Crikey has reported over the last month on the current turmoil in the Greens over the decision to take responsibility for the higher education portfolio away from NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon. Most of the anger within the party has come, understandably, from the New South Wales branch of the party, but Greens leader Richard Di Natale is now facing pressure from his own state of Victoria to reverse the changes.

In a confidential motion passed by the Melbourne City branch of the Greens this week and leaked to Crikey, the branch:

1.    Notes that this Branch is home to many higher education institutions and more higher education student places than any other Australian Greens local group;

2.    Expresses deep concern over the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Leader to remove the Higher Education portfolio from Senator Rhiannon, and the way the decision was made, noting that;

a.    The sole right of the Parliamentary Leader to allocate portfolios under the Party Room rules is inconsistent with the consensus decision-making model valued by the Greens;

b.    The protection of federal representation in New South Wales is a high priority;

c.     Senator Rhiannon’s work in the Higher Education portfolio has been prolific, prominent and of consistent high quality, and acknowledged as such by the National Tertiary Education Union, National Union of Students and others;

d.    Senator Rhiannon has been left with the smallest collection of portfolios of all the Federal Greens MPs in terms of prominence and importance (she is now the only Greens MP without a cabinet level portfolio), which carries serious policy and election campaigning implications;

e.    The portfolio reshuffle has resulted in approximately 70% of cabinet-level portfolios within the Greens being held by men;

f.      The portfolio reshuffle was announced during the change of Prime Minister on 15 September 2015 and did not include any generally distributed media statements describing the full reshuffle of portfolios as has been the case previously, and so invites the fair criticism that the announcement was intentionally secretive; and

g.    The change of portfolios was not communicated to party members;

3.    In the absence of an appropriate explanation being forthcoming, calls on the Party Room to reconsider the allocation of the higher education portfolio;

4.    Calls upon National Council to review the procedures by which the Party Room, the Parliamentary Leader’s office and the Leader are involved in allocating portfolios, inline with the Party’s decision-making principles;

5.    Requests the Branch Coordination Group to write to Senator Rhiannon thanking her for her exemplary work in the higher education portfolio to date and include in that correspondence a copy of this resolution, and also send a copy of that correspondence to the Federal Parliamentary Leader, the Federal Party Room convenor, the National Secretary and the State Secretary;

6.    That this resolution be considered confidential, but that it be communicated to the Party Room, National Secretary, State Secretary and State Council, and the Member for Melbourne.”

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