The contest between David Shoebridge and Jeremy Buckingham for the lead position on the Greens NSW Legislative Council ticket is a clear left versus right battle. The two candidates have very different approaches to the parliamentary position and to society more generally.
Shoebridge is a bona fide left wing activist. He regularly speaks at demonstrations and uses these platforms to point to the systematic nature of inequality and to make left wing demands on the government, the Labor Party and even his own party.
He has used his parliamentary position to support campaigns on the streets and in workplaces and has taken a strong stand on issues that many Greens are silent on, such as police murder of Aboriginal people and justice for Palestine. He also stands for workers’ rights, for reinstating penalty rates and wage rises and, most crucially, the right to strike.
Buckingham talks almost exclusively about the environment and argues that the Greens must appeal to more right wing voters. He does not even put forward left wing environmental positions. He recently uploaded a photograph to his Facebook page of himself in a field holding a placard that reads: “Farmers not miners”.
This is not just a state-based campaign. It is also the latest episode in a long-running stoush between the NSW left and the leadership of the national party.
The right of the party has openly argued that the NSW left must be purged and has fought successfully in several preselection battles.
The most significant casualty is senator Lee Rhiannon. After being attacked publicly by several leading Greens, including Bob Brown, she was then sanctioned and excluded from the national party room by Richard Di Natale, with the support of almost every caucus member. The right’s campaign culminated in her preselection defeat for the top spot on the NSW slate for the federal Senate.
The issue that formally began the feud over Rhiannon’s position was education policy. Rhiannon had the audacity to argue publicly against the government’s funding proposal, while the Greens leadership was negotiating support for it.
Despite the clear left versus right nature of the dispute, Rhiannon and her camp refused to wage a political battle. They instead complained about democracy, transparency and the constitutional integrity of the NSW branch. There was no attempt to use the situation to argue for the Greens to take more left wing positions, to defend activism or to inspire left wing people to engage with the party.
In contrast, Shoebridge’s campaign is a breath of fresh air. He is campaigning on his credentials as an activist and he is prepared to criticise the right of the party, as he did recently in response to the Batman by-election in Melbourne. And he has confidently taken left wing positions on every major issue of oppression and injustice.