By Frank Noakes
PERTH — About 80 members and friends of the Greens (WA) registered for a non-decision-making conference at the Perth Zoo Convention Centre over the July 27-28 weekend.
They considered the environment, eco-feminism and green economy amongst other topics in workshop sessions.
Senator Jo Vallentine was unable to address the major plenary session, due to illness, leaving her husband, Michael, to ably deliver her keynote speech.
In it, Vallentine described her vision of the Greens, saying "As a group I don't think the Greens WA have acknowledged the spirit, we haven't collectively invoked the spirit. We haven't tapped into our most important and fundamental source of power."
If the Greens didn't tap their spiritual energies, they wouldn't be seen as different enough from other political parties.
"We need guidance from the spirit in our decision making, in relating to each other and to the wider community. And that guidance is there if we seek it, and listen and wait upon inspiration.
"It encompasses compassion, tolerance, celebration and joy, listening and love, which is like the magic pudding, available in endless supply."
Turning to more practical matters, Vallentine posed some of the dilemmas facing the green movement: the trade-off between grassroots activism and parliamentary politics; the seeming dichotomy between small group autonomy and centralisation.
"Participatory democracy is wonderful in theory but difficult in practice. Everyone can't always be there to participate in every discussion and decision", she said.
Raising the controversial question of what sort of national structure greens should opt she said, "A national green party seems highly desirable to me, if we are to achieve one of our stated aims, which is electing our representatives to the various parliaments".
People wouldn't change their votes away from the major parties, despite their disillusionment, unless they saw a nationwide and well-organised alternative. Vallentine cited WA and Tasmania as the only examples of greens organising "coherently".
Recognising that the formation of such a party, even after "lots of consultation ... won't please absolutely everyone", Vallentine stated that if the greens dithered too long, their opportunity would be lost.
The educational conference finished with an annual general meeting.