Over time we are developing a high level of trust, co-operation and commitment in order to tackle the tasks of administrating a complex and growing political organisation.
By Giz Watson and Alex Scholtzer
The good bits
National Council continues to function well - sometimes in very challenging circumstances! Over time we are developing a high level of trust, co-operation and commitment in order to tackle the tasks of administrating a complex and growing political organisation. National Council will need to continue to finesse the challenges of State Members balancing being both the voice for their State body and being able to take a more impartial national perspective. Also to provide an effective two-way communication between States and the AG that facilitates maximum participation for all members and at the same time recognise the political realities of some information being kept confidential.
The national strategic plan was another major piece of work undertaken over the last year involving thousands of members participating in surveys and workshops. The strategic plan was endorsed at the May 2017 National Conference and will help guide the national organisation with the operational plan being created to ensure that the organisation is directing its resources and activities towards achieving the goals in our strategic plan.
We should also acknowledge that: we are holding up as the third political party (and the only party with a progressive and optimistic agenda!) and this is despite the steady barrage of attacks from our political opponents and the allied media; our membership continues to grow; our skills and capacity continue to improve; our polling remains steady around a base of 10%; and we continue to have electoral success. We held an excellent National Conference in the red centre at Alice Springs, thanks to the NT Greens for hosting us so generously and to National Secretary, Becc Galdies, who put in a huge amount of time making it happen.
Another success is that we continue to attract new and energetic members keen to achieve our vision for a fairer community and a healthy environment.
And let's not forget the great contribution we make in supporting the development of Greens parties in the Asia Pacific Region via the Asia Pacific Greens Federation, our International Development Committee and the Global Issues Group.
The not so good bits
Recently we have all suffered the shock and sadness of losing two extraordinary Senators – Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam. This has been an unprecedented challenge on many levels within the Greens and has inevitably created internal tensions as a result of the uncertainties created. We will get through these tough times and, of course, ensure that in future our pre-selection processes are fit for purpose.
This year has also brought tensions, unhelpful public spats and a breakdown of trust within various parts of the organisation. Some of this is of our own making and inevitably has been seized upon and inflated by our political opponents. We can't do much about the second part of that but we must take responsibility and actions to build our own internal relationships and trust.
A continuing challenge is the frustrating failure to secure ongoing, reliable and adequate funding and therefore commitment to our national organisation. This is one of the key challenges of a federated organisation. However, it's important to acknowledge the good work being done to strengthen relationships between State and National office bearers (particularly the treasurers!) this will go a long way towards a better appreciation of the different roles and services provided at State and National levels and hopefully commitment to a more secure funding model.
Despite continuing to attract new members we have a high degree of membership churn, people who join us for 12 months and then don't renew. We must work harder to keep our members interested, active and committed.
If there's one word that seems to sum up the current political climate it's turmoil! In the bigger picture there are unprecedented events; confusion over political direction and identity; increased disunity; and growing public cynicism about politics. As former Parliamentary Leader, Christine Milne, pointed out at the time of Donald Trump's election when so many people were angry and despairing – there has to be this level of disruption on so many levels if we are to shift out of 'business as usual' and make the transition to a new economy/community. We are experiencing what activist Joanna Macy calls the 'great turning'. How we Greens respond and position ourselves in these circumstances is our biggest, ongoing challenge. In the Parliament this challenge is only made more risky by the fact our Senators are part of a complex balance of power in the Senate. Individually and collectively we need to continue to improve our skills of resilience as there is likely to be more turbulence ahead.
Our challenge also is to facilitate genuine and full debate in the membership about the direction and priorities for the party which, in my view, this would look like more discussions at State general meetings, conferences and in national council – and less frustration and vitriol on social media!
There will be further discussion and lively debate: about leadership in general and the way we select the leader of our Parliamentary team; about the strengths and weaknesses of a federated organisation; about how we practise participatory democracy with a growing and geographically disperse membership; how we balance the growing support in the inner city area against the important work of building a greater presence in the country areas; about the relationship between our elected representatives and the membership; which policy initiatives to prioritise; and much more! The critical point is that we reaffirm our commitment to having these debates in a respectful and open-hearted way, in the spirit of nonviolence and consensus. What sets us apart as Greens is that we seek to engage in political debate differently and that we hold nonviolence as one of our four core principles. To do this needs training, commitment and practise from all of us.
Within our administration we need to improve some of our governance processes if we are to improve the functioning of the organisation and maintain trust and confidence within our membership. Good work is being done to develop some better models for conflict resolution; risk management; better addressing claims of bullying and harassment; and (of course) thorough checking of the eligibility of our Federal candidates.
Finally, we may be coming to the time where the work of the key office bearers of an organisation as large as ours and one with onerous legal and administrative responsibilities should be compensated by an honorarium. It is a huge commitment of time and energy to take on an office bearer's role in a voluntary capacity and this can come at a real cost to those who do it.
(This part is from Giz but of course Alex agrees with thanking everyone, too!)
As I will be concluding three terms as co-convenor I wanted to take the opportunity to thank some extraordinary people I have had the pleasure of working with.
Thanks to my fellow co-convenors Penny Allman-Payne and Alex Schlotzer, wonderful people to work with who continue to contribute their hearts and souls to the Greens. Thanks to Brett Constable, AG National Manager, and the staff team all doing extraordinary work on the smell of an oily rag! To the office bearer team – what a great bunch of people to share a trench with! To the National Council team who have worked strongly together through difficult times and all for the love of it! To all of the State teams as well facing their particular challenges. Thanks to all our elected representatives at all levels of government taking the Green agenda into those decision-making forums and being our public face. Thanks to the staff in all the Parliamentary offices for the huge job you do on the front line. And of course thanks to all our members and supporters – out in the world being activists, change agents, volunteers, election campaigners and keeping hope alive!