By Pat Brewer
SYDNEY — The repeatedly postponed national gathering to discuss a national green party took place on August 18-19. On the agenda were structure and proscription of membership in other political parties. Agreement to some form of proscription was a precondition for participation.
Discussion on the first day was entirely concerned with proscription. While a decision to apply proscription to the meeting was adopted fairly early in the day, on a vote of 21-8 with one abstention, lengthy discussion continued, particularly on the possibility of a sunset clause (a date by which existing parties would be expected to dissolve into the greens or members would have to choose between the parties).
Eventually, a vote of 15-6 with 6 abstentions adopted a motion on criteria for participation in the next national meeting:
"At the national level and as the basis of participation in the next national meeting, that there be proscription of members of other parties by February 18, 1992, in each of the categories — office bearers, delegates, voting, and membership; that groups do not admit as new members, members of other political parties from now on; and that delegates at that next national meeting are proscribed."
Discussion on Sunday focussed on structure. Sydney Greens activist Paul Fitzgerald proposed a national network of autonomous parties with a minimal national structure whose role would cover information exchange, national campaigns and a vetting of applications from new local parties. Only delegates to the registrations committee would be subject to proscription.
Steve Brigham, from Illawarra Greens, proposed a national council/committee with extensive powers to present and formulate national and international policy; national spokespersons and working groups; a national clearing house and newsletters; national coordination of upper house elections and upper house candidate selection; and clear definitions of accountability and autonomy at local level. Total proscription was to apply to all levels of membership. Brigham regarded the British Green Party as a model.
Chris Williams, from the Greens (WA), offered a less centralised, more confederal alternative, trying to incorporate the grassroots democracy of the Fitzgerald model. The national party would rest on minimal central structures with clearly defined duties including control over registration of new local and regional applications, use of the national name, the principles of membership and membership applications, some form of dispute
resolution, financial obligations and a national publication.
Bob Brown and Judy Henderson, from the Denison Greens, argued that any proposal should incorporate fusion with the Democrats so that a strong third political force could emerge as quickly as possible. Brown argued against the British model and felt that the Democrats' structure should be adapted to fit the new party's needs.
No decisions were taken on structure. A question raised but not clarified was whether there would be any challenge to right of other national groupings to use the name green. Several delegates supported moves to deregister "unsuitable" green parties. Assurances of cooperation and acceptance of diversity were sought by others, particularly Jim Cane from the South Australian Green Alliance.
Discussion of the structure proposals will be taken back to local groups, and a written discussion and information exchange will precede the next national conference, scheduled for November 30-December 1. The need for a more representative meeting was raised and will be considered.
Groups participating in the August 17-18 conference were: Tasmania: Denison Greens (2 delegates), Franklin Greens (1). Western Australian Green Party: (2 delegates plus 4 proxies). NSW: Eastern Suburbs Greens (1), Sydney Greens (1), Green Alliance (1), Central Coast (1), South Sydney Greens (1), Lowe Greens (1), Illawarra Greens (1), Byron Greens (1), Lismore and Richmond Greens (2). Queensland: Australian Green Working Group (5), Craig Hardy from Rockhampton, where there is no group. Victoria: Green Alliance (1). South Australia: Green Alliance (1). Western Suburbs Greens and the ACT Green Democratic Alliance were disenfranchised by the vote to proscribe delegates who were members of other political parties, and the North Shore Greens delegate walked out after the proscription decision overrode the right of local groups to choose their own delegates.