Lee Rhiannon

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Lee Rhiannon
Lee Rhiannon 2010.jpg
Senator for New South Wales
Assumed office
1 July 2011
Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council
In office
27 March 1999 – 19 July 2010
Personal details
Born Lee Brown
(1951-05-30) 30 May 1951 (age 66)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Greens
Website lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au

Lee Rhiannon (born 30 May 1951) is an Australian politician who has been a Senator for New South Wales since July 1, 2011, after being elected at the 2010 federal election, representing the Australian Greens. Prior to her election to the Federal Parliament, Rhiannon was a Greens NSW member of the New South Wales Legislative Council between 1999 and 2010.

Early life and political activism[edit]

Rhiannon was born Lee Brown, the daughter of Bill and Freda Brown, who were long-term members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and later the Soviet-loyal Socialist Party of Australia (SPA).[1] Her parents' membership of the CPA and Lee's membership of the CPA's youth league led to documentation of her life by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) from as early as the age of seven.[2][3] In 1968, she and some friends formed High School Students Against Vietnam War.[4] She sat the New South Wales Higher School Certificate at Sydney Girls High School in 1969 and graduated in 1975 as a Bachelor of Science, majoring in botany and zoology with honours in botany, at the University of New South Wales.[5]

She joined the SPA around 1973.[6] In the 1980s she helped organise a "peace camp" protest outside the joint US-Australian defence facility at Pine Gap, in central Australia.[7] According to Mark Aarons, she left the SPA in the early 1980s,[8] but she remained active in party-sponsored activities until the late 1980s. She edited the SPA's official newspaper, Survey, from 1988 until it ceased publication in 1990. This aspect of her past came under scrutiny when she ran for the Senate.[9][10]

From 1980 to 1982, she was a member of the Women’s Advisory Council to the NSW government, and in the same period was the NSW secretary of the Union of Australian Women.[11] She attended the World Congress of Women in Moscow in 1987.[12] She founded the Coalition for Gun Control in 1988 and AID/WATCH in 1993.[13] She joined the Greens in 1990.[5] In the 1990s, she worked at the Rainforest Information Centre, campaigning against the logging of tropical forest.[14]

In 1977, Brown married Pat O'Gorman, but they separated in the late 1980s.[15] During her marriage she used the surname "O'Gorman." They had three children. Following their separation, she adopted the surname "Rhiannon", the name of a figure from Welsh mythology.

Parliamentary career[edit]

New South Wales Legislative Council 1999-2010[edit]

Lee Rhiannon at a press briefing in 2007

Rhiannon contested the New South Wales Legislative Council at the 1999 state election for the Australian Greens. She was elected with three percent of the statewide vote (more than 100,000 votes), joining fellow Green Ian Cohen in the state's upper house.[16] She was re-elected with over nine percent of the vote (more than 300,000 votes) at the 2007 state election, taking her seat with three other Greens MLCs.[17]

Rhiannon used her New South Wales maiden parliamentary speech in 1999 to announce her opposition to a development proposal by the Carr Labor Government for Walsh Bay. Rhiannon called on the Australian Labor Party to advance instead the party's constitutional ideals for "redistribution of political and economic power" and "the development of public enterprises based upon... forms of social ownership". Rhiannon also spoke against Australia's British colonial legacy and announced that she was the first MLC to sit in the NSW Parliament without the title "Honourable". She spoke of her family's involvement in the labour movement and acknowledged her parents' membership of the Communist Party of Australia and said she was proud of their tradition of "optimistic social activism". She reiterated Greens opposition to privatisation of public assets and to the Howard Government's Goods and Services Tax.[5]

Rhiannon served on the following committees in state parliament: General Purpose Standing Committees, Joint Select Committees on the Cross City Tunnel, a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, a Standing Committee on Law and Justice, a Select Committee on the NSW Taxi Industry, a Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population, and a Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and Police Integrity Commission.[5]

In November 2002, in the week prior to protests against the World Trade Organisation in Sydney, Rhiannon spoke in support of the protesters and organised a public conference on Civil Disobedience at the NSW Parliament.[18] Rhiannon spoke against police actions during the S11 Protests, which violently protested against meetings of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne in 2000. Rhiannon called on Police Minister Michael Costa to guarantee that police violence would not be used against protesters in Sydney. Costa in return called on Rhiannon to resign for hosting the civil disobedience seminar.[19] Rhiannon lobbied the Vatican against considering the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, for the position of Pope because of his conservative views.[20] In 2007 she referred him to the parliamentary privileges committee, alleging "contempt of parliament" for comments he made in opposition to embryonic stem cell research legislation.[21][22]

During her term in the NSW Parliament, she was the Greens NSW parliamentary spokesperson for the following portfolio areas:

Firearms; Donations; Mineral Resources; Roads; Transport; Health; Sexuality and Gender Identity; Electoral Issues; Industrial Relations; Attorney General; Parliamentary Process; Ports & Waterways; Gaming & Racing; Youth; South East NSW; Women; Animal Welfare; Rural Affairs; Science; and the Hunter region.[23][self-published source?][dead link]

Australian Senate 2011-current[edit]

Rhiannon contested and won a seat in the Australian Senate for New South Wales at the August 2010 federal election for the Australian Greens. She resigned from the NSW Legislative Council when the federal election was called,[24] with a ballot of party members selecting Cate Faehrmann to fill the casual vacancy.[25][26]

Rhiannon was elected with 10.7 percent of the statewide vote, a swing to the Greens in New South Wales of 2.3 percent since the previous federal election.[27] She would share the balance of power with eight other Greens senators from July 2011.[28]

At the December 2010 NSW Greens State Conference a resolution was adopted in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.[29] In support of the statement, Rhiannon said that the BDS campaign was "motivated by the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights".[29]

Following her election as a Senator, she continued supporting the BDS campaign saying, "I see the value of that tactic as a way to promoting Palestinian human rights." Subsequently the Greens federal leader Bob Brown said that he had conveyed his disapproval of this policy emphasis to Rhiannon, saying that, "it was damaging to the Greens campaign".[30]

Rhiannon took up her seat in the Australian Senate on 1 July 2011 and in August 2011 it was reported that Rhiannon had refused to back away from the BDS campaign.[31]

In December 2011, the NSW Greens abandoned their official support for an international boycott against Israel and resolved to actively support the Australian Greens position. Rhiannon said that this "recognises the legitimacy of the BDS campaign as a political tactic and also recognises that there is a diversity of views in the community and the Greens."[32][33]

Announcing portfolio responsibilities for the Australian Greens in June 2011, Bob Brown allocated Rhiannon the following portfolios: Democracy; Local Government; Higher Education; Assisting on National Security; Women; International Aid and Development; Animal Welfare; and Forests.[34]

As of May 2014, Rhiannon holds the following portfolios: Animal Welfare; Democracy & Local Government; Forests; Higher Education; International Aid & Development; Transport; Water & Murray Darling Basin.[35]

During July 2016, Bob Brown, a former Leader of the Australian Greens, called on Rhiannon to resign citing the "need for renewal". Brown labeled Rhiannon as a member of the "old guard" who caused the Greens' vote in New South Wales to lag behind in the 2016 Federal Election.[36]

In June 2017 Rhiannon was suspended from the Federal Greens party room following an internal dispute over her opposition to the Federal Greens' support for the Turnbull government education funding changes.[37] Most reports suggested the dispute centred on the manner of Rhiannon's dissent from the party position and the broader implications for the processes of decision making.[38] The Greens New South Wales subsequently issued a statement reiterating its support for Senator Rhiannon and support for public education.[39]

In the lead up to preselection for the Greens NSW Senate position in 2017 it was reported that Rhiannon had breached party rules by using her Sydney electorate office as a point of contact for supporters.[40] The allegations were contested by Rhiannon's supporters. She subsequently lost the first position on the Greens NSW Senate ticket for the next Australian federal election to NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi.[41]


  1. ^ Danby, Michael (22 August 2011). "Rhiannon, Senator Lee". APH. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "ASIO spooks spied on little girls". The Sunday Telegraph. Australia. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Kerr, Christian (28 January 2012). "Secret past of Greens senator Lee Rhiannon". The Australian. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Murray, Suellen. "Lee Rhiannon: A Lifetime of Political Activism" (PDF). Women in Australia. p. 235. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Ms. Lee Rhiannon". Former Members. Parliament of New South Wales. 31 August 2010. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Responding To Attacks On My Family And Political Background". Blog. Lee Rhiannon. 3 September 2010. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Nicholson, Brendan (2 April 2011). "I'm no watermelon: Rhiannon". The Australian. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Aarons, Mark (2010). The Family File. Melbourne: Black Inc. p. 276. ISBN 978-1-86395-481-5. 
  9. ^ Brown, red, Green – and a Tokyo Rose
  10. ^ Kerr, Christian (9 July 2011). "Greens senator Lee Rhiannon fudges the answers on the red tinge of her political past". The Australian. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Murray, Suellen. "Lee Rhiannon: A Lifetime of Political Activism" (PDF). Women in Australia. p. 235. 
  12. ^ Murray, Suellen. "Lee Rhiannon: A Lifetime of Political Activism" (PDF). Women in Australia. p. 237. 
  13. ^ "Q&A Panellist: Lee Rhiannon". ABC TV. 
  14. ^ Murray, Suellen. "Lee Rhiannon: A Lifetime of Political Activism" (PDF). Women in Australia. p. 237. 
  15. ^ Murray, Suellen. "Lee Rhiannon: A Lifetime of Political Activism" (PDF). Women in Australia. p. 235. 
  16. ^ "1999 Legislative Council Results". State elections. New South Wales Electoral Commission. 30 December 2010. 
  17. ^ "NSW 2007 state election upper house results" (pdf). 2007 Legislative Council Results. New South Wales Electoral Commission. 12 April 2007. 
  18. ^ "Labor's new crime: Civil disobedience". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 November 2002. 
  19. ^ Kingston, Margo (14 November 2002). "Hey Joh: Costa's the new demon along the watchtower". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  20. ^ "Greens lobby Vatican to reject Pell". News. Lee Rhiannon. 13 April 2005. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011. [self-published source?]
  21. ^ "Inquiry into comments made by Cardinal George Pell". Legislative Council – Privileges Committee. Parliament of New South Wales. 29 September 2007. Archived from the original on 16 March 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  22. ^ "Pell slams "stalinist" parliamentary contempt probe". Catholic News. Australian Catholic University. 18 June 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  23. ^ "Portfolios". Lee Rhiannon. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  24. ^ "Greens' Rhiannon quits for federal bid". ABC News. Australia. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  25. ^ "Greens announce new team for NSW Parliament". The Greens NSW. 29 November 2009. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  26. ^ "NSW Greens plot political merry-go-round". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  27. ^ "First Preferences by Group – NSW". Senate results – 2010. Australian Electoral Commission. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  28. ^ "Greens' Rhiannon gets Senate spot". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 15 September 2010. 
  29. ^ a b "Israel boycotts now official NSW Greens policy". The Australian Jewish News. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  30. ^ Massola, James; Kelly, Joe (1 April 2011). "Greens leader Bob Brown slaps down Lee Rhiannon on Israel boycott policy". The Australian. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  31. ^ Kerr, Christian (29 August 2011). "Greens senator Lee Rhiannon stands by Israel boycott". The Australian. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  32. ^ "Greens NSW Reviews BDS". The Greens NSW. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  33. ^ Tovey, Josephine (5 December 2011). "Greens abandon official support for Israel boycott". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  34. ^ "'Happy' Greens decide who'll do what with new portfolios". The Australian. AAP. 26 June 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  35. ^ Portfolios: Lee Rhiannon Greens MP.
  36. ^ "Bob Brown calls on Senator Lee Rhiannon to stand down". ABC News. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-10-08. 
  37. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-28/lee-rhiannon-temporarily-suspended-from-greens/8660934
  38. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-28/lee-rhiannon-temporarily-suspended-from-greens/8660934
  39. ^ https://nsw.greens.org.au/news/nsw/%E2%80%8B28-june-2017-statement-federal-party-room-decision%E2%80%8B
  40. ^ http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/greens-preselection-erupts-as-lee-rhiannon-accused-of-breaching-rules-20171030-gzb3pt.html
  41. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-25/lee-rhiannon-concedes-senate-preselection-greens-spot/9193386

External links[edit]