In the wrap up from last weekend’s NSW Greens AGM, there could not be a more stark example of what’s happening inside the Greens than this morning’s piece in The Australian.
“the Eastern Bloc was forced to put unprecedented levels of pressure on delegates to maintain its vote.”
Excuse me while I fall about the floor laughing at the utter bullshit contained in this line.
While The Australian is incapable of balance, here’s another senior Greens source, who got in touch this morning:
“It borders on pathetic that the right of the party continue to use a publication like the Australian to run their smear campaigns.“The fact The Australian is the news outlet of choice for senior Greens figures intent on undermining Lee Rhiannon is a clear indication of both the quality of the information and the depth of character of those doing it.”
I’ll let you make up your own mind about both quotes. Instead, let’s just deal with some of the facts about what happened on the weekend, and what the implications may be for progressive policy making.
Firstly, for some background, the idea that there is some kind of magical hold on NSW Greens delegates by Senator Rhiannon and her mythical Eastern Bloc is farcical. Greens delegates are bound by their local groups; so the notion that a few folks from Sydney’s Eastern suburbs are able to get round to every local group meeting in NSW that are discussing the SDC agenda AND tell them what to do, is ludicrous.
Secondly, the SDC is supposed to operate by consensus, with delegates working together to find a common position. In the past, contentious proposals would got through a lengthy process, over successive SDCs, to get to a stage that all delegates could live with. This now seems to be breaking down, with a concerted push on to force issues to a vote, rather than a willingness to work towards consensus.
Trying to get consensus meant that policy was able to be refined and tested in a robust debating environment. Future progressive policies may no longer be put forward within the Party if voting is now the new normal for SDCs.
And thirdly, and what The Australian piece completely ignored, is that the group that is pushing these votes and leaking to a conservative newspaper, is not the so-called left; it is coming from those who also support more conservative policy positions on everything from education to drug law reform.
This group – let’s call them the Northern Bloc – were the ones putting pressure on delegates to support their preferred candidates for committees and positions.
The reality is that they lost. NSW Greens committees can only make recommendations to an SDC, that are then considered by delegates. The Northern Bloc missed out on far more important positions, such as the Federal Election Campaign Committee, that has a wider brief and autonomy. Conference delegates are overwhelmingly on the progressive side of policy debates and progressive candidates convincingly won all the key elected positions. And not by a few votes, either.
The facts are that, despite their eagerness to talk to a newspaper that has committed to destroying the Greens at the ballot box, the Northern Bloc do not have the numbers; but in their actions of forcing votes, aggressive lobbying and petulant leaking, they are creating an internal culture of bullying and vitriol.
Sound familiar? If those few who are pushing this anti-democratic agenda inside the NSW Greens want to find out where it will end up, they need to look no further than what’s happened to the ALP, when those elected to parliament switched their allegiance from local branches to factions.
As Rodney Cavalier so eloquently says:
“A critical mass of MLCs with loyalties to central factional machines entirely altered the culture and power relationships inside the Caucus.”
I’m unsure how many NSW Greens members are aware of what’s happening inside the Party they give their money, time and campaigning passion to. The Northern Bloc also pushed hard on the weekend to remove the controversial report on the Senate preselection from general member access. They were unsuccessful.
In a party that has grassroots democracy as one of its core principles, the willingness of some delegates to force a vote on restricting information to Greens members is troubling.
“A good friend of mine and former Labor member told me over coffee once that it’s a sign of maturity in a party when the different factions (for want of a better word) can debate their differences openly, that is, in the media. Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals all do this, albeit often messily and heavily choreographed.
The next twelve to eighteen months will likely tell us whether the Greens are going to emerge from adolescence as a mature political force of the new Left, which can publicly and maturely debate and reflect on the spectrums within their policy platforms; and, in doing so, inform public debate and achieve further electoral success.”
I don’t think white-anting their own State’s Senator, in a newspaper dedicated to the Greens destruction, is what she meant.