Greens refuse to preference Otways advocate Michael Crutchfield
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
In the end Crutchfield did not get Greens Party preferences.
After the election the South Barwon Green candidate admitted that their preference strategy had backfired.
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