Otway Ranges Environment Network



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Greens refuse to preference Otways advocate Michael Crutchfield in
the seat of South Barwon.

In the lead up to the 2002 election the ALP announced it would end logging in the Otways. The Liberal Pary's policy was to continue Otway logging.

South Barwon was regarded as a safe Liberal held seat prior to the 2002 Victorian Election, and was held by Alister Paterson. Michael Crutchfield, then a Geelong City councilor, was contesting the seat for the ALP and required a 5% swing to win.

Michael Crutchfield. MP South Barwon

As Mayor and councillor of the Greater Geelong City Council (1996-2002), Crutchfield advocated strongly for an end to logging in the Otways. This included:

  • During the 1999 State election, Crutchfield who as the endorsed ALP candidate for South Barwon, participated in a protest (on a stump Truck) parked in front of Barwon Water. The protest highlighted problems associated with logging in the Geelong water supply catchments.

    Click to enlarge:

    crutchfield logging

    Geelong Advertiser 14 September 1999. Candidates join to condemn logging in Otways.
    Picture of Crutchfield on stump truck with other candidates. 

    (Note. Mr Birrell should have been quoted as saying logging is banned in the Melbourne "closed water catchments" that represent about 50% of the Melbourne catchment area. Logging still occurs in the remaining area.)
  • As the Mayor of Geelong, Crutchfield visited logged areas and publically condemned logging in the Geelong water supply catchments.

    Click to enlarge:

    crutchfield in logging coupe

    Geelong Advertiser 30 March 2000. Greens want all catchment logging-free.
    Picture Mayor Crutchfield in Otways logging coupe.


However the Greens Party decided to not direct preferences in South Barwon (See Greens Snub for Crutchfield, 19 November 2002), a seat that includes some of the Otway forests. This decision was strongly influenced by an alliance of Greens candidates and the Wilderness Society pursuing an extensive outcome for forest in East Gippsland.

A Geelong Advertiser poll revealed that there was a chance the ALP could win South Barwon, making it the seat to watch in the Greater Geelong region. Greens candidates decided to preference the ALP in all other Geelong seats. 

The media speculated that the Greens preference decision in South Barwon would help the Liberal Party hold the seat despite its pro-logging Otway policies.

Geelong Advertiser.  Sat 20 November 2002
Labor to miss preferences
Kelvin Healey

THE Australian Greens' decision not to direct preferences in South Barwon may cost Labor the seat a leading political analyst said yesterday.
Labor candidate and Geelong councilor Michael Crutchfield needs a swing of about five per cent to oust Liberal MP Alister Paterson on November 30.
However his chances have been dealt a severe blow by the Greens' decision to single him out as the only Labor MP in the Geelong region not to receive preferences, Monash University's politics expert Dr Nick Economou said.

'"What we intended to happen was not to give Labor an absolute green light (because) they have got an appalling environmental record: South Barwon Greens candidate Iain Lygo said.

"So one of the seats was going to miss out and unfortunately for Mr Crutchfield it was his."

He was unable to say why the party singled out Mr Crutchfield from other local Labor candidates to feel its wrath.
"You would have to ask each individual member," he said.
However Mr Lygo expected South Barwon Greens' voters would direct their preferences to Labor, an assessment at odds with Dr Economou.

The academic said the distribution of Greens preferences could be as tight as 55 per cent to Labor, 45 per cent Liberal. In seats where Greens directed preferences to Labor, he expected the flow to Labor to be as high as 70 per cent, he said.
"Their decision (in South Barwon) helps Alister Paterson greatly," Dr Economou said. “It is a bad outcome for Crutchfield."

As a council politician, Crutchfield had advocated strongly on the Otway logging issues. If there was any Geelong ALP candidate that deserved Greens party preferences, it was arguably Crutchfield. Failure by the Greens Party to preference Crutchfield was seen as lacking objectivity in the eyes of many who had campaigned for years to protect the Otways.

There had also been concern within the Greens Party.

Geelong Advertiser
Sat 16 November 200, Page 6
Crucial preferences hinge on forest deal
Greens ultimatum
Wade Pearce and AAP

A POWER struggle has erupted within Geelong Greens over whether to preference Labor in the November 30 election.
Sources close to the Greens said there was concern a push to offer preferences to Labor on the condition the Government promised to protect old growth forests would backfire.

sources within the Greens said a failure to direct preferences could boost the Liberal Party, which opposes Labor's policy to end logging in Otways native forests.

OREN attempted to reverse the decision due to the ALP's policy to stop Otway logging. Several OREN members tried to speak to Greens leader Bob Brown personally; they attended a Greens Party fundraising dinner with Bob Brown.  Senator Brown refused to get involved and dismissed the issue, stating that he had no power to tell other Greens candidates what to do.

Bob Brown’s refusal to engaged was similar to the way he handled criticism directed at the Greens Party over preference decisions during the July 1995 Queensland state election. Peak conservation groups (Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society) were publicly critical of Greens Party preference deals that could backfire and elect an anti-environment conservative government, which they did.

See ACF Habitat article: August 1995. Vote 1 Environment.
See ACF Habitat article: August 1996. Queensland. 6 months on, 23 steps back.

In the end Crutchfield did not get Greens Party preferences.

OREN printed tens of thousands of flyers showing a vote for the ALP was a vote for protection of the Otways, while a vote for the Liberal Party was supporting continued Otway logging. OREN would have included the Greens Party with the ALP if they had have directed preferences to Crutchfield in South Barwon. OREN also printed up huge banners advocating a vote for the ALP's Otway policy.
See more about OREN political strategy

After the election the South Barwon Green candidate admitted that their preference strategy had backfired.

Geelong Advertiser. 2nd December 2002.
Bellarine support strongest

He (Iain Lygo) said the Greens vote suffered because of the Otway Ranges Environment Network's overt support for Labor's policy to end logging Otways native forests.

"I think that cost us two per cent," Mr Lygo said.




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