Conference debates Greens’ role

Greens MLC Mark Parnell. Photo: Dibell/Flickr

The Socialist Alliance’s Socialist Ideas Conference on November 20 featured informative presentations and spirited discussion. It reviewed the political situation in Australia and globally.

One of the speakers was Greens MLC Mark Parnell. The most animated discussion was about the Greens' political perspectives and relation to community campaigns and grassroots activism.

This followed an online debate before the event, about whether a Greens parliamentarian — particularly from the right of the party — should have been invited to speak at a conference promoting socialist ideas.

Parnell said the focus of the South Australian Greens was the parliamentary process. "I am unashamedly electoral", he said. He believed the Greens should be "on a path of forming majority government in their own right".

Many local left Greens members, on the other hand, have expressed alienation from the party as its parliamentary strength and success rises.

Parnell outlined issues the Greens would raise in parliament and said the Greens’ parliamentary focus limited their time and resources to be involved in many campaigns.

Socialist Alliance member John McGill outlined the campaigns Socialist Alliance was involved in. He said a voice in parliament could be a useful tool, but a parliamentary focus was not adequate to institute real social change.

"The 2010 federal election certainly challenged the ALP/Coalition circus that has governed this country almost since federation”, said McGill. “But has anything really changed?

"The Socialist Alliance was encouraged by the big vote for the Greens at the federal election. This doesn't mean we don't have differences with the Greens. We are socialists. We want to end capitalism.”

Other speakers included Aboriginal rights campaigner Janette Milera; National Union of Workers’ organiser Dave Garland; Green Left Weekly environment writer Renfrey Clarke; Climate Emergency Action Network activist Robyn Waite; Australian Youth Climate Coalition member Daniel Spencer; refugee rights campaigner Rebekkah Sparrow; forrmer GLW Venezuela correspondent Fred Fuentes; Latin American solidarity activist Jon Moore; and Socialist Alliance co-convener Ruth Ratcliffe.