Lidia Thorpe’s Greens end biggest bait and switch in politics

The Greens decided to raise her again in 2020 when she replaced Di Natale when he left Parliament in November of the same year. The party gave her the great gift of being the incumbent Senator when she led the Greens in Victoria last May.

All parties have rats leaving the tribe, but Thorpe ratted in record time. Mal Colston was a Labor Senator for 24 years before leaving the party for Crossbench in 1999. Julian McGauran was a Nationals senator for 19 years before moving to the Liberals in 2006. Thorpe disembarked in two years and five months.

This weakens Thorpe’s credibility in Parliament – it’s hard to fight for honesty in politics after a leap like this – but that rarely matters to politicians who choose to go it alone. She has always believed in her personal mission, not the Greens, and some in the party always thought her departure was just a matter of time.

The Greens are more hurt because they have sold voters one thing and provided them with something else, the classic definition of a retail bait and switch.

The Greens won the Senate race in Victoria by 529,429 primary votes, just under full quota, so Thorpe needed preferences (including from Labour) to get their seat. The overwhelming majority of support was for the party, not her. She only received 40,174 votes in her own name.

Thorpe can’t claim much of a mandate with those numbers.

No one can be sure how many of those voters, particularly Green Party members, like Thorpe more than they do the party. This could spell a deep rift in the direction of the Greens, if not an existential crisis, if Thorpe emerges as a popular champion for thousands of young people interested in a harder line of indigenous sovereignty, as many at the protest marches are from January 26 were .

But Thorpe is no champion. At least not yet. For example, she has been accused of bullying Indigenous elders like Aunt Geraldine Atkinson. There are clearly questions about her behavior — and Bandt made no representations about it Monday. “Do you think Senator Thorpe acted decently during her time as Senator for the Green Party?” He was asked. He dodged the question. Twice.

Each side of the split has signed a non-disclosure agreement that suits both. Bandt will not discuss problems with Thorpe within the party; Thorpe says she won’t talk either. This is not expected to last long as Thorpe is a strong character with a strong voice; Silence will not suit her.


The voice that matters most, the indigenous voice of Parliament, is being given a boost by this upheaval. The Greens will be able to unite behind a position most likely to support the voice with concerns or reservations if the polls clearly show that party members overwhelmingly support the change.

Rather than representing a divided party, Thorpe will speak for a narrow group on the fringes of the debate. The campaign for the Voice is enhanced by the inclusion of Bandt and other Greens like Dorinda Cox, the Western Australian Senator, who has called the Voice a ‘unifying’ reform. You will share a common interest with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in reminding voters that Thorpe speaks for a small minority.

Break through the noise of federal politics with news, perspective and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up for our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here. Lidia Thorpe’s Greens end biggest bait and switch in politics

Callan Tansill

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