Embattled Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham is fighting for his political life this morning after a major escalation overnight of the dual scandals now centred around the renowned anti-coal seam gas campaigner.
Mr Buckingham is facing a three-pronged attack – from Greens NSW, the Queensland Greens and the Greens’ National Council – amid allegations he sexually assaulted a Greens staffer in 2011, and has used legal threats to bludgeon and silence his critics after publicly calling for defamation laws to be reformed so they can’t be abused by politicians.
Mr Buckingham strongly denies the sexual assault allegations.
Two separate emails have surfaced – copies of which have been obtained by New Matilda – which detail internal efforts to unseat Mr Buckingham from his third spot on the Greens’ ballot at the upcoming NSW elections in March 2019.
The first email – dated yesterday – is from the head of Greens Queensland, who “condemns” Mr Buckingham for his use of defamation laws to “silence complainants and critics” and asserts that the scandal is harming the party in all Australian states and territories.
The second email – dated Monday evening – comes from Mr Buckingham himself. In a plea to local members, he reveals that the National Office is leading efforts to force a debate at a major NSW party meeting on Saturday on whether Mr Buckingham is in breach of the party’s sexual harassment policies for publicly suggesting the sexual assault allegations levelled against him were politically motivated.
Mr Buckingham wrote: “It is important to note the language in the letter from National Council. They do not assert that I have definitely breached the sexual harassment policy but express concern that there may be a breach.” He argues that the “late motion” to remove him from the ballot breaches the party’s constitution, and is based on false allegations which were used as part of an ongoing factional war being waged against him.
The furore surrounding Mr Buckingham has gathered pace since an ABC 7:30 report on August 2 detailed allegations Mr Buckingham had engaged in “sexual misconduct” towards former Greens staffer Ella Buckland, aged 30 at the time. New Matilda understands the allegations against Mr Buckingham actually constitute sexual assault.
Yesterday’s explosive email from Queensland Greens State Convenor Duncan Munro was sent to NSW Greens co-convenors Rochelle Flood and Sylvia Hale. It centres around revelations Mr Buckingham is suing multiple current and former members of his own party over public comments they made in relation to the allegations levelled by Ms Buckland. It also relates to threats Mr Buckingham made against a teenager in December 2016, after she called him a bully and a “fucking hypocrite” in a closed Facebook forum with less than 600 members.
In 2014, Mr Buckingham and Sydney shock jock Alan Jones were sued for defamation by former NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner. That lawsuit was eventually dropped, prompting Mr Buckingham to publicly call for defamation laws in Australia to be tightened so that politicians cannot use them to silence critics.
Queensland Greens’ motion
The Queensland Greens State Council met over the weekend and issued a formal motion which noted growing concern about Mr Buckingham’s conduct among their own members, and the Queensland public more broadly.
Mr Munro writes:
“It was the intention of the Queensland State Council to formally communicate with you as the co-convenors of the Greens NSW… before this coming weekend. The Queensland Greens passed the following motion at our State Council meeting, that the Queensland Greens State Council:
• Expresses our heartfelt solidarity with our comrades in the NSW Greens during this trying time.
• Condemns the conduct of Mr Jeremy Buckingham in using the legal process to silence complainants and critics as unacceptable and cause for grave concern.
• Notes that Mr Buckingham’s conduct impacts negatively on all State Greens branches, and that the Queensland Greens have heard grave concerns from the Queensland public on this matter.”
That letter is expected to be tabled at Saturday’s meeting of the Greens NSW, where members will consider the possible breach by Mr Buckingham of the party’s sexual harassment policy.
Buckingham’s email plea to NSW Greens’ members
In his email plea to members, Mr Buckingham writes: “Unfortunately, yet again there is a late proposal to the upcoming [meeting]to remove me from the ticket for the Legislative Council….
“[The proposal] is not valid because it clearly contravenes the Greens NSW Constitution…. Grassroots democracy is a founding principle of the Greens. The Greens NSW conducted a grassroots preselection with a vote of all NSW Greens members… I placed second….”
Mr Buckingham also points to the fact that an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault delivered “no adverse findings” against him, although notably Mr Buckingham abandons previous public references he has made to the final report having “cleared” him. The final report actually found there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations against Mr Buckingham.
“In regards to the allegations made against me, an independent investigation properly constituted and conducted under party policy did not substantiate any allegation of wrongdoing and recommended that no adverse findings be made against me.
“The investigator wrote: ‘I am not satisfied that there is sufficient evidence that a reasonable person could conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that an incident/incidents of sexual harassment as defined by the legislation has occurred.”Buckingham plea to local members-final
“The independent investigator recommended: ‘The Greens NSW resolve this matter with no adverse finding against [Mr Buckingham] with respect to sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour towards Ms Buckland.”
Mr Buckingham complains that the National Council took action “without informing me they were discussing the issue and without considering a submission from myself – a clear denial of procedural fairness and natural justice”.
“The suggestion that I may have breached any section of the party’s sexual harassment policy is wrong. I have never claimed that the original complaint itself was politically motivated or vexatious. I have never claimed the complainant has used the complaint for political manoeuvring.
“What I have criticised is the use of the publicity generated by the significant breach of confidentiality relating to the complaint (the 7:30 story) for political manoeuvring.”
Mr Buckingham ends his plea to local members by arguing that there should be no punishment if there is “no wrongdoing”, and adds, “We Greens should seek to resolve conflict and reconcile and mediate differences. This approach is not constructive, but is very destructive when we should all be uniting to save the planet from climate change.”
New Matilda is currently preparing a new report on yet another person who received defamation threats from Mr Buckingham’s office after he called for reforms to the laws. New Matilda’s investigation into Ms Buckland’s allegations is also ongoing.
Mr Buckingham has ignored repeated attempts over more than two weeks by New Matilda to seek comment.
Mr Buckingham survived attempts to suspend him from the party in August this year while Greens NSW completed the investigation into Ms Buckland’s allegations.
If he survives again on Saturday, Mr Buckingham would contest the NSW election as the third-ranked candidate on the Greens’ ballot, a difficult position to win from with the Greens traditionally winning two seats in the NSW Upper House. That said, Mr Buckingham enjoys substantial popular support in the electorate, and won from the third position in 2011.
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