Factional conflict wracks Australian Greens


Factional conflict wracks Australian Greens

James Cogan

29 June 2017

The Australian Greens lurched closer toward an open split when the majority of its parliamentary representatives voted on Wednesday to suspend New South Wales (NSW) “left” Senator Lee Rhiannon from its party-room discussions and decision-making.

Rhiannon’s suspension is unprecedented in the Greens’ history. It is the outcome of furious recriminations over her public vow to join with the Labor Party and vote against the Liberal-National Coalition government’s school funding legislation, which copied but substantially modified a 2016 Labor election promise. She made her statement despite the Greens being engaged in back-room negotiations with the government to support the measures.

The Coalition holds only 29 of the 76 seats in the Senate, the upper house of the Australian parliament. To pass legislation, it needs the support of at least 10 senators from other parties. The Greens have nine. Apart from Labor, other parties and independents have 12, so the government can bypass the Greens altogether.

Rhiannon’s opposition prevented the Greens from offering the Coalition a united front. Instead of continuing to talk with Greens’ leader Richard Di Natale and education spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young, the government made a deal with the right-wing populist One Nation and Nick Xenophon parties and three other senators. The legislation passed in the early hours of June 23, without any kudos flowing the Greens’ way.

Eight Greens senators, as well as its single member in the lower house, Adam Bandt, filed a bitter letter of complaint against Rhiannon to the organisation’s National Council last weekend, accusing her of disloyalty and disruption. One of the factions immediately leaked the letter…

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