Concerns raised about 'integrity' of Greens preselection

Dawn Walker won the ballot to replace retiring upper house member Jan Barham in December. Photo: Supplied
Dawn Walker won the ballot to replace retiring upper house member Jan Barham in December. Photo: Supplied

The NSW Greens' supreme decision-making body is being asked to consider the integrity of the ballot which saw Dawn Walker preselected to fill a seat in the upper house, opening the way for a push to overturn the result amid escalating factional tensions.

In December Ms Walker won the ballot to replace retiring upper house member Jan Barham by just 13 votes over Kelly Marks, a former staff member in the office of the late Greens MLC John Kaye.

But the returning officers' report, obtained by Fairfax Media, states they "have identified areas of concern which may have bearing on the integrity of the preselection process".

"While it is difficult to raise these issues for the consideration of the State Delegates Council, it is the role of the SDC to consider them as the supreme decision-making body of the Greens NSW in order to make an informed decision about the outcome of the preselection," the report states.

The commentary raises the prospect of a push by opponents of Ms Walker to overturn the result and have a fresh ballot, which would escalate already bitter factional battles inside the NSW Greens.

The preselection, along with an earlier ballot in August last year to replace Dr Kaye, who died of cancer, is being tied to a recent outbreak of party infighting.

The contests have pitched the left wing of the party, whose leaders include upper house MP David Shoebridge and Senator Lee Rhiannon, against those aligned with upper house MP Jeremy Buckingham and Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale.

The rancorous preselection which saw Justin Field elected to replace Dr Kaye in the NSW upper house prompted former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown to call on Ms Rhiannon to retire.

The result in Ms Walker's preselection sparked claims of irregularities, including about the unauthorised use of a privileged party email lists for campaigning purposes.

These complaints were not upheld by the party's preselection disputes committee but the returning officers expressed concerns about the committee's interpretation of the rules.

"Over the course of the preselection it became apparent that there are different views about exactly what constitutes a privileged communication channel or tool," the report says.

The returning officers' report will go to the State Delegates Council next weekend and if adopted by consensus the result will stand.

But if it is pushed to a vote ratification of the result could be blocked by 25 per cent of delegates.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that Ms Barham, a supporter of Ms Walker, will not formally resign from the upper house until after the matter is resolved. Ms Walker declined to comment.

This story Concerns raised about 'integrity' of Greens preselection first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.