Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale has announced that he is stepping aside as federal parliamentary leader of the Greens, and plans to formally resign from the Senate in coming months.
In an unexpected announcement on Monday morning, just a day ahead of the first sitting of parliament in 2020, Di Natale announced his decision to resign from the leadership position after almost five years as Greens leader and ten years as a senator for Victoria.
Di Natale took on the leadership of the Australian Greens in 2015, following the retirement of Christine Milne. Di Natale says he has made the decision to stand aside from both the Greens leadership position and the parliament to spend more time with his family.
The ballot would likely see a change to the full Greens leadership positions, with Adam Bandt already indicating that he will nominate for the leadership position.
I will be standing for Greens Leader.
Thank you Richard for your leadership and service to Aust.
I look forward to talking with my colleagues about how we share leadership across the House & Senate as we fight the climate emergency and inequality with a Green New Deal.
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) February 3, 2020
Larissa Waters, who currently holds the position of co-deputy leaders with Bandt, has indicated she will seek to remain as deputy leader. A possible contender is South Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young who has previously expressed a desire to take on a leadership position.
New South Wales senator Mehreen Faruqi has advocated for the election of co-leaders, which would see the Australian Greens model their leadership team with Greens parties in other countries, including New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Di Natale will resign from his position in Senate, once a replacement is chosen, which the outgoing leader expects will occur by mid-year.
“After nearly a decade as a senator, nearly half that time as leader, this morning I’ve announced my resignation as parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens,” Di Natale said in a video statement on Facebook.
“It’s not a decision I’ve come to lightly, because leading this incredible movement for nearly five years has been one of the biggest honours of my life.”
“But my boys are nine and eleven years old now, and they’ve only over known their dad as a busy, tired and sometimes grumpy politician. They are growing up quickly, and I want to spend more time by their side, than a relentless political schedule will allow.”
Di Natale cited the Greens role in the passage of the carbon price legislated under the Gillard government, and the passage of marriage equality as key highlights of his Parliamentary career.
As leader of the Greens, Di Natale had been a strong and consistent advocate for effective climate change policy and strong government support for the renewable energy sector. Under Di Natale, the Greens advocated for a policy package that would take Australia to 100 per cent renewable energy.
“Looking back on the last decade in Parliament, there are so many things I am proud of. The Carbon Price we negotiated in 2010 with the Gillard Government, which show what can be accomplished when political parties work together for a common goal; the much-needed royal commissions into the banking and disability sectors and, of course, the historic vote to achieve marriage equality.”
“I don’t know what comes next for me, but I intend to continue to make a positive contribution to the issues about which I have been so passionate for my entire adult life: Green politics, climate change, health, issues affecting First Nations people and tackling inequality,” Di Natale added.
Di Natale was first elected to the federal senate at the 2010 federal election. Di Natale succeeded the previous leader Christine Milne in May 2015, following her retirement from the federal parliament.
Di Natale’s period as leader has been characterised by a shift to more “moderate” campaigning positions, seeking to provide greater emphasis to social justice and equity issues, particularly being a strong advocate on asylum seeker issues, into the Greens platform, in addition to the Green’s traditional stance as strong environmental campaigners.
Building off his background as a GP, Di Natale sought to advocate for drug law reform, including advocacy for the introduction of pill testing at music festivals and venues, and relaxing restrictions on access to medicinal and recreational cannabis.
Under Di Natale, the Greens took a more open stance towards negotiating with other political parties to successfully pass legislation through the parliament, including securing a deal with the federal coalition to overhaul the Senate voting procedures in an effort to curb the practise of “preference whispering” that saw a random assortment of micro party candidates elected on small primary votes.
Di Natale has led the Australian Greens through what at times had been a challenging period for the party, with conflicts and in-fighting within multiple branches of the party overflowing into the public.
Despite this, Di Natale has been largely successful at maintaining the Greens’ presence within the Federal parliament, retaining nine senators and Melbourne MP Adam Bandt’s seat at each of the 2016 and 2019 federal elections.
Di Natale said that he hoped the party would be successful at growing this representation at the next Federal election.
“Last year, we achieved our second best federal election result ever, and if we can just repeat that result in 2022, we’ll elect three new senators and have a good chance at balance of power in the senate,” Di Natale said in a message to Greens members.
It is anticipated that there will be a vote of the federal Greens party room will occur on Tuesday morning.
It adds to an already busy first parliamentary sitting week for the year for leadership changes, with the Nationals anticipated to elect a new leadership team following the resignation deputy leader Bridget Mckenzie following the sports grants scandal.
Former Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, whom himself was forced to resign due to his own scandals, is shaping up to contest the Nationals leadership spill, potentially posing a threat to the leadership of Michael McCormack.
Queensland crossbencher Bob Katter also announced that he would hand over leadership responsibilities for the Katter Australia Party, which holds three seats in the Queensland Parliament, to his son, Robbie Katter.