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The coming elections are clearly challenging for the Greens NSW. Biased and highly misleading reports about our party and some members, based on misinformation being fed to the media, particularly the SMH, have been published on a regular basis. 

At the same time the need for a strong, united progressive voice in our parliaments and on our streets is becoming even more urgent. There is growing awareness of the destructive impact of extreme weather events driven by climate change, and the growing global inequality driven by private corporate greed. 

We have two elections in the next three months. The way to answer those who attack the Greens, and the media outlets that print their lies, is to work hard to promote our excellent Greens candidates and the policy platform we are campaigning for. A strong vote for the Greens is achievable. It is critical that we work cooperatively and effectively.

We do need to also refute the baseless allegations. These sustained attacks influence some people. I ask that you judge me and others under attack by our actions not by rumours and backgrounding to the media. If you have questions please contact me – details below.

The latest attack, in the SMH on 16 February 2019, makes serious allegations without providing any proof. The biased report alleges I am part of a group in the Greens that do not care about action on climate change and that “a hard left faction in the NSW Greens determined instead to focus on a quixotic campaign to dismantle capitalism in the cause of revolutionary socialism”. 

Below I answer some of the questions that I have been asked by members and supporters about these attacks. If you have further questions please contact me at lee.rhiannon@gmail.com or Facebook – lee.rhiannon.

Considering how serious the climate change threat is why isn’t action for the planet’s survival your priority?

Working for climate action and justice is a top priority for the Left around the world and certainly is for me personally. The Left strongly support and participate in direct actions and mass protests. The UN’s climate science body has signalled that we have 12 years to reduce the earth’s temperature rise. We need far-reaching and rapid change in transport, agriculture, construction and of course energy systems. In Australia I believe our priority projects should be the renationalisation of the energy sector, its rapid conversion to renewable energy and an end to coal and CSG mining. We cannot rely on private corporations and the market to avert the crisis in our living environment. While electing more Greens MPs is important, the key to winning over decision makers to act quickly and responsibly is to build a broad-based mass movement for climate action.

We need to show that climate change is relevant to everyone. It is widely recognised that poor and marginalised communities are the hardest hit by climate change. Also working for equality, which addresses everything from homes for all and cost of living issues across to wealth redistribution and removing the restrictions on people’s right to strike and to protest, is part of our climate justice work. If we are going to be successful in building a global climate justice movement we need to make the links with people coping with day to day hardships. We know the Greens four principles are linked, and making the point that it is corporate greed that is driving both climate change and inequality will inspire more people to join the climate action campaign. There is no time to waste.

For years you have been accused of not caring about the environment? What is your response?

This false narrative about myself and members who identify with the Left of politics that we don’t care about the environment is insulting rubbish. Most members I know are committed to our four pillars and support climate actions in many forms.  Again no evidence is given by Jeremy Buckingham and his supporters to substantiate this absurd allegation. 

I’m a science graduate with honours in botany. I have undertaken extensive environmental work in my years with community groups and as a state and federal MP. I was arrested when I was a state MP in an action to protect urban bushland. I have worked extensively with farmers to stop coal companies destroying their land and water sources. In the early 1990s I worked with the Rainforest Information Centre and as Director of AID/WATCH exposed how Australia’s overseas aid was causing environmental damage. In 1997 I organised one of Australia’s first climate change protests when overseas aid money was going to coal companies. I have previously refuted these allegations and set out my years of work on environment campaigns – published in 2017and also in 2010.

In the 2016 election I launched the 32 page NSW environmental action plan that my office produced. (Scroll down to “Protecting Our Precious Environment”)

Why are you subject to red-scare tactics?

Conservative forces inside and outside the Greens have constructed this false McCarthyist style narrative to damage myself and other Greens members committed to the four pillars or founding principles of our party. This latest attack is just more of the same. Their purpose is to damage opponents in preselections and to discredit those Greens who stand for members running the party, rather than MPs controlling the party. We have seen an increase in negative media stories about the Greens, generated by conservative forces in the party when they are dissatisfied with democratic decisions made by the Greens NSW. Now Jeremy Buckingham is running in the NSW state election against the Greens, he and his supporters are even more determined to damage the reputation of the Greens NSW. 

What about the allegations of a Left wing takeover of the Greens NSW?

The Greens have always been a Left wing party. This is the first paragraph of the first policy document produced by the first Greens Party in Australia – the Sydney Greens. It was published on 15 October 1984. 

“THE GREENS in Sydney come from many backgrounds. Environment and resident activists. Nuclear disarmers. Dissidents from the Labor Party who have witnessed betrayals by both wings of that party. Feminists. Anarchists. Those inspired by the German Greens. Socialists of various kinds.”

There is no Left wing takeover of the Greens. Our Greens project has always been about building a principled and democratic party committed to all four Greens founding principles. That means we are a Left party. The Sanders/Corbyn/Ocasio Cortez experience is resonating here too. Currently there is a more critical evaluation of capitalism as the world grapples with the horrors of climate change and gross inequality. Any radicalisation going on in the Greens NSW is part of a global trend.

It is clear that most Greens members associate global warming, water shortages leading to mass fish kills and growing inequality with corporate power and a system that is out of balance with our planetary needs.

Have other Greens MPs been wrongly attacked?

Yes, other MPs have been wrongly attacked. The attacks on myself have been shocking. My background made me an easy target for classic McCarthyist tactics. My parents, who died a long time ago, were members of the communist party and I was in the socialist party when I was young. The fact that preselection candidates and some MPs with no such Left links have been accused of being part of an “Eastern Bloc” or “Bolsheviks” gives an insight into the dirty tactics of the abusers and their intent to persist with this dishonest approach. 

If these attacks are not true why are they repeated? 

Conservative and ambitious people inside and outside the Greens use red-baiting tactics to discredit people with Left views in order to undermine our work, damage reputations and consolidate and expand their support base. There are now a handful of members, some of them MPs, who are more interested in their careers and disagree with the accountability measures required of them as an elected Greens representative. They ignore our rules and are working to increase the power of MPs at the expense of Greens members. That’s why I ask that members raise the rumours they hear with me so I have the opportunity to respond. 

Why the Buckingham grouping engage in abuse and slander is because from their point of view it works for them. And, sadly, I can see that it does. Over the years the lies have been repeated. Their false narrative associating progressive people, like myself, with ruthless regimes and undemocratic practices does scare or unsettle some members.

I can feel the reputational damage that has been done to me and others. I still turn up and work with Greens colleagues but with some individuals and some groups the attitude to me has changed. Those who disseminate this abuse harm the Greens and our work to build progressive movements for social change and environmental protection.

When did the red baiting attacks start?

The attack on my character and political work as a Greens MP started 19 years ago.  

The first public attack was in 2000 by a Labor MP, who had been briefed by a member of the Greens. It was the last day of the parliamentary sitting year, 7 December 2000, when Ian Macdonald made a slanderous speechabout me in the NSW Upper House. He called me “a clapped out Stalinist” intent on chucking out the “dedicated environmentalists” and taking over the Greens.

Macdonald is now in gaol convicted of corruption charges. His accusations made in this speech are lies but that narrative has been repeated by a handful of Greens sometimes on the record but usually in off-the-record backgrounding. This has been a concerted attack on my reputation. It is bullying and highly offensive. 

You have been accused of bullying your opponents and supporting bullies. Have you?

This is another nasty slur with no evidence provided. I do not bully people and I do not condone any form of bullying by anyone, irrespective of their politics. I have suffered long-term bullying from these people with their false allegations. Buckingham and his key supporters have built false narratives to discredit people they oppose in the Greens. 

How do we rebuild?

There are some valuable lessons to learn from all this. I won’t be the last Greens MP to be subjected to baseless attacks by a small number of careerists within the party. The Greens need to take firm action against those who initiate misinformation, or that culture will become entrenched. We also need to work cooperatively and effectively on public campaigns on climate action, equality and the many other issues the Greens principles and policies cover.

Our immediate priority is to work hard on the state and federal election campaigns to achieve good results for the Greens – the party that is best able to lead us to an ecologically sustainable and just future. 

END

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