Greens lurch to right in reshuffle

It’s a case of “much transparency, such openness” from the Australian Greens.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has reshuffled the Green’s party room, but you wouldn’t know it from him. There hasn’t been so much as a media release or statement about the reshuffle from Di Natale.

Instead, the Greens have simply updated the portfolio responsibilities list on their website and issued an updated contact list to journalists.

How the Greens see fit to notify people about changes to their Parliamentary team.

How the Greens see fit to notify people about changes to their Parliamentary team.

The only public indication from Greens’ federal parliamentarians has been this brief statement from Lee Rhiannon.

The content of the unadvertised reshuffle further demonstrates that the Greens are a party lurching rightwards.

Lee Rhiannon and Janet Rice have been stripped of key campaign portfolio responsibilities, on the same day Richard di Natale has indicated he will work with the Liberal party on refugees and marriage equality.

Lee Rhiannon’s work in higher education, especially in the critical and much neglected TAFE sector, has consistently won kudos and respect from officials in both of the major education unions. Lee Rhiannon is also publicly identified as the most consistently left wing Greens parliamentarian.

The portfolio reshuffle sees responsibility for higher education go to South Australia’s yet-to-be-appointed replacement for Penny Wright, Robert Simms.

Robert Simms has also picked up responsibility for the LBGTI and Marriage Equality portfolio from Victorian Senator Janet Rice. Within the Greens this is a key campaigning portfolio; its move away from someone associated with the left based in Melbourne to an Adelaide based newcomer is significant.

In a sick twist sure to disappoint Greens supporters in the education sector, new Tasmanian Senator Nick McKim has been given the “Schools” portfolio.

In 2011 McKim served as Minister for Education in a Tasmanian Labor dominated government where he oversaw significant cuts to public education funding in that state. The appointment of McKim to this role is unsurprising given their new leader. Within the Greens Di Natale is said to oppose the Greens’ longstanding commitment to free tertiary education.

The Australian Greens under Richard di Natale are continuing their trajectory to the right. If those who identify as ‘the left’ within the Greens do not successfully fight this trajectory, they will have become little more than window dressing for a right wing party in much the same fashion as the Labor left.

Assuming they have not already.

Updates

Nick McKim has now released a presser celebrating his new portfolio responsibilities. It includes the following:

“I will work with my colleagues to champion entrepreneurship and the collaborative economy, which will be real economic drivers into the future.”

“I will be a fierce advocate for small business, and will continue the great work done by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson to ensure they get a level playing field to compete with the large corporations.

“The Greens will present an alternative vision for the economy that looks to the innovators, small businesses and entrepreneurs to generate sustainable wealth and prosperity in the 21st Century.”

The NSW Young Greens have posted a statement on their Facebook page which includes the following:

The NSW Young Greens object to the decision to remove the Higher Education portfolio from Senator Lee Rhiannon.

This decision will hurt the entire education movement across the country. Activists, students, NAPU and NTEU & AEU members have relied on the support of Senator Rhiannon for many years, and have developed a strong working relationship with her. These close relationships, and the actions Senator Rhiannon has taken, have allowed the Greens to be at the forefront of the campaign against deregulation, and together we have played a key role in defeating it. This decision will, in many ways, alienate thousands of young people and union members from the Greens.

The NSW Young Greens would also like to object more broadly to the manner in which portfolios are chosen in the Australian Greens Party Room.

The Sydney University Education Action Group has posted this:

Chris Pyne losing the Education portfolio is an unsurprising attempt by the Turnbull government to save face in light of failed higher education reform. In the midst of the shambles of Federal politics, we’re devastated to hear that the The Australian Greens have inexplicably replaced Lee Rhiannon as their higher education spokesperson, in what many are interpreting as a rightward lurch.

Further Update:

Sky News posted Greens reshuffle while all eyes on PM late last night:

The Greens have reshuffled their party room in a move overshadowed by of Malcolm Turnbull’s first day as prime minister.

New South Wales Senator Lee Rhiannon lost the higher education portfolio, while Victorian Senator Janet Rice is no longer the spokesperson for same-sex marriage and LGTBI issues.

The move is likely to further anger certain sections of the party’s membership already concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation shown during May’s leadership spill.

Meanwhile others have been wondering what on earth Di Natale was doing at this last week.

Wednesday Updates

New Matilda running with Anger In NSW After Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon Loses Higher Education Portfolio:

Despite playing a prominent role in the push-back against Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s attempts to deregulate the higher education sector, Rhiannon has lost the portfolio to New South Australian Senator-designate Robert Simms, who has also received the high profile LGBTI and Marriage Equality roles.

New Matilda understands the ultimate responsibility for redistributing portfolios lies with Greens leader Richard Di Natale, and that MPs were informed of the final changes at a party room meeting on Tuesday morning.

Green Left Weekly has picked it up with Federal Greens leader sidelines two popular Green MPs.

Thursday / Friday Updates

Crikey ran an article (paywalled) on Thursday entitled Greens’ sneaky portfolio reshuffle upsets NSW branch.

A couple of of commentors in the thread below have pointed to this blog post by Richard di Natale on the Greens magazine website. Apparently it proves the Green’s total openness, transparency and lack of a rightward shift.

See Also

New Matilda, New Greens Boss Richard Di Natale Forced To Clarify Israel Stance.
SBS, Pension Changes to Pass with Greens support.
Kieran’s Review, 5 reasons the Greens aren’t good enough on asylum seekers.

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23 Comments

  1. I’ve always thought they were a sort of vaguely leftish Democrats…..Their lack of any intelligible population policy is just one area they have failed to really address the big issues….

    Reply
  2. “Within the Greens Di Natale is said to oppose the Greens’ longstanding commitment to free tertiary education.”

    Sorry, but this is just blatantly false. Di Natale doesn’t dictate Greens policy, the party membership does. He’s merely a figurehead, a spokesperson, who speaks in behalf of the party membership and its supporters. The same goes for the other portfolio holders. Regardless of who holds a particular portfolio within the party (which is determined by party room concensus, not by one single person), they will still be speaking on the same policy positions.

    Therefore, if you want the Greens to pick up on a particular policy area – join the party, get involved, attend branch meetings and get your voice heard.

    Reply
    • Therefore, if you want the Greens to pick up on a particular policy area – join the party, get involved, attend branch meetings and get your voice heard.

      Change us from within, join us, resistance is futile… Yeah, heard that line before, it worked so well for Labor left.

      Reply
      • If you would care to participate you would see that it is true in this case.

        Reply
      • Patricia LawrenceSeptember 17, 2015 at 8:36 am

        The Labor Left is where the founders of the Greens came from. Obviously, they saw a different option. But hey – as a disgruntled Green, why don’t you try to attain some relevance by throwing stones?

        Reply
        • I always find it fascinating that people such as yourselves insist that:

          1. External criticism is irrelevant because if critics saw the truth inside of the party they would see the Greens are one perfect harmonious family;

          2. Internal criticism is verboten because your loyalty has to be to the Greens against outsiders.

          The attempt to smother any criticism from the left is just a further indicator of the rightward drift of the Australian Greens.

          The Greens are a party committed seeking a position within the present structures of power. Any semblance of radicalism is being ditched in pursuit of this aim.

          And this is the hypocrisy of The Greens. If the Greens really do believe in confronting the ecological crisis, they have to be prepared to break from and confront the structures that cause and drive this crisis.

          But, instead the Greens are committed to entering these structures, preserving them, and are thus ultimately a barrier to adequate action on the ecological crisis.

          Reply
    • You know what is blatantly false? This:

      He’s merely a figurehead, a spokesperson, who speaks in behalf of the party membership and its supporters.

      The federal party has never bound MPs to faithfully implement party policy, on the contrary, Greens processes protect MPs and Senators right to disregard policy.

      Within the Greens, MPs and their staffers at state and federal levels have progressively supplanted the policy making role of branches, conference and membership.

      Reply
  3. I echo Matt’s comment above.

    Robert Simms is LBGTI and furthering equality is a key interest area of his.

    I also know something about the ‘reshuffle’ – workload balances, and having lost a talented lawyer in Penny Wright meant a few things had to change around.

    Reply
  4. The statement by Matt that “Di Natale doesn’t dictate Greens policy” doesn’t contradict the statement by Kieran that “within the Greens Di Natale is said to oppose the Greens’ longstanding commitment to free tertiary education”. Has Di Natale made any clear statements in support of free tertiary education?

    Also, the claim by Matt that Di Natale as the leader of the Greens in the national parliament is just a “figurehead” doesn’t fit with the realities of Australian politics or politics in general. The national parliamentary leader of a party always has more influence than a figurehead unless they are completely ineffective. Christine Milne and Bob Brown have also clearly been more than figureheads.

    Reply
    • Martin Barr-DavidSeptember 15, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      Richard Di Natale is ignoring the policy framework vote on at National meetings & pisses off the rank and file membership.

      Reply
    • “Has Di Natale made any clear statements in support of free tertiary education?”

      It’s stated as much in their policy platform, under education, on the Greens website.

      Reply
      • Not the same thing and you know it.

        As Tony Harris put it:

        Inheritance and private schools
        Our policies are causing fear!
        But in the MP’s caucus room,
        We can simply make them disappear.

        And disappear away they have.

        Reply
        • You can bleat on all you want about it apparently ‘not being the same thing’. It’s on their policy platform, on their website. Just because they aren’t advocating for something every waking minute doesn’t mean they don’t support it at all. To say otherwise is a ridiculous assertion.

          It’s also a little thing called policy focus – speaking on every single little thing every single day would create a very muddied message.

          Reply
  5. So this “story” is about the lack of press releases, and then you list the press releases? You also seem more concerned about where the Greens sit on *your* political spectrum rather than their policies, as these haven’t changed.

    Reply
  6. The left in the Victorian Greens lost the battle against the centralising moderates a few years ago. I should know; I was on the losing team. I quit the party once it became clear that we were hopelessly outnumbered.

    Reply
  7. “In 2011 McKim served as Minister for Education in a Tasmanian Labor dominated government where he oversaw significant cuts to public education funding in that state.”
    Where exactly is the evidence to support this claim? My recollection is that McKim was a fierce advocate for education and well regarded, especially by the public education sector. He also was a key driver in protecting TAFE from funding cuts and instigating a major restructure and rebadging.

    Reply
    • Paul: “Where exactly is the evidence to support this claim? My recollection is that McKim was a fierce advocate for education …”

      This is a non-answer. Nick McKim was Minister for Education in the Tasmanian Government and, when the Tasmanian Government cut public education, he implemented those cuts.

      Paul’s argument amounts to admitting that McKim might have argued against the cuts in Cabinet (it’s a rare Cabinet Minister who argues in favour of cuts to their own portfolio), but when push came to shove, he put the protection of his Ministerial position above a commitment to defend public education. Just the sort of thing we’ve become used to seeing from Labor politicians.

      Reply
  8. Tbh the Greens never should have tried to go left or right in the first place. There’s no need to support Socialism if your main concern is the environement and human rights/welfare, alternative solutions to a large controlling state exist.

    The greens should be free to pursue either type of solution – rather than be painted as Socialists with a green facade.

    Reply
    • Greens not prepared to confront capitalism are not actually prepared to confront the ecological crisis. Plain and simple.

      There are plenty of anarchists and socialists working within the Greens under the delusion that people like yourself actually do sincerely want to save the planet. They think if they just explained it carefully enough, you would be prepared to take the steps necessary to preserve a human civilization worth being part of it.

      But you are not. Because, let’s face it, all you want is capitalism with a Green facade.

      And that “green” capitalism will still eat through the entire ecological base of this planet.

      Reply

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