Alex Greenwich, the European prince who could become the state’s new kingmaker

On a trip to the United States, Dadianov met Caroline Hart. She was the youngest stockbroker in California – “Pretty broker has her own ideas,” said one newspaper article – and is a kind of American royalty, a descendant of John Hart, a Founding Father of the United States.

Alex Greenwich, aged 12 in this photo, completed most of his schooling at Sydney Grammar.

Alex Greenwich, aged 12 in this photo, completed most of his schooling at Sydney Grammar.

They married, had three sons (Dadinov says the boys all inherit the title of prince) and lived in rural New Zealand before moving to Sydney, where they moved into one of the few apartment blocks on Circular Quay.

It was culture shock and lonely at times; There weren’t many other children. But seven-year-old Greenwich embraced the rudeness. The Sirius, with its council flats, was across the quay; the rough sleepers of Woolloomooloo were over the hill; and the William Street sex workers were around the corner.

It was an early lesson in the colors of the city he would one day represent. As a middle child, Greenwich also developed the skills he would use in politics. “I learned how to negotiate early on and I’m used to being literally put in the middle of decisions and trying to reduce conflict,” he says.

His sexuality was obvious to some in his family, if not to Greenwich himself. He loved Barbie dolls. “My cousin in the US is a lesbian,” he says. “There was a hilarious Christmas when she got a dolls house and I got a cricket bat. We swapped.” But he dealt with it anyway. A casual remark by then Prime Minister Paul Keating that “two guys and a cocker spaniel don’t make a family” fueled his fight. “That statement probably kept me in the closet more than anything else,” he says. “The message he sent was, ‘If I’m gay, I won’t have a family.'”

His older brother Victor came out first. “I remember thinking, ‘I thought I was the gay guy.'” Victor was first told by Greenwich at the age of 24 during a trip to North America. “I remember sitting in a Korean restaurant, drinking some plum wine and coming out,” he says. “Ten years ago it wasn’t that easy … there wasn’t a prime minister marching on a parade route.” Few were surprised, but “everyone was really supportive.”

As he traveled the world, Greenwich saw other countries championing marriage equality (he and husband Victor Hoeld married in Argentina). While working for the family’s recruitment company, he became a home lawyer. Initially he had little interest in politics, repelling approaches from Labour, the Liberals and the Greens because he was put off by “politicians saying one thing and the other in public behind closed doors,” he says.

But when the O’Farrell government passed legislation that forced Moore to choose between mayor and MP for Sydney – the so-called “Get Clover” Act – he had concerns.

“I rolled my eyes a bit,” Moore says of the day Greenwich approached her. “Over the years many people have approached my office and wanted my support. But someone… said, ‘He’s really good.’” They met during what Greenwich describes as his education, when Moore was teaching him about grassroots campaigning; knocking on doors and talking to people at bus stops.

“I gave him the baton and he’s done with it,” she says. “His particular talent is that he works with everyone.” He was elected to Parliament in 2012 and remains the only openly gay member of the NSW Legislative Assembly. He is all but certain of being re-elected on March 25th.

Alex Greenwich knocked on the door with volunteers in Surry Hills earlier this month.

Alex Greenwich knocked on the door with volunteers in Surry Hills earlier this month.Credit:Dominik Lorrimer

Earlier this month, as Pride Festival events closed the road outside his Surry Hills office, Greenwich held a briefing for four of the women running as independents in Liberal blue ribbon seats about high rates of homelessness among older women. He introduced them to lawyers and answered their questions. He’s already an unofficial leader.

There are eight independents in the House of Commons in this House and there may be more in the next. In theory, Greenwich and Piper have no more power than anyone else. In practice, however, they do.

Partly that’s because of experience. Independents may be lawyers, councillors, and business veterans in their civilian lives, but politically they’re wet behind their ears. Their skin has not been thickened and their political radar sharpened by years of party or union membership. Parliament, with its rules of procedure, laws and high-level negotiations, is very complex; figuring out how to use these things to your advantage is even harder. “I think I finally got the job,” says Greenwich. “It probably took me a good five to eight years.”

Victor Hoeld and Alex Greenwich got married in Argentina.

Victor Hoeld and Alex Greenwich got married in Argentina.

But Greenwich, with Piper, has also influenced issues that the mainstream parties have been too timid about tackling. “No other person could have held out and received voluntary euthanasia through the line and the abortion law,” says Helen Dalton, an independent from Murray.

This has increased Greenwich’s influence. The Coalition and Labor have already backed his policy of banning gay conversion practices and cracking down on slot machines (Labor did not go as far as Greenwich would like to go on gambling). “If Alex sneezes, get out some tissues,” Latham says.

Latham admits Greenwich is an effective negotiator. “He’s likeable, he has organizational skills, [he is able] hypnotize those people and let them vote as a group.” But he argues that support for Greenwich in western Sydney is backfiring.

“He holds a seat that is totally unrepresentative of the rest of NSW,” says the One Nation leader, who may be as influential in the House of Lords as Greenwich is in the House of Commons in the next term. “The government has a problem; They’ve strained to accommodate the Greenwich Agenda, but they find Alex isn’t much help to them in Camden, Leppington and Parramatta.”

Some Labor MPs are also silent skeptics. They think he’s a petty liberal posing as an independent, although the prospect of him becoming kingmaker after the election makes them reluctant to criticize him, even anonymously. One described him as ruthless in pursuing his goals. Greenwich denies any party affiliation.

“The government (helps) the Greenwich agenda but they find Alex isn’t much help to them in Camden and Leppington and Parramatta.”

One Nation leader Mark Latham

“I’ve been labeled a secret Liberal, secret Green, secret Labour, but nothing about me is in secret,” he said. As for being accused of being reckless; “I guess you do that by making sure you have the numbers.”

Latham, who has served in both state and federal parliaments, says NSW politicians don’t fall into neat categories and there are Liberals further to the left than some in Labour.

“Canberra was like the Battle of the Somme; There was a Labor Party ditch and a Liberal Party ditch and you fired,” he says. “I compare [state politics] more about Mel Gibson Brave heart Fight scene with blood and guts everywhere – you don’t know who’s on whose side.”


Greenwich says he has not had talks with the main parties about a hanging parliament. When deciding who to support, he and Piper will look to which party has won more seats, which has won the popular vote and which has the stronger vision for NSW, including action on LGTBQ issues, climate change and affordable housing.

“I proposed policies and the big parties supported them pretty quickly,” he says, “which I really appreciate and also shows that they probably think it could be a minority government.”

He admits the next few months will be challenging. “I really need to embrace my negotiation skills as a middle kid.”

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here. Alex Greenwich, the European prince who could become the state’s new kingmaker

Justin Scaccy

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