Greens leadership shake up

Christine Milne has stepped down as Greens leader.

After a distinguished 25-year political career, Christine Milne has stepped down as Greens leader, announcing yesterday that she will not recontest in the next federal election.

Senator Milne made the surprise announcement on Twitter yesterday morning, with the short, simple tweet, “feeling optimistic, proud and sad to announce I’m not contesting 2016 election, and so I resign as leader of Australian Greens”.

She informed her party colleagues later that morning.

It has been reported that some Greens party members, including deputy leader Adam Bandt, were not informed about the decision and found out through the media. Even former Greens leader Bob Brown said that her resignation had come as a “big surprise”.

Senator Richard Di Natale has been elected as Greens leader in the wake of the shock announcement. Adam Bandt has stepped down as deputy, handing over the reins to new co-deputy leaders Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

It is believed that Mr Bandt stepped down because he, like Dr Di Natale, is from Victoria and the deputy should be from a different state and also a woman. Bandt’s official statement, also made on Twitter, was: “Congrats Richard and new team! [Very] happy to hand over Deputy to focus on new baby (due in few wks!) & winning further Reps seats in Vic & NSW.

As a doctor, Dr Di Natale tackled HIV prevention in India, Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory and was a key figure in an outbreak investigation team within Victoria’s health department.

During his short political career (he was elected into the Federal Parliament in 2010), Dr Di Natale has championed issues such as dying with dignity, hospital funding, medicinal cannabis and gambling reform. Recently he led a self-funded tour of Ebola-stricken West Africa, because he was concerned the Abbott Government was not doing enough to tackle the problems faced in the region.

Dr Di Natale has indicated that climate change will be a priority, believing that if it is not addressed, every other issue becomes a moot point. He has also stated that the state of the Australian health care system and social security are critical issues on which he intends to focus.

“We’re being told we can’t afford decent health care at the moment. We’re being told that, if you can’t afford to go and see a doctor, well, tough luck. That’s not the sort of country we want to be. They’re the sort of things I’m going to fight for,” he said.

Dr Di Natale, 44, is proud of his Italian roots and also aims to be a champion for Australian multiculturalism. “I’m a sort of product of the great Australian experiment called multiculturalism. I want to be a champion of multiculturalism in the parliament. It’s taking a beating at the moment. I think the debate on terrorism and refugees means that the multiculturalism issue needs a champion. And I’m going to be that champion.”

The newly appointed leader hopes to meet the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in the next few days to discuss his political intentions.

“I think people are sick of the sort of the nonsense that goes on in this place and, you know, if they want someone who is not going to play the game in that way well, great. And if that doesn’t work out well, I’ll go back to growing some veggies at home.”

Senator Milne, who is about to become a grandmother, decided that it was the right time to make a life change, as well as a generational change in Greens leadership. She believes she is leaving the party on good terms and that it is in “really good shape” and that the Greens in Parliament were “ready to fly”.



Opinion: A fresh start for the Greens

Such significant change in leadership translates to a fresh start for the Greens.

Prior to Wednesday, many voters may not have heard of Richard Di Natale. But in his first public appearance as Greens leader, Dr Di Natale presented himself as a man of poise and conviction. He delivered an authentic political message that seemed unscripted – and without the bungled backpedalling of his contemporaries in leadership.

It’s a promising start for a party that has existed on the fringe for so many years, but may now have a chance of harnessing some real political power, with a leader who can work with his peers in order to, in his own words, “get things done”.

And Tony Abbott will no doubt welcome a Greens leader who may not place himself in constant direct opposition to his government’s proposals, as Christine Milne was so apt to do.

Dr Di Natale is against cuts to health and education, believing such cuts wouldn’t be necessary if the government focused on reining in multinational tax avoidance and cutting back on the superannuation tax concessions for the very rich.

He spoke about climate change being a priority, but unlike Milne, he is not specifically a one-eyed environmentalist. This may give the Greens a chance to shift public opinion of the party, with a less ideological, more mainstream approach to leadership that may give voters a legitimate third option when it comes time to vote in 2016.

What do you think? Were you surprised at the Greens leadership change? Do you think that this change in leadership may make it easier for the Coalition to push some of its intended policies through the Senate? Would the new look Greens change the way you vote in 2016?


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    7th May 2015
    Christine Milne was an absolute idiot and offered nothing to this country so it is good riddance to an absolute fool. lets hope we never hear of her again.

    This new bloke must come up with something different to try and help this country not a lot of ideologies that the other loser had.
    Lets all hope.
    Happy cyclist
    7th May 2015
    My, my, what a nasty comment. Ms Milne has 25 years of public service behind her. By definition, people who are in politics will be supported by some and annoy others but I wonder how many years of your life you have devoted to the community ROBO? By all means constructively discuss the Greens' policies and disagree if you wish, but nasty personal attacks on anyone say more about the attacker than they do about the attacked.
    Judy in the hills
    7th May 2015
    To Happy Cyclist: Don't make Christine Milne sound like she DONATED her time and effort please - she was paid an extremely good salary and she will be on an extremely generous superannuation and has probably had some overseas trips paid for generously by us the down to earth people - so she may worked well, but she's surely been rewarded well for it.
    7th May 2015
    An excellent comment. Christine MIlne has been a stone around the neck of the government throughout her extremely well paid career. The only notable achievement has been to resign. Under her leadership, the Greens have been shown to be a party with no policies, no interest in advancing Australia and no willingness to compromise. MInd you, after listening to Bob Brown drone along in the Senate, boring the backside of anyone who couldn't find a reason not to be present, Christine Milne was a shoe in to raise the Greens to new levels.....but no! Just another Green with lots to say but no action
    7th May 2015
    I would like to know how much MS Milne is going to get in her parliamentary pension.
    7th May 2015
    wally my guess is $120,000 pa plus perks. Christine is only 62 so the cost to the taxpayer is quite substantial.
    7th May 2015
    About time for a positive change! Bob Brown was always going to be a hard act to follow. Let's hope the new leadership can lift the standard of politics in oz.
    7th May 2015
    You have to be kidding Bob Brown should be removed from the country he is not what Australians are about.
    7th May 2015
    hi frank did bob down brown ever pay those massive outstanding fines or did juliar get them paid from OUR public purse
    7th May 2015
    The problem with the Greens is that as ROBO says, they base their policies on ideology and not facts and science. As the teaching of science in schools has deteriorated, the general population is not able to tell the difference between ideology, opinion, and actual truth. This is a parlous state of affairs. As such, the Greens, instead of being a wise party that understands environmental issues, they are dangerous.
    7th May 2015
    Jennie, I think you need look no further than the current government to see the problem of ideology versus policy. The Ideology that drives this government is the major reason it is on the nose. Conversely, the Greens policies are there for all to see. They are not the ones hiding behind policies at election time and then blatantly switching to an ideology that is out of step with, dare I say it, the majority of Australians. It is sad when those who wish to make a point have to 'blow out other peoples' candles to make theirs shine brighter'.
    We are extremely fortunate that we able to freely hold a variety of views whether we agree with the views expressed by others or not.
    So come on let's have some proper debate here.
    7th May 2015
    Spot on Jennie
    7th May 2015
    Of course Greens will not change pre-election policies, post-election. They are never going to be in power, therefore can espouse any country destroying policies safe in the knowledge that they would never be in a position to implement them.
    7th May 2015
    The Greens are simply just another name for Communism.
    New South Wales senator-elect Lee Rhiannon is a former member of the Moscow-aligned Socialist Party of Australia. Her parents were prominent members of the Communist Party. The new Member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, was a radical student activist. Writing on a Marxist website in the 1990s, Mr Bandt attacked capitalism, arguing that ideological purity was paramount. Sarah Hanson-Young believes in open boarders and would let every so called asylum seeker into this country. Di Natale wants to push the agenda of Multiculturalism..are we not all Australians yet?...Wants to stop laws that protect us from terroism. The Greens the party you would never want to have.
    7th May 2015
    Just because these people are "outside the square" thinkers doesnt make them communists! Reality is that Australia IS multicultural. One thirs of uscare not born in Australia. Both major parties are behind the times.
    8th May 2015
    Jackie, are you confusing political belief with culture? People can and do change their political viewpoints and beliefs over time. Do people also change their culture as they grow older? I would like you to provide supporting evidence and examples of this. If the Greens, if I correctly read your last sentence, are not behind the times, what policies do the greens propose to support your statement?
    7th May 2015
    It came as a total surprise to the media who didn't have Di Natalie in the running for leadership. Perhaps there is more to this change than is immediately apparent? Maybe Milne wanted to get out before finding out what voters really think of the Greens ideology after seeing forecasts of the Greens UK result.
    Polly Esther
    7th May 2015
    Well there you go Frank, Bobs your uncle, no not Browny; a little bird must have been rustling among her leaves and whispered in her ear, "the chain saws are coming to cut you down babe". LOL
    Not Amused
    7th May 2015
    We are being told if we can't afford a doctor, tough luck. What absolute lying garbage. Australians who need medical help have never, ever been deprived of it, no matter our circumstances. Public hospitals are still medicare funded and doctors still bulk-bill. I have relatives in Tasmania and visit that beautiful island at least once a year. The Greens began their deceitful policies in Tasmania, wrecking their hydro-electric future with their "no dams" campaigns (clean energey). I learned they started out as a community-minded group interested in environmental concerns but quickly learned how to get ferals and others to campaign for them, then morphing into a far left-wing bunch of communist inspired idealists. The Greens totally ruined Tasmania, holding it back for decades. Fortunately Tasmanians woke up and cut back their control over the people and their Labor mates, so their state is now up and running, moving ahead at a rapid pace with people lately leaving over-populated, stressful big cities and moving down there for a better lifestyle. Good riddance Bob Brown and Christine Milne and pity help if the overpaid Green "couple" Mr McKim and Ms O'Connor get their paws into the 6-year senate term trough, so they can increase their sky-polluting flying backwards and forwards to Tasmania. Flying thousands of miles on a regular basis is a favourite pastime of the "environmentally aware" Greens, all the while telling the rest of us minions exactly the opposite. They are all trouble with a capital "T". Did anyone ever see Milne or Hanson-Young riding their bikes around the streets as an example for the rest of us? No they're always stepping out of late model cars.
    7th May 2015
    Not Amused...very true.
    7th May 2015
    I hear they shave under their arms these days too!
    Chris B T
    7th May 2015
    Mad As Hell program has lost one of its best satirical contenders.
    Best satirist, I'm sure the new contenders won't let them down.
    7th May 2015
    The great paradox of the Greens is that their origins lie in a campaign to fight the development of a source of renewable energy, hydro-electrical power, that their Great Day of Celebration marked the effective end of the push to develop this cheap and carbon-neutral means of powering the Tasmanian economy. Imagine the Liberal Party trying to keep this secret??... nothing on the surprise there. Greens are a wolf in sheep's clothing.
    7th May 2015
    Hopefully we can now get some cooperation with the Greens instead of a steady refusal to assist the current government in trying to dig us out of the huge financial burden we now have. Ideology is wonderful but commonsense and reality are better.
    7th May 2015
    This 'changing of the green guard' process seems to me to be wrong on so many levels. That the leader of a political party announces their resignation through social media before advising her party colleagues is disrespectful in the extreme. Then the secrecy and haste of appointing the new leader before party members even knew there was to be a change (and gloating there were no other candidates) doesn't have the appearance of a democratically elected leader of the party. More of an appointment of the anointed?

    Then we look at Mr Di Natale. This was the man who at the height of the Ebola crisis decides he wants to take a trip over there just to see for himself what was going on. Totally ignoring that the information he might have collected was already available from the many aid agencies already working in the area, he wanted the Government to pay for his trip and provide a car and an escort whilst he was there. When Ms Bishop refused all his demands on the grounds the trip was not necessary, he then whined like a schoolboy and eventually pays for himself. Incidentally, I don't remember seeing any mention of his 'report' when he got back do you?

    So for now, we wait and see whether this change is for better or worse. I would like to hope the Greens pronouncements on such issues as border protection, refugees, immigration, climate change, legalising drugs, lowering the voting age to 16 etc will be less ideologically based and more rooted in what is best for Australia.
    Not Amused
    7th May 2015
    They want the vote for 16 yr olds because Greens are highly skilled in appealing to the impressionable youth vote.
    7th May 2015
    Not Amused, I guess we are all idealists and know alls at 16 then as we grow up we become realists, more pragmatic and understand how little we actually knew!

    God forbid we are ever 'ruled' by bolshie, spotty, bombed-out, little upstarts in school uniforms rather than bolshie, medicated, know-all oldies with a bus pass and walking stick... ha ha! ;-)
    7th May 2015
    I was impressed with this bloke when I saw him on the 7-30 report last night --although I have never voted for the Greens, I also liked Bob Brown
    7th May 2015
    I agree, PlanB, and am prepared to give him a go.
    8th May 2015
    Of course Mr Di Natale would be on his best behaviour on the 7:30 Report and would not say anything to frighten the public. I would not be rushing to condemn or deify him on the one tv appearance alone. It would be like betting on a racehorse before seeing how it performs.
    Not Amused
    7th May 2015
    Two Tasmanian Green politicians (see Mercury story below) receive more money combined than most of us would dream of. Yesterday Mr McKim was being touted as a possible candidate for a highly paid senate seat for God's sake. I suppose dropping $80,000 a year in Tasmanian parliamentary salaries must have been a terrible shock. I guess they think their bill-paying skills might add something extra to an already unworkable Australian Senate.
    7th May 2015
    Not Amused, If they can't communicate with each other, what hope the rest of us?
    7th May 2015
    The Greens are like horns on a car. You don't mind them being there as long as they don't make too much noise. I hope Christine isn't going to drag this out like Johnny Farnham did.
    Chris B T
    7th May 2015
    Horns are for emergency, not every day use as she was "Blowing Hers" and kept out of sight.
    To much obstruction on the outside of car.
    7th May 2015
    Well that is one down now how about concentrating of getting rid of the evil faced one
    8th May 2015
    Now be nice! Mr Shorten hasn't sprouted horns yet!
    Vivien Ruth
    8th May 2015
    After reading the drivel on the changing of the guard in the Greens, by most contributers , who are obviously also readers of Your Life Choice, I'm appalled and shocked that so called Seniors in our society can be so petty , ill informed and down right vindictive.
    8th May 2015
    You may well think some comments are drivel, BUT, I was in maintenance work in Tas in the 80's and Milne Stopped $$$millions from getting there. And then the Greens collectively almost destroyed Tas, good riddance and goodbye greens the sooner the better
    Chris B T
    9th May 2015
    There was another obstructionist party called the Democrats, gone. Now we have a new obstructioist party called the Greens. Clive's party is in self destruction mode first term.
    Minor parties with ideaology as there Platform soon disappear.
    Drivel and vindictive comments on this post are no match for what our parliamentarians use.
    I can't remember any of the Greens Polices making to legislation and passed.
    Debate is healthy but head in the sand is not.
    Drivel and vindictive is no where as bad as been obstructionist because we can.
    I'm sure there breaking out the Rice Wine Vinegar now.
    Yes I read The Your Life Choice as you would have to, so what is your point.

    8th May 2015
    Good luck may the new leader bring strength to good policies ...and positive decisions in the Senate. Sal
    8th May 2015
    Been doing a bit of research on line and contary to what Ms Milne said it would appear that she gave advance warning to Di Natale and Ludlam about her intentions to quit and they had time to stitch up a deal between them and freeze anyone else out of the race.

    Rumour has it that Bandt and others were furious when they found out. I watched the press conference after Di Natale was asked a few questions which were not to the liking of Milne and Di Natale and the press conference ended rather quickly.
    8th May 2015
    'Milne refused to comment on claims by angry Bandt supporters that she’d given Di Natale and Ludlam advanced warning of her resignation so they had time to stitch up a leadership deal that froze out the unsuspecting Bandt.
    Di Natale also wouldn’t comment, yet gave the game away when a journalist asked if he’d discussed standing for leader with his family. “I had a long chat with my partner, Lucy, and the impact it is going to have on my life,” he blurted, before realising his mistake and adding: “I was talking to Lucy six months ago.” He then admitted “someone may have been disappointed by the outcome” before Milne hastily terminated their press conference.'
    8th May 2015
    Yes Radish, I knew there was a lot more to this so called sudden change. I doubt if Bandt will hold his seat anyway.
    9th May 2015
    Yes, Frank, I was extremely surprised that a Leader would do this. Not a good look at all.
    10th May 2015
    Just found this article most interesting re Lee Rhiannon.
    A few years old but the information is very enlightening.
    10th May 2015
    The link did not work so I have copied and pasted.

    "MOST Australian teenagers setting off on a trip to Europe collect as many contacts as possible before they leave, but Lee Brown's were more colourful than most.

    A meeting was set up between Brown, now Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, and a man identified as the KGB station chief in Australia.

    Although only 19, she caused such concern among the intelligence community by her activities that the then ASIO director-general, Peter Barbour, wrote to British authorities alerting them to Rhiannon's visit and asking for information on her activities while in their country.

    Details of the addressee on the letter have been redacted, but former intelligence officers, who spoke to Inquirer on condition of anonymity, say it was sent to Barbour's counterpart at MI5, Martin Furnival Jones.

    Passenger manifests show that the Greens' spokeswoman on democracy, then known by her family name of Brown, sailed from Sydney to Southampton on January 19, 1970, on the MS Shota Rustaveli, a Soviet cruise ship.

    At 9.02am that day ASIO intercepted a phone call to the Brown household answered by Rhiannon's mother, Freda Brown, from Vladimir Alekseev, an officer of the Soviet embassy in Canberra.

    Alekseev said he was calling on behalf of Ivan Stenin, who was a second embassy officer identified by both ASIO and MI5 as a senior KGB figure. Stenin was already in regular clandestine contact with her father, Bill Brown.

    Alekseev told Mrs Brown he would be aboard the Shota Rustaveli at 3pm that day. He asked Mrs Brown to tell her daughter he would see her in Cabin 190 on the J deck at 4pm and said he would wait to see her.

    ASIO officers from that time confirm many in the security agency believed Alekseev to be the KGB rezident, the most senior Soviet spy in the country.

    They add the frequent visits of the Shota Rustaveli to Sydney Harbour provided a location for KGB officers to meet agents under safe conditions.

    Rhiannon's proposed meeting with Alekseev and the mention of Stenin were regarded with the utmost seriousness by the intelligence organisation.

    "Anyone who was messing around with that pair you'd have to look at very carefully," an ASIO figure from the time says, describing both as "agent-running officers of the KGB."

    A former counter-espionage, counter-intelligence office confirmed Alekseev's and Stenin's KGB activities, adding: "Both recruited extensively".

    There is no evidence that Rhiannon, seen as an outside contender for the leadership of the Greens, ever worked as a Soviet agent. But her activities earned her an ASIO file that runs to five volumes and more than 800 pages for the nine-year period 1969 to 1978, which has been released.

    KGB men, Inquirer was told, were barred from recruiting Communist Party members such as Rhiannon as agents in the traditional intelligence-gathering sense. But former ASIO officers say there can be no doubt that the Soviets saw the young Rhiannon as an important potential agent of influence worthy of special attention -- and cultivation.

    A third former intelligence officer explains ASIO's concerns.

    "Because of Lee's parents' political disposition, the Soviets were starting to groom Lee as a future fully fledged recruit, and getting in as early as possible so that they could maximise the degree to which they could define her cover and career."

    The proposed meeting on the Shota Rustaveli prompted the letter from the ASIO director-general to his British counterpart.

    "Brown is the daughter of two pro-Soviet members of the Communist Party of Australia national committee, Wilton John Brown, (who is also a CPA national executive member) and Freda Yetta Brown," it read. "It would be appreciated if you could advise whether Brown comes to notice during her visit to the United Kingdom."

    The ASIO files state Rhiannon returned to Australia on a flight with her mother on November 5, 1970, although she disputed the accuracy of this record while a NSW legislative councillor in a speech to parliament on her ASIO dossier in March 2010, six months before her election to the federal parliament.

    Rhiannon did not question ASIO's other reports on the trip, including the details of the phone call from Alekseev arranging the meeting.

    She did not respond to questions from Inquirer.

    Rhiannon closed her March 2010 speech with the promise, "A full report of my ASIO file will be available shortly on my website."

    That report has never appeared, for soon afterwards she became embroiled in public controversy over her political past and history of fealty to a dying dictatorship.

    Rhiannon is a member of one of Australia's most prominent Communist families. Her parents, Bill and Freda Brown, were leading lights of the Communist Party of Australia, while she was active in its youth wing.

    Rhiannon is seen as the best known and most influential of the so-called watermelons -- Green on the outside and red in the middle -- in her party.

    The influence of former communists and members of hard-Left groups on the Greens has become a pressing issue in recent years, particularly with Rhiannon and a faction in the party declaring their support for the radical anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa. It calls for an end to business with Israeli-owned and linked firms, a call critics claim reeks of anti-Semitism.

    Writer Mark Aarons, then a close, longstanding friend of Rhiannon and a member of another equally prominent Communist clan, says their relationship was never the same after her return from the 1970 trip.

    "Our friendship resumed, but something had changed," he wrote in his 2010 account of his own family's ASIO records, The Family File. "I could not conceive of someone of my age and experience supporting Moscow's politics."

    The strain in their relationship reflected strains in the communist movement worldwide. When the CPA split with the Soviet Union in the wake of its brutal 1968 crushing of the Prague Spring and moves by its leader, Alexander Dubcek, towards "socialism with a human face", Rhiannon and her parents stayed loyal to Moscow.

    They later joined the breakaway, pro-Soviet and Soviet-funded Socialist Party of Australia when it was formed at the end

    of 1971.

    "She became a senior office-bearer of the youth wing, serving on the central committee's youth subcommittee; attended Australia-Soviet Friendship Society meetings; and developed close relations with Soviet, Czechoslovak and East German communist youth groups," Aarons recounted in an article last year.

    "In 1977, Rhiannon led an SPA delegation to Moscow at the invitation of Leonid Brezhnev's neo-Stalinist regime."

    Rhiannon edited the pro-Soviet and Soviet-supported monthly magazine Survey, founded by her father, from his retirement in 1988 until it ceased publication, staying at the helm even after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    She sought to downplay her involvement with the publication after it was detailed in The Weekend Australian last year, telling the Ten Network she merely "assisted with it to some extent", even though issues of Survey clearly identify her as its editor and she signed the notice in the final issue announcing it would close.

    But Rhiannon has refused to recant her support for the Soviet Union during a period marked by intervention in Poland to suppress the independent Solidarity trade union, heightened persecution of Soviet Jews and gross abuses of psychiatry as a tool of political repression.

    "They must have had something in mind," a former ASIO officer from the time says of the Soviet embassy's interest in Rhiannon in 1970. He is convinced that the Soviets saw her as a key member of a new generation of sympathisers whom they could use in a bid to influence events in Australia.

    "One thing that always stood out about the communists was their long-range interest in things," the former ASIO officer says. "There is no doubt that they were looking at material, investments in the future if you like."
    14th May 2015
    Very interesting Radish.
    I have long suspected the communist element within the ALP, Greens, Unions alliance would be motivated to destroy Australia's economy and thereby strengthen their infiltration. I Thought it odd that during the Gillard government many of her ministers travelled frequently to Moscow? Why Moscow of all places?

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