Consensus and Grassroots Democracy

The Greens project is a challenging but essential one. Maintaining our commitment to consensus decision making and grassroots democracy, regardless of its challenges, sets the Greens apart from other parties.

It is absurd to suggest anyone in the Greens wants anything other than a better deal for public schools. This was never a question about policy. No one was ignoring policy or trying to change policy. No one was more faithfully upholding policy than anyone else.

There were and are differences of opinion about how to advance our shared policy objectives. It will always be challenging to weigh the real world and political opportunities and costs of winning incremental gains now versus a potential better outcome later. One isn't more principled than the other. They are different approaches and are not mutually exclusive.

How we work together to achieve our policy outcomes is the question and no one could make the case that we are working as well as we can be, and need to be, to advance our shared goals of a fairer society and healthy environment.

The level of member involvement within the Greens stands us apart from other political parties. Our membership decides on preselections, on preferences and most importantly on policy.  It is one of the reasons Greens members are such passionate defenders of our processes but also why disagreements often seem intense to observers.

The recent debate over the Greens efforts to get the best outcome from education reforms and the decision of the Federal Party Room to suspend Senator Lee Rhiannon over the NSW Greens’ policy to bind our MP’s votes has brought out very passionate debate and that is entirely predictable.

Some in NSW will feel the Federal Party Room decision is an attack on Lee Rhiannon and the NSW Greens. But when every other MP puts their name to a decision that calls on the NSW Greens to look at their processes, it can’t just be fobbed off.

I stand with fellow NSW Greens members to strongly defend our autonomy and right to determine how our Senator votes in Parliament. However, the protocols of how the decision to bind MPs are made and how these decisions are communicated should be looked at with a critical eye to minimise confusion and conflict.

These sorts of decisions should not be made within small working groups, but should undergo a genuine grassroots process that is broad and transparent.

There is strong support within NSW for the Australian Greens project and our members expect us to be constructive players. Consensus doesn't stop at our local groups or Delegates Council and we can't wall ourselves off from the other states.

We need to avoid a deadlock and look calmly at how our processes are reflecting member views and contributing to advancing Greens policies at all levels of Government. To be effective we are going to need to work together across our membership and across states and clearly there is a job to rebuild trust in our processes.

The current situation is not intractable and a mature party will work through them and strengthen its processes.

The Greens commitment to consensus decision making, while hard at times, gives us the best chance to find a path forward. But consensus requires good will and that has currently broken down. Rebuilding it needs to be the focus.

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