Why I have resigned from the Greens

I have arrived at the extremely difficult, heartbreaking decision that I must resign from the Greens, on principle. I have lost faith in the Party’s governance and I can no longer remain silent about the abuses of power and process that seem to be endemic within the organisation.

For approximately five years now, I have been subject to relentless organisational bullying within the Victorian Greens, which has included rumour-mongering, unfounded attacks on my character and being repeatedly forced to respond to trivial or unsubstantiated complaints and unfair charges.

After supporting too many others through traumatic, grossly unfair investigations and ‘dispute resolution’ processes, I have decided that my only ethical recourse is to resign.  I believe that the Greens are failing the most basic standards of transparency, due process and good governance and that these failures can weaponise grievance processes, enabling them to be used for political ends.  In my case, I feel that I am effectively being bullied out of the party.

Tomorrow, on Saturday 2nd February, State Councillors of the Australian Greens Victoria were due to hear misconduct charges against me, drawn up by the State Disputes Panel, for statements covered in the Guardian, that I was seeking legal advice under the Incorporated Associations Act and that I felt forced to stand down as the Greens candidate for Batman because the Party had declined to act against people who seemed determined to sabotage me and the Party.

The same Disputes Panel that oversaw the misconduct charges against me for these statements has now also re-opened complaints against me which were found to be unsubstantiated and closed last year.

I have repeatedly written to the Party asking for the complaints dossier and cover letter to be investigated externally by an organisation with expertise in conducting workplace investigations. I believe such an investigation would clear me and would find that I have been subject to an intense, systematic campaign of bullying within the Greens.

Instead, the Disputes Committee has appointed a seven-member panel to conduct an open-ended investigation in which they will continue to accept submissions from complainants for an unspecified time.  This panel has asked me to respond to non-particularised charges and long-winded, rambling accounts which consist of opinions and groundless, wide-ranging accusations, many of which relate to the actions of others.  In the 56-page document I have been provided, there is not a shred of evidence to support the allegations.

I still find it hard to believe that the Party has waved through complaints that consist of screenshots of me politely requesting a fellow member to engage in mediation; that I stood in front of someone (while I was being interviewed in a press conference); that I unfriended someone on Facebook (who was threatening me) or that I missed a leaflet production deadline (because a team of five people were involved in drafting the content and I was trying to accommodate all their suggestions).

On reading the complaints against me for the first time, I realised that this is the fourth time in three years that I’ve had to respond to some of the allegations. I have been able to provide evidence to disprove the few accounts within them that claim to be factual, but I have no hope that the investigation will be properly or fairly conducted.

On Thursday 17th January, I wrote to the Disputes Panel with detailed challenges to all but one of the panellists on grounds of perceived bias, in accordance with my rights under AGV rules.  They dismissed my claims and stated that they were proceeding with their investigation.  That they saw fit to judge their own fitness to sit on the panel is an example of the Victorian Greens’ governance problems.  Late last night, I received notice that the State Executive had decided not to act on my request for these members to recuse themselves from the panel.  This was the final straw for me in what has been a truly awful 12 months.

Last year, the Inquiry into the Batman by-election refused to respond to my requests to be granted access to the complaints; it refused to tell me whether the panel members had read the complaints; it failed to interview key witnesses; it glossed over major breaches of confidentiality and process by Party officials; and it ignored photographic evidence that one of the complainants was associated with the campaign of Ged Kearney and email records from July 2017 documenting attempts to get Party officials to act on the bullying I was experiencing.  It produced a report that was so transparently biased that I lost hope in Greens internal processes.  I chose to remain in the party out of loyalty.

I have now come to the realisation that I can no longer subject myself to this continuing organisational abuse.  I am exhausted and worn down and my children have been traumatised.  I’m leaving because I need to get out of this awful situation and get my life back.

I want to put on the record that I’ve never engaged in bullying or intimidation of anyone.  During my 18 years in the Party, I have had a range of leadership roles.  I have had to call out actual poor treatment of and risks to volunteers and members and have challenged actual misconduct and attempts to abuse process.  I have done so firmly and assertively, but fairly.  I’ve found myself caught up in a bizarre nightmare where I have been accused of bullying and misconduct. The Batman by-election campaign, then the Greens’ best chance to gain a second lower house seat, was viciously undermined.  My reputation has been trashed and I have been prevented from responding effectively or publicly by the Party’s confidentiality gag.   The emotional trauma, for myself and my family, has at times been too much to bear.

This has been an even harder decision to make than my decision to stand down as the candidate for Batman (Cooper) last year.  My life has been bound up with the Greens for nearly two decades.  We’ve met our closest family friends through the party.  In my time as Victorian Greens Co Convenor, International Secretary and then as Convenor of the Global Greens Women’s Network, I’ve made treasured friendships across four continents.  It’s been an honour to be part of this global movement and to have represented the Greens as a candidate in six federal elections in Australia’s most progressive electorate.  I still believe in the Greens’ vision for a changed world and there are many, many good people within the Party.  But I can no longer be part of an organisation that does this to people.   I am completely disillusioned and cannot in good conscience remain in the Party. Sadly, I feel I have no choice but to go.

 

Published by

Alex Bhathal

Social worker; refugee advocate; environmental activist. National Director of Repower Health and President, AASW Victorian Branch; mum of two. Ran six times as the Greens candidate for the federal seat of Batman, former International Secretary of the Australian Greens; former Co Convenor of the Victorian Greens. But I'm no longer with the party.

11 thoughts on “Why I have resigned from the Greens

  1. Alex, this makes me so sad. Go well and flourish now that you have made this decision. I am so sorry that it has come to this!

  2. Now stand as an Independent, the Party system is not working,, what some people see as the interests of the Party are being put before the interests of the OZ people .. This is a fork in the road .. OZ needs more independents .. Better late than never …Just like the US is craving for a black female President OZ is needing female Independents

  3. Sorry to hear this, Alex.
    I don’t know enough about the situation but having external investigation into workplace bullying should be a right for anyone.
    The main reason you didn’t win in Batman last year was many locals thought Ged was a good candidate, the kind the ALP need more of. It wasn’t your fault. I wish you all the best. No doubt you will keep doing awesome things for the benefit of the community.

  4. A great loss of a wonderful contributor. I hope the Party can learn from this situation and establish respectful and independent processes. I am sorry you went through this.

  5. Sadly Alex, it seems some of the men in the Greens want power over, and feel entitled to it. It is the white males most times. It was the straight white male candidates and employees before the Victorian State Election that did reputational damage to the party. Certainly cost Lidia. I don’t know who these blokes are inside the party organisation, but I wish they’d go join the socialist and/or ALP, but maybe they couldn’t stand the heat in the man caves.

  6. I’ve long admired your calm and progressive way of standing up for what you believe in. Candidates like yourself are so hard to find.
    Something has to change otherwise The Australian Greens, who are needed more now than any other time, will fade into oblivion.
    Wish you all the best in your future endeavours Alex. The ones that have caused this situation to unfold, hopefully will come to realise what they have done and feel sorry.

    Coralie.

  7. The Greens are finished as a genuine alternative. They stayed true to their values for many years and slowly increased their electoral gains – until Julia Gillard’s ALP re-opened concentration camps for refugees in 2011.
    That was the instant that the Greens “jumped the shark”. They could have, and should have, immediately and very publicly withdrawn their support on supply and confidence on that sole issue alone. But they decided to back that vile policy (by default) instead.
    Ever since they have been nothing but the “Lite” option on the ALP menu.
    On 20th June 2017 Whish-Wilson made an extraordinary attack on Venezuela in the Senate.
    Ask yourselves this: Why are the Greens totally silent on the US coup currently underway against the democratically elected Venezuelan government?

  8. Sadly I completely understand where you are coming from since the NSW Greens are rife with similar bullying, abuse of power and lack of due process. More power to you for standing against this.

  9. Dear Alex, I’m very sad to learn your story but you have been able to negotiate a system that is imperfect. I urge you to remain passionate about the health of our environment. I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point which, if crossed, will be irrevocable. Go independent!

  10. I’m impressed you lasted so long, Alex. I had to resign in June because I was so angry about your treatment which is so clearly unfair. The responses I got to my emails to the executive earlier in the year confirmed my belief that there has been collusion and cover-up for a select few. It’s a shocking failure of leadership from the very top, and to whitewash this as a “personality clash” is demeaning and a distraction from the real problem. The sad thing is that a precedent has now been set for sabotage and for saboteurs to be protected by the Party. It’s lunacy.

    I know from experience how hard this kind of thing can be; and how exhausting. Life won’t be the same, but it really does go on!

    I have no idea about your legal options, but if you are able to get redress, and you are so inclined, then you I believe you ought to go hard for it. Maybe then the lesson will get learned.

    There’s a lot of support for you in the community Alex, I wish you all the best for the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s