On the shoulders of giants


A whirlwind six months in which the party has improved the professionalism of its approach to the management of financial issues with regular treasurers' calls between states and a Governance and Finance Committee.

By Nick Cooper, National Treasurer

I would like to begin this report by acknowledging and thanking the Australian Greens (AG) National Office staff, membership of National Council, and numerous state and territory representatives for their invaluable support over the past six months. Since my election as National Treasurer at the May 2016 National Conference, the willing assistance and guidance provided by members from all corners of the organisation has allowed me to stand on the shoulders of giants in performing the Treasurer role, and I would like to express my gratitude for your support and commitment to me and to the strengthening and growth of the Greens.

In particular, I would like to thank the National Manager, Brett Constable, for his stalwart assistance over the past six months, as well as the outstanding work of the AG National Office staff and volunteers. 

This report covers the period May through November 2016 since my election to the role of National Treasurer. 

State of accounts

National Conference in November last year adopted a deficit budget for the Australian Greens for the 2016 calendar year.

As a result, the Australian Greens has depleted approximately 46 per cent of its general reserves over 2016, to a projected balance of approximately $57k at 31 December 2016. It is, therefore, incumbent on National Conference this year to consider the Jan-Jun 2017 operating budget and funding request in light of AG's limited ability to absorb future deficits. Similarly, budget discussions and negotiations leading to the passage of a 2017-20 rolling financial-year budget should also include consideration of appropriate reserves and special-purpose funds (such as the strategic/election fund) to provide short- and medium-term contingencies, the ability to respond to emergent opportunities and needs, and the overall financial health and sustainability of the national organisation.

These discussions will, in part, be informed by the strategic planning process currently underway, which will also consider the future funding model of the Australian Greens. However, further work will be needed to agree appropriate targets of fund and reserve balances, and how these are to be supported, to ensure the continued health of the organisation.

Audited financial report

National Conference in November will be considering the Audited Financial Report of the Australian Greens for the financial year ending 30 June 2016. I note with pleasure that the auditor did not provide any objections to the content or process of the financial reports presented. I would like to thank the National Manager and Finance Officer for all of their work in administering the financial affairs of the Australian Greens, and congratulate them on the auditor's positive finding. 

Treasurers' calls

A key focus of my role over the past six months has been strengthening the relationships and communications between Treasurers across and between the Australian Greens and the state and territory Greens parties. To this end I have hosted monthly conference calls of Treasurers and Deputy/Assistant Treasurers, with a standing invitation extended to other finance staff in each organisation. These calls, and use of the Treasurers elist, have been used to build rapport and understanding between Treasurers, identify common issues and opportunities, share experiences, and disseminate and promote best-practices across Greens parties. Feedback from participants has been very positive, with a shared desire to continue these meetings over the next year, in addition to the inclusion of face-to-face meetings during National Conferences for those able to attend. 

In addition to initiating the Treasurers calls, I also undertook a road trip to meet with my state and territory colleagues. During this trip I was able to visit six of the eight Australian Greens Member Bodies, but was unfortunately unable to visit Western Australia and the Northern Territory. My thanks to all of the state and territory Treasurers who hosted and met with me on this trip — it has provided a degree of insight and understanding of the diversity of Treasurers' experiences across our parties that would not have otherwise been possible, and I hope you found it as enjoyable and helpful as I did. 

Governance and Finance Committee

Upon assuming the Treasurer role in May I was pleased to learn of the formation of the Australian Greens Governance and Finance Committee earlier this year. As a working group of National Council, the Governance and Finance Committee has met regularly to review and improve the finance and governance-related policies, procedures, processes, and standards of the national organisation.

Additionally, the Committee advised the National Treasurer, National Manager, and National Council on methods to improve the transparency and accountability of Australian Greens operations. The Committee developed and presented a number of proposals to National Council, advised the National Treasurer and National Manager on the development of the Jan-Jun 2017 AG operating budget, and provided a forum to critique and improve aspects of the national budget and Australian Greens financial control provisions. It is my hope that the Governance and Finance Committee will continue its important work into 2017.

Strategic planning process

In my capacity as an Australian Greens Office Bearer and, subsequently, as convenor of the Australian Greens Strategic Planning Steering Committee, I have had the pleasure to work with the team coordinating the development of the Australian Greens Strategic and Operational Plans. The strategic planning process is a nine-month endeavour that will conclude in the first half of 2017, laying the foundation for what we want to do and who we want to be in 2020.

The resultant Plans will chart the road map for our evolution as a party over the next three years, articulating our vision for the future of the Australian Greens and how we will get there. It is impossible to overstate my thanks to all of those who have been involved in the strategic planning process to date, including those who have filled out surveys, managed and attended workshops in each state and territory, assisted with the coding and analysis of results, and have participated in the online forum, among the many other engagement activities that have taken place this year and will continue into the next.

In particular, I would like to thank the members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and our indomitable Australian Greens National Office staff for the time, energy, passion and commitment they have dedicated to the process — it would not have been possible without you, and the future strength of the party is indebted to your wisdom and steadfast service.