2015 has been a momentous year for the Greens, having successfully contested various state elections, transitioned to a new federal parliamentary leadership team, and implemented substantial reforms to our national organisation.
By Giz Watson and Penny Allman-Payne
This year has been a momentous one for the Australian Greens. We've successfully contested various state elections, transitioned to a new federal parliamentary leadership team, and implemented substantial reforms to our national organisation.
Two years of discussions and party consultation on our constitution and governance culminated at our National Conference in Canberra in November 2014. Significantly, conference agreed by consensus to establish a new national organising body — a new National Council — that now meets each month to conduct Australian Greens' business of administering the party and running national campaigns, as well as providing a stronger link with our Federal MPs. The first meeting of the new National Council took place in May this year. Whilst it is still a work in progress, the new body is well on the way to providing us with the capacity to make decisions more rapidly, allowing us to be a more effective national party and at the same time continue to engage with the strength and wisdom of our growing numbers of members. Closer relations are being developed between the Party Room and National Council with MPs participating in every National Council meeting and the co-convenors now attending Party Room strategy meetings. Particular thanks go to our Secretary, Alex Schlotzer, who facilitated the transition to the new structure by carrying out the thankless task of re-drafting all the relevant by-laws to be consistent with the new constitution.
The outstanding Victorian election result at the end of 2014 was delivered by an exceptionally well-run state election campaign. We won two lower house seats with Ellen Sandell in Melbourne and Sam Hibbins in Prahran - the first lower-house seat for the Greens taken from a sitting Liberal. Samantha Dunn for East Metro and Nina Springle for South East Metro also joined three re-elected upper house members Greg Barber, Sue Pennicuik and Colleen Hartland.
2015 got off to a quick start for our Queensland members, with the calling of a snap state election for 31st January calling a halt to the summer holidays. This election gave us the next opportunity to work together across the country and demonstrate the growing strength of effective nation-wide campaigning. Notwithstanding the challenges presented by an optional preferential voting system and the absence of an upper house, our Queensland colleagues produced their best result ever in Queensland, helped oust Campbell Newman, sent a strong message to the (then) Abbott government, and maintained the momentum from our ground-breaking Victorian results. The results are a testament to the strength of a party that can pull out all stops when it comes to the crunch.
New South Wales went to the polls in March and again Greens right round the country threw their weight behind the campaign. The result was a historic win in many ways, not least in the 47% primary vote for Jenny Leong in the new seat of Newtown and the taking of a regional seat from the Nationals by Tamara Smith in Ballina. Jamie Parker also retained his seat of Balmain with an increased margin over Labor from 205 votes to around 2000, and John Kaye and Mehreen Faruqi were returned to the Upper House. Like WA, Vic and Qld before them, NSW benefited from hundreds of volunteers from other states who did phone banking and donated to financial appeals, flying inspirational visits from federal MPs, and members travelling interstate to help out on polling day. To borrow the words of NSW Convenor Hall Greenland, “clearly our confederation works”.
In May, Christine Milne resigned as Parliamentary Leader and Richard Di Natale was elected as the new leader by the Party Room. We issued the following statement on the day:
The Australian Greens Co-convenors offer their deepest gratitude to Senator Christine Milne following the announcement of her decision to step down as Parliamentary Leader.
We commend Senator Milne for her excellent leadership and thank her for the energy, passion and commitment she has given to our party and Australian politics.
Senator Milne has led the Australian Greens to increased electoral success in all the recent elections in Victoria, Queensland and NSW as well as the WA senate by-election. As she leaves the Parliamentary leadership the party is in great shape: our membership is growing, our national organisation has been revitalised and our polling remains strong.
We are also very pleased to welcome Richard Di Natale as our new Parliamentary leader and Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters as co-deputies.
We thank Senator Di Natale for his willingness to take on this demanding role.
We also welcomed Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters as co-deputy leaders, modelling the approach of having co-convenors of the party and spreading the leadership team geographically with a West Australian and a Queenslander.
In July, South Australian Senator Penny Wright announced her intention to resign, due to ill health in her family. Penny has contributed greatly to our party, Australian politics and the community and will be sadly missed. Like all of you, we were saddened by this news and want to thank Penny for everything she has given us over the last four years.
Christine and Penny's resignations have lead to two new faces in the Parliamentary team, Nick McKim in Tasmania and Robert Simms in South Australia. Congratulations to them both on being selected by their States. We wish them every success in representing us in the Senate.
It is clear that our members and supporters right around the country are highly motivated and energised to take on the Turnbull Government; to do all we can — where we can — to see them lose the up-coming Federal election; to see the Green vote surge and to create the massive changes that are needed for Australia to really address climate change, become a more compassionate community and stop the massive attacks on our social infrastructure. Thank you to the thousands of you who make the Australian Greens such a magnificent force for good: to our national office staff who provide excellent service delivery in the context of high demands and limited resources; to our fellow office bearers and national council members for their invaluable contributions to our national organisation; and to our growing number of council, state and federal parliamentary representatives who continue to make us proud to be Greens.