While green activists around the country discuss last week's call by Tasmanian independent MP Bob Brown for a national green party, it seems some leaders of the green movement are pressing ahead already.
Green Left Weekly has received a report that a meeting to set up such a party has been scheduled for May 18-19 in Sydney.
Brown's call, in a panel discussion at the Ecopolitics V conference in Sydney on April 6, followed earlier media reports that unnamed "conservation sources" were saying moves were well advanced towards the foundation of a national party.
According to the report received by Green Left Weekly, the May meeting is a result of an approach by Bob Brown "to members of the already existing network of local and regional green parties which hold the electoral registration for the name 'green'".
It is believed that invitations to this meeting will shortly be sent out by the Greens WA, of which Senator Jo Vallentine is a leader, addressed to "already registered parties and interested greens outside this network". It would include a draft structure document prepared by the Greens WA.
A group of inner-Sydney greens first registered the name for use on the ballot paper on the eve of the 1984 federal elections. Since then they have shared it with 14 other groups, which now have legal access to the name for electoral purposes.
According to the report, Bob Brown believes a national green party, standing "high profile" candidates, could win a number of parliamentary seats at the next federal election. He believes such a party would attract the support of the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Local green parties had planned to hold a national meeting in June to discuss future organisation. According to the report, "It is now proposed to expand this meeting into a wider meeting to found 'a broad-based national green political organisation'". Presumably, this would involve ratifying the decisions of the May gathering.
As Peter Boyle reported in these pages on March 27, Vallentine and Brown are members of the "Melbourne Group", which also includes Phillip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation and leaders of the Rainbow Alliance. This group met privately in June and February to discuss setting up a federal green party.
But the Greens WA are said to have a number of differences with the Melbourne Group over structure proposals, the main problem being Melbourne's support for a strong national secretariat.
A possible obstacle to the May meeting is the looming political crisis in Tasmania. If there is an early election there, the gathering may be postponed.
According to the report received by Green Left, such a e it more difficult for the Melbourne Group "to resist the offensive of the Australian Democrats who argue that there is already a national green party with a parliamentary focus — namely them — and another one is completely unnecessary".
The Democrats have moved quickly in the wake of the peak environmental bodies' anger with the ALP over resource security legislation to press their claim that they are an adequate electoral representative of the green movement.