Update to Greens Senate preselections

Since posting my wrap-up on the process for selecting the next round of Greens Senators, I’ve received quite a few updates, from South Australia, NSW, the ACT and Tasmania.

Again, my sincere thanks to the Greens willing to take part in this experiment.

Firstly, I was perhaps too harsh on Tasmania, by asking whether it was possible to have some more member engagement in the selection of Senator Whish-Wilson. A Greens staffer got in touch and pointed out that I had not included the complexity of needing to coincide the process with both the Tasmanian and Federal Parliaments, and with Dr Brown’s preferred retirement date. I’d like to know more, but happy to concede that I didn’t consider those details.

Senator Hanson-Young‘s office responded that:

“The South Australian Greens undertake a formal postal ballot to all members for the preselection of their Senate candidates. During the preselection process nominees engage on many different levels with the membership. “

NSW also sent an update from their returning officer, with apologies for the email getting mislaid, and wanted to be on the record as participating. The details I posted were correct, but NSW pointed out that the decision of the State Delegate’s Council, regarding online discussion of the preselection, was made by consensus.

The ACT Acting Convenor also sent in very comprehensive answers to my questions. I’ll quote the main points below:

“The ACT Greens are proud to run a preselection process that puts ordinary members in control of the selection of our candidates. The process is as follows:

  • A meeting open to all Greens members decides whether to contest the election and determines a closing date for nominations.
  • A call for nominations is issued.
  • All members of the party who are enrolled to vote in the ACT are invited to nominate for preselection.
  • Calls for nominations are placed in the party’s member bulletins and newsletters for the entirety of the nomination period.
  • Nominees complete a standard form and prepare a one page Candidate Statement for circulation to all ACT Greens members.
  • Nominees meet with an Interview Committee. I would like to stress that the Interview Committee does not and cannot determine who the candidate is, as is the case in some other jurisdictions. The Interview Committee’s role is simply one of probity, ensuring that the information supplied by the nominee in their Candidate Statement is accurate, and if necessary, to disclose information relating to the nominee’s suitability for office to the membership.

“Even in such a scenario, a nominee is not precluded from contesting preselection and the ultimate decision about a candidate’s suitability is left entirely to the party’s membership at a ballot.

“Every member of the ACT Greens receives copies of the nominees’ Candidate Statements, along with ballot papers and instructions for optional preferential voting.

“ACT Greens are able and strongly encouraged to participate in a variety of ways. Mechanisms for member engagement and participation include:

  • Mandated member participation at every level of decision-making in the preselection process. Under the constitution of the ACT Greens, all party meetings must be open and advertised to all party members.
  • Participation in party debates and discussions is also an entitlement of party membership under clause 6.1.2 of our constitution.
  • Through the Search Team. The ACT Greens recognise that robust, contested ballots are an important feature of democratic elections. To this end, a general meeting open to all party members appoints a team of three or more people to liaise with members, promote the preselection process within the party, encourage the nominations of any interested members and answer any questions that potential nominees may have about the process.  The Search Team’s role is simply to encourage member participation and improve the diversity of the pool of nominees. It has no power to endorse or recommend candidates in any way.
  • Through dedicated preselection engagement activities between nominees and members
  • Through dedicated electronic communication
  • Through a democratic, grassroots postal ballot to select the candidate.

“As a guide, preselection for the 2010 Federal election featured a total of three Meet the Candidates forums for our federal candidates, with weekly electronic communication and updates.

“Finally, it is also worth noting that all of our candidates in the current ACT election campaign have created their own Facebook pages, with some of them also maintaining a presence on Twitter, to connect with the broader community. Federal candidates are likely to follow suit.”

No state, other than NSW, has run a special ballot in case of a double dissolution election, but they have indicated they have processes they could use if needed.

Thanks again for everyone’s willingness to answer my questions. Overall, I think the experiment has been a roaring success. It shows that, with some willing political players, bloggers perhaps can participate in the political arena in some surprising ways.

Now, to think up the next experiment.

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About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
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5 Responses to Update to Greens Senate preselections

  1. What complexity? Labor did the exact same thing (replace Tasmanian Senator Nick Sherry) at the exact same time as Senator Brown and were able to do it with a one member one vote postal ballot. It’s a pretty poor excuse.

  2. myriad says:

    Blunt Shovels,

    Thank you for updating the post regarding Peter Whish-Wilson’s preselection, but I must scratch my head when you say “you’d like to know more” and also put on record that your original post would have been much stronger if it had acknowledged that filling a casual senate vacancy is not the same as running a normal preselection.

    Information on the constitutional requirements is not hard to find, it’s on the APH website for starters. I think if this is to be an experiment in journalism, expectations regarding whether people have to spoon-feed the blogger stuff abundantly available should be thought through and represented in the posts. I say this because I strongly support bloggers engaging directly and seeking information, and to be successful, it must also be practical on issues such as the time available to people to respond and reasonable ways to manage that, and I would have thought a good place to start would be – only ask for what is not easily publicly available.

    Oz – Sherry announced his retirement in December 2011; Bob in April 2012. The Parties in both instances have to suit the preferred retirement dates of the retirees; and work with the Tasmanian Parliament to agree on particular dates for nominees to be received and approved, and for that then to flow to the federal parliament. It was an unusual situation for the Tasmanian parliament having to inform the Governor-General of two new senators. Unsurprisingly these vacancies were filled at the same time, and that also influenced timing. Finally there were considerations around the provision of pairs and having unfilled senate seats in the current parliament to be considered. Add it all up and it meant two very different time-frames for the two parties in question in which to run internal processes given that both vacancies were filled in June 2012.

    Having said all that, I’ll repeat what I said to blunt shovels on twitter. As a Tasmanian Greens member I understand why the membership has historically agreed to a closed panel-based preselection process – principally because it was common and known that people who ran for the Greens in this state could and did find themselves unemployable. I know from direct experience of key candidates who were blacklisted. Tasmania is a small, closed community and people who made known a potential greens candidacy were in many aspects flat-out courageous.

    However that time has passed. I strongly believe the Tasmanian Greens need to revise pre-selection processes to align with other states, and personally I prefer the ACT model. I know other members are talking about it as is some of the formal party structures so I expect we’ll see change but don’t have a sense of how rapid it will be or what form it will take.

  3. Nick Sherry said that he would retire at the next election (2013) in December last year but he brought it forward and announced a mid-term resignation in May. As such my comment is still valid as the Tasmanian ALP only had a limited amount of time to run a One Member One Vote postal ballot with not much notice.

  4. It is also worth noting that it was a contested pre-selection ballot to replace Nick Sherry

  5. myriad says:

    Nothing you’ve written Oz changes the fact that the ALP knew of Sherry’s retirement months before the Greens knew of Bob Brown’s. It makes a considerable difference not to least to candidates being ready to nominate. The key difference remains that the ALP has long-standing balloting of members to be able to instigate rapidly, but the Tas Greens don’t. What Bob’s announcement did was markedly truncate the timelines & processes that were being planned for senate preselection.

    Preselection for Bob’s casual senate vacancy was also contested, and the call for nominations was advertised both publicly and obviously through the party.

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