Lee has been something of a maverick during his time in Parliament, causing both Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh a few headaches, and having switched factional allegiance from one right wing faction – the Old Guard (“Labor Unity”) to the other – the AWU (“Labor Forum”). He might have expected ministerial promotion, particularly if Anna Bligh had had the determination and the support to put the broom through Cabinet that is needed – rather than just talking about “renewal” – but has had to content himself with the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General. Lee has been a very active local member, as his website demonstrates, and a position of some independence with regard to his party (Lee’s election paraphernalia and office signage have radically downplayed his ALP affiliation) must have assisted him in retaining a very marginal seat in traditional Western Suburbs leafy Liberal heartland he first won in 2001. Lee has also been outspoken on environmental and transport issues, and recently took a swipe at Anna Bligh for not being serious about green issues.
Lee’s defection is not necessarily unexpected, and as Dennis Atkins notes at Party Games, may not be unrelated to the difficulty of holding Indooroopilly if the LNP vote does improve in Brisbane. The Brisbane City Council Ward of Toowong – which overlaps with Lee’s seat – recorded a strong Green vote in March and as Atkins suggests, The Greens might be able to outpoll Labor and leapfrog the LNP vote – Liberals have come first on primaries in both 2004 and 2006.
While a Greens MP in the Queensland House should be a good thing for accountability and the policy debate, I have to say that my own personal view is that Lee should resign his seat and contest a by-election. I just don’t think that switching party affiliation is an ethical act in a system where most votes are party votes – Lee’s personal vote might be worth 2 or 3% but the fact remains that in Indooroopilly in 2006 40.46% of the electors supported the Labor candidate while The Greens were supported by 17.11% of the voters.