Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Lees offers advice to Greens in Senate -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

A former leader of the Australian Democrats, Meg Lees says it's time for the Greens to develop into
a fully-fledged political party. The Greens now have the balance of power in the Senate and Ms Lees
says they'll need to start deciding which issues they'll stand firm on and on which they're
prepared to compromise.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: When the Federal Parliament resumes on Monday things will be a little different.

Four new Greens senators will take their seats in the Senate, which will for the first time tip the
balance of power in their favour.

Greens leader Bob Brown says he'll use that power to provide stability in the Government.

But the balance of power role has some challenges, as Meg Lees found out when she was the leader of
the Australian Democrats back in the late 1990s.

The Democrats never really recovered from internal divisions over a deal that she did with the
Howard government to pass the GST legislation.

Meg Lees spoke about the challenges facing the Greens with Ashley Hall in Canberra.

MEG LEES: I think it's very important that they are a political party and not a pressure group or
an action group.

We're now at the point where they're very much involved in government and I remember when I was
working with Bob and I very much enjoyed his company but I found it very difficult because they
tended to want 100 per cent and ended up often with 100 per cent of nothing because they weren't
prepared to compromise.

ASHLEY HALL: So that is the key is it, to be able to compromise?

MEG LEES: Look, to be able to take your wins a step at a time, not want everything immediately. And
I think it sounds like they're doing a fabulous job on climate change, they've certainly got it
high on their agendas now and we're all waiting to see what they've achieved.

But yeah, on issues like that they have to reach an agreement, it can't be that they hang out for
what they really want.

ASHLEY HALL: It seemed for the Democrats that the compromise stance though was the start of the
undoing of the party because members at the grassroots were quickly disenchanted by a position that
favoured one party or the other.

MEG LEES: There certainly were some grassroots members who had come into the Democrats still
holding a torch for the party they'd come from and from time to time that was a problem but that
wasn't the major issue.

The major issue was that since the party was set up they had always been an opportunity for
individuals to vote as they wanted. In other words, if a compromise couldn't be reached in the
party room and with government, then a member had the right to vote elsewhere.

The problem came when that battle was then continued after the vote was taken. It's really over to
the Greens members now to also understand that their party can't get everything immediately, that
it is a step by step process and destabilising leadership and starting to talk about how the
senators are just appointing them will undo that party just like the Democrats who were undone.

The Greens membership has to be prepared to go slowly, slowly, step by step.

ASHLEY HALL: How does a party decide what are those fundamental issues on which it won't budge and
those issues that it is prepared to compromise on? How difficult is it to determine those?

MEG LEES: Oh it can be very difficult because you have your goals and you are obviously all the
time striving towards achieving them. But if you will only take a step in the right direction, then
you grab that step, as long as you don't vote for something that your party opposes and that, under
my leadership, the Democrats never did that.

ASHLEY HALL: Bob Brown is wearing perhaps the biggest smile I've ever seen on his face at the
moment. Do you think that smile will stay there or will the pressures of managing a bigger party
presence in the Parliament begin to take their toll?

MEG LEES: Well I hope the smile stays there because he has got tremendous opportunity now, there's
an awful lot to be done and I hope they go from strength to strength. We need a balance, a third
party in the Senate and I wish them all the best.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's the former leader of the Australian Democrats Meg Lees, speaking to
Ashley Hall in Canberra.