I might be a Greens voter, but I know that serious scandal sits just below the surface. If they’re truly the empathetic choice, they need to address it.
Over the past couple of years, the Greens party has been rocked by reports of sexual harassment, as well as the subsequent mishandling of those allegations. Around the same time as former NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley was accused of sexual assault, and his step-down from politics, Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham was also credibly accused of sexual assault. There’s an excellent piece discussing the commonalities and differences of the two situations in New Matilda by Chris Graham.
For those not in the know, the outcomes varied dramatically from each other: while Foley rightly resigned essentially immediately, the Greens’ processing of the complaint against Buckingham was sluggish and, to an outside viewer, appeared to be deliberately delayed. Then, it turned cruel.
“It took months progress,” Graham writes. “But not before a subsequent internal investigation finally turned the blow torch on herself, investigating the baseless allegations that she was a ‘promiscuous drug user’.”
In a transcript of a conversation between Greens leader Richard Di Natale and ABC Radio National’s Fran Kelly, Di Natale appears to stand behind his man. He seems to downplay everything about the complaint, saying it had been dealt with after a “thorough investigation”. Buckingham retained his spot.
Even if they did win, they cannot absolve themselves of responsibility. Just because they’d have a government to run does not mean they get to get off scot-free for their poor behaviour and treatment of Buckingham’s accuser.
This didn’t stop Greens star Jenny Leong from calling for Buckingham’s resignation, saying that she couldn’t “stay silent anymore” and needed to “speak up”. In a fiery speech, she called Buckingham out on his “unacceptable behaviour”, including intimidation and actions that have led to volunteers or members of the party resigning “as a result of Jeremy’s behaviour”.
At long last, Leong’s call has been answered. Buckingham parted ways—acrimoniously—from the “basket case” Greens, saying that he will run as an independent “real Green” in this year’s NSW state election. He believes that the party has “lost its focus on the environment” and has been dominated by an “extreme left faction”. This is despite the fact that he essentially faced zero consequences within his own party for his alleged actions against a female former staffer.
If I may break the fourth wall here for a moment, I support the Greens in general. I think that they have the best chance of affecting real change in the state and the country. They tend to stand for things I believe in. The Labor party has, in my opinion, lost its way, and they share essentially the same positions I abhor in the Liberal party. But that doesn’t mean the Greens don’t need a reckoning.
I’m not a naive fool. I recognise that, despite people’s increased likelihood to vote for third party candidates, this is still essentially a two-party system. That is to say, the Greens are not going to win the state election. At best, they will win a good number of seats, with Labor winning, and they will form a coalition government. At worst, Labor will win outright and not really need any Greens support for anything it wants to do.
But even if they did win, they cannot allow themselves to be complacent and absolve themselves of responsibility to their party members, their constituents, and the people of Australia. Just because they’d have a government to run does not mean they get to get off scot-free for their poor behaviour and treatment of Buckingham’s accuser. They talk a big game about the two major parties sweeping scandals under the rug; now it’s time to put their money where their mouths are.