Some reflections from the national treasurer on the Australian Greens’ continued growth in the face of uncertain times.
By Osman Faruqi
Despite the challenging financial situation foreshadowed at the 2014 National Conference and the complexities of transitioning to a new structure for party governance, the Australian Greens is continuing to grow.
The creation of the new Systems Liaison Co-ordinator role at the national level shows that even with tension around state contributions to the national party, state parties are willing and able to fund the growth of the Australian Greens when a solid case is put regarding the benefits of co-ordination and minimising duplication.
The high level of uncertainty around the financial situation of state parties given their income is largely dependent on election results will continue to put the Australian Greens on a less than ideal financial footing for the foreseeable future. However, particularly regarding the election campaign budget, there is now a broad acceptance of the national party's role in funding and co-ordinating research, communications, advertising and other key campaign responsibilities. This has allowed the party to start campaign preparation earlier than before.
There is still incongruence in the management of the party's financial affairs outside of election periods and within them. The dual budget structure, where the Australian Greens as a “core” budget for ostensibly non-campaign work and a “campaign” budget for election work simply doubles the amount of negotiation and back and forth that goes on between state parties. The continual nature of campaigning makes this divide even more arbitrary. While there are challenges to moving towards a simple, single budget for the Australian Greens the benefits are numerous enough that state parties should consider how to enact this prior to the 2019 federal election.
The new National Council structure has allowed for much clearer and rapid decision making on administrative issues. However, in my view, it is effectively functioning as a larger Australian Greens Co-ordinating Group with more authority and a broader remit, rather than a genuinely political body as I think many were expecting when it was established. This has to do with different understandings of what National Council's role is, the balance between “state interests” and the “national interest” and of course the fact that it has only been operating for less than a year. However there is no doubt in my mind that the most important purpose of the National Council is to be a conduit for Greens members into national decision making – at an organisational level and within the federal party room. If National Council does not fulfil this role then there is effectively no difference between the Greens and the major parties when it comes to the issue of ensuring whether our federal representatives hear the voice of ordinary members and take direction from them.
Finally I would like to thank all the brilliant, hard working staff in the National Office — many of whom I have had the opportunity to work with over many years. In particular I would like to give a very heartfelt thanks to Brett Constable who I have known for nearly my entire decade long involvement in the party. Brett has worked incredibly hard to ensure the national party, while respecting federal party structure, remains in a strong and healthy position.