This year has been transformative for the Australian Greens, having come together to define who we are and our vision for the future – as both a party and a movement spanning the country.
By Nick Cooper
This year has been transformative for the Australian Greens. We have come together to define who we are and our vision for the future, as both a Party and a movement spanning the country. We have charted a course for the next three years to guide our journey from where we are to where we want to be, how we will work together to get there, and how we will win. Together, we've lifted our eyes and our minds from the ground beneath our feet to the horizon stretched before us.
More than most, this year has been about the future. The long-term. The Australian Greens 2017-2020 Strategic Plan – the product of countless voices and tireless commitment of thousands across the country – tells the story of us and how we will transform politics in Australia. Our Operational Plan maps out how we will get there. And, for the first time in many years, we have a 3-year budget providing clarity and consistency in how our collective contributions carry us forward.
This year we've dreamed big. The path ahead is long and winding, with difficult terrain and inevitable blisters along the way. However, it has been a pleasure traveling this path with you all, and I can imagine no better companions to surmount what challenges lie ahead. Your energy and commitment will forever inspire.
3-year rolling budget
For a number of years, the Australian Greens has operated on a 1-calendar-year budget, renegotiated and agreed at each November National Conference. In 2016 the Australian Greens decided that a rolling 3-year budget, based on the financial year, would offer significant benefits, such as greater certainty, clarity, accountability, streamlined regulatory reporting, and strategic planning. It would also bring the Australian Greens budget in line with those of state and territory Greens parties, most of whom use financial year budgets.
The 2016 November National Conference agreed a 6-month transitional budget to align operational planning with a financial year beginning 1 July. After significant negotiation and input by Australian Greens staff and Office Bearers, National Council delegates and representatives of state and territory Greens parties, the 2017 May National Conference passed its 3-year financial year Australian Greens operating budget.
The Australian Greens will now operate under a rolling 3-year cycle. Rather than 1-year budgets passed in November, each May National Conference will now negotiate an adjustment that extends the budget forward the additional year, in addition to any other revisions as negotiated. As such, the 2018 May National Conference will seek to pass a budget extending the current FY2017/20 forward to FY2018/21.
Each November National Conference, including 2017, will offer the opportunity for the Australian Greens and state and territory delegates to review and, where necessary, revise and reforecast the present operating budget against the strategic objectives set out in the Australian Greens Strategic and Operational Plans. As a strategy-driven organisation, our income and expenditure shall be assessed to ensure that our resources are both adequate to and directed towards projects and roles that achieve our strategic objectives and shared vision. This year's agreement on the 2017-2020 Strategic and Operational Plans has provided the foundation for these substantive discussions.
May Conference outcome
Despite agreement on a 3-year operating budget, the May 2017 National Conference budget negotiations and outcomes confronted significant challenges that it is hoped can be avoided in future.
In terms of process, it was regrettable that the budget and funding model was passed by a vote of plenary, as it was not possible to reach a consensus agreement. Though delegates to budget session approached the 2 days of negotiations in good faith, worked tirelessly to reach consensus, and displayed significant commitment to safe meeting procedures and generous assumptions towards each other, we were unable to reach a proposal text that met the needs of all delegations. This is very unfortunate, given that those in the room were prepared to agree on the substance of a compromise agreement that met the needs of all parties, but some were unable to support that agreement in plenary due to binding by those not present at Conference. This is not to dismiss the need for delegates to faithfully represent the needs of their state or territory party, nor their commitment to do so. Rather, it is a recognition that consensus decision-making necessitates the same degree of commitment, which entails flexibility to have needs addressed without pre-supposing or imposing a specific outcome. Unfortunately, the plenary process of the May 2017 budget passage did not reflect our ideals of consensus decision-making, as delegates were unable to agree to a compromise position that met their state's needs but did not conform to that state's bound position.
In addition to poorer outcomes, such processes also reduce trust and limit creative problem-solving. It is my sincere hope and request that state and territory parties empower and instil their delegates with the trust to represent their interests without resorting to a bound position.
Despite concerns regarding the process for their carriage, the budget proposals brought before and passed by National Conference were the compromise proposals negotiated during budget workshop sessions. While this decision may have eased state-specific post-conference budget reconciliation decisions, it also left an annual $133,600 shortfall in operational funding for the national organisation. As a result, the National Treasurer, National Manager, Office Bearers Group, and national office staff developed an urgent list of restructure options and expenditure cuts to ensure long-term solvency. National Council approved all but one recommendation at its June meeting. Those cuts included the forced redundancy of the National Communications Coordinator, whose role will be replaced with a part-time Officer some time later this year, reduced online systems maintenance expenditure, charging state and territory parties for National Council delegate attendance at National Conference, and the abolition of regular contributions to the Legal Defence Fund, among others.
One of the defining characteristics of the Greens and its supporters is that we think about the future. From education to climate change, biosecurity to biodiversity, we build for the long-term. We think about the planet and the generations that will come after us. We know that some problems take a lifetime to solve. But that doesn't stop us. We start now. We do what we can. We plant the tree knowing that we might not know its shade, but that others will, and will plant trees of their own.
This year the Australian Greens have begun work on our new bequests program. A bequest, in its essence, is a chance to leave a legacy, to continue to support a cause you believe in through a gift in your will. As passionate supporters of a fairer, healthier, more sustainable future, a key strength of Greens members is our commitment and selflessness. We dream about what the future could look like, and how we can make that dream real. A bequest is one way to ensure your legacy can endure.
If you are considering leaving a bequest to the Greens, would like further information, or have any questions, our National Fundraising Coordinator Susan Griffiths-Sussems would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this, the 25th year of the Greens, it is worth celebrating how far we have come. We've won elections. We've changed the conversation. We've put and passed laws and regulations through councils and governments from the grassroots to the national. There's much to celebrate. But there's also a long way to go. There's no end to the journey we're on, just the time and energy we have to spend on it together. This year, more than most, has been about setting the course, taking the next step, and moving ever closer to the horizon. It's a long road, and we may never find its end, but it's been a pleasure to travel it with you all.