analysis

Greens leader Adam Bandt ‘unfit for office’ after threatening to sue Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus

Ellen Ransley
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Greens leader Adam Bandt has been labelled ‘unfit for office’ after threatening to sue Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.
Greens leader Adam Bandt has been labelled ‘unfit for office’ after threatening to sue Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Credit: The Nightly

Greens leader Adam Bandt has threatened to sue the Federal Attorney General over “defamatory” comments amid accusations of condoning anti-Semitism and encouraging violence.

The latest in an often-ugly, long-bubbling stew of discontent from all sides of politics about the response to the war in Gaza, Labor and the Coalition teamed up in Parliament this week in a rare show of bipartisanship to accuse the Greens of encouraging pro-Palestinian protesters to violently damage electorate offices.

Mr Bandt has accused A-G Mark Dreyfus of making “utterly unfounded statements” and “spreading disinformation” after the country’s top lawmaker said the Greens “encouraged really riotous behaviour, sometimes violent behaviour, that has been occurring outside electorate offices”.

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Mr Bandt’s lawyer wrote to Mr Dreyfus, who has not made a response and spoke outside the remit of parliamentary privilege, despite the Greens’ leader’s preference the matter not have to be pursued legally.

Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.
Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAPIMAGE

While several of the pro-Palestinian protests in question in the nine months since October 7 have been peaceful, a slew of actions — especially those targeting Labor electorate offices, as recently as last week — have been branded violent and hostile.

Melbourne MP Ged Kearney had to be escorted out of her office in late April after a protest took a turn. She said there was a “double standard (from the Greens) to engage in, and incite violent and aggressive protest and pretend you are doing something about peace”.

Mr Bandt said nobody had suggested the Greens “were involved in that”, despite Ms Kearney stating she believed the party had been involved.

Then, an independent group organised action against several Melbourne Labor MPs’ offices and the American consulate last week, which also quickly turned aggressive after windows were smashed and staff were blocked from entering buildings.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has argued the Greens should “condemn” the rise in anti-Semitism “instead of condoning it”.

Mr Dutton doubled down on Thursday morning, labelling the Greens as “evil” and Mr Bandt “unfit to be in public office”, linking them to “the distribution of hate and anti-Semitic messages online”.

Mr Bandt has denied involvement in any hostile protests. He said Labor was seeking to distract from its own complicity in the invasion of Gaza, and the party’s refusal to take any “meaningful action” against Israel.

“We have been crystal clear … that as a party of peace and non-violence, protests must be peaceful with respect to people and property. Greens MPs were not involved in (hostile protests),” Mr Bandt said.

It’s hard for Labor to take his assertions seriously, however, when the Greens’ own deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi has publicly shared her involvement in the months-long protest movement outside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Grayndler electorate office.

She posted on Instagram in February, encouraging her supporters to join the “permanent” sit-in at Albanese’s office. While that action has not turned violent, the Government believes it could turn violent at any time.

Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt reacts during a division after Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, June 5, 2024.
Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt reacts during a division after Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAPIMAGE

This comes on the back of the Australian Federal Police revealing in Senate estimates that more than 700 threats have been made against parliamentarians in the last financial year.

It’s clear there’s discontent on all sides about how the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Gaza is being treated by the Australian Government.

The Greens have also accused Labor of exporting weapons to Israel — a claim that was strongly rebuked by the Government again on Thursday — and of weasel-wording their way around calling for a ceasefire in a way that essentially gave Israel the all-clear to resume bombing after a temporary pause.

It’s an accusation the Government vehemently denies, and while Labor has walked a careful line over the last nine months, Mr Albanese made his position on a ceasefire clear in the final minutes of Thursday’s Question Time.

“We are clear that a sustainable cease-fire is necessary to find a path towards securing lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

All the while, the Coalition has demanded the Government take greater action on rising anti-Semitism, with Liberal MP Julian Leeser introducing a Bill to set up a judicial inquiry into anti-Jewish sentiment on university campuses.

Labor shut down the parliamentary debate, which is not unusual for the government when it comes to the Private Members Bill, but the government did acknowledge Mr Leeser’s frustration and echoed his concerns.

The cherry on the top for Labor at the end of a long few days though, might have been the Coalition’s questions to the Prime Minister about whether the Government would put the Greens last on the next election ballot Or whether Mr Albanese would rule out forming minority government with the crossbench party.

Mr Albanese rebuffed the questions.

But Labor’s primary vote is down - its young vote especially is increasingly irritated by what it sees as the Government’s inaction on Gaza. Pollsters are pretty confident there’s no chance Labor can govern in its own right if it’s re-elected next year.

It’s been a really angry few days in Canberra.

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