By Matt Hrkac
Richard Di Natale best person to lead The Greens
The appointment of Richard Di Natale as leader of the Australian Greens, and Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam as deputies, following the retirement of Christine Milne (anyone who says that she was "rolled" is deluding themselves), gives the opportunity for the Greens to reach an entirely new demographic of Australians, and will likely steer the Greens in a new direction compared to what we saw previously.
The decision of the Greens party room to appoint Richard Di Natale as leader, instead of Scott Ludlam or Adam Bandt, has created angst among some Greens supporters. First of all, it has to be mentioned that Scott Ludlam didn't want the leadership in the first place, and second of all, Adam Bandt is expecting his first child - which would have largely influenced his decision to stand down as Deputy Leader, and not to run for the leadership. Further to that, Bandt, in all likely-hood, probably wishes to focus locally on his seat of Melbourne rather than be tied down by national campaigning which a leadership role would entail.
Thirdly, even if Scott Ludlam or Adam Bandt did want the leadership - neither of them are the best people to actually be in the driver's seat. Both Ludlam and Bandt perform best when they are able to outspoken, and an outspoken person in the leadership of any major party has the disastrous effect of creating a party based on personality, which is something that the Greens don't and shouldn't want.
Ludlam in particular has introduced a whole new demographic of people to the Greens - the internet-savvy, tech-savvy, young, IT professional, multimedia production and gamer types that would have never ever even considered voting Green in the past. He made reference to this demographic in his pivotal speech he delivered in the Senate back in March of 2014, and it's entirely true. He didn't need to be in the driver's seat achieve this, and he will continue to do this without being in the driver's seat.
Richard Di Natale, by contrast, doesn't have a naturally huge profile, which has two distinct advantages: A) He won't initially be a whipping target for the media and the Right-wing, as people will actually have to take the effort to get to know him. The attacks that have been levied at both Bob Brown and Christine Milne in the past will not gain any mileage against Di Natale due to his completely different background that isn't 'stereotypical' of a Green, and B) Richard Di Natale, now being in such a high profile position and who is naturally charismatic, will allow him to gain a larger following amongst the Australian public and introduce an entirely new audience to the Greens. The same points above also apply to new co-deputy leader Larissa Waters.
This is a major milestone in the history of the Green movement in Australia, as it signifies a move away from its traditional activist roots at the helm of the party and a move towards a leadership that will appeal more to a broader highly educated, professional, middle-class demographic with a social and environmental conscience, and in reality, continues a trend that has already been taking place for several years now. A younger leadership team, too, and the generational change will give the party energy, a fresh look, and will allow it to connect more effectively with young people who are disengaged with politics in general. A leadership team that is also more moderate in comparison to past leaders, and Di Natale, Waters and Ludlam certainly are, will also do wonders to bring in even small-l-liberals to the Greens whose mouth's the Liberal Party's socially conservative and anti-environment policy positions leave a bitter taste.
It is, however, important as the Greens occupy more and more new ground that they never lose sight of their traditional activist roots in the environment movement. A lot of people in rural areas, in particular, are being drawn to the Greens for one reason only: Their stance against CSG. Many of these people (who are traditional Nationals supporters), are not going to care as much for the party's social policies as those in the inner-city electorates do. It is such internal issues that the Greens will have to contend with as it's base continues to grow, and it will be up to the party to bring these rural people on board with the Greens' collective vision and to not let the conservative parties exploit this potential division.
New Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, is the best person to be leading the Greens, and he is aided well by two highly talented and charismatic deputy leaders in Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, all of whom have the collective potential to push the Greens to new heights. Regardless of what people think of the leadership selection process (party members already have a complete say in who stands for election), a majority of Greens supporters and members alike should be happy with Richard Di Natale at the helm.
About the author:
Matt Hrkac is a writer and photographer based in Geelong. He has particular interests in politics, elections, social movements and the trade union movement.
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