In an election campaign where the major parties inevitably shape the main themes, Australian Greens leader Christine Milne is trying to hijack their message.
Both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have framed the debate as about who voters can trust, particularly on economic matters.
“This election, like never before, is about who you can trust,” was how Senator Milne opened her address to the Greens’ national campaign launch on Saturday – before adding the Greens difference.
“Trust to care for people … and to care for the environment.”
There was little party paraphernalia in the small theatre inside Canberra’s cavernous convention centre, just a few “Christine 13” and “I’m with Adam” t-shirts.
But the 300-strong crowd was revved up, enthusiastically applauding throughout Senator Milne’s speech and shouting “shame” at the record of the “old parties”.
They booed and hissed at the statement that if the polls were right, Mr Abbott would be Australia’s next prime minister.
“This is a moment for soul searching across the nation about what that would actually mean,” Senator Milne said, hammering in her message that the Greens are needed to “Abbott-proof” the Senate.
“Voting Greens is double value voting.
“Not only does it return the Greens but it stops Tony Abbott getting absolute power in the federal parliament.”
At this point the computer display behind the senator showed an error message, saying there was only seven per cent power remaining, please plug in for more power.
Senator Milne pledged the minor party would get a senate inquiry into the treatment of refugees, taking evidence from international human rights and legal experts.
It would also push for a Clean Air Act to set up national rules about pollution.
Senator Milne was confident the Greens would do well at the election despite having less star power after the retirement of former leader Bob Brown.
“Our very own wise elder,” as Senator Milne called him, sat in the front row, but didn’t speak.
“Unlike the other parties, this is not about celebrity,” Senator Milne told reporters after the launch.
She had received a standing ovation as she entered the room to the sounds of Empire of the Sun singing, “loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive”.
“I’m just privileged … and humbled by the amount of faith and trust that the Green membership around the country has put in me as the leader and in the team that we are taking to the election,” she said.
“We can be trusted and our membership knows that.”