Building the path to success: Nick Cooper

This year, we aimed to provide predictability and set the organisation on a path to success ahead of the next federal election.

By Nick Cooper, National Treasurer

The focus of the treasury space over the past financial year has been consolidating, preparing, and improving the Australian Greens’ (AG) governance structures and underlying financial position.

Driven by our Strategic Plan, we have sought to provide predictability for the confederation’s Member Bodies and set the organisation on a path to success ahead of the next federal election.

The national organisation’s capacity to service, support, and boost Member Bodies’ capabilities drives our ability to deliver electoral success across the country. The past financial year’s treasury activities have sought to build on and extend the Australian Greens’ governance and financial position over the longer term while positioning us for success at the upcoming federal election.

The National Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer would like to acknowledge and extend our thanks to the National Office staff, and particularly the National Manager Brett Constable, for their tireless contribution and dedication towards achieving the Greens’ vision. Without you, we could not have achieved all that we have and all we are sure to achieve in the future.

State of accounts 

The Australian Greens ended the 2017-18 financial year in a strong financial position. At 30 June 2018 our assets significantly exceeded our liabilities with an overall ratio of 2.59:1. This ratio compares our total assets, including general and special-purpose reserves, to our liabilities, including long-term staffing provisions and federal campaign and ongoing operating funding provided by states that has not yet been expended. This ratio therefore fluctuates month-to-month, and National Council has considered values ranging from 1.5:1 to 2:1 to be appropriate.

The organisations reserves at 30 June 2018 were dominated by general/unallocated reserves ($178k), the Federal Election Campaign Fund ($240k), and the Bequests Reserve ($159k). The balance of AG’s reserves was significantly increased due to implementation delays in priority Operational Plan IT projects (of approximately $83k), as well as broader savings across most budget line items due to strong oversight and management. 

National Council has subsequently decided to roll over the $83k underspend on priority IT projects to the 2018-19 financial year budget to ensure that these priority projects can still be implemented, albeit later than originally envisioned.

Additional decisions by National Council since 30 June 2018 have also allocated expenditure from the Bequests Reserve to roll out a bequests program, while the Federal Election Campaign Fund has continued to support campaign activities in line with the campaign budget.

Reflecting these changes, and as a result of expected fluctuations due to operational activities, our asset-to-liability ratio as at 31 August 2018 stood at 1.92:1 – comfortably within the current target range.

National Council is also actively examining appropriate target balances for AG’s general and Contingency reserves. Further detail on the organisation's finances will be provided in a session at the November 2018 National Conference, or is available through the National Treasurer or Member Body’s National Council delegates. 

Funding framework 

One of the greatest treasury transformations of the past financial year was the adoption of a bylaw at the May 2018 National Conference setting a default funding framework for Member Bodies’ combined contribution to the Australian Greens operating budget.

In previous years, budget negotiations at National Conference have sought to decide both the total amount of funding Member Bodies would contribute to the AG operating budget and how this total amount would be divided between Member Bodies. The Funding Framework Bylaw has now set a default mechanism for the total amount of funding that provides predictability for both the Australian Greens and its Member Bodies. Additionally, it ensures that the Australian Greens shares both the risks and rewards of party-wide federal electoral results. 

At every National Conference, the National Treasurer shall now report to Conference the agreed total Member Body contributions for the current and future AG operating budget periods. These amounts will be expressed as both absolute dollar amounts, and as a percentage of total electoral returns from the preceding federal election.

Following a new federal election, these percentages will then be applied to the new total electoral returns. The resulting amounts will then be the new combined Member Body contribution to the Australian Greens operating budget.

As such, the total contribution amount in dollar terms will rise and fall with our combined electoral fortunes, ensuring that the Australian Greens shared ‘gain’ or ‘pain’ resulting from strong or poor electoral results, respectively.

The current and forecast budget results adopted at the May 2018 National Conference, which incorporated estimated population growth and inflation leading to a May 2019 general election, remain unchanged at this November 2018 Conference:






Actual & forecast $ 





Basis % of AEC 





*Forecast amounts include expected population growth and indexation of amount per primary vote assuming a May 2019 general federal election.

Please note that these amounts (and, therefore, derived percentages) may be amended by National Council or Conference by affirmative adoption of a proposal to do so.

Bequests program 

This past year has seen the implementation of a Greens bequest program. The Australian Greens and its Member Bodies have previously received bequests on an ad hoc basis, but have not had a program to proactively inform and support members and key supporters of their options to provide gifts in wills.

Providing a bequest to the Australian Greens or state/territory Greens party provides an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and support progressive activism into the future.

How gifts are directed is determined by the person leaving the bequest, whether it be to a state or territory Greens party, or to the national body.

The launch of the bequests program, across all Member Bodies except Western Australia, has shown significant potential. The Australian Greens looks forward to continuing to engage members, supporters, and its Member Bodies in providing opportunities to provide lasting, meaningful impact in line with bequestors’ wishes in the future.

If you are interested in providing a bequest to the Australian Greens or one of the state or territory Greens parties, or would just like some more information, Susan Griffith-Sussems would be very happy to assist you at

Improving governance 

Building on past improvements, this year has seen the continuation of work to further strengthen and refine the Australian Greens’ financial governance processes.

Foremost among these initiatives has been an ongoing process to develop Terms of Reference for each of the organisation’s funds and reserves, including their purpose, target balance, funding mechanism, and terms of use.

Articulating these agreed provisions ensures that AG’s finances are managed and governed in accordance with their aims and contribute to the organisation’s priorities and principles.

National Council has thus far agreed on Terms of Reference for four of its special-purpose funds and reserves: 

  • Federal Election Campaign Fund (formerly the Strategic Fund) 

  • Operational Projects Reserve (new as at 22 April 2018) 

  • Long-Term Investment Holdings (new as at 20 January 2018) 

  • Legal Defence Fund 

These Terms of Reference are available on the Australian Greens Financial Governance page on Greenhouse.

National Council is also currently exploring the purposes and target balances for AG’s general and Contingency reserves, which will facilitate subsequent agreement on the Terms of Reference for these reserves.


Following review of its underlying financial position, and with a view to advancing Goal 4 of the 2017-2020 Australian Greens Strategic Plan (Secure our long term financial sustainability), National Council resolved to invest a portion of the organisation’s cash assets through an ethical managed fund.

The Australian Greens cash management strategy has previously been very conservative, holding its medium- and long-term cash assets in term deposits. While very low risk, these term deposits yield very little interest.

As a result, National Council determined this year that the combined balance of AG’s Contingency Reserve and Legal Defence Fund, approximately $70k, will be invested across two Australian Ethical managed funds. It is hoped that growth in the value of these holdings will improve AG’s underlying financial position over the longer term.