NSW Greens at war over ballot to replace John Kaye

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Greens members are at war over who will replace John Kaye in the NSW Legislative Council. Photo: James Alcock Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham deplores “the damaging impact of factionalism and factional voting tickets”.
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The selection of a replacement for the late Greens MP John Kaye in the NSW upper house is descending into a nasty internal fight, exposing the deep ideological split in the party’s state division.

From Monday about 4000 NSW Greens members will vote on a replacement for Dr Kaye, who died of cancer in May. There are 14 candidates contesting the ballot, to be determined in August.

A group ideologically-aligned with Dr Kaye and his ally, Senator Lee Rhiannon – sometimes referred to as the hard left faction, or “eastern bloc” – is being accused of running a “damaging” ticket in a bid to have preferences directed to its eight candidates in the optional preferential voting system.

Included in the group are leading preselection contenders James Ryan, Bruce Knobloch and former Kaye aide Kelly Marks.

On Monday the candidates are expected to issue campaign material containing a statement about their support of grassroots democracy, collective decision-making and accountability to members and naming each other as supportive of these values.

Last week the party’s returning officer ruled that the statement amounts to a “serious breach” of party rules, which prohibit the making of negative comments about other candidates.

But this ruling was overturned after a complaint was referred to the party’s preselection disputes committee.

Some party members claim the ticket was only necessary because Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has been improperly using his profile to influence the preselection for his favoured candidate, Nature Conservation Council campaigner Justin Field.

Mr Buckingham has included Mr Field – a founder of anti-coal seam gas group Lock the Gate described as a “centrist” candidate – in two recent Facebook videos, enraging his factional opponents.

Mr Buckingham’s supporters counter that Mr Ryan and Ms Marks were included in videos about TAFE alongside Greens MP David Shoebridge in June.

On Saturday night Mr Buckingham released another video warning members “to be very mindful of factional preference harvesting and group voting tickets.”

While not mentioning the preselection, which would be against party rules, Mr Buckingham deplores “the damaging impact of factionalism and factional voting tickets”.

“Factional voting tickets are the antithesis of participatory democracy, as they hand power to vested interests and entrench the power of established elites at the expense of diversity.”

Opponents of the ticket note that it does not include candidates such as Dominic Wy Kanak, an Aboriginal Waverley councillor, and Christine Donayre, who is of Latina heritage.

But one party member posted in response to Mr Buckingham’s video that it was “a disgraceful abuse of your profile to attempt to pull rank in an internal Greens preselection.”

The NSW Greens have the right to choose a replacement for Dr Kaye under the casual-vacancy rule.