After two days of agonising, internal recriminations and counting numbers, the Greens have temporarily suspended New South Wales senator Lee Rhiannon from their party room.
Further action and the length of the suspension will be determined by negotiations with the NSW state branch of the party, where Senator Rhiannon enjoys widespread support.
Greens federal parliamentarians first met via teleconference on Monday after accusing Senator Rhiannon of betraying the party by putting her signature to an unauthorised leaflet distributed in inner-city Sydney.
The leaflet implicitly rejected any Greens pact with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aimed at getting his Gonski 2.0 education funding package through the Senate.
Nine of the 10 federal Greens favoured a deal, with Senator Rhiannon the sole opponent.
Rather than depend on the Greens, the government turned to crossbenchers and denied the Greens the kudos party supporters thought they deserved for extracting concessions and additional funding.
Deciding the appropriate disciplinary measure to impose on Senator Rhiannon is a can of worms – the reason, according to observers, is Monday’s meeting failed to take any action.
Meanwhile, the accusations are flying in both directions, with Senator Rhiannon saying she had become the target of leaks intended to damage her reputation.
“I am feeling bullied and harassed,” she said on Monday.
The senator rejected media reports she had previously been sanctioned by the party, also rejecting claims she was either a member or instigator of an internal party group known as Left Renewal.
“It is a vicious attempt to destroy my reputation. If the deceitful leaker thinks their tactic will drive me from Parliament they are wrong,” she said.
Standing behind Senator Rhiannon is Greens NSW co-convenor Hall Greenland.
“Lee consulted the state MP responsible for education, the education working group and the federal parliamentary liaison committee – all representative bodies of the NSW members – before taking the position against the fraudulent Gonski 2.0,” Mr Greenland wrote on his Facebook page.
Even if Senator Rhiannon was expelled from the party room she would remain a senator — effectively becoming an independent Green.
Senator Rhiannon has denied that she thwarted the Greens’ negotiations with the government over school funding.
“It was the Turnbull government’s decision to do a deal with the crossbench senators that killed off negotiations with the Greens,” she said in a statement.
“At all times my actions on education have been faithful to the Greens’ policy and process.”
The Greens’ Left Renewal faction has also expressed its dismay at the treatment of Senator Rhiannon.
“We are disappointed in the party room’s eagerness to cruelly and publicly undermine NSW’s Greens senator for simply taking the position of her party, and a policy the Greens took to an election, into Parliament,” it said in a statement.
– with AAP and ABC