote was very strong. Brisbane voters have clearly responded well to the good work of our new federal Greens MPs.

Across the country, every election cycle a bunch of Greens strategists and key organisers start to worry about losing existing Greens seats, and we end up allocating more campaign funding to defending seats we already hold, rather than pushing more money or encouraging volunteers towards winning more seats.

The party made that mistake again in the 2024 Brisbane council campaign, directing more funding and experienced organisers towards retaining the Gabba Ward, which we held very very comfortably (our primary vote was 45%, and after preference allocations the Greens are sitting on a very safe 60.8%). It makes me wonder whether we might have done better in Walter Taylor or Central or Coorparoo Ward if we'd put just a little more energy into those electorates, and a little less into defending the Gabba Ward.

Looking ahead to the state election, our seats of South Brisbane and Maiwar seem very very safe. It would be a serious mistake for the Greens to encourage experienced doorknockers to focus on those seats and to allocate lots of money towards campaign advertising in those electorates, if it comes at the expense of winning neighbouring electorates like Cooper, McConnel and Greenslopes. The same will be true of the next federal election.

Our 2024 council election results show that even within the federal electorate of Brisbane (which we won in 2022 by only a very narrow margin), the Greens vote has continued to grow. So while we definitely shouldn't take those seats for granted, and still need to run a solid re-election campaign to ensure our existing federal MPs hold their electorates with comfortable margins, the party can afford to be more ambitious and stretch ourselves to win more electorates, rather than hunkering down and focussing too heavily on defending existing Greens territory.

When you consider the climate crisis, worsening economic conditions, and the host of issues that require urgent action, we simply don't have time to plod along and win just one or two more seats each election cycle.

If our existing MPs and councillors are doing a good job as elected reps, they shouldn't need much help to hold onto their seats — it's time to be ambitious and focus on growing our movement, rather than scaring ourselves into stagnation.

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