Rifts widen in the Australian Greens
8 July 2017
Factional conflicts within the Australian Greens have intensified over the past several days, with tensions growing between the national organisation and the New South Wales (NSW) state branch.
The dispute’s immediate trigger was Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s alignment with the opposition Labor Party and the teacher trade unions against school funding legislation proposed by the federal Liberal-National Coalition government. Rhiannon, the party’s only federal senator from NSW, claimed she was obliged by state branch policy to take the stance she did.
Her intervention, however, stymied moves by the Greens parliamentary leadership to negotiate a deal with the government to pass its bill through the Senate—the upper house of the Australian parliament. Unable to rely on the Greens’ votes, the Coalition passed the education measures with the assistance of other “third party” senators.
The majority of the 10-member Greens’ parliamentary group, headed by leader Richard Di Natale, reacted with fury to being sidelined from negotiations on key legislation. In an unprecedented action, they banned Rhiannon from party-room discussions on “contentious” topics. They said she would be excluded until the NSW branch repudiates its constitutional stipulation that parliamentary representatives adhere to the decisions of the state-based party.
Underlying the divisions is the fact that the Greens have evolved over the past two decades into the party of “green” business. While it appeals for support on the basis of environmental and identity politics issues that concern sections of the middle class and a layer of youth, its primary objective is to develop and advocate policies that benefit its corporate…