Collaborative progress: National Treasurer

This year has seen strong collaboration as we overcame challenges together.

By Heather Lonsdale

It has been a pleasure to take on the role of National Treasurer, despite the daunting nature of following in the footsteps of Nick Cooper. Thankfully Nick stayed on as Deputy Treasurer for the first half of the year, and I am very grateful to him for the support that made my transition into the role easier, as well as for all of the work he has done over the years to improve the financial governance of the Australian Greens. I would also like to thank Sue Etheridge for taking on the role of Deputy Treasurer for the second half of the year and for being an ever-cheerful presence with a wealth of accounting knowledge. I am tremendously grateful to Brett Constable for his tireless work across so many different areas as National Manager, and in particular for working closely with me and supporting me so well throughout the year.

This year has been challenging and unpredictable worldwide, and there have been particular financial challenges we have faced due to both external and internal factors, but we have supported each other and worked collaboratively towards our shared goals.

Budget challenges and changes

The initial Australian Greens (AG) budget for the 2019-2020 financial year anticipated a surplus of $16,482. However, during the budget negotiations The Greens NSW (GNSW) indicated that they were undergoing financial challenges and would be unable to contribute the amount expected based on the funding model. As a result, there was a significant deficit anticipated for AG, with GNSW indicating they would contribute $150,700 less than originally expected, so budget negotiations continued and several revisions were made to decrease the deficit.

In March 2020 a budget review was presented to National Council that was adjusted based on further information, including favourable fundraising results, and was able to decrease the anticipated deficit to $29,716. This deficit would have been able to be covered by our general reserves in the short term but would not be sustainable over multiple years.

The final result for the financial year ended up being much more positive, largely due to less expenditure on systems maintenance and development than anticipated, lower expenses from fewer face-to-face national meetings, and additional income from the COVID-19 cashflow boost. General (unallocated) reserves increased by $25k to be $118,548, which is well above the target balance of $50k that we aim to have at the end of an election cycle. The specific purpose reserves also increased overall by $113k to a total of $690,830, where a significant amount of this can be attributed to increasing the Federal Campaign Fund as we build towards the next election.

Looking ahead, the 2020-2021 financial year is bound to still contain challenges and unanticipated situations due to COVID-19 and other factors. However, the budget negotiations that followed from 2019-2020 have led to GNSW committing to contribute the full expected amount from the funding formula in 2020-2021, which will put us in a better position to continue to strengthen our collaboration nationally.

Sharing across states and territories

The practice of regular treasurer calls was continued throughout the year, and was particularly helpful when we were faced with challenges as a result of COVID-19. State and territory treasurers discussed their different situations and approaches, and supported each other with advice on eligibility for initiatives such as JobKeeper and the cashflow boost. Thank you to all of the treasurers for helping to build a collegial and friendly environment to support and learn from each other.

National Council passed a proposal to agree to the sharing of financial reports for all state and territory Greens parties (member bodies) with council members, a practice that all member bodies agreed to by the end of the financial year. An overview of these reports has been presented twice to National Council, and considered by the state and territory treasurers, and has given insight into the different member bodies’ finances and the challenges they face. The goodwill of GNSW in agreeing to share their reports was a factor that helped to progress budget discussions.

Committees and collaboration

National Council agreed to reinstate the Governance and Finance Committee, to have a team to look more closely at the budget and other matters. This was particularly helpful this year as another forum to discuss the various financial challenges faced, as well as to provide input and feedback on a range of governance and finance proposals. Thank you to Peter Whish-Wilson, Ray Mainsbridge, Brett Constable, Catherine Garner, Jordan Hull, and Sue Etheridge for your involvement in this committee.

Throughout the year I also met with various member bodies’ committees of management, finance committees, and with national councillors. These were invaluable opportunities to work together and better understand each other’s positions, and to communicate details of proposals to begin working towards consensus. This collaboration across states and territories will be further built on in the coming year with the planned review of the funding model.

I have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Australian Greens staff members and office bearers, national councillors, and member body treasurers, and this year has shown our ability to surmount challenges together as we work towards building a better future.

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