The NSW Greens look set to plunge into another preselection controversy, after MLC Jan Barham announced her resignation last week. North Coast MP Barham said that she had been struggling with depression and migraines, and after a leave of absence had decided to step back before NSW Parliament returns in 2017. That means that just months after the heated contest to replace former MLC John Kaye, a process that a tipster says “traumatised” the NSW Greens, the party is looking at a repeat.

Barham has written an email to the Committee of Management, which was shared in an unofficial Greens Facebook group. The “no nastiness” group was set up in September by Jack Gough, a staff member to Jeremy Buckingham, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.  The email has been shared with Crikey, but Barham refused to comment on it; a representative of her office said it “pretty much speaks for itself”:

Barham has requested that the party halt the preselection process for her seat, which a tipster tells us is continuing at a fast pace, with the timetable and returning officers already announced by party secretary Ian Rose. The process is currently set to take place before the party’s AGM in November.

“Dear Committee of Management,

When I announced my intention to resign from parliament, I did so partially to give the NSW Greens plenty of time to organise an orderly preselection process to fill a casual vacancy as soon as a joint sitting can be held after both Houses of Parliament have resumed sitting on 21 February 2017.

I wanted to make sure that women in the party had adequate time to consider whether they wanted to be a candidate for preselection and organise their nomination. I also hoped the State Delegates Council (SDC) would officially rule that the preselection be a women’s only preselection and I don’t believe there should be any ambiguity about this point. I wrote to you last week underlining the need for the SDC to set an sensible timetable for the preselection.

I was extremely disappointed to see that the Committee of Management (CoM) has instead decided to initiate an extremely and unnecessarily quick preselection process outside of the NSW Greens constitution. There is no urgency for the CoM to make these decisions before the November State Delegates Council and in doing so the CoM has acted beyond its powers. In fact there are two SDCs scheduled before the casual vacancy will arise, allowing the SDC the opportunity to approve a timetable and rules for the preselection and endorse the final result.

The process outlined in the message sent to members breaches section 11.17 of the NSW Greens constitution in a number of ways:
1) The SDC must elect a returning officer and the CoM cannot simply appoint returning officers, interim or otherwise. If there is an urgent preselection then the constitution says the Secretary becomes the interim returning officer.
2) The interim returning officer “is not empowered to close nominations without the authorisation of the Delegates Council”, yet this process sets a date for the close of nominations.
3) A proposal for a timeline for the conduct of the ballot should be taken to the next SDC and this proposal should be circulated to member groups. This has obviously not been done.

There are very valid reasons why the constitution specifies that the SDC is to make these important decisions about the conduct of a preselection. I also note that the timetable set out in the email sent to members puts the nomination process right on top of the AGM/SDC meeting and three state by-elections.

I request that the CoM immediately halt the unconstitutional process it has initiated and instead bring a proposal for an orderly preselection to the next SDC.

Jan Barham”