When I ripped up my Greens membership in December last year I labelled the NSW Greens “rotten, corrupt and toxic”. What surprised me most in the days and weeks that followed is that no one from the Greens actually denied it.
Instead, they did what Greens do best — made it a procedural issue with a do-nothing review negotiated by the party’s National Council after Bob Brown demanded the federal party step in and implement compulsory arbitration for the NSW branch.
The truth is the NSW Greens is dysfunctional and moribund. The consensus model of decision-making is utterly broken due to time pressures and a fundamental lack of goodwill.
That old Trotskyist warrior Hall Greenland can genuflect to Corbyn, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, but they have nothing to do with the NSW Greens. The extreme left who now control the party are obsessed with their own personal politics and virtue signalling.
There is an obsession with divisive identity politics that is at odds with the humanist foundations of the Greens and the views of most of their voters. The ranks of the extreme left are thick with superannuated communists and university student revolutionaries banging away on their keyboards to foment the revolution one insult or call out at a time.
They believe that the first step in mitigating climate change is to destroy capitalism. Although really, they’re more interested in controlling the Greens party then having any impact on society or protecting the environment.
The NSW Greens lower house members are obsessed with their own re-election and have failed to engage with the big, long-term issues, preferring to placate constituent minutiae. While I often locked horns with the late Dr John Kaye MLC, he was a master politician who kept a lid on the more extreme urges of the Eastern Bloc faction he ruled.
After Kaye’s death, with Lee Rhiannon and David Shoebridge now in control of the faction, the excesses were not quelled, but harnessed as political weapons. They launched an faction — Left Renewal — which seeks to reshape the Greens into a socialist revolutionary party. We are now seeing the culmination of this factional attack on the fabric of the Greens and Shoebridge’s political mismanagement as the party falls towards electoral backlash and a split.
Over the past nine months, the NSW Greens have been busy abandoning their four key principles. First they’ve abandoned “social justice” for the lynch mob. They weaponised the #metoo movement for internal factional warfare and threw out all notions of procedural fairness to embrace a presumption of guilt, show trials and denunciations.
They’ve abandoned “grassroots participatory democracy”, with the Eastern Bloc now rabidly resisting a recount of the all-member preselection vote that should have been triggered when I resigned from the ticket. This will likely land in the Supreme Court this week.
They’ve abandoned the principle of “peace and non-violence”, with insatiable online bullying and aggressive and manipulative behaviour at meetings — such as two young men yelling “F**k you” at a 79-year-old woman to shout her down at the August State Delegates Council meeting.
And they’ve abandoned “ecological sustainability”, with complaints seeking to expel environmentally-focused MPs Cate Faehrmann, Justin Field and Dawn Walker currently progressing through the party’s complaints system.
Many ordinary Greens members joined the party to do something about climate change, the environment, or Labor’s capitulation to the cruel treatment of asylum seekers. However, those members that dare to engage with the party’s organisation find themselves in something that often resembles a cult.
Unfortunately there are structural, cultural and personality barriers that mean that meaningful reform of the NSW Greens will be impossible for at least another decade.
This election, one of the lead candidates for the Greens will be Shoebridge, who has an interest in three investment properties with his wife but runs around with his “green manifesto” that seeks to abolish capitalism. The current second candidate is Abigail Boyd, who worked for Allen & Overy — a law firm that specialises in energy and mining including the financing of the Adani coal port and the Santos and Origin LNG ventures.
I still believe that there is an important place for ecology in politics, and a need for that to be represented in NSW. Green politics should provide interesting solutions to many modern problems, but it can not if it is subsumed by old fashioned Marxism spitting out inane slogans and tired manifestos.
There are still many good people in the party and I’d like to see former EDO head Sue Higginson claim the seat of Lismore from the Nationals — she’d make an outstanding parliamentarian. However, I think a new vehicle is necessary to carry green politics forward in NSW and I hope it emerges post-election.
Jeremy Buckingham is a former Greens MP who is now independent and contesting the NSW Legislative Council election.