NSW Greens fight goes public — again

Jeremy Buckingham

Another dispute inside the NSW Greens has hit the headlines, with a complaint being brought against NSW MLC Jeremy Buckingham for allegedly acting in a manner prejudicial to the party’s interests

On February 20, Greens MLC Justin Field posted a “letter to NSW Greens members” on his personal Facebook page saying a complaint had been lodged against Buckingham following his statements to an ABC Four Corners program last August.

Field said Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and her partner Geoff Ash were seeking to undemocratically suspend or expel Buckingham. He said he was raising the issue “directly with members” because “a complaints committee of four should not have been put in this difficult position”.

Three days later, Buckingham said on the same thread the complaint had been dropped, the committee set up to hear it had been disbanded and the NSW Greens convenor was seeking to have an independent review of the handling of the complaint.

The Guardian reported that Buckingham had threatened to take legal action against the NSW Greens on the grounds of procedural unfairness.

More than a week later, Linda Eisler, a Greens councillor in Canterbury and one of eight Greens members who lodged the complaint last December, published it in full on her private Facebook page.

It centred on Buckingham’s alleged repeated breach of party rules under section 6.6.1 of the Greens Constitution. The complainants argued it was a state matter because of “the derogatory and untruthful comments made on ABC TV”.

She also said that having twice failed to get the complaint discussed at the state delegates council meeting, the complainants lodged it with the NSW convenor.

Eisler said Buckingham’s comments about Senator Rhiannon to Four Corners brought the Greens into disrepute and, as he has done this before, mediation would not work. However, the complainants did ask for a Conflict Resolution Committee to be set up to consider the complaint.

That committee has now been disbanded, but the complaint has not been withdrawn.

In the Four Corners program, Buckingham said Rhiannon had prevented him from changing the party’s rules. “At every stage where I’ve tried to democratise NSW, I’ve been blocked by Lee Rhiannon and her faction”, Buckingham said.

“I’ve pushed for membership plebiscites on key policy issues. I've pushed for direct election of office bearers. I've pushed to have our committees and State Delegates Council (SDC) opened up through online webcasts, so more people can participate. But, at every stage, I’ve been blocked by Lee.”

When asked by the Four Corners reporter to elaborate, Buckingham replied: “What I see, again and again, is Lee and her factional allies blocking these moves at State Conference, blocking them in key committees. They get up, they say, 'no, no, no'.”

Eisler alleged that Buckingham’s continued attacks on Rhiannon bring the party into disrepute. She says his accusation that local Greens groups are “controlled” by Rhiannon is untrue, and pointed to the fact that “no member always gets their way at SDCs”.

“Jeremy’s inaccurate description of our party’s position on his more specific concerns [about the need for more plebiscites] needs a response. The power for the Greens NSW to conduct a plebiscite on an issue already exists. There is nothing in the constitution preventing it. No proposal for a specific plebiscite has been made.

“There is a genuine debate about the merits of whether SDC or the whole membership should elect office bearers. So far local groups have not been convinced by Jeremy’s proposal, but to assert that it is Lee who has prevented it, when she has not engaged on the issue at SDC is false and an insult to the integrity of our local groups.”

She said the conclusion from Buckingham’s comments to Four Corners was that “they were designed to publicly damage the reputation of Lee Rhiannon”.

“Even if Jeremy's claims were true, and they are not, it is still grossly disloyal to the Greens NSW and its members … The comments are deeply divisive and have damaged the reputation of the party and some of its prominent members. He has ‘acted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of The Greens NSW’.

“The proper course of action for Jeremy to have taken would have been to raise his concerns with the relevant individual Greens members, and if dissatisfied raise the matters through recognised party processes such as through the PLC [Parliamentary Liaison Committee], SDC or the complaints procedure. Jeremy instead chose to broadcast his untruthful criticisms about internal Greens matters to the world.”

Green Left Weekly contacted Buckingham, but he declined to comment.

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