The New South Wales Greens have decided against withholding funding from the federal election campaign, instead making the case that the federal fund needs to allocate more to New South Wales for the next election.
Last month, the NSW branch threatened to pull its entire election campaign fund from the federal election campaign after NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon lost her portfolio responsibility for tertiary, technical and further education to new Senator Robert Simms in a reshuffle. The branch said that unless Rhiannon were given back the high-profile portfolio, then the NSW Greens branch would need all its funds, which go to subsidise smaller state branches, for its own campaign to get Rhiannon elected for another six-year term.
When the issue made it back to the Greens party room, Crikey understands Greens leader Richard Di Natale declined to give the portfolio back to Rhiannon, but proposed splitting off TAFE responsibilities from the rest of the portfolio and giving those responsibilities to her. Rhiannon rejected the offer, telling Crikey last week that splitting out TAFE could lead to a downgrading of vocational education as a key policy area.
The branch eventually scaled back its threat, and the New South Wales campaign committee proposed to give half of its campaign funds to the federal campaign and keep the rest just for New South Wales.
Crikey has learned that over the weekend the Greens at the state council discussed giving more funds to New South Wales for the federal campaign, and ultimately a revised recommendation removing the split in funding was passed while discussions continue to ensure the New South Wales branch has enough funding for the federal election campaign.
The election campaign committee’s proposal, passed by the state council, notes that, at the moment, the major, successful higher education campaigns are being run through Rhiannon’s office, in partnership with the Young Greens, and states that higher education is to be a key part of the New South Wales branch’s election planning. The removal of the portfolio from Rhiannon “severely diminishes media and campaign opportunities in NSW”, the motion states.
The motion also calls on the Greens national conference to address concerns about the level of transparency and democratic participation in the current model of portfolio allocations. Di Natale’s office has previous defended the allocation process, stating it was a party room decision where all federal politicians could have input, whereas others have suggested Di Natale ultimately has final say on the portfolio allocation.
While the New South Wales branch of the Greens will not be withholding election funding for the 2016 election, it has asked National Council to address concerns about “the priority given to Greens electoral goals in NSW by re-examining the current Australian Greens campaign budget to ensure it equitably reflects NSW priorities”.
It comes as Di Natale is also facing pressure from his home state to reinstate Rhiannon into her portfolio. The Melbourne city branch of the Greens passed a motion this week stating Di Natale’s “sole right” to allocate portfolios was inconsistent with the consensus decision-making model valued by the Greens, and the change of portfolios was not communicated to party members. See the full confidential motion passed in today’s Tips and Rumours.
Last week, Rhiannon emailed all NSW party members and called for unity in the party to fight against a “re-energised Liberal-National government” under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The new Prime Minister has already deferred plans to pass legislation to allow deregulated university fees, which some have said could lead to course costs over $100,000, until after the next election.