9 November 2020

New Greens ministers to deliver dose of soft power to Cabinet

| Ian Bushnell
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Shane Rattenbury, Rebecca Vassarotti and Emma Davidson

Greens ministers Shane Rattenbury, Rebecca Vassarotti, and Emma Davidson. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Greens’ election success may have exceeded their expectations – even shocked some of them – but once the reality sunk in they were not about to spurn the opportunity the result offered.

They would not be repeating the chaste experience of sitting on the cross bench. They wanted the power to deliver what the party had promised the electorate.

And while Chief Minister Andrew Barr had salutary tales of how overwhelming it can be as a first-time MLA to find yourself in a ministry, the Greens were having none of it.

Rebecca Vassarotti felt it was important to put her hand up, especially to represent women in Cabinet, and Emma Davidson believed the party needed to bring the community into government.

”It’s the only way we’ll be able to achieve all the things we’re working for,” Ms Davidson said.

They may be Assembly newbies but both have extensive experience engaging with government and working in the community.

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Ironically, Ms Davidson co-wrote the Chifley Primary School submission during its fight to stay open when a young Andrew Barr was thrown into that particular deep end back in 2006.

Importantly, their leader Shane Rattenbury, now a very senior minister, will be a strong role model for them.

”His general experience and ability to be such a constructive member of government while also ensuring the Greens perspective and Greens values are represented gives a level of confidence and assurance as we take on this roles,” said Ms Vassarotti.

They have seen how he works and what a great negotiator he is, qualities that will be required in the Cabinet room where there are so many intersecting responsibilities.

Both are focused on working with the community and the Labor Ministers, and collaboration is their watchword.

It isn’t just a buzzword, they mean it.

”The fact that the portfolios have been designed in the way that they have means that there will absolutely be a need for discussion and working through to find common ground,” Ms Vassarotti said.

She is excited by that challenge, but both remain pragmatic.

”If you go in there just looking for a way to win every argument you’re never going to achieve anything,” Ms Davidson said.

But while confrontation isn’t their style don’t expect them to be cabinet wallflowers or take a backward step.

Rebecca Vassarotti and Emma Davidson

Ministers Rebecca Vassarotti and Emma Davidson want outcomes for the community. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The pair are set to inject a dose of soft power into the cabinet in a way probably not seen before.

”My experience is that the best outcomes do come about when there is a variety of perspectives that are brought to the table and there is a discussion,” Ms Vassarotti said.

Although she acknowledges that conflict may not be too far away.

”There is a potential for it to be fractious, bringing in a collaborative approach and a real commitment to what we’re all about means we do actually have the opportunity to have even better outcomes,” she said.

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Ms Davidson said the Greens way of doing things is to learn from experience and lead by example.

”If we make sure that we set a tone that we want to work collaboratively and we’re open to listening to new ideas and making really good evidence-based decisions then I think that will flow through and have a positive impact on everyone else,” she said.

Guiding them will be a commitment to the community and a set of values, and a belief that despite polling only 13 per cent of the primary vote, there is widespread support for their policies and meeting those election commitments is part of the deal.

Ms Vassarotti argues it was a really strong result for the Greens and the community likes a system where there is a range of parties at the table.

”It was clear statement about the constructive role the Greens can play,” she said.

”It’s our obligation that we do actually step up and ensure that we can shape those outcomes based on what the community is looking for,” she said.

Ms Davidson said people voted for the Greens in every single electorate.

”So what that tells me is they want the entire policy platform,” she said. ”They actually want us to achieve real fundamental changes.”

While it may seem as if Mr Barr has kept power close to the Labor core, the Greens pair are very happy with the way the ministry has been constructed and responsibilities distributed.

”To have Housing, Environment and Mental Health, that means we’re looking at the built environment, natural environment, and we’re looking at taking care of people. That’s the whole package,” Ms Davidson said.

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